Thursday 19 April 2018

Talking and walking

Last weekend, we attended the Scottish Dragonfly Conference in Perth, a biennial event featuring all things Odonata and more besides. We drove down the day before, with the only noteworthy wildlife sighting en route being a Red Grouse sat on a fence post alongside the A9. At breakfast, the following morning, we tried to concentrate on the scrumptious fayre, but our eyes were constantly staring out of the window, as all the garden birds were exhibiting either courtship or nesting behaviour. A highlight for me was my first Long-tailed Tits of the year, a small group of excited apostrophes, punctuating a bush which was just coming into leaf.

The conference was held in a lecture theatre at the AK Bell Library, and a full day of excellent talks had been put together by the BDS's Scotland officer. Yours Truly was on just before lunch, which at least meant that folk weren't too keen to ask me any questions!

The day opened with a fascinating talk about the Bush Giant Dragonfly Uropetala carovei. This species is endemic to New Zealand, and its larvae live in semi-flooded burrows, emerging at night to feed terrestrially. Not too much is known about the life cycle of the larva, so research is ongoing.

As well as all the odonatological interest, there was a talk from Butterfly Conservation about several threatened moth species and the work that is being undertaken to protect them in Scotland, especially now that they're absent further south. For instance, there's no longer any Kentish Glory moths in Kent (or England), and neither are there any New Forest Burnet moths in the New Forest (or England). Whilst climate change might have a part to play in this northward movement, loss of habitat is a bigger threat, so management is now being put in place at the few remaining strongholds of these species to safeguard their immediate futures.

Then it was me. And the story of dragon-y goings on in Orkney during 2017.

After a few scary initial seconds, when I realised that the laptop provided didn't want to engage Presenter View, and so I couldn't access my notes or gauge my timing, I just winged the talk, finishing bang on time 30 minutes later. Phew.

There was some lively discussion in the afternoon, after a talk about a research project to investigate the site preferences for White-faced Darter in Scotland. I only know this species from one site in the Cairngorms, so was blithely unaware that it is very picky about which pools it will frequent. The project aims to monitor a whole suite of parameters to try and explain why this is so. Why, of two adjacent water bodies which look identical to us, the darter will live in one, but not the other?

The following day, we headed back north, stopping off at Bruar to walk up to the eponymous falls. The morning was warm and sunny, birds were singing and a few insects were on the wing. We pottered up the valley, over the lower and higher bridges, pausing a while on a bench to listen to the sound of rushing water and the high-pitched calls of Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Great Tit and Wren.

Then, after a quick detour to purchase a large pork pie, it was back to the car to continue northwards and across the Pentland Firth to home.

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