Tiny Darter

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Today was forecast to be the final day of the hot spell, with thunderstorms possible just about anywhere in England tomorrow, so I decided on another trip to the Long Mynd in search of dragonflies. On the plus side, there were scores of dragons around: the Pole Cottage pool was busy with Black Darters and Southern and Common Hawkers, and I also spotted a single Common Darter (an unusual sight at that location) and an ovipositing Brown Hawker. On the minus side, the light was harsh and made photography more difficult than I’d like it to have been, and a wild pony bit a chunk out of my car.

Sigh.

I’m posting two photos of Black Darters this evening. The featured shot shows a perhaps slightly elderly male, and the extra a very fresh female, and if you go full-screen and flick between them you’ll see the difference in their colouring. The males are unmistakeable, being the only black dragonflies we have in the UK, and to my mind the females are too, because of the extent of their black markings, though they do bear a passing resemblance to other female darters. The thing about them that’s hard to convey in a close-up photo is just how small (and proportionately finely built) they are – around 3cm from stem to stern, which is around 5mm less than a Ruddy and 10mm less than a Common Darter. This, combined with their cryptic colouring, means that it’s very easy to overlook one until you inadvertently step too close to it and put it to flight. They’re naturally skittish, especially when big hawkers are cruising around the pool, but they also have a natural tendency to perch, and I find that if you’re careful they will stay still while you approach them.

The final thing I want to mark in my journal for today is that this evening Chipping Campden Festival Chorus met to begin rehearsals for a winter concert – the first time we’ve sung in the same room together for nearly eighteen months. It was wonderful.