Oxon Variable Damsels + that Scarlet Tiger time again – 15th June

Over the weekend Oxfordshire’s newly revealed colony of Variable Damselfy has drawn the great and good of the local Odonata community to Barton Fields nature reserve by the Thames in Abingdon. Yesterday I received an email from Adam inviting me to join him in locating 2015’s six-legged stars of our county “birding quiet season”. Since his preparation is always thorough I appreciated this would be a good opportunity to get to know that site.

Today Adam had found out exactly where to look from our county odo recorder Steve Burch, and also Richard Lewington whose own interest shows the significance of this recent discovery by an Abingdon enthusiast. I really must network more myself! Armed with this information we found the insects straight away in an area of dense vegetation that was ankle deep in water. Compiling the last two Rn’S posts has brought home that I need to be much bolder in getting into odonata habitat, and today proved it.

Variable Dameslfy

Variable Dameslfy

Diagnostic broken blue stripes on thorax and wine glass pattern near top of abdomen

“Are you looking at me?”

In total we saw 9 individuals which Adam assured me exceeds the previous day count for Oxon, though later in the day Wayne had more than 10. Good quantities of other blue damselflies were also present. It was noticeable how the dominant May species Azure Damselfy is suddenly dwarfed in numbers by Common Blue Damselfy that has a more vivid blue appearance in flight. There’s also been one record this year of White-legged Damselfy at Barton Fields, but despite searching we didn’t see any today.

Barton Fields

Barton Fields

Back at home In Garsington’s shanty town the year’s first Scarlet Tiger moths have emerged in my wildlife garden. Once the food plants I manage for them – Caucasian Comfrey and Green Alkanet – had been completely munched in April, I transferred hundreds more larvae from other plants into the surrounding countryside where wild Comfrey grows. Others were relocated to Ewan’s garden in Kingham, north Oxon. Last Friday, before the weekend rain I noticed four individuals outside, then this evening three mating pairs. The food plants have staged a full recovery just in time for egg laying to begin.

Scarlet Tiger

Scarlet Tiger

Uh oh! Here we go again

Uh oh! … Here we go again

To me there is no such thing as a birding quiet season, just an insect high season. At present, weather allowing I am spoilt for choice of places to go and things to see. Watch this space!


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