Monday, 26 August 2013

Flutter-bys and Horse Stingers

8th August 2013

Off to Fowlmere today to see if there were any young birds hoping to have their photograph taken. As I walked down through the wood and across the boardwalk, the site was buzzing, not only with birds but also insects. Now, as I have said before, I don't normally bother with insects as my fixed 400mm lens is not really up to it, but the temptations today were just far too great.

The old name for butterflies was flutter-bys, as that was exactly what they did. There were dozens of Peacocks around, by far the most I have seen for many years. Most of these superb insects were nectaring on Hemp Agrimony and always allow you to get quite close, although with my fixed 400mm lens, I was limited to12 feet. Anyway, this one came out quite well.

My next attempt was a second-brood Brimstone which settled on some Lesser Burdock. Just as I was focusing and about ready to take the shot, a second insect flew in and took up a mirror position, just like a couple of book-ends. I suspect I will never be able to repeat that shot.

The old  name for dragonflies was horse stingers which came about from the incorrect perception that the dragonflies were swarming around the horses and the horses were kicking and stamping as if they were being bitten by the dragonflies. In reality, it might have been that the dragonflies were helping the horses by eating the parasitic insects which were the ones actually biting the horses. The first horse stinger that I came across today was a male Banded Demoiselle. To my mind these electric insects look far too exotic to be an English species, and more suitable to a jungle or a private collection in a "dragonfly house". As it happens, they are very common but are more easily seen by flowing water.

I was particularly pleased to find this next insect, a male Emerald Damselfly. I don't know what their status is in Cambridgeshire, but in Herts they are quite scarce. They are, however, easy to identify due to the way they hold their wings. Damselflies hold their wings along their body whereas dragonflies hold their wings perpendicular to their body. However, for some reason, Emeralds hold their wings at 45 degrees.

Next up was a male Ruddy Darter enjoying the warmth of the sunny stone path. The main confusion species is the Common Darter which is more orangey-red and has brown legs. The Ruddy Darter is more crimson and has jet-black legs.

I was particularly pleased with the last one, a female Brown Hawker egg-laying, as this species rarely settles, and when they do often fly away from the water, so are difficult to find.

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