I was raring to get out and photograph dragons today, but the morning was overcast and cold, which didn't bode well for a successful dragon hunt. The afternoon forecast was much better though, so I did useful things till after lunch, and then took the camera for a walk along the bank of the Avon in the Heart of England Forest at Barton. The forecast (for once) was right: the longer I stayed, the warmer and brighter it became (and the more layers of clothing I had to shed), until in the end it became simply too bright and contrasty for good photos, at which point I dragged myself away from the Odonata and went home to make dinner.
The undoubted stars of the day were the Banded Demoiselles, of which there were dozens, including some pale and immature specimens, along a three hundred metre stretch of the river bank. Interestingly, there seemed to be more females present than males, which is not what you'd expect, although this may have been an illusion caused by the females being generally much more placid and sedentary, while the males were almost all very skittish and shy. Whereas the female in the main image posed beautifully for her portrait, the male in my second photo changed his perch several times, and needed very slow and patient stalking. I thought I was going to lose him altogether when he was buzzed by a second male, but in the event he transferred all the angst he'd been showing towards me onto his rival, which allowed me this shot of him irritatedly flaring his wings.
The only disappointment of the afternoon was a complete absence of Beautiful Demoiselles. The little stream that runs through the forest and feeds into the river, which has been my go-to spot for these damsels since the County Recorder told me about it a couple of years ago, has been extensively cleared, and possibly even reprofiled, and rather than being overgrown, silty and sluggish, is now wide, empty and fast-flowing. In theory these conditions are fine for Beautiful Demoiselles, but such a drastic clearance of an established habitat is likely to have disrupted the existing population of larvae, not to mention their food supply. I'll be checking the stream anxiously over the next few weeks to see if any Beautiful Demoiselles emerge from it.