As well as Emma and Russ, a local mum and her son, Leanne and Luca, came along too, and we set off in two vehicles to explore the myriad water bodies of Sanday. First port of call was a small pool near the western tip of the island. It was on a hillside in rough pasture and, at the time of our visit, was facing the oncoming wind. Undaunted, we stared and stared at the water's edge, the floating water weeds and any emergent vegetation, until one of us 'got our eye in' and the Admiral yelled "Blue-tailed Damsel!" Sure enough, sat on the water's surface, a few feet out from the bank, was a (probably) immature male, his green thorax not yet the same blue colour as his 'tail light'.
Soon, Russ was finding exuviae, the shed larval skins of the emerging adult insects, on vegetation at the water's edge, although trying to transfer these delicate, ephemeral items to a sample pot in a strong wind was interesting!
However, we did manage a few, so everyone was able to see these at close quarters, as well as an adult damselfly that I managed to coax into a larger pot with a magnifying lid.
The next few water bodies, as we headed back east along the island, looked promising but failed to give up their odonatological secrets, if they had any, so after lunch we decided that we definitely needed to find damselflies at our next port of call.
|Nothing seen here|
|There's at least 7 damsels in this shot|
We could even watch the more adventuresome Blue-tailed Damselflies manoeuvring in and out of the flag bed, chasing other insects. Searching for this phenomenon on other islands during the week became known as the Sanday Flag Technique.
By the time we had also visited a site on the north east end of the island, we had seen about 70 Bluetails for the day, as well as being shown some excellent dragon/damsel habitat. My grateful thanks went to Emma and Russ for their tour, and to Leanne and Luca for turning out to help look for matchstick-sized insects on a big (for Orkney) island.
Apart from the stone wall shot, all photos courtesy of Alan Nelson.