More Hairy Hawkers and mid-summer Oxon odonata – 14 & 15th June

After this journal’s May post (see here) on the Hairy Hawker I still hoped for better pictures of male dragonflies this season if possible. That aim was realised yesterday (15th) when on a late afternoon visit to the same location I was surprised to come across three still fresh subjects. Though against a rather too cluttered background, which after all is how these insects are most often observed, the image (below) is probably my best ever capture.

hairy hawker.1705 otmoor

Hairy Hawker (male)

On each of the last two (work-free) days I have dithered over trying again for the Elegant Tern in Sussex, but decided June’s top national bird so far would be no easier to see properly than when I dipped it in the available time on Tuesday morning (13th). Instead I have spent time trying to restore my wildlife garden at home, and checking out the local Odonata. I cannot recall a recent season when there was predominantly fine weather through May and June, and so have used the extra field time to gain a better understanding of teneral (immature) forms of some more regular dragonflies.

On Wednesday I visited BBOWT’s Cothill Fen reserves to the west of Oxford, Parsonage Moor (SU 461997) and neighbouring Dry Sandford Pit. At the first of these some very pale looking and delicate Common Darter were emerging. I had not photographed this widespread and abundant dragonfly at it’s teneral stage before, and find the light yellow colouring with orange bands and black dots very attractive.

Another teneral captured for the first time this week was Black-tailed Skimmer, at the same site as the Hairy Hawkers. This form is very similar to females of the species, but the eyes are pale green instead of brown and the black bands across the abdomen are less bold. A yellow band between abdominal segments 2 and 3 shows clearly in this record shot (below).

black-tailed skimmer.1701 imm male otmoor

Black-tailed Skimmer (teneral male)

Cothill Fen is the largest surviving area of alkaline fen in central England. The habitat here is fed by springs from the underlying limestone and sand and so remains permanently wet. The complex of shallow swamps, reed beds, wet woodlands, water courses and open pools is carefully managed to support a great diversity of plants and insects.

This is Oxon’s only location for Keeled Skimmer dragonfly and Southern Damselfly, both of which I observed again on Wednesday having not visited here in 2016. BBOWT volunteers were conducting species counts on both reserves and confirmed that the Southern Damselfly (below) are having a good season.

Keeled Skimmer (below) are always photogenic somehow and this occasion was no exception. These images of both species were secured at Dry Sandford Pit.

Back at home in Garsington’s shanty town the Scarlet Tiger season is underway. I have good but manageable numbers currently of these moths (pictured below) that brighten up summer proceedings each year. They have emerged just as the food plants of Green Alkanet and Caucasian Comfrey, that attracted them to my wildlife garden in the first place, have peaked following the spring attentions of the moth larvae. And long may this cycle continue.

scarlet tiger.1701 kcp

Scarlet Tiger on Meadow Rue

I have not lost interest in birds, but like any results-oriented activity birding can be subject to form dips and I am enduring one at the moment. In the fair weather circumstances enjoying communion with the fascinating insects featured in recent posts seems a more relaxing and less frustrating if rather parochial option. And the next few days are set to be a scorcher.


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