Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Review - May 2016

What a difference a year makes. Last November we were baking in an Indian Summer of some length, with a last dragonfly sighting a new record for lateness on November 10th before the autumn came in.
This year a cold wet and windy end to October and early November with the odd overnight frost means the last of the northeast dragons will have no doubt perished. Migrant Hawkers were reported at Far Pasture and Shibdon Pond up to the 28th Oct, but my final dragonhunt (at Shibdon on Nov 1st) proved fruitless. It was sunny enough but a bit parky, but that's me lot for this year, so time to declare the 2016 Dragonhunting season to be now over, not a particularly memorable one for many reasons, but I'll try and remind myself of the good bits with a month by month look back at the few highlights of the year with some of my favourite photos :

Late April saw temperatures rise so I thought it wouldn't be long before the first Large Reds appeared, and it was fourth time lucky at Thornley Woods Pond when a few exuvia and tenerals were found on the 9th; the 2016 season was up and running.

Seems such a long time ago now - first of the year at TWP on May 9th

Tenerals of Azure and Blue-tailed damsels followed soon after at Far Pasture on the 11th, but just one of each, and the season didn't really swing into action until the 15th, when I found a patch of immatures in the Chaser Pond field.

My favourite shot of the day on the 15th - immature Azure damsel peeking over a grass stem

A warm but dull day on the 19th produced a 'lifer' of sorts, when I at last managed to find a Large Red damselfly emerging at Thornley Woods Pond, something I'd never witnessed before never mind photographed.

A first -
Freshly emerged Large Red damsel, youngest specimen I've ever found.

Though this was my favourite shot of the day, an atmospheric
picture of a large red waiting to take its first flight
The first disappointment of the season came on the 22nd at Far Pasture, and it was a big setback. The Forbidden Pond was already out of action for the year after being dredged out last winter, and now the fantastic Chaser Pond in the next field which I'd only discovered last year, was going to be out of bounds as some bright spark had put a family of Jerseys in the field, Bull, Cows and Calf. No way would I be entering with those big heffers in there.

My first visit to Gibside came on the 23rd, the Lily Pond is great for damsels and despite a slow start due to the overcast conditions I ended up having a cracking little session, getting some good photos of Large Reds in particular, azures, and sighted my first Common Blue of the year.

The day started with a nice close-up of a large red female

Possibly my favourite encounter of the whole year
This male Large Red stayed put in dull conditions allowing me to poke the camera right
in his face, love these shots so here's a few more . .

Doubt I'll get such an opportunity again, everything just fell right into place. 

Really liked this shot too of a female azure. Not technically very good but the reflective light along the
top of the abdomen in her immature garb make for a very unusual colouring.
A busy week meant I couldn't get out again until the 29th, a quick visit to Far Pasture and more damsels. The Azures maturing nicely now and a good selection of Blue-tails by the roadside.

Azure female immatures, nice to get a side by side comparison of the two forms.
blue form left - green form right

Another side by side comparison - male and green form female

Azure male, now fully mature

Another of those peek a boo shots 

A cracking rufescens form blue-tail female

All in all May was enjoyable, presenting many opportunities to get my eye in with the early season damsels. Quite an early start, the weather held, and plenty of good photographic encounters, but on the downside, the bull/cows at Far Pasture was a big blow when I think back to the cracking photos I got last year of the 4-Spot Chasers on the pond there, I'd been looking forward to spending some hours bettering those shots in June, but now it just wasn't going to happen. :-(       

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