Sunday, 13 July 2014

Fowlmere in the Height of Summer

26th June 2014

It was some 20 years ago that I stood next to a guy at Holme NOA waiting for two Red-breasted Flycatchers to appear. At that point a big blue dragonfly flew past and the guy next to me said "Migrant Hawker". I was very impressed. He then went on to explain that because birding goes quiet during the summer months, he had taken up dragonflies and butterflies to fill the gap. That seemed a good plan so I followed suit in1997 and 1998 and got up to speed with these two groups of insects. Now that I have taken up photography I felt the same urge, so at the beginning of this year bought a macro lens to photograph some insects when birding was quiet. What a good decision that was!!

Not too surprisingly it was very quiet on the birding front at Fowlmere, so let's get the only birding photos out of the way. As I approached the entrance to the Reed Bed Hide, I continued on just a few more steps to have a look at the Barn Owl box. In past years I have only seen a face peering out of the box, probably later in the year than this, and was quite puzzled why young were still present as they are early breeders. Well, all is explained as they are double-brooded, and the bird sitting outside the box was a youngster with an adult sitting nearby.

As would be expected, the trails were alive with insects including both moths and butterflies such as this Cinnabar Moth, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper.

Hoverflies were  also well represented although nothing unusual with the captions above the photos.

 Episyrphus balteatus

 Eristalis pertinax

 Syrphus sp

But the stars of the show today were a couple of dragonflies that performed in front of the camera. First up was a teneral Common Darter which I found in a grassy meadow well away from water. A teneral is a freshly emerged insect that will take about three days to assume its eventual colours. In the case of a Common Darter it will either stay straw-coloured if it is a female, or turn brick-red if it is a male. The reason that they are found in grassy meadows well away from water is that once the larvae have emerged from the water they are very vulnerable to predators and therefore fly away from the danger zone and head for a safe place to dry out and feed. Only when they are ready to breed will they return to the water.

The second dragonfly was this rather splendid male Ruddy Darter which was soaking up the warmth of the boardwalk. It is a Ruddy Darter as opposed to its cousin the Commom Darter because of its jet-black legs and crimson abdomen.

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