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Sunday, 22 September 2019

Friday 13th! - 13th September,2019

On Sunday 8th September, Willow Emerald Damselfly was reported from a site in Leicestershire and Rutland (VC66). This was a first record for the vice-county. This damselfly is rapidly expanding its range in UK, but I'd had my first-ever sighting of this species in Norfolk at the beginning of July.  

Undaunted by the ill omens that are supposed to surround a 'Friday 13th' date, I decided that I needed to go and 'twitch' this species, which was at a location on the far side of the county to my home.

I set off mid-morning, taking a rural route. Nothing of great interest was seen on the way, but I did stop en-route for a while to look at a small group of Barn Swallow, which included many juveniles, on some wires near one of my old Little Owl sites.

The location I was headed for was the inflow at Eyebrook Reservoir. I was expecting to find a crowd there, but arrived at 11h45 to find just one other vehicle and three people in attendance. All three had been looking for the Willow Emeralds, but had not yet seen one, although they'd seen scars on distant branches through the 'scope that one of them was using. I was told that they'd looked both sides of the bridge, but only spotted evidence on the north side, so this is where they had concentrated their efforts.

After a while, three more people turned up, including a lady who had previously seen the Willow Emeralds, and who informed us that the south side was where they'd been seen. Our attention was, therefore, switched to the other side of the road.

It was not long before the first specimen (a male) was spotted although it spent its time trying to hide behind a distant twig (this is depicted in my header image, whilst this post is current).

After a while, I felt the need to sit down in my car and have my picnic lunch, during which time people's attention switched to the north side of the bridge. A Willow Emerald had been spotted there, although even more distant than the one on the south side.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir (north side of bridge)
Soon after this, sightings on the south side started to increase, with mating pairs and pairs in tandem ovipositing, as well as singles. Although I didn't see more than four at any one time, I'm sure that there were many more than this, and believe that the evidence shows a well-established breeding colony.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male) - Eyebrook Reservoir (south side of bridge)
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female - in cop) - Eyebrook Reservoir (south side of bridge)
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female - post-cop) - Eyebrook Reservoir (south side of bridge)

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) (male + female - ovipositing) - Eyebrook Reservoir (south side of bridge)
By 13h45 I was feeling decidedly off-colour (I'd nearly turned back on my way to Eyebrook) and, in spite of the sun steadily moving round to a more favourable position, bringing the damselflies with it and getting closer, I felt the need to depart homeward.

A short way down the road, just the other side of Stockerston, I stopped near a pond to answer the call of nature (part of the reason for my need to depart from Eyebrook!). A quick look at the pond yielded Brown and Migrant Hawkers and, on the path to the pond, Ruddy and Common Darters. I only managed a passable shot of a Common Darter.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - near Stockerston
My route home took me past Launde Abbey, and there is a pond right beside the road and grass to park on next to it so I stopped there. Last year, in the very dry summer, the pond had dried up completely and the mud on the bottom had a mass of wide cracks in it, so I feared for the dragonflies and damselflies there. A visit a few weeks previously this year had salved my worries as I saw plenty of odonata action. The pond vegetation, however, was far higher and more dense than I have ever seen before and there was barely any surface water visible. I did see a Migrant Hawker flying around the far side of the pond and a female Southern Hawker briefly came into view, ovipositing, but I failed to get any shots. I did manage to get a few shots of Ruddy and Common Darter, but I didn't stay long.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Launde Abbey
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Launde Abbey
The excitement for the day was not over yet as I found a Little Owl out at my LO Site No.23

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.23
As a measure as to how desperate the situation has been this year, this was the first Little Owl I had recorded since the end of March! I am sure that you can, therefore, understand how exciting this was for me. 

Thank you for dropping by. I might have to resort to older material for my next blog post, unless something turns up in the interim!

27 comments:

  1. Great to see you getting in on the Willow Emerald Damselfly action. It's certainly been a good year for them and u think this year will be remembered for the big push north the species took. Some lovely images too to accompany the post. Sure you're be back. They're addictive!

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    1. It really was quite exciting to me to hear of them in the county Marc, and I'm sure that I'll be checking them out on a regular basis in the season. Sadly, there is no access to the land with the willows that they've colonised, so views have been distant. I'm hoping that they'll spread to somewhere more accessible. Was there again yesterday afternoon but, although it was warm and sunny, it was windy, and I could only find one, which was at a distance. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement - - - Richard

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  2. Mark down Friday the 13th as auspicious, Richard. It is for Miriam and me too. We met on Friday the 13th and then got married on Friday the 13th and that hasn't turned out too badly. Maybe she is a damselfly!

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    1. You've strengthened my belief that the 'Friday 13th' scare was just created to stop people making the the most of what is generally an auspicious day, David. As to your last point, thank your lucky stars that she's possibly a damselfly but definitely not a dragon!

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  3. And I forgot to ask, what is the vice-county?

