Sunday 14 July 2013

Stowe + Odonata = Stowedonata?

On Friday afternoon, Our Lass and I both received a text message from SB.

"Meet up at Stowe Gardens after work? Then perhaps a meal in Buckingham?"

It was tempting. The day had been hot, so there would still be damsels and dragons about, but I was without camera and bins, nor did I have a change of shirt for the meal. And the thought of the carbon footprint involved in the endeavour, with all three of us travelling in separate cars, was somewhat disturbing.

But the gardens wouldn't shut until 6pm, the car park was open until 7pm so, as long as afterwards we all ate a locally-produced organic salad, the idea had legs. I left work at 4.30pm and made my way to Stowe through the country lanes.

And an inspired idea, it certainly was.

The main lake was teeming with Common Blue, Red -eyed and Blue-tailed damsels, whilst more Black-tailed Skimmers than I'd ever seen were patrolling the water's edge. 

Pity about the lack of optics, mind, but needs must...

As the sun lowered in the sky and lost some of its heat, the skimmers were resting on the warm rocks protruding from the water. These were some of the best views I've had of this species, as they took short breaks from defending their territories from rival males.

As the parkland emptied of visitors and the sun began to light up the stonework of the monuments, a few photo opportunities presented themselves.

Palladian Bridge

View across main lake towards the Corinthian Arch
Before heading into Buckingham for dinner, I decided that we had to return to Stowe the next day, armed with optics.

If anything, Saturday was even hotter. Good for odes, bad for His Tenseness, but I was driven on by the thought of all those skimmers whizzing to and fro. They did not disappoint, for as we walked around the edge of the main lake, we saw... well, what do you make of it?

How many wings?
Yep, almost immediately, Our Lass spotted a pair engaged in a bit of afternoon delight. They soon transferred to some waterside vegetation, which allowed us a different view.

They can even fly around like this, which is rather impressive, I think!
Normally, once mating is complete, she begins egg-laying by dipping her abdomen into the water as she flies along. Her partner will fly close by, guarding her from rival males. In this particular instance, however, that didn't happen. She landed on a rock and began ovipositing from there, gradually edging along the surface.

Research later revealed that the field guides state in an area where the density of males is high, the females will perch to egg lay, reducing the amount of disturbance they suffer.

Boys will be boys, eh?

Male Black-tailed Skimmer


Martin said...

Sounds like a lovely expedition and more interesting observations.
Maybe you could have asked your Lass or SB to bring the precious optical aids.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Sadly, it wasn't an option. SB was already there, whilst Tense Towers wasn't on the direct route for Our Lass. Still, it all worked out in the end.