Sunday 21 December 2014

Observation of the Ruddy Darter.

I have visited the National Trust pond at Clamerkin for the last five seasons and have always enjoyed the sight on the resident population of Ruddy Darters.There seems to be a healthy colony with no shortage of territorial males,mating pairs, and ovipositing females.
Here on the Isle of Wight the first Ruddy Darter is on the wing towards the middle of June,perhaps one of the earliest in the country.Their season extends to the end of September and sometimes into October.
Below are two photographs of the first Ruddy of the year at Clamerkin taken on the 14th June 2010 ( five days earlier than the first sighting submitted on the British Dragonfly Society website).Particularly noticeable about this individual was its size,or rather the lack of it..Reference books state that this species varies in overall length from 33mm to 39mm. The estimated length of this one below has been calculated at around 30mm but seeing it myself on this reed leaf I would say that it could have well been no more than 25mm. Pretty small by Ruddy Darter standards I would have thought and I have certainly not encountered another  as small as this since.
The reason for this tiny fellow is unknown to me other than the fact that is was one of the first to emerge.There are always smaller and larger individuals in nature so maybe it is not so uncommon.

Another unusual sight to see was this photograph below of a mature female.The abdomen of the female is yellow-ochre whereas of course,the abdomen in a mature male is blood red.
It will be noticed here that this female has developed  a very red abdomen similar to the male. Apparently very mature females of several darter species can show some red on their abdomens but this one is quite extensive.Indications to confirm this female as a Ruddy are the seemingly all black legs and the dark bar immediately behind the head.
The photograph was taken on the 12th September which is towards the end of this darters season as mentioned earlier.  

Saturday 29 November 2014

Broad and Very Scarlet.

With the days now drawing in and winter well on its way I like to think of brighter and warmer times.
What therefore could be better than remembering a hot and sunny day in Greece watching the Scarlet Darters,especially the males as they whizzed around defending their territories
On the continent this dragonfly is commonly known  as the Broad Scarlet.and is particularly abundant around the Mediterranean.There have been only six or so sightings of this spectacular dragonfly in the UK since the first record in 1995.At least one of these was on the Isle of Wight.
The Scarlet Darter(Crocthemis erythraea) is a sun loving species and from its origins in Africa has slowly spread through southern Europe northwards as far as the English Channel coast.The male has the most vividly red abdomen of all European dragonflies although the female is yellow-brown with a diagnostic pale stripe between the wing bases
Hopefully this darter will soon make a more regular appearance in the UK and add some Mediterranean colour to our countryside.

Friday 14 November 2014

A Summer Trek and the Long March Home.

Back in the first week July a companion and I made two visits to the only colony of Keeled Skimmers on the Isle of Wight.The results of these visits are detailed in earlier blog entries.
It is quite a trek to get to the site as it is situated on cliff landslip on the south west coast of the Island and the only access is via the beach.In the past getting onto the shore at the closest point to the Keeled Skimmer site was via Whale Chine but winter erosion apparently made this route impassable.Therefore we had to use another chine farther along the coast which meant a walk of an hour and half to our destination.Not a stroll when trudging through sand and over stones in wellington boots.
En route we passed by Whale Chine and to our surprise saw that rough steps together with several ropes had been fashioned up the cliff by anglers who fish from the shore at night.Returning by this method up the cliff would save us an hour along the beach on our return trip.
Nearing the site we came across our first skimmer flying around on the beach.It turned out to be a mature female and hopefully they will spread out and colonize suitable habitat on any other nearby landslips.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

An Isle of Wight First of the Season

The British Dragonfly Society produces a colourful twice yearly magazine for its members which I can highly recommend for those that are interested in dragonflies.
In the latest edition there is a list of the 'First Dates for 2014' for species sightings reported to their website for the UK and I am glad to say  the Isle of Wight notched up the first Ruddy Darter seen in Britain this year.
The date of the sighting was in early June at Brading Marsh.
This attractive darter is mainly seen here in July and August and can be locally common throughout southern and eastern England.The male has a waisted abdomen which turns blood red in colour as it matures.Females and immatures are yellow-ochre marked with thin black lines.
The immature male seen at the marsh is pictured below followed by  photographs of a mature male and a mating pair.

Saturday 25 October 2014

This Year's Top Highlight.

The 2014 season has seen a succession of  highlights with visits to the only remaining colony of Keeled Skimmers,Orthetrum coerulescens, on the Isle of Wight,to my first ever look at the Small Skimmer,Orthetrum taenioaltum,on the island of Rhodes.
Ferocious winter gales and heavy rain caused massive erosion of the coastal cliffs where the Keeled Skimmer is found here, in acidic pools on the cliff landslips.Hopefully as new pools are created their numbers will increase.
Another fantastic discovery was the sight of numerous male Red-veined Darters on territory at a local reservoir. These colourful darters are reported from time to time in singles but double figure numbers are quite unusual and exciting particularly on the Isle of Wight.
However the real highlight of this past season for me are the encounters with the Scarce Chaser. The odd individual has been noted since 2008 on the Island but this year several were seen at suitable breeding locations.Both these sites are in the south east of the Island,one in water meadows on a small, muddy slow  flowing river. and also at  mature fishing lakes surrounded by dense emergent marginal vegetation.
Males on territory and females were present at both sites.
The Scarce Chaser,Libellula fulva,is a 'Red Data' species and along with several other species they are considered as 'near threatened'.Therefore they and their habitats are protected by law in the UK.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

All Caught Up.

