Dragon Hunt

Went hunting for dragons the other day. Specifically, I was after Black Darters and they tend to live in peat bogs. Fortunately, there's one of those behind a retail park on the outskirts of town. Sure enough, I quickly found a female sunning herself.

Even then, you can't miss other opportunities when they present themselves, like this Scorpion Fly

So far, the numbers of dragons seems to be way down, presumably due to the extended period of bad weather since June ... or the recent droughts. However, in one place I had a dozen Black Darters sitting in the grass all around me.

It's quite amazing to see that many hovering just in front of you when you take a step. And then they all just settle down again.

There were a few damsels about, too, including the first lovely Emeralds I've seen this year

I just love that metallic green!

There were a couple of Four-spot Chasers around and another inhabitant of acidic waters, the Common Hawker. This is just a long distance, cropped record shot

However, the numbers of Black Darters were impressive - dozens and dozens of them everywhere. I even got one to smile for the camera. At least, I think that's a smile!

"But," I hear you cry "Not one of those is black!" It's true, the vast majority I saw were yellow, ie female or immature male. Adult males were few and far between ... or perhaps being black, they are more like Stealth Darters and impossible to find and invisible to radar. Despite the difficulties, I managed to track one down for you.

Black is meant to be a colour that goes with anything, so the coolest and trendiest of the Darters, the Black Darter

There are quite a few dragons we don't get locally, but I'm glad we have these just round the corner

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Nige   Flickr

  • Great shots and commentary plus the ID's; they are stunning creatures and the metallic green on the Emerald is almost unreal, like it's been spray painted ! Pity the weather is so unsettled at the moment after those sunny months of April and May; having said that Friday looks good for dragons and damsels ! .....unless they change the forecast yet again. Keep 'em coming Nige, it's good to see these fabulous creatures.

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Your photos are just amazing Nigel, I'm certain I wouldn't see the colour on the Green Emerald with my eyes alone, so thanks for the lovely close ups. The enigmatic smile is brilliant, and thanks for the introduction to the Black Darters.

    Lot to learn

  • Brilliant, Nige, simply brilliant. Thank you
  • @ Nige,    forgot to tell you,  local reserve (Woolston Eyes) spotted a Hornet mimic hoverfly which apparently is more rare in the north of England although the species are slowly spreading northwards from the south of England.    Was wondering if you had seen one on your travels but if not keep a look out on the buddleia;    HERE is the link for interest.    The (permit) reserve only opened just over a week ago but haven't been yet.    

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Excellent set of photos, Nigel. When I first encountered Black Darters I was surprised how small they were compared with some of the other darters. I agree that they are very cool looking. The Emerald Damselfly is a stunner.

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    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • Thanks all - very kind
    When I saw the females, I didn't think they were that small, but the male in final photos was definitely diminutive!
    Hazy, Thanks for the info. Nice to see Woolston has re-opened and it seems the hides are open, too? I actually photographed the Hoverfly, Volucella Zonaria, at Pennington a couple of years ago. It remains the only one I've seen. I was quite excited because I didn't think many had been reported this far north, but the only local who knew what I was talking about said they are uncommon but not too unusual (more not reported). A friend also sent me a photo early this year asking for an ID and it was one of those in his garden so they are cropping up more than some records/ distribution maps suggest. In general, insects are very poorly reported because of ID issues and lack of knowledge/interest.

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    Nige   Flickr

  • Goes to show what is out there Nige ......... if some of us like me paid more attention and knew our ID's better. It's been such a strange year with lockdown I've seen so little in the great outdoors, especially insects and the like.

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    It's not knowing ID's with insects, it's that more often than not, you need to be an expert and you need to have caught the insect and examined it closely in order to be 100% certain. This hoverfly is one of the easy ones, but only something like 50% of hoverflies can be readily ID'd in the field. Things like spiders, wasps and sawflies are next to impossible to pin down to exact species, so people (including me) don't bother to record any insects. We recently had a sawfly with only 4 records nationally, yet it was well enough described and illustrated on the internet for me to ID it from a bad photo! How is that possible? It must have been seen a whole lot more than 4 times to have that much published info available!

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    Nige   Flickr

  • The records on such creatures must be so inaccurate with many species going unreported. Haven't really been out with the camera much this year (understandable ! ) but if I see a critter I don't know I will always try and take a record shot in the hope someone can ID it. I always think back to the Pyrausta ostrinalis we found together at Helsington Barrows which I ended up reporting to the country recorder with photos. They need sightings like these as we know to get a more accurate picture.

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Nigel, I confess that I marvelled at the photos and then moved on (back to work).

    But, if I may hijack your thread for a moment, I think you are the man (and Hazel the woman) to ask.

    Yesterday, I saw (and didn’t photo) the most incredible dragonfly-like thing I’ve ever seen.

    Landed briefly to sun itself on a judas tree to the south side of the house. Around 8 cm long, with a deep electric blue body and four deep electric blue wings; solid colour, not transparent—a completely unnatural colour but there it was.

    We’re complete amateurs. But we ‘looked at our books’ and wondered if Calopteryx is the right direction at least…

    What do you think?

    Best regards –

    Dave