Sunday 11 August 2019

National Dragonfly Week 2019

And so to my belated Orkney walk for National Dragonfly Week...

The day of the re-scheduled event dawned dry and bright. By a stroke of luck (although if pushed on the topic, I will admit to being a meteorological genius 😂), I had hit on the best day so far for one of my dragonfly walks.

Reports had been trickling in of a few more species on the wing, so I was quietly hopeful, but still voicing some concern, in a glass half full sort of way.

The ferry trip across Scapa Flow to Hoy was spent on deck. Hats weren't blown into the sea, hypothermia didn't set in, nor were there any sudden squalls or deluges. Things were looking up!

Ten of us gathered at the Lyness pier, and after a brief chat about the route and what we might see, we set off up the track to the hill of Wee Fea. The botanists among us were soon side-tracked by an intense discussion about Black Medick/Lesser Trefoil. In the end, I had to leave the three of them knelt around a small yellow clump of vegetation, still deep in conversation, and gather up the remainder of the party. To be fair, any Orkney Field Club walk will invariably include all wildlife, that's how we roll.

Eventually, we all made it to the small complex of pools on the southern slopes of the hill, and began to find Large Red, Common Blue and Emerald Damselflies.

A female Emerald Damselfly

A pair of Common Blue Damselflies mating

The group enjoying lunch whilst watching some elements of adult damselfly life cycle. Thank you to Anne Gascoigne for use of the photo.
We were also treated to the sight of three Hen Harriers, a family group, circling and calling to the south. And then a male Common Hawker dragonfly spent a few minutes hawking over the water, but sadly did not alight for photographs.

Returning down the hill, half the group explored a conifer plantation for roosting dragons and bird life, whilst the rest of us visited another pool, across some rough ground. Here were many more Emerald Damselflies, some just emerging as adults.

A fresh Emerald, just out of its larval pyjamas
The group reconvened at a large pool by the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre in Lyness. Again, Emerald Damselflies were abundant and we watched several individuals making the transition from larva to adult, a process fraught with danger for a soft-bodied creature not yet able to fly (that's the damsels, not the humans).

Common (I think) Tern with a fish and a pair of Black Guillemots on an abandoned pier

The empty larval skin (exuvia) of an Emerald Damselfly. Thank you to Wendy Witten for its retrieval

A male Emerald Damselfly

Emerald Damselflies emerging as adults

The same pair, busily inflating their wings
All told, we saw five species on the day, a little less than in previous years. There were no signs of Black Darter dragonflies which, although they are usually the last species to take to the wing in the county, were quite late. This is likely to be due to the cold weather in late Spring which must have hampered larval development and delayed their eventual emergence.

My thanks go to the folk who came along on the day to share my enthusiasm and delight at watching these charismatic insects.


Mark said...

You're first photo of the 'Emerald' has got to be the best photo you've ever taken in you're life!!!! Blinkin awesome.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Thank you, Mark, but I just push the button 😊 All the credit needs to go to the close-up mode of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70.