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|
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|