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Newsletter - August 18th 2018

Hi Everyone

I am now three quarters of the way through my cardiac rehab and have made excellent progress. I am driving again and finally able to get out with my new Panasonic Lumix G9’s, and finally take some pictures. I have always thought that the two main subjects for the wildlife photographer during the summer months are Butterflies and Dragonflies and it has been the latter that I have been concentrating on recently.

Banded_Demoiselle
The Banded Demoiselle

About three years ago I created a pond in my garden and specifically ruled out putting any fish in it other than sticklebacks. The pond is aimed at attracting amphibians like newts and frogs, grass snakes but, most importantly, the group of insects collectively known as Odonata. In Britain we have over 50 plus breeding species plus several migrants.

Emperor_Dragonfly_Ovipositing
The Emperor

We know them better as Dragonflies and Damselflies. They have a fascinating three stage life cycle comprising of an egg, a larva and finally the adult insect. First of all the eggs are laid in or around water and in due course, usually 2-3 weeks, they hatch into larvae. The larva then spends up to two years underwater growing in size, until eventually the time comes for it to emerge. One British exception is the Golden-ringed Dragonfly that can take up to five years to emerge!

Brown_Hawker_Ovipositing
The Brown Hawker

Invariably the larvae use the pond vegetation to climb out of the water and this usually occurs during the hours of darkness. At this stage the larva becomes an exuvia. Once fully dry the skin splits open and out of it emerges the adult Dragonfly which is known at this time as the teneral stage. Now follows the best time to photograph them whilst they are still in pristine condition.

Teneral_Black_Darter
The Black Darter

When dragonflies first emerge from their exuvia they are referred to as tenerals. At this stage they are very fragile and easy prey to predators. Their wings are soft and shiny as you see in this picture. They can fly but not very well so invariably they seek out somewhere safe whilst their wings harden. This is what this Black Darter is doing. It is Britain’s smallest dragonfly and found mainly on heathland and bogs. Eventually it will turn black and live up to it’s name.

Broad-bodied_Chaser
The Broad-bodied Chaser

This is a super looking dragonfly and one of the first species that laid claim to my pond this summer. Once installed the male will seek out a tall perch from which to look for females or to spot other males which it takes on with great aggression. Apparently this medium sized dragonfly has a tendency to colonise new ponds and this has helped it’s spread throughout most of the UK.

Southern_Hawker_Ovipositing
The Southern Hawker Ovipositing

Most fish will eat larva relentlessly and that was the reason I did not want any fish in my pond other than sticklebacks. Ironically, some of the larger more voracious larvae will actually consume tadpoles and even sticklebacks!

Grass_Snake_in_Pond
Juvenile Grass Snake in the Pond

A close inspection reveals that that this juvenile grass snake apparently has an opaque eye. Actually there is nothing wrong with the eye, the milky appearance is caused by a natural fluid that is released when the snake is about to shed its skin.

Brown_Hairstreak
The Brown Hairstreak

This is a beautiful female and identified from the male by the orange patches on the forewings. Out of our five native Hairstreaks I consider this to be the most attractive member of them. They are on the wing in the UK from the middle of July until the end of September. Several years ago I had one turn up in my garden for the very first time This week, whilst watching for Dragonflies, to my amazement, I had my second record. It was very accommodating so it seemed appropriate to add its photograph in the newsletter.

Club Secretaries

I will be resuming my lectures next month and the first one will be at Maidstone Camera Club with the subject still to be decided upon. See my Lecture Diary page for further info or to make a booking.

Workshops

I will be announcing a Group and 1-1 workshops in the next newsletter.

Thank you again for all your good wishes during a difficult time – clearly they are working!

Regards George
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