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Thursday 21 September 2023

Catchup Time Pt.6 - 10th to 28th August, 2023

Header image (while this post is current) - Banded Demoiselle (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone on 28th August, 2023  

Getting ever-closer to the current date, here is Part 6 of my Catchup series of posts.

Thursday, 10th August          Drakelow Nature Reserve

On this day, I visited Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's nature reserve at Drakelow, beside the River Trent. DWT has a reciprocal arrangement with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (of which I am a member) which allows visits to this reserve, entrance to which is protected by a combination-locked gate. It is approximately a mile and a half (2 km) from the gate to the car park!

My main interest here was, you may not be surprised to learn, the Odonata. This has been a useful place to visit in the past.

Near the car park, I found Common Blue Damselflies, two of which were in the process of hooking up to mate. In this first image, the male has used his anal appendages (claspers) to grip the pronotum (behind the head) of the female.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male+female in tandem) - Drakelow NR
In this second image, the female has brought her abdomen round so that her rear end connects with the secondary genitalia of the male.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male+female in cop) - Drakelow NR
This is a shot of the male of the species, unusually shown with its wings spread.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Drakelow NR

I can't be sure, without consulting my records, but I believe these were my first sightings of Ruddy Darter for the year. In the first image, the dragonfly is 'obelisking' - pointing the abdomen directly at the sun to avoid overheating by reducing the area receiving the sun.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Drakelow NR
I called in briefly at the first hide and immediately realised that the pickings from here would be slim at this time of year. I didn't bother with the second hide as it does not have opening windows.

On the trail, there were a few butterflies. This was a female Common Blue, although you wouldn't know it as a female unless you saw it with its wings open.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (female) - Drakelow NR
Towards the northern edge of the reserve, I noticed an Emperor dragonfly flying around. It stopped on the far side of the water but I was able to get a distant shot. It was only when I came to look at my photos that I realised that it was, perhaps, a small miracle that this dragonfly was still mobile.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Drakelow NR
In  one area, a Cormorant was taking in the sun . . . . 

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Drakelow NR

. . . . while the rest of the gang looked on.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Drakelow NR

A Brimstone butterfly looked rather splendid.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Drakelow NR

On one of the lakes, there is a platform at the edge of the lake, which can be quite useful for watching the Odonata. As I approached this, I managed to disturb an unseen Emperor. It flew away for a short distance and then, to my surprise, came back a bit closer. For the first image, below, I had to wind the lens back to 325mm to get it in. It then came closer still, and I had to come even further back, to 225mm for the second image! 

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Drakelow NR

On the path back to the car park, I encountered Common Darters and a Banded Demoiselle

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Drakelow NR

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Drakelow NR

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Drakelow NR

In the car park, before heading home, I photographed a male Common Blue butterfly.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Drakelow NR
Monday, 14th August          Garden

A male Bullfinch was regularly showing up with three juveniles. I only managed to get two juveniles in frame on this occasion.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male + juveniles) - our garden
Wednesday, 16th August          Thortit Lake

Another visit, looking for dragonflies, took me to Thortit Lake, just down the road from our house. 

As I entered the area, there were two Brimstone butterflies near the entrance. I waited until one landed and took some shots.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - near Thortit Lake

There are a couple of areas where it is possible to get close to the water of the lake and I spent some time at both of these.

A Common Blue Damselfly is, as the name suggests, very common, but it is, nevertheless, a very attractive insect.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) -Thortit Lake
There is a spot near the water's edge that regularly attracts Small Copper, Common Blue and Brown Argus butterflies at the right time of year. Here's a Small Copper from this day.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Thortit Lake
I found a Migrant Hawker that was patrolling an area of the shoreline and started trying to get some flight shots. This next shot is of terrible quality but I have to include it as, although I know they can do it, I have never noticed a dragonfly flying upside down before, and I have never seen an image of one doing this either.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
Here it is flying the right way up!

