Sunday, 17 April 2011

Stop the clock

Well, that was a weekend that began promising reasonable temperatures and ended having delivered two sunny days. How much better could it be? Without ever really planning it, we spent most of our time out of doors, in the midst of Spring's flora and fauna.

But firstly, a quick thank you to all who contributed to the "Should he, shouldn't he?" debate concerning a change to the blog title. A quick straw poll produced a resounding "Hands off!", so Imperfect and tense it remains. I have tinkered with the sub heading, though, to better reflect the goings on within these pages.

Now back to Saturday morning, which saw the Admiral, Our Lass and I arguing over which water body to visit in the search for early odes. Another warm and dry April has seen early emergence dates for Large Red Damselfly in county after county. Whilst lagging behind, as usual, we felt that Buckinghamshire's time had finally come and we wanted to hit several sites in the north of the county to see if we couldn't rustle up a damsel or two.

We chose the Blue Lagoon, a former brick pit, now a local nature reserve. Our decision wasn't so much based on its glamorous setting between a landfill site and the West Coast Main Line, more the proximity to an eatery. No change there then!

Whilst not so fair on the eye as other sites in the area, we were soon hearing Reed Warbler and Whitethroat. Then we spotted a Bank Vole, which, due to the fact that it was swimming, I thought was a Water Vole. Hey, it's an easy mistake to make. Within yards of this, the Admiral's eagle eye picked out a recently-emerged Large Red Damselfly and a search of the immediate area produced four more and a few exuviae. My records only go back to 2006, but this was six days earlier than my previous best.

The exuvia, or empty larval case, can be seen further down the stem on the left. A careful look at the head of the damselfly itself, shows the three simple eyes on the vertex. These are the left and right lateral ocelli and the median ocellus, each with just a single lens, which I think are used for orientation in flight. I guess it's like having a dial in an aircraft cockpit, to show the attitude of the horizon.

Predictably, we celebrated our success with a trip to the afore-mentioned eatery.

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