It’s a rare thing in nature-watching to set yourself a challenge and immediately be successful. Yesterday I had set out determined to see a male Broad-Bodied Chaser…
It was about 10am by the time I finally stepped out of my front door. I was rewarded with my first proper Swift greeting of the year, as a small group swept past me overhead whilst crying out in delight. They almost seemed to say: “Coo-ee! See how fast we can go!”
With a start like that, it definitely felt like the first real summer’s day of the year. It was already hot, too. Although we’ve had warm days, often in the shade it has felt cold, but today the air was hot and dry, with real heat to it even in the shade.
In the park, bees and bumblebees got busy, and butterflies flitted here and there – Large Whites seemed particularly abundant, several rising high up to treetop level. A couple of Brimstones flew past me busily (want to hear something amazing? I have not yet managed to get a photograph of this common butterfly. I would love to capture its wonderful wing shape, and the delicate soft butter-yellow of the male’s wings, along with the slightly greener shade of the female. I have often seen it, but usually in flight, and always seem to have bad luck when trying to photograph it.)
The rest of the park seemed full of the noise of birdsong, but around Henbury Pond it was far quieter. There was the lazy stillness you get on a hot summer’s day where nothing seems to stir apart from insects. Occasionally a Moorhen slowly swam by, breaking the water’s still surface with its beak every now and again to grab a morsel of vegetation. Dancing in the sunlight above were clouds of midges, barely disturbed by the gentle breeze rippling the leaves of the surrounding trees.
On the edges of the pond, darting in and out of the fronds of plants were damselflies of blue and red. It amazes me how something so brilliantly coloured can hide so effectively amongst greenery, but the answer of course lies in their iridescence. Their shimmering colour acts as camouflage to help them ‘disappear’ over water, sunlight making them glint in the same way that a pond’s surface, gently disturbed by wind, is constantly moving and glimmering.
I was looking for something larger though: a male Broad-bodied Chaser. It wasn’t long before I spotted one making circuits around the pond, then returning to a twig on the water. Chasers often have a favourite place to rest in the sunshine, returning there again and again, so once I had figured out where that was, all I had to do was position myself near it and wait.
My patience paid off. The dragonfly returned to the same spot time and again, allowing me to take snap after snap of it. This one was definitely male, as it had a distinctive powder blue abdomen (females have a golden one, which can look much darker when it nears the end of its life) but it is probably a maturing male. I say this partly because it still had a fair amount of gold on its abdomen, and also because a female flew reasonably close by and it took no notice. Generally, if they spot a female they will whizz over, grab her, and mate in flight. The while process can be over in one minute!
Perhaps I should set myself the challenge of capturing the mating process? After all, I seem to be on a roll at the moment. Who knows what the day holds – that’s one of the joys of nature-watching.