Hairy Dragonfly and more Otmoor Odonata – 25 & 26th May

The present weather pattern is seriously frustrating my intention of presenting full English butterfly and Odonata years on this blog. But at around 9am this morning, after four days of bright starts then blanket cloud, I was pleased to see bluish sky stretching away to the north. So I set off for Otmoor hoping to photograph Hairy Dragonfly if insect friendly conditions persisted through the morning. On arrival at the Noke End of the Otmoor bridleway (SU553130) it was quite sunny but not even damselflies were on the wing. So I decided to prioritise my next butterfly destination in Northants then come back here later.

Noke with Otmoor beyond

Noke with Otmoor beyond

Returning in the early afternoon, Otmoor was indeed still bathed in sunshine (pictured above) as I turned off the B4027 and headed down to Noke. But as ever on reaching the bridleway what cloud there was managed to cover the sun for a while. No matter, I soon found a male Hairy Dragonfly that was perched low down in cover to one side of the track. The record (below) is the sort of clutter-filled picture I usually try to avoid but I was just pleased to have captured a 2015 Hairy at last.

Hairy Dragonfly (male)

Hairy Dragonfly (male)

Hairy Dragonfly (female) (c) Gareth Blockley

Hairy Dragonfly (female)
© Gareth Blockley

On Saturday morning a female Hairy was photographed here after apparently allowing a point blank approach in the overcast conditions. I disturbed possibly the same insect a day ago but she saw me before I noticed her and promptly relocated to the far side of a drainage ditch. This species clearly does not perch openly like it’s late summer Southern and Migrant Hawker counterparts, and as Emperor and Brown Hawker do will move quickly to safety on being approached. As if to prove the point my next sighting was a mating pair of Hairy that flew out of a Hawthorn on one side of the path to be lost in a hedge on the other side.

After a slow walk eastward along the bridle path there were a third male Hairy and two Four-spotted Chaser north of the cross roads. I hoped the shelter behind the hedge here might produce more sightings, but the day was soon past its peak weather-wise. So with the grey stuff settling once again over Otmoor I retraced my steps to Noke more quickly than I had come. In my haste I put up a fourth male Hairy and this one settled again within a short distance. The picture (below) is a bit less grassy than the first but still not satisfactory. I will hope for better results in the days ahead.

Hairy Dragonfly (male)

Hairy Dragonfly (male)

On Monday (25th) once I had lost the female Hairy Dragonfly, only Damselflies were active in the overcast conditions and I paid more attention than usual to them. Most of these were Azure Damselfly, with occasional Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselfy.

Oxon birders sometimes tell me they can’t be bothered with these insects and when I first took an interest in Odonata I also thought it too much trouble to separate the various female and teneral (immature) forms. But once I started to compare my own photographs with field guides it all became more interesting. The three damsels in the lower row are all female Azure for instance, there being a variety of forms. And a cloudy morning without butterflies or dragonflies for distraction was as good a time as any to indulge all of this a little.


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