R and I went to Charlecote this morning, expecting more of the excitement we witnessed on Friday, but the deer seem to have got over whatever it was that put a gale in their collective tail at the end of last week, and the rut seems further away, rather than closer. The large, twitchy gathering of does and youngsters in the Deer Sanctuary has dispersed, and the few males that had joined them there have disappeared too, leaving most of the publicly accessible areas of the park empty and quiet. Meanwhile the Big Boys' Club remains committed to its favourite tree up in Hill Park, with no apparent interest in anything beyond chewing and napping. In better news, there were several Migrant Hawkers hunting over the River Dene, and one male sunning himself on what I'll probably always now think of as the Migrant Hawker Basking Fence.
Arriving home with fallow bucks and a Migrant Hawker in the camera, I wasn't looking for any other photo opportunities, but when I found this Southern Hawker ovipositing by the wildlife pond I couldn't resist her. She worked over this piece of wood with intense concentration for about twenty minutes, and completely ignored me, even when I got right in to the minimum focus distance of the big zoom. Even though the focus on her face here isn't as good as in some of my other images, I've chosen this one because it's the first time I've ever captured what looks like a tiny string of mucus, running from her last placement point to the end of her ovipositor. I've spent quite a while this evening reading up on Aeshnid oviposition, trying to find out what this might be, but it's not mentioned in my most detailed book, though there is mention of the eggs of species that lay on top of vegetation being encased in a gelatinous substance, to help them to stick to the leaves. I will send this photo to the County recorder, and ask him if he knows what it might be.
My reading has taught me that the eggs of Southern Hawkers always go into diapause over the winter - that is, the embryos develop just so far, and then stop, even if they were laid quite early in the season. The ones that survive the winter will hatch into pro-larvae at around the same point in the spring, and will then try somehow to find their way to the water. And there they'll stay for two full years, apparently - so there won't be any point in me haunting the pond next summer, hoping for a Southern Hawker emergence. I will have to try to acquire some patience in my old age!
It's marvellous, and rather amazing, that just when I'd reconciled myself to our Southern Hawker season being over, we've now had two oviposition visits in two days. Better yet, the face-on portraits I took show that the visitors were different dragons: this one has two spots on her frons, whereas yesterday's only had one.
I've put three more images, showing the movement of her ovipositor, onto my Facebook page.