Monday 21 July 2014

Damsels and Dragons on the Willow Holt Run

It's a long time since I've been out there 1) since I last ran out to Willow Holt and 2) it actually happened, I'm writing this blog five days due to busy-ness.

1) is explained by run rustiness.

2) Is explained by 90 degree heat at work sapping my brain of all but the most rudimentary functions.

Thus it was a very slow, overheated jog that took me out to Farndon by the unambitious old A46 route - no diversion into Hawton for me.

As expected at this time of year, the Willow Holt grasslands are rich with meadow brown and ringlet butterflies, disturbed as they are but the gentles of steps, my clodhopping running sure enough flushed many of them into thei air from the grasses next to the pathway.

But my main hope on this visit was the sight of dragonflies and damselflies, and I wasn't disappointed.

Although common blue, and blue tailed, damselflies were conspicuous by their absence compared to other years, but the banded demoislesss are still going strong all along the Trent. A female common darter, a demure yellow-green compared to her male counterpart also put on a display low down by the beanfield as the river turns East, but the real stars were above, and below.

Above was what appeared to be the first Southern Hawker of the year, inquisitve, restless, turning without effort, hawking for I ,suppose gnats, midges and mayfly.

And then down on the path, I saw a dragonfly I couldn't initially quite place, wings outstretched. Then I crept closer and got a good view of the flattened body, and realised it was my first broad bodied chaser of the year. But at the angle and the light, the normal pastel blue hue of the dragonfly was not visible - instead what you had was what looked like a dark, blackberry covoured body, frosted with pale sugar.

This is an effect called "pruinescence", where colour pigment is almost sprinked upon the surface of an insect in a bloom. I wish I could have photographed it for you.

Photographed? Ha ha! Photographing a broad bodied chaser is like shaving your eyeballs. So beautiful, and like most beautiful things, very elusive.

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