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Thortit Lake
Behind me, a Common Blue butterfly had arrived.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Thortit Lake
As I left the area, a Common Darter posed nicely.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (female) - Thortit Lake
Saturday, 19th August          Saltersford Valley Country Park  :  Garden

A quick late-morning visit to the boardwalk at Saltersford Valley CP had me finding the usual Common Darters resting on the boardwalk. This was a well-matured male.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) -Saltersford Valley CP

Most of my time here, however, was spent trying for flight shots of Migrant Hawkers. I didn't do too badly, and one even settled for me.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Saltersford Valley CP

That afternoon, while we we having our early-evening meal in the conservatory, we had an influx of tits, including six Long-tailed Tits.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - our garden

We'd only just finished eating when a warbler arrived. From a photo that wasn't worth publishing, I could identify this as a Willow Warbler by the colour of its legs. Here is a slightly better shot of this bird.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - our garden

Sunday, 20th August          Garden

Warblers in our garden are relatively rare, so I was surprised when we were relaxing in the conservatory after lunch and we had another warbler visit. I think that this was a different bird to the one of the previous day as it seemed much paler and more yellow. I am relatively confident that this was also a Willow Warbler, however.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - our garden
Monday, 28th August          Ashby Canal, Snarestone
A fair weather day this day had me returning to the Ashby Canal near Snarestone. This is my my local hotspot for my favourite damselfly - the White-legged Damselfly. It was a bit late in the season for this species so my expectations were not high.
Having parked in the canal-side car park, I crossed the bridge and headed along the towpath. I'd only gone a few metres before seeing my first damselfly - a female Banded Demoiselle.
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone

As I was watching this damselfly, a White-legged Damselfly arrived.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Further on, I stopped for a hoverfly. This is one of the drone flies.
drone fly (Eristalis arbustorum) (female) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone

There were Common Darters  along the way, but I have already shown a few in this post, so I shall not bother you with another image. However, I will show this Migrant Hawker as it appears to have suffered some abdominal damage. It didn't seem to affect it's ability to function, however, as it flew with some agility.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
My next photographic encounter was with a male Banded Demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
A Speckled Wood obligingly landed on the towpath in front of me.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Tachina fera is a rather large bristly fly and quite spectacular in appearance, and I can never resist taking photos when I encounter one.
tachinid fly (Tachina fera)  - Ashby Canal, Snarestone
Sadly, I did not find any more White-legged Damselflies, but it had been an entertaining visit.
I have now reached the end of August with my blog posts. I expect that the next post will feature the first two weeks of September, and I will be nearly up to date - phew! In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Lovely selection.

    I'm envious of your Bullfinches. Many years ago I had brief sightings in my garden, but sadly over the last 2-3 years they seem to have disappeared from all the decent habitat within a few miles of home. I do miss them!

    With the exception of the White-legged Damselflies, I can at least see all the insects featured here locally.

    1. We consider ourselves very lucky to get Bullfinch from time to time, especially as we are in a suburban location. We do get long absences, however, and we haven't seen a Bullfinch since 2nd September. That was one of the youngsters that was regularly coming by itself for 10 days.

      Thank you, once again, for your visit and supportive comments.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. Ah, those dragonflies and their mating habitats. They make the Kama Sutra look like child’s play and I am quite sure they recognize you as a heralded sexologist and put on a show for you! Great to have the warbler in the backyard. We have had a few unusual species of late (no pictures though) and the thought has occurred to me that as as expanding humanity and wildfires consume their habitat, they have fewer and fewer places to go. Some may adapt to suburban and urban backyards, but others will doubtless suffer seriously from habitat loss. All things considered, I am not entirely unhappy that I won’t be around twenty years from now! Best wishes to you and Lindsay - David

    1. It's been going crazy in UK over the past few days, David, almost certainly due to climate change causing the remnants of extreme weather reaching us from the Americas. In the past three days the UK has had Black-and-white Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Cliff Swallow, Baltimore Oriole, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bobolink, Alder Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, and American Buff-bellied Pipit. A significant number of those sightings were from the Isles of Scilly, and it is suspected that there are more sightings to come. Great news for birders, but a stark warning for the future of the planet. I too am unlikely to be around in twenty years time, but I fear for our children and grandchildren.