I have found that this hazard is all too common for our damselflies,particularly around the ponds and waterways where they emerge.This one hanging by a thread is a female Emerald Damselfly.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

September Dragons.

Perhaps the species most likely to be encountered at this time of year are the Southern Hawker and the Migrant Hawker.Yesterday in  Walters Copse I came across this immature male Southern Hawker as it took time off hunting to rest up in the shade.
Not too far away at my local pond there was great activity among the male Migrant Hawkers as they busily patrolled over the reeds.The females were also to be seen ovipositing in the reeds around the pond.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Looking For The Right Spot.

My favourite dragonfly must be the female Southern Hawker with its chocolate brown and green colouring.
This morning I saw this female flying around my garden pond on the lookout for the right place to lay her eggs.Although I have had several female hawkers in the garden over the last few seasons I have only observed one ovipositing into some discarded water soldier at the side of the pond. My pond edges do not seem to be ideal for these hawkers as they  prefer to lay into rotting vegetation above the waterline.
Therefore I was very happy to see this one finally start to oviposit into the moss next to the pond.This area of moss has been created by the flap of  liner around the pond  overlapping the edges and being disguised under turf.As the excess water from the pond overflows the turf has been replaced by very moist moss.Good enough it would seem for our hawker.
The eggs would normally now remain where laid until the spring when they will hatch and hopefully the larvae will find their way into the pond.

Friday 22 August 2014

A Trip to Rhodes.

The Greek Island of Rhodes,situated close to the Turkish mainland  is a very popular holiday destination for the British and is a unique area for dragonflies not seen in the rest of Europe.
A family vacation this last week to enjoy the town of Lindos in the south of the Island and hopefully encounter some of the Rhodes wildlife in and around our holiday complex.The countryside nearby is hilly with bare rock slopes and a scattering of scrub and herb plants baked dry by the hot summer sun.
However there is no shortage of water as the torrential winter rains fill the several large reservoirs across the Island.Thanks to regular irrigation of the hotel gardens there is usually running water around at some time which becomes a magnet for any passing dragonflies,as well as the two swimming pools which also attract the insects
My first encounter was a female Red-veined Darter right outside the ground floor balcony and more of these darters were seen along the dry track passing by the complex.

A great find was a mature male Small Skimmer which took up position on one of the hotel paths where water from a garden  trickled across.

Perhaps the best sighting was at the edge of the swimming pool where I closely observed a beautiful male Violet Dropwing. Sadly as I was in the pool at the time and not in the habit of taking the camera in with me I missed the opportunity to takes its picture.Not the first time that I have seen this species at the side of a swimming pool as last year in Lefkada I was lucky enough to get a shot of this handsome dragonfly.
The swimming pool was also patrolled by more than one large dragonfly at regular times of the day.
What laughingly could be called a pond for terrapins was the brief domain of a male Epaulet Skimmer.

A regular visitor outside our balcony was this immature male Blue-tailed Oertzeni's Rock Lizard.Another colourful animal on this Island.
Also a delicate Praying Mantis on the lookout for another meal.

Thursday 7 August 2014

As Blue as the Sky.

A visit to my local pond at Clamerkin NT on another hot and sunny afternoon and although there did not seem to be much dragonfly activity I was treated to a number of male Common Blue Damselflies.A colourful and beautiful damselfly.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Colourful Visitors.

After a wet start to the day the sun returned this afternoon and a couple of colourful visitors spent time at my garden pond.
A Blue-tailed Damselfly has been  resident for a few days now but a new arrival today was a female Southern Hawker.She returned several times and hopefully has or will oviposit at the pond.

Saturday 26 July 2014

At My Garden Pond.

At my garden pond Common Darters,Azure Damselflies and ovipositing Emperors are the main sights now.
Several male Common Darters are dotted around the garden while a female blue form Emperor seems to visit the pond every day to lay her eggs.
Great to see a Grass Snake in the pond today too.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

One A Day.

The Emperor Dragonfly seems to be ovipositing almost daily at my garden pond.The blue form female pictured below was seen yesterday and yet another on the water today.

Monday 21 July 2014

More Small Red-eyes.

A return visit to a nearby garden pond to see the Small Red-eyed Damselflies again.I was particularly hopeful of photographing the females,either individually or  while mating.As it was I was only able to find them while they did the latter.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Emergent Darters.

During the last week several Common Darters have emerged from my garden pond which has coincided with the appearance of the adults.
The individual pictured below took its first flight from the pond side this morning and ended up in struggling a spiders web not too far away.I managed to retrieve it and hopefully it will make a full recovery


Thursday 17 July 2014

A Little Red-eyed Stunner.

A garden pond in the village of Shalfleet has a good number of Small Red-eyed Damselflies.As mentioned in an earlier post these delicate damsels have only colonized the UK in the past few years but now seem to be well established here.
The males spend most of their time sitting on a lily pad awaiting a female, and also having territorial disputes with other nearby males.