Saturday 4 July 2020

Muddy waters blues

It had been about a fortnight since the last visit to Russadale and the several dozen damselflies busying about their life cycles, so another trip was due to monitor any changes. Eagle-eyed M and I met up at Happy Valley, at the foot of Russadale, and quickly checked its pond for odes. There were a couple of Large Red Damselflies and about ten Blue-tailed Damselflies, some freshly-emerged, some overmature. At the time I remarked that this was the most populous I had seen the pond, so I couldn't wait to saunter up the hill to the quarry pools.

It really is a pleasant walk, between heather banks and verges of wild flowers, a little rough underfoot, but the climb is very gentle. Stonechats, Willow Warblers, Robins, Meadow Pipits and Wrens were all feeding young. Hoverflies and butterflies, a few moths and a bazillion other flying insects were all on the wing, as were a Hen Harrier and a Cuckoo.

When we arrived at the quarry, however, our mood darkened at the sight of virtually dry pools and an almost complete absence of damselflies. M spotted one fluttering up from the vegetation, a very fresh Blue-tail, and we mused that this could be last one emerging from the pools this year unless there's some prolonged spells of rain soon. There are dragonflies which breed here, whose flight season has not yet begun, so their larvae are stuck in the mud. I have no idea whether that is a survivable situation for Black Darters and Common Hawkers.

How and ever, not everyone was so distraught at the lack of water in the pools. A female Crane Fly was busy egg-laying into the mud. I have to admit to wincing whilst watching it.

Somewhat down-heartedly, we retraced our steps through the dale, musing upon the lack of rainfall and the natural processes of vegetative succession which were threatening this breeding site for at least four species of Odonata. Thankfully, Nature slowly worked its magic upon us, as the other wildlife of Russadale came to our rescue.

A Red-thighed St Mark's Fly

A female Common Blue butterfly

Valerian fit to burst

Ta Dah!

Oh, that conjunction of red flower bud and green ferniness

Slender St John's-wort

A Meadow Brown butterfly

A male Common Blue butterfly

Blue boys on Valerian


Another male Common Blue butterfly
Since that visit on Thursday, and as I type this now, it has rained and is forecast to continue for much of the weekend. I can only hope for sufficient precipitation to recover the situation (with apologies to all the local farmers trying to cut hay for fodder and silage).

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