      My very best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  3. Hello Richard
    I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of dragonflies, my goal is to try more intensively on dragonfly photos next year, it definitely won't be works of art like your photos but I'll do the best... you'll see the result then.
    Greetings Frank

    1. I'm delighted to know of your intentions to try and photograph dragonflies next year, Frank, and I am sure that you will get some great results. You have the patience and the photographic skills.

      Best wishes from UK - - - Richard

  4. Hello Richard, great encounters of all those damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies. They gave you a wonderful show and your photos are amazing. Specialy those in flight! .
    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you, Roos. Coming from such a talented photographer and artist as you, Your words of encouragement are very much appreciated.

      My best wishes - - - Richard

  5. My comments are becoming a bit repetitive Richard, but another excellent variety in your latest catch up series. One stand out for me, was the Migrant Hawker in flight shot.

    You seem instantly confident the mass arrival of Americans on the Isles of Scilly is down to global warming....In a recent Channel 5 programme, Chris Packham seems to think it's time to wonder of we should start breaking the law on the protesting scene, as absolutely nothing has happened in the
    past through the peaceful route!

    Kind Regards....Pete.

    1. I'm just as guilty as you are about repetitive comments, Pete - maybe even more so! Your visits and kind words are always very much appreciated anyway.

      I firmly believe that global warming contributed greatly to the recent extreme weather in the Americas, and that the resultant winds from the west were responsible for the amazing fall of American birds in UK.

      Until now, I have been firmly behind Chris Packham's stance on Conservation, Hunting, and Climate Change. However, I am concerned that suggesting it might be time to break the law might be counter-productive to both his credibility and the cause. My immediate thoughts were of Trump and the last US presidential elections. Then again, there's all the good that Emily Pankhurst achieved to consider. Whatever turns out to be the right answer, I'm not intending to break the law any time soon.

      Best wishes to you and KT - - - Richard

  6. The latter part of August certainly produced some wonderful opportunities for anyone who likes birds and insects. The Banded Demoiselle continues to be a favorite as I haven't encountered anything quite like it around here. I see why the White-legged Damselfly appeals to you. It's beautiful.

    Terrific job on capturing the Migrant Hawker in flight! I'm dizzy just thinking about it.

    One more cuppa and one (or two) more reviews of your outstanding post and I must get busy with weekend chores.

    Gini and I are very well today and have been out and about shaking the trees for migrating warblers. A few were flushed but avoided capture by this digital hunter. On to the next tree.

    All our best to you both.

    1. Banded Demoiselle, and their congeners, Beautiful Demoiselle, are our largest damselflies, Wally as you may well know, having spent much time in Europe. Their flight seems much more fluttery than other damselflies.

      We are doing OK here, thank you, and keeping out fingers crossed that there are no more set-backs round the corner. You being out shaking trees for migrating warblers explains why they're all turning up here in UK just lately! - see my reply to David Gascoigne above.

      With my very best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

  7. Maravilloso reportaje que yo soy feliz de verlo, todo me encanta. Besos.

    1. Gracias Teresa. Mis mejores deseos - - - Richard

  8. Sorry I am not doing a very good job of keeping up with life. Too much to do in the garden which turn ends up with too much to do in the kitchen.......... I will get a blog done one day and I am still fighting with the new computer - I need more time to sit at it!!!

    I just love the Long-tailed Tit, wish they would turn up in our garden. We seem to be very short of blues this year, but then I have not really had many hours of looking for bugs or birds this year. An over productive garden me thinks!

    Very best wishes to you both, take care, cheers Diane

    1. It seems to me, Diane, that, for your own wellbeing, you're soon going to have to rethink your gardening and produce processing.

      Sadly, we do not often get Long-tailed Tit in the garden, but when we do, we usually hear them first.

      We took have had fewer blues this year. Those that I have seen have been mostly late in the season.

      My very best wishes to you and Nigel - - - Richard


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