He was eating his afternoon snack while posing like this. Honestly, I ask you. I mean, I like cake, but I don’t feel the need to make a spectacle of myself like this while I’m eating it.
In fact, according to Odonata people, this obelisk position in dragonflies can have one of two purposes: it’s used by males to warn each other off in a territorial dispute, or it’s adopted so that the dragon is presenting the smallest possible surface area to the sun, in order to minimise the chance of it overheating. This being an immature male Ruddy Darter, he could have been threatening me (sweet!), but I’m going to say that it’s more likely he was regulating his body temperature. And I don’t blame him.
Two hours of walking around Whitecross Green Wood today, in blistering heat and carrying a full-frame camera and long lens, had me almost on my knees. I was in search of Black Hairstreak butterflies, which are present at this site (I know, because I’ve seen photos) – but I saw nary a one. This wasn’t wholly surprising, because they’re small, and spend most of their lives up in the tree canopy, but it was frustrating. It’s possible that I arrived too late in the day, because some butterfly whisperers assert that Hairstreaks only come down to lower levels in the early morning, or it’s possible that they were all sitting at head height in bushes just off the main rides, snickering as I fruitlessly scoured the reserve – but whatever, they were not available to have their portraits taken.
Luckily, I’m pretty philosophical about these things. If I ever get to the stage where ticking boxes is the most important thing to me, I think it will be time to take up a new hobby; as it is, I still find it a privilege to be in a lovely place like this, observing wild creatures going about their daily business, and the whole thing is a valuable mindfulness exercise for me.
Despite the dearth of Hairstreaks, I had a gazillion other butterflies to choose from (honestly – I counted), including White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries; and several other dragonflies including some Emperors. I amused myself for a while trying to get flight shots of one of the Emperors, which was flying figure eight hunting circuits around me, and though most of them were hopeless I did get a few that were – interesting, at least. My favourite is one that looks more like an illustration than a photo – quite possibly because there’s no point of accurate focus in it! – but it really pleases me in the way it depicts a busy insect on a hot summer day. If you’d like to see whether you agree with me, it’s here.