The dragonflies have been late this year. It’s been such a cool summer that some of them are just mating and breeding now, where they would normally do it in July. Some species are later emerging- like the black darters- but the common hawkers have been around for ages. A couple of visitors took these lovely pictures of both male and female hawkers down at Parkin’s Moss…thanks to them for use of the pictures. The females are all ovipositing- egg laying- in the big ditch that runs through the Moss.
You can clearly see their huge eyes in the pictures. Dragonflies probably have the best eyesight of any insect….and they need it to hunt their prey (other smaller insects) on the wing. They’re one of my favourite insects- fast, colourful and dynamic- and they eat midgies! Now there’s a good reason for liking them. The huge eyes are also good for avoiding predators- mostly birds- as some falcons catch and eat dragonflies. Their excellent eyesight makes them very hard to sneak up on, unless they’re busy with something else, like mating or egg laying, or they’re cold in the morning. Like our adders, they take a bit of getting going first thing and, if you spot them, it’s the best time to get close up. This golden-ringed dragonfly wasn’t warmed up and ready to go yet.
There are still a few young birds around. They can be easier to see than the adults, being less aware and afraid of danger. Here are a young robin, blackcap and woodpecker. The blackcap doesn’t have a black cap- only the adult males do, while the females and youngsters have that ginger-brown cap. And the young woodpecker is identifiable by his red cap- only young woodpeckers have the full red cap.
After last week’s blog, someone said they weren’t ready to hear the word “autumn” yet. Sorry….but, for the wildlife at least, it is! I think it’s technically been “autumn” since July…autumn, for me, starts on that first cool, dew-covered morning when you hear the first curlew or whimbrel overhead, southbound, after failing to breed somewhere in the north. But, by now, some of the mornings really are feeling “autumny” and the dew is making the spiders webs’ glow silver in the low sun. These mornings are a revelation- you just don’t realise how many spiders or how many webs there are until they net the dew and sparkle in the morning sun. It’s a wonderful and beautiful illustration of largely unseen biodiversity going on around us.
The bracken is also starting to turn too. It can’t die soon enough for me- we’re all fed up of whacking it off the paths- but it does look lovely as it starts to go golden.
Close to the path, near New Kinord, is an old, dead tree. It’s become a favourite gathering place for various “hirundines” –swallows, house martins and sand martins. Keats said, in “Ode to Autumn” “…and gathering swallows twitter in the skies”. Well, here, they’re all twittering on and around this dead tree, discussing the way to Africa. But they’ll be with us for another month or so yet!