Thursday 3 August 2017

The saintliness of dragon hunting

Day 6 of National Dragonfly Week saw the team headed to Egilsay for a walk around likely habitat, in the care of RSPB warden, Christine. Egilsay is one of the smaller islands in the Orkney archipelago, where the farming regime is less intensive and, therefore, more conducive to wildlife. The RSPB owns just over half the island, and has recently received funding to further develop its own farm, which will allow more habitat to be created for Corncrake, Great Yellow Bumblebee, Curlew and Lapwing. These species need all the help they can get, as breeding numbers are in freefall across much of their range in the UK. At the same time, the RSPB wants to demonstrate that wildlife-friendly farming is economically viable, and can produce a positive result for both farmers and Nature. The charity has several farms of this kind throughout the UK, and I have visited the one in Cambridgeshire a couple of times. It's not rocket science, and it does work.

As well as Christine and myself, the day's hardy band consisted of Helen, Brian and Alan. I say 'hardy' because the forecast was for rain and it wasn't wrong. I could've titled this post "The Famous Five Get Drookit"... had we been famous. Several of the group had not visited the island before, so enthusiasm was high, despite the conditions.

We boarded the ferry from Tingwall on Mainland, which called at the islands of Rousay and Wyre before making landfall on Egilsay.

Christine arranged for us to drop some of our gear in the Community Hall and then we pottered across the island from west to east, taking in some pools on the way.

Brian had come prepared for a challenging day of odo-ing. In the photo above, he is wielding his trusty sieve, with which to pond dip for larvae. Whilst he found several aquatic species, including a Stickleback, there were no signs of damsel or dragon larvae.

After lunch, we made our way towards the south of the island, where we found the most likely spot for odes. There weren't any on the day, but Christine had seen a Blue-tailed Damselfly at the site, earlier in the week. We all agreed it was a lovely bit of habitat, and could only be lovelier with a generous helping of blue sky.

Then it was back to the Community Hall for some respite from the weather, with my Orkney Dragonfly presentation. Not everyone fell asleep.

Egilsay is also the place where, 900 years ago, St Magnus was murdered. An event which led to the founding of a cathedral in his honour in Kirkwall, capital of Orkney. It was remarked that, in some small way, we too were martyrs for the day, trying to find odes in persistent precipitation.

There will be a return visit to the island, for it has a peace and tranquility worth savouring, as well as abundant wild flower pasture. Perhaps on a sunnier day, there will be damselflies, too.


Anonymous said...

It looks beautiful even in the rain. I've seen a few dragons hunting recently. Better luck next time.

Mark said...

Just googled the island seems very interesting think I might go there for some good hillwalking one day :) toodles, Mark.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Mark, We did visit the trig point on Egilsay. At 35m above sea level, it wasn't the most challenging climb. If it's hills you're after, then Hoy might be a better bet!

Imperfect and Tense said...

CT, My focus for the trip was on looking for Odonata and showing folks the skills needed to find and identify them. However, the damp day certainly gave it a different context: the profusion of wild flowers; the calls of the many wading birds; and a beach that was so hauntingly beautiful despite the poor weather. I had not visited Egilsay before, I will be going back :o)