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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Yardley Chase - on 16th June, 2018

On 16th June, I joined an arranged visit to Yardley Chase, which was organised by Mark Tyrrell,  County Dragonfly Recorder for Northamptonshire, on behalf of the British Dragonfly Society. The objective of the visit was to observe Downy Emerald dragonflies at Northamptonshire's only site for this species - and also to see what else was around!

The day before the visit, a look at the weather forecast for the area had it not looking good - cloudy and breezy, with a fair chance of rain later. I phoned to check that the visit was still on as 65 miles (105 km) is a long way to go to find that an event has been cancelled. Mark reassured me that the event would take place and the Downy Emeralds would probably perform for us.

Yardley Chase is an interesting area that is privately owned and not  open to the public. It was originally a Norman hunting chase. During the Second World War it was felt that the rural wooded aspect of the chase would provide good cover for a military storage facility. Most records state that the many bunkers built were for storage of explosives, each one being surrounded by a water-filled moat. However, during the visit, it was also suggested that important national documents, etc. were held here for safe-keeping. I would have thought that the two would be mutually exclusive! Some of the bunkers are still visible.

Military remains - Yardley Chase
In addition to the dragonflies, I was also interested to learn that this place was a great place to find Wood Whites, and we were soon seeing these delightful  little butterflies.



Wood White (Leptidea sinapis) - Yardley Chase
I'm pleased to say that the visit had been restricted to 12 participants - unlike the previous BDS visit I'd attended - and this was a very manageable number. 

It is the remains of the moats that make the area a haven for invertebrate wildlife. The first pond we visited immediately yielded our first Downy Emeralds, although these were constantly on the move and extremely difficult to photograph. 

Mark had done a bit of searching around at the far side of the pond and found a newly emerged Southern Hawker. We went round to have a look and it was a while before someone noticed that one of its forewings had not developed properly.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (teneral male) - Yardley Chase
Also, in the same area, I photographed a Banded Demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Yardley Chase
We then moved on to other ponds, taking a lunch break part way through the visit.  Here are some of the non-dragonfly items that I saw during the visit - I'll leave the dragons to the end.

Donacia semicuprea - Yardley Chase
Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis) (male) - Yardley Chase
caterpillar - any ID info would be appreciated - Yardley Chase
Common Frog (Rana temporaria) (froglet) - Yardley Chase
Later in the day these froglets were everywhere and, no doubt, some will have fallen victim to our footfall in the long grass.

It was commented on during our visit that there was a dearth of birds in the area.

To the best of my knowledge, just three Southern Hawkers were seen that day - all teneral and all in some sort of trouble. The first, I have already shown. The second I found with its two forewings bonded together by haemorrhaged fluids. One of our number was able to separate the two wings and it managed to fly. The third I won't show here as it was a very sad case - a female that seemed to have run out of body fluids. Its body wasn't fully expanded and its eyes were clouded over and looked as if they had been deflated. The first two might have made it, but not the third. It was suggested that these were all emerging in long pond-side vegetation that was too dense and were not able to get to an unobstructed position to stretch out as they developed.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (teneral male) - Yardley Chase
On a happier note, all other species seemed to be doing fine! Here are some:-

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Yardley Chase
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (female) - Yardley Chase
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Yardley Chase


Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (immature males) - Yardley Chase
Emperor (Anax imperator) (female - ovipositing) - Yardley Chase
Emperor (Anax imperator) (exuvia) - Yardley Chase
OK, so I've left the Downy Emeralds to last. Earlier this year I'd seen and photographed my first ever Downy Emeralds in Surrey. On that occasion I'd only managed to get some (fairly reasonable) flight shots - no static shots. Here at Yardley Chase it looked as if I was going to fare even worse. The light was not good for much of the time and my attempts at flight shots didn't come to much at all - here are some 'for the record'.



Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) (male) - Yardley Chase
Suddenly I noticed that people were gathering at a spot on the other side of the pond - a perched Downy Emerald had been spotted. It was still there when I got round to the other side, but it was hard to get an unobstructed photo - at least I was able to witness those rainbow colours on the thorax that I'd heard about.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) (male) - Yardley Chase
After everybody had had their fill of this specimen and it was still there, I cleared it with the rest of the group that I could go into the water for a better shot (I was the only one wearing wellies!). It did give me a slightly better shot, but I didn't want to hang around and disturb it.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) (male) - Yardley Chase
I'd had an extremely enjoyable and informative day at Yardley Chase, and I take this opportunity to thank Mark Tyrrell for organising the visit and his help and guidance, and the rest of the people there for making it such an enjoyable time. Thank you, all!!

Hopefully, my next post will feature Pt.2 of my visit to the Outer Hebrides - I haven't even started on it yet (life's a bit hectic at the moment)!

Thank you for dropping by.

26 comments:

  1. Another entertaining selection. I can see the benefit of travelling dogless.

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    1. Thank you Adrian. Can't comment on your last sentence as I've never travelled dogged - or have I?

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  2. A lovely post Richard with lots of lovely photos. Nice to see a Perched Downy and witness those lovely colours on the thorax.

