Sunday 17 May 2009

For a few damsels more...

This convalescence malarkey is getting beyond a joke. After more than six weeks of prescribed inactivity, the only injury I need to worry about is getting blisters on my bum. I have maintained a state of gentle busyness, doing loads of little paperwork tasks that I've been putting off for ages. Whilst they kept me occupied, they were rather dull, which is probably why they'd been put off for ages in the first place.

But enough's enough. Saturday was Jailbreak Day. Without bending the rules laid down by the hospital, I was on the run and out of the house for over twelve hours. Woo hoo, go me.

Up at 6am (that WAS hard), by 7am I was waiting to be collected by my partner in crime, the Admiral, and two and a half hours later we were in leafy Dorset. Unrolling the treasure map, we looked at the legend beside the big X, "Here be dragons, probably." Yep, forget road movie, this was a dragonfly survey mission.

Now, to say that the weather was a little bit changeable, is like saying Jeremy Clarkson is un petit Francophobic. On the way there, the sky was gloriously sunny one minute and thunderously black the next. All accompanied by enough wind to make Heinz jealous. Perfect conditions in which to look for flying creatures as light as a feather.

We met up with the rest of the outlaw gang. Keith, who had local knowledge of the site, and Sally, a small bundle of excited natural historian. It didn't exactly conjure up images of Clint Eastwood robbing the bank at El Paso. More like Buffy meets Last of the Summer Wine. (What would Nora Batty have thought of Mr Pointy, I wonder?)

Anyway... the survey. Our first target was devoid of any life whatsoever. It was just a lake with a gale howling across it. Moving to a series of ditches, the Admiral was first to strike gold, with a Four-spotted Chaser which had just emerged (and was probably wondering why, if this is what passes for nice weather). A little further down the path, Sally spotted something whizz passed us, which turned out to be a Downy Emerald. Then Keith found several exuviae (the shed larval skin from which the adult insects emerge) and another Four-spotted Chaser. Not to be outdone, I discovered a huge exuvia from an Emperor Dragonfly, but sadly there was no sign of its owner. By now we had all got our eye in, and were starting to pick up damselflies too. By high noon, we had seen seven species with the addition of Large Red, Common Blue, Azure and Red-eyed Damselflies.

Lunch was a chance to take shelter from the wind, though the Admiral was suffering a bit with an extremely hot onion.

During the afternoon, we saw many more Four spots and hundreds of damsels, mainly Azures, all in pockets of vegetation out of the wind, but in the sun. This took us away from the pond edges, through tussocks of grass and gorse bushes. Here, I stumbled across the first of two snakes we were to encounter. At the time, I thought it was an Adder, but having consulted the books, it was more likely to have been a Smooth Snake. Sally nearly trod on another one but only saw its tail, which prevented her from making a positive ID. Our only further success of the afternoon was a single Blue-tailed Damselfly that was also found by Sally, bringing our tally for the day to eight species.

We retired to a nearby Little Chef for copious cups of tea and carrot cake (surely one of your five a day?), to review our findings. In the spirit of lifelong learning, the Admiral offered to educate me by playing Lady Gaga on the return journey. So between him, her and me, who was the Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

1 comment:

Rhodri said...

Eight species! I went voyaging forth yesterday and only managed a couple of four-spots along with azure and large red damselflies.