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    1. Sorry, David - it's nothing to do with illicit pleasures! A vice-county is a geographical definition of an area for the purpose of biological recording. The vice-county 'map' was created in 1852 using the administrative county boundaries as the basis. However, administrative county boundaries change over time for a variety of reasons (shifting rivers for an example). Our own vice-county has nibbled bits out of some neighbouring counties and lost other bits to other counties. Living near the border, as we do, it does make things a little complicated as we're in the county of Leicestershire and it's easy to find detailed maps which show the county boundary, but I've not yet managed to find a detailed map showing the vice-county boundary - and some of the bits of Derbyshire and Staffordshire which are in our vice-county are only five minutes down the road from us! You can find more about vice counties on Wikipedia:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vice-county

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    2. Interesting stuff, Richard. Thank you!

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne. It was the perfect ending to an exciting day.

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  5. Hello Richard, I do not know if I ever encounterd a Willow Emerald Damselfly but they are sure worth all the effort you made. It is a beautiful Damselfly. I am glad for you you suceeded in finding a LO after such a long time on one of your locations. Your photos of the Damselflies are most wonderful specialy the one with two couples. Have a good week and take care.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Hi, Roos. Willow Emerald Damselfly are in your area, but they are very fussy about where they colonise. Ideally they like Willow trees which overhang slow-moving water. Although they are visibly different from the other emerald damselflies, it would be very easy to miss a Willow Emerald thinking it was one of the others. In England, they are the last damselflies to be around as winter approaches. I wish you the very best for the coming week. Take good care - - - Richard

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  6. Hi Richard.
    Nice to see you back in the Field again,i hope you make a speedy recovery,it takes time.
    I really enjoyed looking at your wonderful photography,and thank you for all your comments and support.
    John.

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    1. Believe me, John, it's great to be out and about again! I feel so much better in the last few days, although I've still got a way to go before I'm back to where I was before all this. Thank you for your very kind words. I'm always looking forward to your next blog post. Best wishes to you and Sue - - - Richard

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  7. Carry on improving. The Damselfly is a wonderful sight. Are Little Owls struggling?

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    1. Yes, Adrian, Little Owls are not doing at all well in these parts. I think the biggest factors in their demise are the lack of invertebrates (food shortage), and climate difficulties (too wet at times making it difficult to fly, but too dry too often making probing the ground for worms impossible). All owls have difficulty in wet weather as the soft wing feathers (which give them their silent flight) absorb a lot of water.

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  8. Great Friday 13th, in Italy it is Friday 17th which is bad luck!!! Maybe you have some Italian blood:-)
    Love the Willow Emerald Damselfly, sure I have never seen one of those but then I am not very good at identifying damsels anyway!!

    Delighted that you saw a Little Owl. Ours are around all the time but seems to be taking to the trees rather than the barn sadly so not so easy to see.

    Sounds like you are feeling a lot better, may your health continue to improve.

    Best wishes and in haste, time is flying by with so much to do before we actually leave. Cheers Diane

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    1. I didn't know that about Friday 17th in Italy, Diane. If I had some Italian blood in me, my mother did not let on about it!

      You have to be a bit of an enthusiast to identify and get excited about Willow Emerald Damselflies - they are, at a glance, somewhat similar to other emerald damselfies.

      The Little Owl was a real bonus for me. Sorry to hear that your local Little Owl isn't being very cooperative!

      Still keeping my fingers crossed for you, and hoping that your fear of BA going on strike didn't cause you to switch to Thomas Cooke!?

      Yes, I have been feeling a lot better over the past few days, thank you, and actually did some digging in the garden this afternoon.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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    2. Still with BA, fingers crossed!!

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  9. Hello Richard,
    I can certainly imagine that you were excited when you discovered the little little owl there :-))) I would therefore be very excited and happy.
    The wood armored dragon is also a very beautiful lady. In the Netherlands I see this more often but I also enjoy your foot's very much from this beautiful lady.
    Kind regards and think carefully about yourself,
    Helma

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    1. Seeing the Little Owl was the most exciting part of the visit for me, Helma. I used to see Little Owls very frequently but,sadly, I very rarely see one now. I am not sure what dragonfly/damselfly your 'wood amoured dragon' is but suspect that you are refering to the Willow Emerald Damselfly. If this is the case, and you see it more often, you are very lucky!

      Take good care. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. What some beautiful Dragonflies, and Little Owl to boot, they are gorgeous.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. It was a very special day, and the Little Owl was the best bit! Take good care. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  11. Precioso reportaje, las fotos son fabulosas. Enhorabuena por volver a ver al Athene noctua en su sitio, este verano yo he disfrutado mucho con esta especie que poco a poco está recuperando espacios donde había desaparecido. Un fuerte abrazo desde España, todo lo mejor!!!

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    1. Gracias por tus palabras de ánimo, Germán. La situación con Athene noctua parece ser realmente mala en la mayor parte del Reino Unido. Creo que es una combinación de cambio climático y la falta de invertebrados debido a los métodos de cultivo intensivo.

      Mis mejores deseos desde Inglaterra, donde el otoño ya comenzó - - - Richard

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  12. Hello Richard
    first-class photography, so a nice day can end, to finish even the little owl, there you come home with a smile ...
    Greetings Frank

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    1. Thank you for those kind words, Frank. I certainly did come home with a BIG SMILE! My best wishes - - - Richard

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