Saturday, 10 July 2010

Shropshire - Odonata race

In the dim and distant past, I well remember channelling all my enthusiasm into insects during the birding siesta of June /July. Knowing that many birding friends do likewise (and I was up for it anyway) I decided to spend some time on the trail of insects until birds start moving again!

Glancing at the news services, just in case I needed a reminder of what I was missing (NOT) - the White-tailed Plover at Slimbridge was attracting instructions of 'please do not run between hides whilst on site'. Thinking back, the relaxed, awesomely lit view of this stunning bird through the fence at Seaforth was not so bad after all!!

Anyway, back to the insects and I'd convinced Yvonne that it would be a challenge and 'different' day out to see how many species of Dragonfly and Damselfly we could see within the County in a day - the Odonata race was on! Squelching through the bog on Cramer gutter in unsuitable sodden footwear with gorse spines stuck everywhere, I'm not so sure it was totally (at that moment) the idyllic day anticipated........

Venus Pool for openers and the list kicked off with several Black-tailed Skimmers over the water. (Here's one from Berrington)






The Norfolk ditch yielded: Common Blue Damselfly male and female (blue form)......








Blue-tailed Damselfly.....






Four-spotted Chaser.....






two Brown Hawkers were hawking near the car park entrance, more were to come at Berrington....






The Severn near Atcham failed to turn up any Club-tails but there were plenty of White-legged Damselfly about....






Just look at those short fat hairy white legs!






and Banded Demoiselle.....






I was convinced a plain winged Demoiselle, near the roadside hedge was a Beautiful Demoiselle but couldn't be 100% and it was not typical habitat so passed claiming this one!

Berrington pool was on form and with one or two repeat species we added Red-eyed Damselfly ......







Azure Damselfly
.....







Always difficult, a real good find was the Variable damselfly....






male Ruddy Darter.....








Plus the most exciting 'giants' of the day - two Emperor Dragonflies catching quite sizable flies against the reed beds....

A big shame they don't specialise in the local Horse flies - I got my first bite of the day here - hydrocortisone cream at the ready!!

The driving had to start at 12.30 and we headed South. A quick stop at Longnor turned up the 'find of the day' a butterfly this time - feeding on Blackberry blossom - a gorgeous White-letter Hairstreak - awesome stuff and a lifer for me!!










It was a really hot day but the feet were cooled down courtesy of Cramer Gutter bog! There were numerous Keeled Skimmer on the wing - an amazing sight considering how rare this species is in the Midlands!






A single Golden-ringed Dragonfly was all we saw flying up and down the stream but that was enough to make up for the wet feet!

As with all 'races', time or lack of it is the ultimate deciding factor and at 4.00 we realised it was probably too late to get the most out of Whixall Moss (50 miles away!!) The clock ticked on.....

After a Macdonalds fuelled pitstop we arrived at the Moss at 5.30. It turned out to be too late to see much on the wing but at least two of the banker species put in an appearance....

Black darter (immature male)......






Female Emerald Damselfly......






We jammed onto one 'easy species' nearly missed for the day - a lucky Large-red Damselfly






Another impressive sight with female Common Hawker busy ovipositing .....








With a lot of luck, 25 species in a day are possible in Shropshire but you need luck with timing to catch both the early and late fliers! We had totted up an impressive 18 definite species (visiting just six sites) with very little effort and no real homework surveys beforehand! The only disappointment was the lack of a White-faced Darter - an earlier start at Whixall should put that one to rest! There is always one 'how did we miss that' species - courtesy of Common Darter!! - blimey, should have looked in my garden? !! Broad-bodied Chaser were never going to be 'easy' either and failed to turn up anywhere. Southern and Migrant Hawker (always later on the wing) will have to keep until another day too.......

*** The finale ***. A late evening tour around the Prees area Quail hotspots failed to produce that particular species but we did hear and have great views of a Grasshopper Warbler singing at the edge of a barley field and rounding off a thoroughly successful day!!

You might just get a few more insects blogged (anyone finding this interesting, post a comment?) at least until the birds get going again or something mega turns up......

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim, well I was interested, I love to see all wildlife including the birds and that is a lovely selection of damsels and dragons. I have not seen that hairstreak other so that was a nice spot. I saw a white legged a couple of weeks ago but really did have the wrong lens on at the time...so thanks for the close up! As for the dragons, I reckon you have covered almost the opposite to what I have seen which just goes to show the diversity in Shropshire ;)

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