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Thursday, 10 May 2018

At Last! - on 8th May, 2018

Firstly - regular visitors to my blog might notice that I've changed the title at the head of this blog (although the web address has not changed). This was due to the fact that, although my interest in owls is still very strong, there has been very little owl content on this blog lately and the situation does not look as if it will change anytime soon. The current title may change again, however - I'm mulling over the possibility of changing it according to content, catering for four main themes - owls, birds (in general), butterflies, and dragonflies/damselflies. 

Now to the subject of this post:-

I had found it increasingly frustrating that, whilst people 100 miles (160 km) or thereabouts further south than my home had been seeing damselflies and also, more lately, dragonflies, I had seen none in these parts - neither had anyone else that I'd spoken to. A warm spell which started on Friday 4th May had me visiting one of my favourite haunts for dragonflies and damselflies, but I saw absolutely no sign of any action at all.

Sadly, that evening I managed to pull a muscle in my side which made it extremely painful for me to bend or sit down. I was concerned that this might wreck my ability to take advantage of the wonderful weather.

The following day (Saturday 5th May) I decided to check the situation and went to visit another favourite odonata location, taking my 150mm macro lens, rather than the 50-500mm zoom, to save on the weight I was carrying. I was fine when I was walking around upright, but bending down to do up my shoelaces was agonisingly painful and the pain from the slightest jolt when I was driving my car sent me into a cold sweat! Furthermore, I didn't find anything interesting to photograph!

The following day (Sunday 6th May) I was intending to join a Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust visit to Donisthorpe Woodland to survey for the Dingy Skipper butterfly, so drastic action was needed. Liberal applications of Ibuprofen gel, and regular doses of Paracetamol were resorted to and, coupled with care to find alternative methods to put on shoes and socks, things started to improve to the extent that I decided to risk it.

The group assembled at the entrance to the woodland, and the general consensus was that it was probably going to be too early in the season for the Dingy Skippers as everything seemed to be rather late this year. Whilst we saw several butterfly species, Dingy Skipper wasn't one of them and the only shots I came away with were of a Green-veined White - again I was carrying the 150 macro lens to cut down on the weight.

Green-veined White (Pieris napi) - Donisthorpe Woodland
I'm pleased to say that I was a little more comfortable that afternoon than I had been the previous day. However, I decided that I should have a very careful and relaxed day at home on the Monday, particularly as driving was still rather painful. 

I was worried that I was booked to give a talk in Stourbridge on the Wednesday evening and, although this is only about 50 miles (80 km) from home it would be a slow stop/start journey of about an hour and a half. I wasn't sure that my back would stand up to it, although it was improving. On the Tuesday morning (8th May) I decided that I had to put it to the test. After breakfast I packed up a picnic lunch and set off eastward with the intention, if all was well, to visit Rutland Water to look for damselflies (and possibly dragonflies) and then Ketton Quarry to look for butterflies.

I took my usual owling route, and the only thing of interest seen en-route was a Red Kite flying around with a huge clump of nesting material - I wished I'd got the 50-500 lens! 

I arrived at the Egleton Visitor Centre at Rutland Water, to find that the dipping pond had a 'no entry' sign on the gate. Having enquired at the centre, I was informed that, as a volunteer, I could enter.

Almost immediately I saw a colourless teneral damselfly fly away from beside the water, but failed to relocate it.  From what I saw later, I'm relatively confident that this would have been an Azure Damselfly - I'm confident it was not a Large Red Damselfly which was the first species I expected to find, if any!

I few minutes later I spotted an immature Azure Damselfly and managed to get some shots, although it entailed kneeling in the water at one point. 

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (immature male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
After a fleeting glimpse of a Large Red Damselfly, a second one then appeared and settled on an inaccessible distant leaf - I might have got a reasonable shot if I'd had the 50-500 lens on the camera. It then disappeared, never to be seen again.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (immature male) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
I then went off to the second, larger, dipping pond. Here I found several more teneral Azure Damselflies, and an exuvia of an Azure Damselfly. It was then that I realised that I'd forgotten to bring one essential bit of kit with me, and that was plastic pots for collecting exuvia!

Having struggled to get a shot of the exuvia in-situ (the first image below), I resorted to tearing off the leaf and placing it on a nearby table (the second image). I'm not sure if the middle left leg was lost from the exuvia, or whether the nymph had already lost a leg - I'm inclined towards the latter as it appears that the hind leg on that same side is shorter than its opposite number.  I realise, now, that I should have had more time photographing this exuvia from different angles as I didn't succeed in getting it home intact. Note: this exuvia is only about 15 mm long overall!

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (exuvia) - Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
As I had three more places I wished to visit, and there was little activity here, I didn't stay long, but set off for the Lyndon side of Rutland Water. 

