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.