Saturday 21 May 2011: Banded demoiselles
I peered at the day with one bleary eye at approximately 4.45am and decided that I really didn't want to get up for sunrise! But I womanfully struggled out of bed a little after six and took the dogs down to the river. The light was beautiful and there was scarcely a breath of breeze. The adolescent swans on the Rowing Lake still had their heads tucked under their wings.
There were hardly any people about - a few other keen dog walkers, including a man who told me that he'd sighted a pair of otters last weekend and a much noiser group of teenagers who'd camped out for the night. The riverside vegetation was dewy and there were banded snails moving about, a rare sight during the recent drought.
The highlight of my walk was finding a roost of banded demoiselles Calopteryx splendens on a clump of branched bur-reed about one metre out into the river, There must have been at least ten males, all lined up on the leaves, like sparkling Christmas decorations. And there was this single mating pair, gently manoeuvring into the mating wheel, which required the male to flap his wings gentle in order to maintain their balance. Other images of the banded demoiselles can be seen here.
I returned home for breakfast, and then it was off to work. Today Pete and I were visiting a local dry grassland to monitor the vegetation and invertebrates. Not easy - as little of it was more than 5cm in height, and many species were shrivelled and brown. And most of the invertebrates seemed to be already past their peak. There were reasonable numbers of butterflies, including brown argus, common blue, small heath, small copper and grizzled skipper, though they were all having quite a time battling against the steady southerly wind which had picked up during the morning.
When we got back I made a cup of tea and took it out into the garden, hoping for a bit of quiet relaxation. Before I even sat down I spotted a female scarce chaser Libellula fulva. I ran back inside to grab the camera, never thinking she would hang around long enough for me to get a photo, but when I came out she was still perched on the Jerusalem sage flowers. She must have wandered up from the River Nene, but it's certainly a first record for the garden! The photos I took of her can be seen here.