Dragonflies are usually quite short-lived, maybe only a week. Often an over-mature, older individual will be fading in tone and colour. This is an over-mature female black darter dragonfly found yesterday at Thursley Common NNR. It was resting on the sand, soaking up warmth for energy. Unlike many of the other dragonflies seen yesterday, this individual allowed fellow photographer Paul and I to get up really close with our macro lenses. I believe it stayed put for so long as it’s trying to conserve as much energy as possible in it’s old age. What a privilege though!
I was instantly struck by it’s fragility and faded colours. Black darters are our only truly black species and mature males are very striking, deep black with a few flashes of yellow. They’re also our smallest species of dragonfly! This individual had become parchment-like and translucent. The blacks had faded to blue-grey and brown tones while the eyes had become much lighter in tone and were strikingly beautiful. There really is a haunting beauty in the ageing of many winged insects that strikes a chord with me. It made me think of the Visage song Fade To Grey:
Feel the rain like an English summer Hear the notes from a distant song Stepping out from a back shop poster Wishing life wouldn’t be so long
I have many many wonderful wildlife moments this last week while taking part in 30DaysWild, but taking my parent along to Thursley Common NNR was a real highlight! My dad is recovering from a hip replacement that has been long overdue. His mobility is still a bit restricted but he is finally able to walk far enough to get out onto the boardwalk at Thursley to see the birds, lizards, orchids and dragonflies. I can just about manage my electric wheelchair onto the site with a bit of help, this time provided by my mum and my aunt, who got me past a few missing boards and over some awkward roots.
We could only stay a short time and I was so thrilled to find the treecreepers once again nesting in the spot they occupied last year! Absolutely wonderful to watch them. The marsh orchids are really starting to carpet the bog in patchworks of purple, broken up by fabulous grasses, including native cotton grass. Such a delight to look upon! Damselflies and dragonflies are starting to increase in numbers, bringing the hobbies in to hunt over the ponds. I found many lovely lizards, one was even kind enough to stay put while my dad came in closer to get a photo with his phone!
I’m taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s challenge 30DaysWild this June. The challenge is to do something wild every day! There are lots of ideas for exploring wildlife and nature on the website and app. I like to get outdoors as much as possible but, sometimes my fatigue stops me from doing much.
Having a lot of local nature reserves is a big help! If I can manage to spend just an hour or so at Wisley or Heather Farm on Horsell Common, I feel so much better, physically and mentally. It gives me the opportunity to survey the areas for the wildlife that I love and just to breathe fresh air and relax to the peacefulness and sound of birdsong.
This male banded demoiselle was my first challenge image that I shared straight to Twitter. Everyone has really loved it so I’m sharing it again today, with a wider audience and for the ShareMondays, Wex Mondays and Fotospeed challenges.
The beauty is a common blue butterfly, a real favourite of mine! The beast in question is an Ichneumonid wasp. They are parasitoids, meaning that their larvae infect and feed on other invertebrates, eventually killing the host. I think this particular wasp is Apechthis compunctor, which lays its’ eggs in the pupae of butterflies. The adult often emerges from the butterfly itself. No small wonder that I would see them at NT Denbies Hillside, amidst the wonderful array of blue and copper butterflies that were on the wing. I can’t be 100% on my ID as these insects aren’t a specialist knowledge of mine, also there are well over 2000 species of ichneumonids in the UK! Watching this wasp actually fly right up to the common blue that I was photographing was fascinating, even though it gave me the creeps. I just kept photographing, hoping that I could capture a shot that told a story of the interrelationship between invertebrate species. This has to be my story and photograph of the week, even if there is an undercurrent of horror about it! Ecology is all about the interrelationships within specific ecosystems. Every time I get to watch something like this I learn more.
The birds have been putting on some great displays down at Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Papercourt Meadows! I’ve now had two wonderful sightings of the Short-eared Owl this year, along with the beautiful barn owls. It’s been great chatting to some of the other local birders and photographers down there too! Light was quite poor when it came out to hunt so I shall keep trying to get a good, clear photograph! Before we lost the sun on Saturday evening, the stonechats all darted across the grasses to come to roost in a thicket of brambles. They were joined by meadow pipit and wrens as a couple of kestrels flew overhead and tawny owls called from the woodland. This male stonechat was looking absolutely resplendent in his bold breeding plumage! This is my entry for the Fotospeed challenge today. Have a wonderful week everyone!
It’s been really hard to pick an entry for the Fotospeed challenge this week! I keep being drawn back to this distant shot of the barn owl at Papercourt Meadows from late on Friday. Having got stuck in traffic I only arrived at the meadows at sunset. There was just enough light to still watch the barn owl hunting in the grasses. Too dark for flight images but he popped up onto the fence post close to the River Wey that runs through the meadow. There’s lots of context in this image though. Sometimes you can tell the story of your subject better by showing the environment in which it lives.
This land is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and is a local haven for barn, short-eared and tawny owls. It was great fun staying to watch beyond the sunset. Although the light was too low for any more photography, the wildlife really came alive! I stood with another lady watching the deer suddenly start bounding and bouncing around the next field with all the joys of Spring in them! We were laughing in delight at their antics. They reminded me of my two cats having a funny five minutes at 3am! So lovely listening to the tawnys calling to one another and seeing the silhouettes of birds in low flight. Pheasants can glide quite some distance!