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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Dragon Hunting Again - on 22nd September, 2016

I'd had a call from pal John to say that he was having to take his wife to the dentist for emergency treatment, and wouldn't be able to make our usual Thursday afternoon out together. I was unable to offer a switch to the following day due to a prior commitment, so went out solo for the afternoon.

It was a fine sunny day with no wind, so my intention was to seek out dragonflies at Rutland Water. I'd seen plenty of Migrant Hawkers there this season, but had not succeeded in photographing any females of the species - or even seeing many for that matter. The same could be said for Southern Hawkers, but they seemed to have become a bit thin on the ground lately so I was not over-hopeful on that score.

I took the usual 'owling route' to Rutland Water, seeing single owls at two different sites (probably to feature in a future post). After checking in at the Egleton Birdwatching Centre, I set off northwards. The path, initially, takes a bit of a zig-zag route, and there are two places where there is a sharp turn left, with views over the meadows on the outside of the corner. There were several distant Migrant Hawkers seen in flight at both these locations, and also one male at the second corner which briefly settled on the hedge the other side of the gate, but flew and vanished before I could get a photo. There were, however, several Common Darters present which had a tendency to sun themselves on the top of the gate, as can be seen in the header to this post whilst the post is current, and in the following images.



Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I paid a brief visit to Redshank Hide and then took the 'summer path' which runs to Grebe Hide and Osprey Hide. In the past, this path has been good for dragonflies and damselflies, but the sun was only on it in a few places and no dragons were seen. I did call in briefly at Grebe hide, and Osprey hide was closed whilst a new 'all access' ramp was being put in. 

At this point the main 'all seasons' path is rejoined, and one passes through a gate near the south-east corner of Lagoon 4. To the right of the gate is a small '3-4-5' (think back to maths in your school days!) triangular meadow with hedges against the two shorter sides. The longer of the two short sides ('4'!) was in full sun, and there were columns of midges over the meadow with a few Migrant Hawkers dodging in and out of the midge swarms picking them off.  I was unable, however, to get into a position to take a photo. Fortunately, one did briefly land on the hedge, but my camera settings were not appropriate, as I'd been trying for the flight shot, and the images are less than crisp. 

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
There were three or four Common Blue Damselflies around. I didn't take much notice of them, but did take some shots of the female of the species.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I gave up on the dragons at this spot after about an hour, and dipped into Shoveler Hide, where there was a Great White Egret in the water on the far side of the bar, and a Green Sandpiper at the end of the bar (future post!). The egret departing to the right caused me to check out Buzzard Hide in the hope of re-locating it, but it had, apparently, turned back. 

On my way back to Shoveler Hide, a sighting of another Migrant Hawker came to nothing, but this female Common Darter was, unusually, hanging vertically on the fence. The second image is there because it shows how the head is roughly 'mushroom' shaped and concave at the back, with the neck being quite long.


Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Back in Shoveler hide, I watched the GWE for a while and then set back to the hedge at the edge of the triangular meadow. The situation had changed somewhat, and the Hawkers were landing. At first I was just seeing males, including a pair together. Unfortunately, every landing point had a very fussy background immediately behind it, so I'm less than happy with the images. The left hand one, in this shot of the pair, had the tail-end of its abdomen curled downwards



Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I then noted a female Migrant Hawker flying near the hedge at the far end and managed to keep it in sight until it landed - my first female mixta images of the year! You can see from the first image, below, that the females are not quite as easy to spot as the males are when landed.



Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I then spotted a second female.


Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I'd spent around another hour here again, and it was time to go as there was a place that I wanted to stake out for owls at dusk. On my way back to the car, I stopped for some more obliging Common Darters. I reckon I probably saw two or three times as many Common Darters during the afternoon than I've ever seen in a similar period before and, for some reason, they wanted to land on my head!

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I had a pleasant run back home, seeing two Little Owls, but not the Barn Owl I was hoping to see during my hour and a half stake-out, during which I had my picnic evening meal.

It had been a most enjoyable afternoon and evening, and I'll probably cover the non-dragon aspects in my next post!

Thank you for dropping by.

19 comments:

  1. Oh yes, brilliant images Richard. That is one of the best.

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    1. Thank you, Bob, for your very kind words.

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  2. Stunning post Richard,love the Migrant Hawkers on the Blackberries.
    John.

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  3. Hi Richard, what a difference a day makes, you most certainly had a better Dragon day than me on the Friday, again I suffered with the wind. You got some wonderful images with the female Migrant Hawker being a real stunner and posing perfectly for you. Mind it was also a much better day than we had yesterday with the gale like conditions we had at times. John

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    1. I'm glad that you weren't suffering with the wind when we were out on Thursday, John - might have had to chuck you out of the car!

      I was lucky with those female Migrant Hawkers. Hopefully we'll get some more chances before the season is totally over - although if the weather continues like it is today, we can forget it!

      See you soon - - Richard

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  4. the details are stunning
    beautiful photographed
    greetings frank

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Frank.

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  5. That was one successful outing and you brought back a full basket... I mean card... of dragon pics!!
    Autumn is definitely the Common darter season, you'll soon have them on brown fallen leaves!!
    I admire your female Aeshna mixta photos, it seems I can never find a lone female!
    Well this year, I never went out of my way to find them.
    Lovely and very enjoyable post, Richard,
    Keep well and share hugs with Lindsay :)

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    1. Thank you, Noushka. I'm not sure how long I shall continue to see the dragons for. I don't think I saw many (if any!) beyond September last year.

      I now find I'm getting fired up to concentrate on the owls - had some success this morning.

      Best wishes for a good week to you - - - Richard

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  6. Hi Richard: I am not familiar with the life cycle of your British dragonflies but I would have thought their season to be pretty much over by now, but you achieved great shots of several species. Well done! Love from us both to you and Lindsay.

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    1. The dragon season is all but over now in these parts, David, but it could struggle on into November if we are lucky with the weather. I wouldn't be surprised if I've seen my last for the year, however, as it's turned much colder over the past few days. Glorious sunshine at the moment!

      Love to you both - - Richard

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  7. lovely to see your images.
    so many of our creatures seem gone, but the dragons are still around, but in fewer numbers. I have ponds and they love to hunt and more there.

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    1. Thank you, Tammie. I'm delighted that you enjoyed your visit. It must be wonderful to have your own ponds, with visiting dragons. Our dragons will soon be gone, but their young live on under the water, ready to delight us next summer.

      Very muich enjoyed your own blog!

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

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  8. Beautiful pictures of these damselflies and dragonflies. I see beautiful darters and the horse biter (Aeshna mixta). Beautiful bright and sharp pictures so you can see all the details right.
    Too bad you owls and ducks did not get the picture but that can always later;-)

    Greetings, Helma

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    1. Thank you, Helma. I didn't know that Aeshna mixta was also called the 'horse biter'!

      I think that the owls might not even be in the next post, as I will probably do a whole post on owls after the next post.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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    2. Hi Richard,
      The Dutch name of this cable is indeed the horse biter (Aeshna mixta)

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  9. Wow these are great photos, well done Richard. Hope that you have a great week Diane

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    1. Thank you, Diane. It's not been a great start to the week - hopefully it'll get better!

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