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Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Catchup Time - Local Excursions in June, 2022

I didn't get out into the countryside much in June this year - partly because of catching Covid near the start of the month. Most of the local excursions that I did make were specifically to look for damselflies and dragonflies. Here is a brief account of where I did get to.

Thursday, 2nd June                Saltersford Valley Country Park

Lindsay was already suffering from Covid and so I did not want to venture out for long. As I'd seen Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) at this location at this time of year in both 2020 and 2021, and the County Recorder had considered these to be notable records for this part of the county, I thought maybe I should have a look to see if I could find one this year. 

On arrival, it was disappointing to see the extent of the murky rusty-brown water from the mining outflow. I only saw two dragonflies that were so distant that I could not postively ID them but were probably male Emperors. There were a few damselflies present, including a male Azure Damselfly which spent time waving its abdomen about.

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
A Mute Swan was resting on the nest that had been used by Canada Geese earlier in the year and had disappeared without trace.
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Saltersford Valley CP
In one small patch of grassland there were numerous small Chimney Sweeper moths milling around - I would guess at about twenty. Most of these seemed intent on mating. There's a bit of a threesome going on in the second image below!

Chimney Sweeper (Odezia atrata) - Saltersord Valley CP
I have no idea of the ID of this spider that was crossing the boardwalk. Initially I thought it had a large round pale abdomen, but now believe it is a female transporting an egg-sack. Please let me know if I am wrong!
spider sp. - Saltersford Valley
The next day, feeling a little off-colour, I tested postive for Covid, and this kept me 'housebound' for a while.
Tuesday, 14th June                    Saltersford Valley

On this day, feeling much better, I had my first negative Covid test, and it was time to break loose. I should have been returning from a three day stay in Norfolk this day, but that was cancelled because of Covid. For my first outing I felt it wise to stay close to home as I was not sure how robust I might be. A return to Saltersford Valley seemed to be the best option.

On this visit, I still didn't find any dragonflies close enough to identify. In fact, even the damselfies were in short supply. Here are a few.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (teneral male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
An Azure Damselfly was up to its abdomen-waving tricks again - I'm not sure why I'm suddenly starting to notice this behaviour!
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
I was pleased to see the swans had produced five healthy-looking young.
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Saltersford Valley CP
If you didn't know, I'm not sure that you would ever guess that these were Moorhen chicks. I was reminded of my old pal, John Truman, once remarking, on the appearance of some Moorhen chicks,  that "you'd have to be the mother, to love those" - however, I think that they're rather cute!
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (young) - Saltersford Valley CP
There were many Speckled Wood butterflies around, but the only butterfly I photographed was a Meadow Brown. This one was photo-bombed by a Swollen-thighed Beetle which flew in!  

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) - Saltersford Valley CP
I have to confess that I came away from this visit thinking that there was something wrong at this site, as a once productive site seemed to have become a shadow of its former self.

Wednesday, 15th June                   Heather Lake

Determined to find dragonflies, I headed off to another favourite location near my home. This has also been a very productive site for dragonflies and damselflies. 

Yet another disappointment awaited me as I found that the vegetation round the lake had grown to an unprecedented height and density and it was difficult to get a view of what might be around. Passage along the east side of the lake was relatively easy, but the west side was all but impassable with tall vegatation, including brambles, across the pathway.

At first, I was not seeing any odonata at all and started taking photos of other wildlife. I think that this spider is one of the Tetragnatha species, possiby Tetragnatha extensa

 possibly Tetraganatha extensa - Heather Lake
They may be our most common duck, but a 'nursery' of Mallards will always gladen my heart.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (adults with young) - Heather Lake
I'd never seen orchids beside the lake here, so was quite surprised to spot isolated plants in three water's edge locations. I couldn't get close enough to see the leaves, and do not know what species these might have been.
orchid species - Heather Lake
Speckled Wood butterflies are almost a 'given' at this location at the right time of year, and they do seem to have a long flight season.
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Heather Lake
I was at the south end of the lake before I found any photographable odonata. Common Blue Damselfly were busy working on the next generation.
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female) - Heather Lake
What little dragonfly activity there was, was round on the barely accessible west side of the lake and, as this was a morning visit, the light was against me. The best that I could manage were some rather dodgy shots of Four-spotted Chaser.
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Heather Lake
I was now starting to think that the odonata in this area were not having a good season.
Monday, 20th June                         Saltersford Valley Country Park
Undaunted by my previous disappointments at this site, I paid another visit, and found myself almost immediately uplifted by sighting a Southern Hawker - and it settled!

