Sunday 2 May 2010

May Day celebrations

Not having a herd of cattle, or indeed the requisite two bonfires to drive them between as a rite of purification, I decided to give this year's Beltane ceremony a miss. For the last century or so, many cultures have seen the 1st of May as more of a commemoration of workers' rights, but to this scribe, May is all about fresh green growth and abundant birdsong, with its first day being a dead cert for damsels and dragons.

The weather forecast wasn't great, there'd not been a confirmed sighting of Odonata in the county and our pond was refusing to give up its secrets, so I wasn't as chipper about May Day as I could've been. This notwithstanding, whilst my usual partners in crime were otherwise engaged, I decided to head down to the local reserve for some sensory overload of a green and verdant nature.

At this point, I should confess that I wasn't actually alone, as these days when I'm out wildlife watching, Wrong Len always seems to be hanging around. He's not a criminal, he doesn't have an evil bone in his body, he will always try to do what's best, he's just Wrong Len.

To explain, he is the optical equivalent of someone with schizophrenia, a camera with a split personality. Sometimes Len is "normal" (18-55mm) and sometimes he's "larger than life" (70-300mm), but invariably, which ever one he is, it won't be appropriate for the occasion.

All this was far from my thoughts when I arrived at the reserve and stood by the bridge beside the study centre. For there, amongst several manic Crane Flies, was a slightly bigger, fluttering insect with a longer, thinner body and a pale red colouration. My first Large Red Damselfly of the year. Gender unknown, but probably taking its first ever flight after a year as an aquatic larva.

As I walked through the reserve, listening to all the species of warbler to be heard, Blackcap, Garden W, Chiffchaff, Willow W, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge W, Reed W, Cettis' W and Grasshopper W, it crossed my mind that that's "insect-eating warbler", isn't it. Oh bugger, not such a great day to be the only damselfly in the place! Oh well, that's Nature, the food chain isn't a chain if you remove any of the links, a fact that I occasionally regret when Springwatch show footage of "those darling chicks" being fed beakfuls of damselflies. Or as a species, we humans often forget, when we wipe out whole ecosystems for short term gain or illegal purposes.

Let's drag this blog back to a happier place for the time being. The bees were busy amongst the newly-flowering Comfrey and apparently doing stunts for the camera...

Out on the lake, the resident male Mute Swan had his hands, er... wings full with about 35 non-breeding Swans, and he spent the morning paddling furiously up and down trying to persuade them all to leave. It was like the antithesis of One Man and his Dog, trying to disperse as many large white creatures as possible in the longest time. Not great telly, but you get the idea.

After nipping home for lunch, I returned again to record another teneral damsel, this time, fortuitously, in the car park. She was definitely a lady, with many more dark markings on her abdomen, as I spotted her flutter from a nettle bed to some brambles.

Back in the hide, I was watching the continuing battle of the swans, when I noticed a vixen hunting on the bund. Wrong Len then put in an appearance, so all I have to show for it is this...
Once our lass had finished work, she was keen for a breath of fresh air, so I had my third trip of the day to the reserve. Whilst watching a flock of Swifts, which was another first for the year, we were treated to a flypast by a male Cuckoo. Then we had our obligatory viewing of Swan Wars, before Her Outdoors spotted a Curlew, an Oystercatcher and several Little Ringed Plovers.

I love May!

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