Tuesday 29 May 2018

Heading south

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we journeyed south to the Edinburgh area for a niece's wedding. We drove down on Friday, enjoyed a lovely family-filled Saturday of ceremony and celebration, and then pootled back up to Orkney on Sunday.

Driving south, our first pitstop was at Helmsdale, mainly because it's such a pretty little village and has several good tea shops. On the way back to the car, I stood a while on the banks of the river, whilst I waited for Our Lass. A Willow Warbler and a Blackcap were belting out their respective songs across the water, and as my eyes wandered over the landscape, I picked out a pair of birds flying towards me. Mr and Mrs Bullfinch, my first of 2018 (although I did see a pair on 31st December 2017). Then it was off south again, with a brief stop for fuel in Tain, where we saw and heard our first Swifts of the year.

I had made a picnic lunch, so we could detour a little further from the A9 without losing too much time. This meant we could visit some tiny bog pools and a lochan near Loch Garten, to look for dragonflies and damselflies. As we arrived, the sun was shining, a Tree Pipit was singing from a tree top and light was glistening from fluttering wings as recently-emerged dragonflies took their first flights. Oh, be still, my beating heart!

The site is tiny, just two small bog pools separated by a short length of boardwalk. Honestly, you could probably cover the whole malarkey with three reasonably-sized table cloths. And not just because we were having a picnic.

The pool on the left of the boardwalk is where the White-faced Darters emerge. We've been visiting this site for over a decade, and it never occurred to me that we never see a White-face emerging from the other pool. I only found out at April's Scottish conference that they are very specific about which sites they occupy. Very specific!

Here are some shots of these dapper little chaps... 

Recently-emerged, not yet taken first flight

A mature male

Another mature male

Recently-emerged, perched on exuvia (shed larval skin)

A mature male

In the other pool, Four-spotted Chasers ruled the roost (although we did see a couple of female 4 spots egg-laying in the White-faced Darter pool).

A dragonfly mid-emergence. There is a quiescent period, when the insect has to wait for its legs to dry and harden, before it can fully emerge from the exuvia.

Blink and you'll miss it (which we do, every time)

An adult Four-spotted Chaser

Another adult

Then it was a short journey to the lochan, where we always hope to see these lovely Northern Damselflies, which have a very limited distribution in the UK, only found in a small area of Scotland.

An adult male

Male and female in tandem
And much later, after we had arrived at the venue, met up with folk, had a meal and then ventured out into the cool evening air, there was one final treat. Calling from a nearby copse was the wheezy hiccup sound of some Tawny Owl fledglings.


Spadger said...

Brilliant stop off - well planned Mr W

Imperfect and Tense said...

I really don't understand why folk bother with those Ospreys?!

GretchenJoanna said...

These pictures answer my question about flies, on your later post. It's hard to believe the abundance of species available for your enjoyment and photography!!