Sunday, July 27, 2008
This weekend has been warm and sunny with odd patches of mist and fog with very little wind. It was this settled pattern that prompted me to pack camera, bins, Jane and Bunts ( not necessarily in that order) into the car and head off to a place near Carlisle that I hadn't been to before. The Moss (above) will from now on remain unmentioned, is the haunt of one very special species of dragonfly that is only found in a handful of sites, mostly in the highlands of Scotland...
We arrived at lunchtime and met up with Roger F after I tipped him off about the site through the week. After a short walk through woodland the site opened up into a lowland bog covered in heather, cross-leaved heath and sphagnum moss. It was very wet underfoot and wellies were essential. At one point I nearly did a David Bellamy and sank almost up to my knees. As Roger says, you could lose a horse and cart in here. We soon came across a small (bottomless) pool about the size of a snooker table and dragonflies were everywhere.
First off were these nice little Black Darters (above) and Emerald Damsels in the heather beside the pool. Pairs of Common Darters were egg laying and defending territory here as were Four spotted Chasers and a couple of Common Hawkers.
Above, top, this newly emerged Common Hawker looked ghostly in the rushes before flying off strongly. I investigated the spot and found this 'exuviae' where it had been perched. It is the shed larval case like a chrysalis after the adult emerges.
Then came the real prize of the day. At least 6 White-faced Darters (below) were on territory around the pool margins. Only one female was seen egg laying but the males performed well. There were several tussles between them and Common Darters. Dan Powell's book states that they like to perch on white objects such as bleached wood or even tee-shirts, so I found a worn dead branch and lay it in the pool. They soon found it to their liking and took to it like a duck to water giving us great photo opportunities.
We spent an hour with the dragons but several birds were also noted. A family party of 4 Crossbills were seen a couple of times in the trees nearby, a family of Buzzards were 'mewing' overhead, Tree Pipits were calling their buzzing flight note around the clearing and a Great spotted Woodpecker flew over.
An excellent day!