I was just sauntering passed Radbrook Pond on Sunday when I found these 2 exuviae. The larger of the 2 is Red-eyed Damselfly- a distinctively large exuviae with bands visible on the caudal lamellae (below left). I assumed the smaller of the 2 would be Large Red Damselfly but when I actually looked at it carefully at home I found it to be Blue-tailed Damselfly. I soaked and studied the caudal lamellae (below right-blurred sorry) which have a tapered pointed tip and are described as obliquely subnodate with stout setae reaching the mid point on one side and a third of the way on the other- all from Steve Cham’s great ID guide. So that’s 2 more species for 2019!
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Stephen Barlow had an excellent early haul of 3 different species on Whixall Moss on Bank Holiday Monday. An immature male White-faced Darter is seen here on the far left showing yellow markings which will turn red with maturity. On the immediate left is the first sighting of Four-spotted Chaser- already clearly showing the four spots at the node of the wings.
Hot on the heels of the first sightings, Large Reds were seen at both Attingham Park (by Paul Spear) and Whixall Moss (by Stephen Barlow) on Good Friday. Paul took the photo shown here of a female. Females come in 3 colour forms so it’s always a good chance to have a closer look whilst there are few other species about. This is the form fulvipes with yellow antehumeral stripes and black markings on the abdomen.
Well after a hint of summer back in February and then a hot week last week I thought I’d better launch the 2019 blog just in case we have early records coming in…..and now snow is forecast and I’m not really sure what the Large Red Damselflies will make of it all! Typically the first adults start to emerge towards the end of April, but with the mixed weather I would say anything is possible and I’m certainly keeping a close eye on the pond. This photo was taken last year by Paul Spear and shows a Large Red Damselfly- always the first species on the wing….though White-faced Darters are often close behind if you’re near Whixall Moss. Please do get in touch if you see any dragons or damsels and we can get the Shropshire flight season underway!
Despite extensive searching Stephen Barlow found no further Common Darters at Whixall and the last known sighting was on 18th November but unfortunately on the Welsh side of the Moss! Keep me posted if you catch any last minute glimpses before colder weather sets in.
In the meantime Jan Shields has sent in some interesting pics taken in mid October. This female Southern Hawker was seen to move leaves- picking them up with her legs and ‘throwing’ them into the nearby pond. This enabled her to access the mossy stones underneath for egg laying. It seems a bizarre choice with a pond nearby, but she had apparently just had a near miss with a blackbird and was possibly looking for something more covert. Following this behaviour she then proceeded to lay eggs on a windfall apple for good measure! Jan will be keeping a close eye on this apple next spring!
Stephen Barlow reports 2 more Common Darters seen at Whixall Moss on 13th November and ‘a hawker’ -the latter just inconveniently over the border in Wales! The latest recorded sighting of Common Darter in Shropshire was by Stephen on November 20th 2015 on Brown Moss which is only a week away so we could be on for a record breaker if things stay mild…
Stephen Barlow has been seeking out more early November Common Darters finding them in sun traps on Whixall Moss. Interestingly Stephen points out that due to the low sun at this time of year a northerly wind (though colder) can improve your chances of success as dragonflies can find sun traps that are both out of the wind and in the sun. When southerlies are blowing, the shelter from the wind is usually on the opposite side to the suntrap.
Despite the recent hard frosts Stephen Barlow is still seeing a reasonable number of species lurking in the warmer spots on Whixall Moss. These pics of a female Migrant Hawker (left), Black Darter (below left) and Common Darter (below right) were all taken on 18th October, but Stephen has seen Common Darters flying on the 28th and 31st (Halloween!) October. With things warming a little we should definitely get a few hardy November records.