Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Not for want of looking

Day 4 of National Dragonfly Week saw me forsaking the ships of Orkney Ferries for the delights of Loganair's Islander flight to Papa Westray (Papay).

It carries 8 passengers and any journey in the aircraft is a bit like experiencing the potted history of aviation from 1903 to 1965.

Here's my first view of Papay on the day, though we detoured to the island of Westray first, resulting in my trip featuring the world's shortest scheduled flight (Westray to Papa Westray). It's supposed to take two minutes, but due to the wind conditions at the time, we made it in 90 seconds!

After the previous damp day on Shapinsay, I had high hopes for Papay, the weather being just peachy. Once on Papay, I was met by Island Ranger, Jonathan, and ferried to the Kelp Store, a recently-refurbished building that is now a heritage centre/community hub for the island. Here, we were joined by locals Catherine and John, so I gave a short presentation showing which species of Odonata could be seen in Orkney, and what we might find out and about.

The first place we visited to look for damsels and dragons was the Loch of St Tredwell, the largest freshwater body on the island. There were good stands of flag iris around the loch, but not many water plants visible in it. This, perhaps, accounted for why we drew a blank.

Next up was an iris bed with a few patches of open water and lots of marestail behind the cottages at Via. Again, it looked  pretty much perfect for odes, but we couldn't find a single one. Still, the terns provided a pleasant distraction, and a Swift flew overhead.

The day was as pleasant for humans and as ideal for Odonata as you could ask in Orkney, so if the little darlings weren't flying today then, chances were, they weren't there.

After lunch, we tried a few more pools on the west and north of the island, again coming up short in the damselfly stakes.

Another attempt with St Tredwell, but at the other end of the loch, was our last throw of the dice. I should probably mention here that local legend links St Triduana, an early Christian woman, who tore out her eyes to reject the advances of a Pictish king, with the chapel on a peninsula in the loch. Pilgrims have visited the site ever since in the hope of curing eye diseases.

I don't know about you, but I was starting to wonder whether my eyes needed some sort of cure or religious intervention, because during the whole day, we did not find a single damselfly. Still, as far as the science is concerned, zero is a number.

And my report wouldn't take too long to write.


Anonymous said...

Babylonians gave us Zero apparently! Had a Southern Hawker yesterday, sorry to rub it in:) regards, Mark.

Imperfect and Tense said...

No problem with you seeing dragons, Mark, they're fantastic creatures.