I arrived to the news that the third Osprey chick in the Manton Bay nest was in the process of hatching. I stood and watched the nest activity on the screen for a while but was then drawn to the small pond outside the visitor centre where I'd seen a Large Red Damselflies on arrival. The staff in the centre informed me that they believed that this was the first day of the damselflies there.  As well as the damselflies, there were also several LR Damselfly exuvia around, but all too distant to get a decent shot, and the damselflies weren't cooperating either! Photographically it was a poor session, and it was starting to get a bit breezy.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (exuvia) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Rutland Water, Lyndon Reserve
As I was on a mission, I didn't stop long here either. My next port of call was Ketton Quarry where I hoped to catch up with some butterflies and, if I was very lucky, maybe a lizard or snake.

I arrived, and quickly consumed my picnic lunch before setting off into this old quarry. It had got rather breezy here, so I headed down into a more sheltered area. This proved to be totally unproductive, so I moved up into an area where the fence line was often good for Green Hairstreak butterfly. It was very breezy here, but I did see a Green Hairstreak briefly, low down away from the fence line. Two Brimstone were also seen, but not photographed.

Exploring the  quarry area immediately below, I only found another Brimstone and a Small Tortoiseshell. I came up out of the quarry, through the gate and then down the path beside the quarry. At the bottom was a sheltered area where a Green Hairstreak was holding territory and defending it against others of its kind. It was quite obliging for photography. Against some green foliage they can be hard to detect, except when they fly. However, sometimes their shade of green is different enough that they seem to stand out like a sore thumb against other greens. This tiny butterfly is only about 15 mm long (26-30 mm wingspan).

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - Ketton Quarry
This specimen has relatively sparse white marks on the underwings when compared to the norm.

I then set off into an area that I'd not been into before and, to my delight, found a Grizzled Skipper. I took a distant record shot, before going in for a close-up. Sadly, the butterfly part-closed its wings and almost immediately departed. I did not manage to find it again. This small butterfly has a wingspan of 23-29 mm.

Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - Ketton Quarry
My search for another Grizzled was unsuccessful, and so I decided to head back towards my car. I was pleased to see the Green Hairstreak was still holding territory where I'd left it - or so I thought until I looked at my photos. The butterfly that was there on my return visit was a different one - as can be seen from the unusual solitary white spot on the underwing!

After my session at Ketton Quarry, I headed off to the small pond at Launde Abbey in the hope of more odonata, but nothing was visible, so I headed homeward.

Sadly, no owls were seen on the homeward journey either, but at least I proved that my back would hold up for an extended drive, so that I could head off to Stourbridge with confidence the next day.

It was also good to get in some practice with the 150 macro lens. I only got it at the end of last season so haven't had much chance to work with it. I've got a way to go yet before I get the best out of it.

Thank you for dropping by - I have absolutely no idea what my next post will feature, but it's about time I got back to the birds.


  1. Excellent post Richard and nice to see you finally getting some odo action. The lens seems to be performing well so far.

    1. Thank you, Marc. I'm rather pleased with the lens. Sadly, the sunshine has gone again, but I hope to be out this weekend once more - might try the monopod next time, but even that won't help if the subject is blowing about in the wind as it was with those Green Hairstreaks!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. Hi Richard, what a beautiful butterflies and Dragonflies. They are exquisite.

    1. Thank you, Bob. It does seem that, these days, I get a bit distracted from the birds by the butterflies and dragonflies!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  3. Oh dear Richard, I hope by know your side is much better, nothing worse that trying to bend over or do jobs that muscles complain over.

    Loved this post though I have to admit to missing the owls and other birds. Not sure I would know the difference between a damsel fly and a dragonfly, I just never see them around here though I guess if I really wanted, I could go looking for them!

    You will be pleased to know that finally I managed a shot of a Little Owl at a great distance. Not the best photo, but certainly identifiable. I put it on yesterday’s photodiary so at least I have proved that they really are around at last.

    Take care and I hope that you are feeling pain free. Best wishes from Diane

    1. I'm fine now, Diane, thank you - just a dull ache that I'm able to ignore!

      The owl situation is a bit dire at the moment. The day that the above post refers to took me on a route that, two years ago, I'd have expected to see between 4 and 10 owls, but once again, I saw none!

      Those dragons and damsels will be in your area somewhere, I'm sure - its just a question of finding the right place to sit in the sunshine and watch. You could even take a couple of chairs and a chilled flask of G&T and have a real relaxing time of it!

      I'm utterly delighted that you found your local Little Owl at last.