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) (female) - Saltersford Valley CP
My next significant sighting had me puzzled for a long while until I did some research. I could not understand why all these flies were attracted to this particular part of this bramble. I considered that it might have been polluted with something but, for example, it was much too high off the ground for anything to have peed on! I subsequently found that these were Cluster Flies, and this is their normal behaviour!
Cluster Fly (Pollenia sp.) - Saltersford Valley CP
The damselflies seen were common fare.
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (female) - Saltersford Valley CP
A Black-tailed Skimmer, was settling on a gravelled area, which was not helpful for photography.
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP
I was pleased to get some better shots of Four-spotted Chaser. You may understand, from these images, why I think that Four-spotted Chaser deserves the epithet 'hairy dragonfly' more than does Hairy Dragonfly (
Brachytron pratense).

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) -Saltersford Valley CP
As I was about to leave, I saw some movement in the reeds and, after a while of waiting, the bird appeared. I believe this to be a Reed Warbler, but I'm not good on brown warblers!
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) - Saltersford Valley CP
At last, I'd had a relatively satisfying dragon hunt!
Wednesday, 22nd June
On this day, I'd arranged to meet my brother at Rutland Water. We'd not seen each other since before Christmas, and he wanted to hand over a golden wedding anniversary present that he and my sister-in-law had very kindly bought Lindsay and I. We didn't venture beyond the car park at Rutland Water, and little was seen except a Red Kite. However, I did see a Little Owl on my way there, and it was in exactly the same place on this branch on my way back, four and a half hours later!
Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my LO Site No.34
The next day, we were off to Portland, Dorset, to celebrate our anniversary, which I have already reported on, so this brings me to the end of my account of my local excursions in June. At this point in time, I intend my next post to be on my garden observations for June.
In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard



  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne. Best wishes - - - rochard !! ;-}

  2. Hello Richard
    You delivered an impressive series of photos for the short excursions, the "hairy dragonfly" looks fantastic, the little swans are very nice to look at and the highlight for me is of course the little owl...
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank. A Little Owl will always be a highlight for me too!

      Best wishes to you and your new companion - - - Richard


  3. Good morning, Richard: I would imagine that this is just about peak time for Odenata and you did very well on a series of short outings close to home. Miriam and I were tying to photograph a few here the other day, but to get them to land is a whole other matter, and when they do it is far away or behind vegetation. "Trying" is the operative word! Great to see the Little Owl and to know that it is staying put. It has been hot here of late, but nothing like the temperatures in other parts of the continent, and I know you have had issues with high temperatures in the UK. We are slowly cooking the planet and seem unwilling to do anything about it. Best wishes to you both - David

    1. We are suffering our worst drought for several decades, David. Ponds and rivers are running dry, vegetation is dying and their flowers are short-lived, insects are losing their food supply, and so Odonata nymphs are dying through loss of habitat, and adults that do emerge have a shortage of prey to sustain them. It might be peak season, but it's a very low peak this year and, of course, that will have a dire knock-on effect for next year.

      It's starting to feel as if we are on the verge of becoming a Third World country, and it can only be hoped that failing conditions bring people up with a start, and they realise that something HAS to be done - although I'm increasingly of the opinion that the selfishness of mankind means that it's already too late.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  4. Absolutely stunning Richard, everyone is there. Beautiful.

  5. Your short excursions have produced volumes of pleasure!

    The array of Odonata is fabulous. Your superb photography has motivated me to strive to do better. Now, if you could teach me how to convince our dragons and damsels to perch at eye level so I don't have to stress my old bones by kneeling, I would be most appreciative.

    An exquisite buffet of images topped off with a special helping of dessert - a Little Owl!

    Gini and I certainly hope you and Lindsay are on the mend. We shall try again to send a bit of our rain your direction but we're afraid cooler temperatures will have to wait a bit.

    1. Many of those odonata were well-below eye-level, Wally. Rather than kneel, however, the photos were shot with the lens at its full 500 mm. There's some heavy cropping involved in most cases too!

      Lindsay's soldiering on, comforted in the knowledge that a fix to her knee is on the way. The treatment on my eye seems to be working and I am now seeing more clearly. So, all in all, we're not doing too badly for a pair of old'uns.

      It has now cooled off here, and there is a forecast for thunderstorms later today, so we live in hope!

      With best wishes to you both - - - Richard


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