On my way along the Roman Road at lunch time, heading for the Heart of England Forest at Barton, I experienced another low-level fly-over by the Red Arrows. All along the road people were parking their cars wherever they could find a pull-in, and leaping out to film the display on their phones. Self-consciously weary by now of the whole palaver, I clicked my tongue in annoyance every time I had to steer round another dumped vehicle, turned my back on Ragley Hall, and carried on to my destination. Where, inevitably, I stood in the car park and rattled off my first hundred frames of the day at the jets roaring overhead. All but a handful of these shots have since been deleted, but - you know - things with wings....
The next bit of excitement came a few minutes after I walked onto the Heart of England site, when I stopped on a rather rickety footbridge over the stream I've been worrying about for the last few weeks to check if any Beautiful Demoiselles had appeared. The good news was that I spotted a few right away. The bad news was that I was still standing there, camera raised, when a little stampede of people appeared and pushed past me, squeaking and twittering about a swarm of bees. The bridge was now bouncing up and down like a trampoline, and photography became impossible, so I looked around to see what the fuss was about, expecting the air to be thick with honey bees. All I could see though was quite a small and thin cloud, which soon veered away into a nearby tree - certainly not enough to warrant panic, and if anyone had asked for my opinion I'd have told them so, robustly. They didn't ask, but happily they all cleared off quite fast, leaving me in possession of the bridge and the Demoiselles.
The rest of the afternoon passed without incident, I'm glad to say. I had a pleasant walk along the river bank, and then through a lovely wild flower meadow to another (more stable) bridge over the stream, where I took this image and also photographed the fresh female Beautiful Demoiselle I've posted to Facebook. At the river there must have been several hundred Banded Demoiselles on the emergent and bankside vegetation: in places I was putting up tens of them at every step, although many are now mature and have largely lost their fear of humans, and these individuals tended to sit tight and simply gaze at me as I brushed past their perches.
The only dragons I saw today were Scarce Chasers, which have heavily colonised this stretch of the Avon. Along the river there were numerous fully mature and highly competitive males, bickering with each other over the best perches from which to keep watch for food and females, but I also caught sight of a few browner individuals in flight over the wild flower meadow, which could have been either females or immature males. Scarce Chasers are primarily a riverine species, though they will also colonise lakes and flooded gravel pits, and after emergence they favour nearby meadows and scrub during their maturation period, which lasts between one and two weeks. This semi-mature male is interesting because you can still see traces of his juvenile colouring under the developing abdominal pruinescence and black tail tip. Within another few days the orange colouration will disappear completely, his frons will turn completely black, and his eyes will lighten to a startling pale blue. I'd never say it to his face, but I think he's more attractive now.
Tonight's extra is an immature male White-legged Damselfly, which I photographed on the river bank. These distinctive damsels, with their broad heads and unusual thoracic markings, are among my favourite species. Both sexes start out very pale like this, but colour up as they mature - the males to pale blue and the females to pale green. As they age their black markings become more extensive.