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Thursday, 11 August 2016

In Search of White-legged Damsels - July, 2016

Two years ago, when my interest in dragonflies and damselflies was very much in its infancy, I happened upon White-legged Damselfly on the Ashby Canal, about 14 miles (23 km) from my home. At that time I knew they looked different, but I didn't know what it was that I was looking at until I looked them up in a reference book.

I intended to try and find them again last year, but somehow missed the opportunity. This year I was determined to try again.

My first visit to the location was on 2nd June, on the off-chance that there'd been an early emergence. There wasn't, and not a single dragon or damsel was seen. 

For various reasons, including weather and other commitments, I didn't get to check again until 3rd July. This time I was rather more successful and, in fact, White-legged Damselfly was the only odonata species I saw! It had been sunny when I set off, but had clouded over by the time that I arrived. It was still quite bright, however, and I'm sure that these light conditions helped with photography, and it didn't seem to send the damselflies into deep cover. Here are a few images of the male of the species.









White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal
To me, the male of this species is one of the most attractive of the British damselflies. The pale blue colouration, the smart legs, the markings on the abdomen, and the colour of the pterostigma are all contributing factors. The female is a little more drab.

There were many males about, but I only saw two females, one of which was mating, and neither of which did I manage to photograph to my satisfaction.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (female) - Ashby Canal
White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (mating) - Ashby Canal
Alongside the canal that day I found several Mullein Moth caterpillars.


Mullein Moth (Cucullia verbasci) (larva) - Ashby Canal
Fired up by my findings of the previous day, and interested in seeing if the canal acted as a wildlife highway, I returned to the canal on 4th July. This time, however, I went to a point only around 6 miles (10 km) from my home. There is a small car park here and I understand from a local farmer who has hosted two of my Little Owl sites (now both sadly defunct - the sites, not the farmer!) and who's farm is close to the site, that this car park has a reputation for being a 'dogging' site. However, I was going to visit mid-morning, so was relatively confident that such activities would not be taking place. What I found when I arrived left me even more concerned. The car park was all-but-full with about a dozen vehicles (half of which were small unmarked white vans), each with a post-middle-aged male sitting in it. The concern deepened when two younger males arrived wearing skimpy lycra outfits. I got some strange looks when I got out of my car carrying a camera with a big lens. Determined not to be put off, I set off down the towpath!

This was another day when I set off in bright sunshine, and it clouded over before I arrived!

The first damselflies I saw were Blue-tailed Damselflies. These are quite common locally.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Ashby Canal
In the following image, I believe the female to be of the type f. rufescens-obsoleta.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (mating) - Ashby Canal
There were also Common Blue Damselfly present.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female - drab form) - Ashby Canal
I also found a male Banded Demoiselle. I only managed a rubbish photo, but I'm seeing very few of these this year, so I'll publish it!

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Ashby Canal
Thankfully, I found my target species a little further along the towpath. In fact, by the time I'd finished I'd probably seen as many White-legged Damselflies as I had of all the other species combined. This time I only saw males, however!




White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal
As I returned along the towpath, I encountered a male Azure Damselfly - another common species. On this one, the usual 'U' shaped mark on segment 2 of the abdomen was broken.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Ashby Canal
I returned to the Ashby Canal for an hour and a half on Tuesday 9th August. Not a single damsel or dragon was seen, but the car park was nearly full again, and the white vans were there too!

It's time I did a post featuring some birds, and possibly some owls. I'll see what I can come up with next time.

Thank you for dropping by.

23 comments:

  1. I have to confess that I was unfamiliar with the term "dogging" Richard, but a simple Google search set me straight! I am glad to see that you were in search of a different kind of damsel!

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    1. It's one of the dangers of evening birdwatching, David, although I've only happened on it once. We'd had a Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society visit to Cannock Chase to try and see Woodcock and Nightjar, and came back to the car park afterwards to find a session going on. Fortunately it was on the other side of the car park so the ladies in our group were spared any embarrassment!

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  2. These are spectacular. They have wonderful eyes.

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    1. Thank you, Adrian. I've got a bit hooked on dragonflies and damselflies this year. The eyes are wonderful, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to manage an image in which the individual elements of the yes can be seen. Sadly, these usually 'disappear' from the image when resampling it for the blog.

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  3. these are ALL stunning photogaphs Richard. MAny thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Margaret. It's my real pleasure to get these images, and your kind comment enhances that pleasure.

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  4. Excellent set Richard and as you say, one of the most stunning damsels we have on this country.

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    1. Thank you, Marc. There are more glitzy damsels, but this one has a more classic beauty. I've got so many species that I've still yet to see - let alone photograph!

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  5. Wow, what a great caterpillar! It would be nice to see the hatched butterfly. Greetings

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    1. The moth that the caterpillar will eventually turn into, Anne, is quite a plain moth in various shades of brown - it doesn't even have attractive patterns in its markings! Quite disappointing after such a fabulous caterpillar!

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  6. Hi Richard, Fabulous post, the White-legged Damselfly is certainly a colourful little thing. Favourite must be the Mullien Moth Caterpillar. See you soon. John

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    1. Thank you, John. The moth from that caterpillar is a real let-down! See you on Thursday!

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  7. Interesting pictures, fantastic caterpillar :-) Shame about the car park, should be made illegal, very unpleasant.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. It's a little unnerving finding such situations in rural car parks - tends to make one wary about going into the countryside in the evening, particularly if carrying a big camera! People might turn nasty!

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  8. WOW, this species was well worth looking for, your photos are fantastic!
    They are quite common in my area, it is fun to see who's got what since habitats and climates vary so much.
    Great post, Richard!
    Warm hugs to share with Lindsay :)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Noushka. You, and Marc Heath, have been my main inspiration for my interest in dragons and damsels.

      We're near the northern edge of the range of this species, although that is likely to change with climate-change. It is also quite localised in the county of Leicestershire.

      I hope that all is well with you - - - Richard

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  9. Top notch Richard,love the White Legged Damselfly,one of our favourites,expertly captured.
    John and Sue.

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    1. Thank you John and Sue. I suspect that you see a lot more of these than we do. We're pretty much at the north of its range here. I really is one of my favourites.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  10. That carpark sounds pretty dubious to me lol.
    Some stunning images of the damsels but I really like the colours and pattern of the Mullien Moth larva

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    1. I do get a bit nervous about that car park, Doug, especially as it's in the middle of nowhere - to the extent that I'm now starting to think that the location that's considerably further away is the better option.

      Hoping your week is going well - best wishes - - - - Richard

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  11. Fantastic series of the DAmselflies Richard. That Mullien Moth larva is spectaculair. I was once so Lucky too to take captures of it. They seem to eat only from the plant(Scrophularia). The light in your photos are fantastic. What lens did you use?
    Take care,
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Roos. I use the same lens for ALL my photography, and that is the Sigma 50-500. It is an extremely versatile lens as it can be used for distant images of birds and for macro work too. It will focus down to within approximatel 10cm of the lens hood!!!! I use it on a Nikon D7200. The main disadvantage for me is that I can't use in-camera flash as the lens is so large that subject is in shadow! If I had the money, I'd probably buy another D7200 and the Sigma 150 macro, which would give the advantage of being able to use in-camera flash. The second camera would be because I don't like changing lenses in the field.

      I hope that all is now well with you. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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  12. You have really beautiful and clear photos can make this beautiful white-legged damselfly and a nice mating wheel.
    The other damsels and beautiful meadow statue damsel you can photograph. Em I can imagine that you feel uncomfortable with all those men in white vans !!!
    I'm glad you could make these pictures. They are beautiful pictures.
    A hug

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