Pale frail male

There was very little going on in our garden this morning, invert-wise, so I took a walk along the lane. After being farmed as a hay meadow for a number of years, and supporting the best population of butterflies in the village, Tilly’s field is now neglected, and the shoulder-high grass has virtually smothered the wild flowers. Apart from some black horehound along the wall there’s just one small patch of clover in the gateway, where I saw two butterflies on Tuesday. Today, sadly, there was nothing there at all.

I had much better luck a hundred metres further on, when I went into our neighbours’ orchard to check their pond, and quickly spotted a Southern Hawker exuvia on a water lily leaf. By then the dragon had left the scene, but as I hadn’t yet seen a Southern Hawker this season I was pretty excited by this discovery, which in the slightly unusual world of Odonatology counts as valid evidence for a record. In the end though, I didn’t need to stake my claim on the basis of a single larval case, because on scanning with the macro binoculars I soon discovered two more exuviae, and then – oh, joy! – their owners: a female, who was resting deep among the reeds, and this lovely, very fresh male. Both will probably have emerged overnight, which hawkers tend to do so as complete their eclosure while the bulk of their potential predators are asleep. Once they’re fully hardened and warmed up, I’d expect them to make for the nearest woodland (or at any rate the large wooded gardens in the centre of this village), to feed up and hone their aerial skills. In a couple of weeks they’ll be ready to breed, and will return to the water in search of partners.

Tonight’s second image was chosen by R, and shows a pair of Large Red Damselflies in vegetation at the edge of the same pond. I saw the male pounce on the female and grab her, but following this (probably entirely reflex) move neither of them seemed especially interested in completing the mating wheel, and they were still hanging in the same position about a minute later, when I finished photographing them and moved away.

R: C2, D1.

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