Thursday, 12 July 2018

demoiselles at bluestone ford

The fourth of July, and in a show of independence I decided to return to Whiteadder Water at Bluestone Ford near Chirnside and maybe get another fix of demoiselles. This time I did get my bike on the train and was able to cycle the 9miles from Berwick to Bluestone under the baking heat of the sun.

inappropriately named Foulden

On the approach my heart was racing. Would there still be Banded demoiselles?

Just one dogwalker and myself. I changed out my shorts into my Hoka sandals and running tights for wading through the river and nettly undergrowth on the riverbank. Sure enough there were dozens of the damselflies. (Phew! Very pleased!) And as most of them were sitting on reeds right at the edge of the water the best vantage point was in the water. I probably spent 3hrs wading up and down stream. But who could ask for a more pleasant venue? I could feel the top of my head and neck getting fried! But it was captivating watching the males vigorously defend their patch: if another male flew past they would shoot off in pursuit, often to return to the same spot. 

 males are dark turquoise with a dark band on the wing

I got a stick (off a dead branch) to use as additional support. The river was fast flowing in places and up to thigh deep (deeper in places) and it was fairly imperative to keep my balance and not fall in carrying the good (non-waterproof) camera. I generally worked the camera with my right hand and held the stick in my left. 

the females were less in evidence
they are more golden green and don't have the band on the wing

cantharid beetles

bluestone ford

the stones in question?

2 males jousting

large red damselfly

the bright sunlight revealed great detail
close up they really look like amazing sci-fi monsters

When they land, after a moment they often open and close their wings. I tried time and again to catch this as their wings are amazing but mostly failed. It happens in the blink of an eye.

I didn't make any attempt to count how many there were. I didn't go for more than a minute or 2 without spotting the next one and in the 200 yards I covered they were regularly on both sides of the river. 

They fly with an undulating slow-wingbeat swish more like a large butterfly than the dragonflies which zip from one point to another in a straight fast line. You might think this would make for easier in-flight shots but I mostly failed to capture anything but distant blurs.

Later the sun went behind some thin cloud and the results were softer images
however it was trickier to get as sharp photos and fewer pics came out so well

delightful spot

I had been swithering about cycling over to Burnmouth to do a spot of butterflying before catching the train home, but was finding it nearly impossible to drag myself away from this idyllic place. (I even found it tricky to put the camera down for 15mins to eat my sandwiches). I then got a text saying there was an incident with my mum and although it turned out not to be serious I decided to catch the 4.23 train. The cycle back was into the wind and I began to wonder if I had left enough time to cover the 9miles. It was a good workout in the heat and I arrived (moist!) with only a couple of minutes to spare - to find the train was delayed by 40minutes or more! 

I had a chat with the stationmaster to assess if there was a spare bike place on the next train (having had short shrift from a guard last time you'll remember.) It was a non-cross-country train and my ticket did not cover this one - my one was 10+mins later. The stationmaster went out of his way to call up the guard on the non-cross-country train and arranged a space on this, even though my ticket didn't cover it, (at no extra cost.) I mention this as it shows there are sometimes as many good guys as bad. I felt the balance swung back into the middle. It was a very nice finish to another excellent day messing about in a river. My friend Iain said the demoiselles are very addictive. He's not wrong. I was hooked from the first time I saw them but hoped that spending all afternoon with them here in perfect conditions would satisfy the urge for a while. 

As I was leaving the river by way of the field alongside it, I saw this and thought it was just another female Banded. But it flew differently and seemed to have browner wings. I couldn't work out if I was making that up or not and when I got home checked up and saw it might have been a Beautiful Demoiselle rather than banded. Trouble is the females are very similar, and I'd need to see a male to confirm. They have solid darker wings, not banded. However Iain said he has never seen a Beautiful around these parts and has been watching out for them, so in all likelyhood my head was just a bit baked. I have a plan brewing to travel west (long, long way west) next time we get some more sustained sunshine, to see what exotic dragonflies I can find, and maybe to spot some Beautifuls as well. Watch this space.

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