Friday, 23 September 2016

23rd September - Bury Your Head in the Sand

The garden has been very quiet through the week as a result of having to remove the feeders in an attempt to overcome the outbreak of Trichomonosis that had been affecting the Greenfinches and Goldfinches.  It was quite sad to watch thehealthy birds searching for the feeders, but it was for their own good.

Quiet in the garden during the day, but just before dawn over the last few weeks there has been a male Tawny Owl calling when the weather was fine.  This morning though, the "tu wooo" calls were acknowledged by a "keevit", the male having now been joined by a female, it will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming weeks.  The frustration is though, I know they are there, but can I find them?  Can I ....

Today was a lovely morning clear blue azure skies with wispy clouds and some lovely autumnal sunshine, through the morning the clouds bubbled up a little, but it was till nice at lunchtime.  These were perfect conditions for catching up with dragonflies up at the pond, so I took the chance and headed there.  As I arrived the Moorhens were feeding among the lily pads.  there were three adult birds and two juveniles.  This year they seem to be a little bit braver, and didn't just bolt for the vegetation when I got out of the car.



There were plenty of dragonflies about consisting of two species, the majority being Common Darters.  I counted twelve, and then realise that three of them were actually two as they flew around oviposting on the lilies and around the side of the pond, so there were at least fifteen darters.

They are confiding dragonflies and will happily settle on the ground allowing you to be able to get close.  In warm conditions they will settle on branches, but when cooler they will use the ground or similar flat surfaces to warm up in the sun.



The other dragonfly was a Southern Hawker, and these are always busy flying constantly along the edge of the pond and then out over the water.



Hovering and then turning instantly just like a small remote controled helicopter.



I sat watching the dragonflies and attempting top photograph when I heard a whistle, at first I dared to dream, could it be a Kingfisher, then instantly realised what it was, a Grey Wagtail.  It flew in across the road and then low over the water in that long undulating flight, and landed in the mud at the far end of the pond.



I crept around the pond using the Iris bed as cover to get closer.  Over the last two years Grey Wagtails have been seen through the winter, with juvenile birds arriving in late October, this was the first one I have seen in September.



Female and first winter birds are very similar and this may be a first winter bird as the breast is a little greyer.



It continued to chase after insects in the mud, and as I watched it I realised that this was one of only a few true water birds that have appeared here at the pond, the others being the regular Mallard and Moorhen, with occasionally Coot and Grey Heron.




I returned to the sunshine and the dragonflies. The Common Darters were still marauding the lilies, and in between would  have no problem in chasing off the much bigger hawkers.  After some of these excursions they would return to the grass to refuel the muscles.



As I waited for the dragonflies to come close I noticed the Pond Skaters on the water, and with a close look you can see how these deadly predators move around on the water, their feet just lightly denting the meniscus


I then spent sometime watching a female Southern Hawker flying with the abdomen pointing down and hovering over the lily pads.  It never dropped to the water though so I could not confirm that it was oviposting.



There were two males present and little scuffles would break out if one came too close, they would come so close you could hear the clash of the wings.

I followed one that would move backwards and forwards along the side of the bank, allowing me to predict where it would turn up.



It amazing to understand how fast the wings beat, these were taken with a shutter speed of  500th of a second, yet the wings are still a blur.



It would hover, bank rise and fall just like a helicopter, or maybe I should say a helicopter behaves just like a dragonfly as these wonderful insects have been around for millions of years, the oldest fossil being found in Bavaria, Germany dated over 155 million years old.



It was a fruitful 45 minutes spent here, around me there were Goldcrests, Nuthatches and singing Chiffchaffs, and there was the bonus of the Grey Wagtail. The sun was warm and I also had some great photographs of the Jurassic helicopters.

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