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    1. Thank you, Marc, for your kind words, and the inspiration to make this and the Surrey visit. Have a great week. With my best wishes - - - Richard

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  3. Oh, how wonderful and rewarding day! Congratulations for great pictures!

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    1. Thank you, Anne. It was a very enjoyable day.

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  4. Lovely images- especially of the Downy Emerald.

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    1. Thank you! Best wishes - - - Richard

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  5. It's always great when you get to see the target species, Richard. Your title could as easily have been "Downy Emerald Chase!" There is little question that a well organized group in a workable number, led by a competent individual, generally produces good results - and this outing proved it. I organized a butterfly net training exercise for a group of people this morning - and it turned out to be a great success. Everyone learned and we found caterpillars of numerous species. Last night I was mothing with Ross Dickson - now there's a taxon that can give you fits. Birds are easy!

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    1. It was a very successful trip, David, and well-worth the distance travelled to get there.

      Great to hear about your butterfly event - with one exception (more at a later date), I seem to have neglected the butterflies this year.

      As for the moths - your warning has, I'm afraid, come too late! Again, more at a later date.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  6. Stunning photos, and I love the Emerald Damselfly, beautiful Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. Those Emerald Damselflies are beautiful, but there are some people suggesting that they are not doing well this year.

      My very best wishes - - - Richard.

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  7. Outstanding images all! Congratulations on the Downy Emerald. What a gorgeous dragon! The Banded Demoiselle is my favorite, due to the colors and your stunning detail work!
    I'm trying to catch up on blog posts so forgive my tardiness. Also, I'm working backwards, my normal mode.

    Gini and I hope you and Lindsay had a terrific weekend and will experience an even better week!

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    1. Thank you for those very kind words, Wally.

      I can fully understand you being taken with the Banded Demoiselle - in some ways it's more spectacular than the rarer (in these parts) Beautiful Demoiselle.

      I'm in full sympathy with the 'working backwards' syndrome - I seem to have a constant 4-week backlog of jobs to do this summer - how did I ever manage to hold down a job?!?

      Not sure about this week - it's started with a cold and cough that I've caught from Lindsay. I hope that yours has got off to a more promising start!

      My very best wishes to you both. Take good care - - - Richard

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  8. Every image ticks I must see box,love the Wood Whites,and the Downy Emerald fantastic images,also congratulations on your flight captures,brilliant.
    Very Best Regards.
    John and Sue.

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    1. Thank you for those kind words, John and Sue. I'm sure that you have far more species there that I don't see, than I have here that you don't see! My very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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  9. Hello Richard
    again a post of unparalleled, The Libelen super sharp and photographed in a perfect setting. The backgrounds are also great
    Greetings Frank

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    1. Thank you, Frank, for those kind words. With my best wishes from UK - - - Richard

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  10. Hello Richard,
    Wonderful set of insect photos!
    The Downy emerald ones are superb, especially the flights, a classic but not-so-easy feat to manage!!
    Donacia semicuprea is a discovery for me, a beautiful beetle.
    Still running like crazy and soon off to Spain...!!
    All the best and enjoy your day, dear friend :)

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    1. Thank you, Noushka. I enjoy trying to take flight shots of dragons, but I can only do it for relatively short periods as my arms start aching after about an hour (I'm usually using the Sigma 50-500) and then I don't react quickly enough!

      I hope you have a wonderful time in Spain - take good care - - - - Richard

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  11. How odd about the dearth of birds in the Chase. I do a lot of my birding in the vicinity of Yardley Chase, must've been one of them days.
    Very strange about those deformaties too

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    1. Hi Doug. I hadn't realised that I'd been close to your local stamping ground. Yardley Chase had a decidedly odd feel to it that I couldn't put my finger on. It just didn't feel 'natural' - which, of course, it wasn't. The shooting towers didn't help those feelings either. However, it was still a very enjoyable experience, and I'd go again.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  12. Richard you have done it again, fabulous photos, well done. So much sharper than what I can get.
    We have been away for a week so trying to catch up and over 700 photos to sort out!! I always take too many! Mostly insects on this trip.
    Last night the Little Owl was on our chimney. I heard a call and thought that sounds close. Changed the lens on the camera and crept outside, managed a couple of shots before it flew off having seen me even though I was careful. Will put it on my blog soon. I was over the moon :-)
    Take care, best wishes Diane

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    1. Thank you, Diane - I seem to spend my life catching up with photo-processing these days!

      I love your Little Owl images and I am very jealous as I haven't had a good 'Little Owl fix' for several months. Must try and put that right soon.

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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  13. Hi Richard,
    what a special area this and what is beautiful that you told us about this.
    Also very interesting to read from those bunkers.

    Your nature is beautiful again and your photos are all great in color, sharpness and details. Beautiful and beautiful sharp dragonflies (I'm a bit jocky on these beautiful pictures) and amazing beautiful insects. The emerald dragonfly is also really great! I also have these on the picture but it can be put in the trash if I compare it with you.
    My compliments.

    Cordial greetings,
    Helma

    I was away for a few days and therefore on the internet.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Helma. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

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