After 2017's full-on odofest around the islands, I decided to back off the gas this year, with maybe just a few events during the weekends. As it turns out, that's now seeming a bit ambitious, so there's only going to be one dragonfly walk, on Hoy.
What with all the hot weather in the UK, and Orkney hasn't been immune to it either, I began to worry that maybe the usual pools we visit on Wee Fea may have suffered from the lack of rain. To ease my concerns, I decided to carry out a recce, just to make sure we weren't going to be faced with vistas of baked mud and forlorn vegetation.
A previous graduate of the School of Odo, M, offered to help with the recce so, after consulting the weather forecast, we chose last Tuesday as a suitable time, close enough to be relevant, but space to plan (well, panic) for a new venue if needs be.
To refresh our collective memory, here's what the various pools usually look like at this time of year:
And here's what we found on Tuesday:
However, and I don't fully understand the reasons behind it, there were good numbers of dragons and damsels to be found. In fact, the first ode we saw was a Common Hawker, silhouetted against the sky as we climbed to the higher pools. At one point, we witnessed three Common Hawkers at once, all males hoping to find a mate. I am guessing that perhaps many bog pools have dried up, so the remaining water is concentrating the population. For now.
Between pools, we wandered through a conifer plantation, listening for bird calls. Neither of us recognised the first one we heard as it made its way, unseen, through the treetops above us. We suspected a Crossbill, but couldn't be sure. We were more confident of the high-pitched calls of Goldcrest, and eventually were rewarded with views of this tiny bird. Then, in a clearing, I was amazed to encounter two Common Hawkers foraging, one even taking a butterfly on the wing.
At the lower pool, we stumbled upon what must have been a recent mass emergence of Emerald Damselflies, just too many to count. Again, perhaps the drying of the pool has forced their hand?
In all, we found six species, which is normal for these water bodies, although the distribution was different from previous years. We couldn't find any Blue-tailed Damselflies at the upper or lower pools, only recording them at the museum pool near the pier. The lower pool only produced Emerald Damselflies and a few Black Darters, so all I can really say is that this year is different. There has been a little rain overnight, so let's see what Saturday brings for the official Dragonfly Walk, hosted by the Orkney Field Club and OrkOdo.
My grateful thanks to M for her invaluable help.