Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Dragons? You can get those on Eday!

Day 5 of National Dragonfly Week was feeling a bit of pressure. After the virtual washout of Shapinsay and the 'null points' from Papa Westray, expectation for Eday was raised to DEFCON 2.

The weather was sunny-ish and breezy-ish, so our chances of an ode or two were reasonable. Alan and I took the mid-morning boat from Kirkwall, arriving in Eday at lunchtime. Kate, who had previously been the Island Ranger, had kindly offered to drive us around to the likely water bodies on the island. With her was her daughter Hannah, and we were also joined by John, an island resident, who despite his advancing years, was happy to pitch in and hunt for dragons.

After a quick talk, in the community room at the island shop about what we should be looking for, we set off for the first water body on a low hill in the north west of Eday. The presence of plenty of feral Greylag geese, and an absence of much pond weed, began to give me flashbacks of Papay. Ramping up the tension yet another notch, we found no odes.

After a bite to eat, we then headed over to the Hill of Bomo, where Kate had seen damsels and dragons the previous year. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the old, abandoned peat workings, now flooded, proved to be excellent habitat. Young Hannah, with her keen eyes, soon spotted our first dragon, a very recently-emerged Black Darter. With her mum, she quickly found another three. Meantime, the rest of us were logging plenty of Blue-tailed Damselflies. This was more like it!

A teneral Black Darter

Blue-tailed Damselfly

There's a recently-emerged damsel in the centre of this shot

Cracking habitat in old peat workings (Photo: Alan Nelson)

The next water body on our tour was the lochan at Carrick which, with its proximity to the sea, bathing water fowl and no obvious pond weed, I was in the process of announcing as not Odonata friendly, when Alan started finding several Blue-tails tucked away in the flag iris beds. Instructing everyone to kindly ignore anything I said, we set about counting the damsels present.

Lochan at Carrick (Photo: Alan Nelson)
Then it was back to the south of the island for a couple of pools on either side of the 'main' road, by the school. Again, there were Blue-tails aplenty, with several recently-emerged individuals.

Photo: Alan Nelson

Photo: Alan Nelson
Before our flight back to the mainland, we just had time for one more pool, but this was full of marestail and water horsetail, without anything in the way of open water. Still, we had proved that Black Darter and Blue-tailed Damselfly were breeding on the island, so the day was considered a great success.

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