      Have a great weekend and take good care - - - Richard

  4. I guess it took one Grizzled Skipper to find another, Richard! I am certain you were not a Dingy Skipper! Hope your aches, pains and twinges have all gone away. Growing old is not for sissies is it? I am quite sure that the erstwhile Owl Man will resurface with new sightings of Little Owl to thrill us all. Much love to you both, David

    1. I was feeling more like a Grizzled Kipper than a Grizzled Skipper, David, but all is nearly back to normal now, although I'm still taking it easy as far as the bending is concerned.

      I'm currently keeping my fingers crossed that I'll have another owl 'fix' in a few weeks time (although it probably won't be Little Owls), and the 'Owl' will be back in the title!

      Thank you for your kind (and amusing!) words - - - Richard

  5. Hi richard! There you have already dragonflies!

    1. Hello, Anne. They have just started in this part of England, but because of strange weather patterns we are a month later than some other parts of England. Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Hi Richard,
    Its wonderful to see the Butterflies and Damsels about at last, I was on duty at Lyndon and we had largish numbers of Orange Tips about.
    Glad the back held up and hope the talk went well.
    All the best. John

    1. It seems like summer has arrived at last, John, and I had another pleasant session today. I'm up at 04h30 tomorrow (Monday) on a dragonfly hunt in the deep south.

      The talk went well, thank you, and they've booked me to return in September!

      Best wishes to you and Veg - - - Richard

  7. Firstly Richard I hope you're on the mend.
    Fantastic images as always and sadly disappointed about the change in titles though it is I think a sad reflection with owling both here and up your way.
    Still will always be a great read though

    1. Don't worry, Doug, it is only a change in the title, and I shall not be forsaking the owls - in fact I have plans that I hope will give me a major owl fix before too long!

      Thank you for your kind words. Best wishes - - - Richard

  8. Fantástica sesión de mariposas y libélulas, con especies muy interesantes, me ha gustado mucho. Enhorabuena Richard, un abrazo desde España.

    1. Gracias, Germán. Estoy muy contento de que la temporada de mariposas y libélulas haya comenzado. Ha sido un poco tarde para este año. Mis mejores deseos de Inglaterra - - - Richard.

  9. Hi Richard,
    your header is very nice with the beautiful red damsel.
    I am also impressed by your beautiful pictures of the butterflies. Especially the rookie is very nice. The veined white is also so beautiful. Sharp, clear and the details are beautifully depicted. Class!

    Kind regards,

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Helma. I'm not sure what the 'rookie' is, however ;-}

      With my very best wishes - take good care - - - - Richard

  10. Hello dear friend,
    such a wonderful series here on damsels and dragons that it would trigger my will to go after them again... But as you well know, these days I am between France and Africa a lot and more after birds. I am leaving again for Botswana next month!!
    Back to your gorgeous photos...
    The Green Hairstreak is one of my favourite small butterflies, and enhanced its beauty with those great detailed pics.
    Concerning the exuvia, they make me crazy!!
    It is an extensive job to discern which belongs to such dragonfly...
    Congratulations, I really enjoyed each photo
    Keep well, Richard, and I hope your weather is sunnier than mine!!

    1. Hi Noushka - it's great to see you back from your travels, even if it is just for a short while!! You seem to have fallen in love with Africa again!

      Thank you for your kind words. There is a great book to help with the identification of British odos - 'Field Guide to the larvae and exuviae of British Dragonflies' by Steve Cham. I find this book a great help now that I have started trying to build up a collection of exuviae.

      We have a dull, cool, breezy day at the moment but we have had some warm sunny days up until today, and I believe that more good days are forecast soon. Fingers are crossed!

      Take very good care - I'm just about to go over to your blog now. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  11. Magnificent! Richard, as soon as our first of the season thunderstorms subside I'll be out on hands and knees scouring the lake shores for dragons, damsels and exuvia!

    Your photographs are truly a joy to behold! That macro lens is doing the job a good tool should, but it's the photographer wielding it who ensures the final work is art - exactly as demonstrated here.

    Gini is concerned about your pain and wants to know if you have consulted a doctor yet? If not, she is prepared to visit and march you to a clinic herself. She's like that.

    We hope you and Lindsay are enjoying your week, pain notwithstanding!

    1. I'm tempted to say I'm in real trouble with my back, Wally, just so Gini comes here, bringing you with her, so I can meet you both. However, the reality is it's absolutely fine, thank you, without any medical intervention.

      Thank you so much for your very kind words, which are truly appreciated.

      I hope that you are finding more nature to delight us with, and sharpening your quill ready to write your next post. With my very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  12. Hello Richard,
    Dragonflies are great animals, unique in appearance and you have to be fast enough
    to catch them, back pain is not so helpful .. ;-))
    my Favoriet is the green tip great with a very nice background
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. I just noticed that I managed to post you a reply intended for someone else - sorry!

      Thank you for your kind words. The back is fine now, so it makes it easier to catch the dragonflies. ;-}

      Best wishes - - - - Richard


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