• Barbara Copperthwaite

Days of wonder

Blue-tailed damselfly, Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild

Probably my favourite part of Highbury Park at this time of year is Henbury Pond, though I’ll admit that my opinion changes from day to day. I love being hypnotised by the constant movement of damselflies that shimmer gently in the sunlight.

This year the only blue damselfly photographs I have taken have been of Azure Blue. I haven’t even managed to get a Common Blue picture. So when I watched a Blue-Tailed damselfly come to rest, I started to get rather excited. I focused my camera, and took the snap as quickly and as carefully as possible, trying to not let the long lens move in the breeze that was gently blowing. I felt rather pleased with myself as the damselfly flew off, as I had been successful…

It was only later, when I reviewed the photograph, that I realised that pesky breeze had lifted a frond of foliage up just as I had taken the photograph. It meant that, while you can see the magnificent blue on the head and the slender black body, the slightly bulbous tip of the tail, which is glorious blue, is hidden! You’ll just have to take my word for it that it looked beautiful.

Blissful in my ignorance at the time, though, I sat down on the bench by the pond and watched the damselflies darting into the air then back onto the lily pads. Up above, something much larger flashed by suddenly. It was a Brown Hawker. Over the last few days I have seen several in the park, and to my mind their name belies their beauty. Their wings glow amber in sunlight, and their bodies can be almost russet in colour. I watch it fly round several times never expecting it to land, as they so rarely do. But down it came, onto a lily pad. As soon as it did that, I whipped my camera out, knowing that I was about to witness something special – a female laying eggs. As I zoomed my camera in I saw it curling its tail downwards, into the water. Second later it was airborne once more, but not before I had managed to get a single shot of it.

That was the morning taken care of. That afternoon, I wandered over to Sarehole Mill to have a look around the craft fair and then sit in the sunshine. It was lovely to see so many talented crafters, and so much art that was inspired by nature. Afterwards, Scamp and I wandered down to the Dingles, and as I sat a wonderful thing happened. A Comma butterfly decided to rest on the back of my hand. At first I didn’t dare move as it basked in the sunshine, and then unrolled it long proboscis and dabbled it around; I could feel its moisture on my skin, and it was a very strange but lovely feeling. Even when the breeze buffeted it this way and that, the Comma did not fly away, and I slowly and steadily brought it up closer to my face. No matter how many photographs I take, nothing will beat that chance to view a butterfly so closely. The tiny comma-like mark on its wing, which gives it its name, is not white but platinum; its eyes shimmered; its ‘tongue’ rolled up so neatly…I am an author and journalist, but I don’t think words can convey the exhilarating peace and wonder I felt while studying this beautiful insect, and feeling its tiny feet on the back of my hand, its proboscis once more eagerly dabbling at my skin.

After a good five minutes it eventually left me, a very happy woman. Eventually, I decided it was time to move on myself, and took Scamp down to the river for a quick paddle and drink She gambolled in the water, then found a stick and sat down at my side, then… A flash of electric blue, a blur of wings. A Kingfisher was flying down the river past us. Before I could catch my breath, it veered off course, towards me, flew around me at just above head height, then continued on its way down the river.

I have no idea why it decided to do that. I just know I felt incredibly privileged. I was left open-mouthed. Finally gathering myself, I headed for home. It truly was a wonderful day of surprises, and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

brown hawker, Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild

#highburypark #sareholemill #azurebluedamselfly #commonblue #brownhawker #comma #kingfisher #bluetaileddamselfly

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