Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday 29th.May 2010

As I said on yesterday's post , I had an hour or so after lunch at Spring Park Pond on the outskirts of West Wickham . There was already more cloud than in the morning , and things looked quiet when I arrived . A movement over on the far side of the pond turned out to be a female Broad Bodied Chaser , egg laying in the shallow , warmer water . Chasers , Skimmers and Darters all use this method of egg laying , the female dipping the end of her abdomen into the water , and each time releasing a spherical shaped egg into the water , which sinks to the bottom . This is why they choose the shallow , warmer areas to lay their eggs . Often , the male Chaser will stand guard over the female whilst she lays the eggs that he had fertilised , but this female was alone , and the inattentive male paid the price , when another male flew in and clasped her behind the head , flying off in the tandem position . This male would then clear out any eggs or sperm still in the female , then mate with her , which is done in flight in the wheel position . The female would then return to the water to lay her eggs , perhaps next time guarded by the male . The sun was constantly going behind clouds , and the dragonflies disappeared every time it did so , so I didn't see her return , but in the sunny periods , at least 6 males , impossible to be sure with the speed of the aerial battles , fought for the best perching areas around the pond . When one did settle , you could guarantee that within seconds , he would have to defend his perch , or attack another male who had got too close . As I said , the skies clouded , and I started looking for other interest , and soon came across a very photogenic male Smooth Newt , just about a metre out from the bank , swimming amongst the tadpoles . I have managed odd shots here before , but usually the Newts come up for air and down again almost immediately . This one stayed near the surface for quite some time , before diving back down into deeper water . With not much happening around the pond , I then set off for the small sheltered meadow , about 10 minutes walk away . The meadow produced Large and Small White , Peacock , Common Blue and 3 Orange Tips , all males . This one showing the wear of no doubt many battles and mating over the last few weeks , having lost much of the colour from his underwing , and the orange tips to his upper wings was well past it's sell by date too . They certainly were on the wing early this year , and it will be interesting to see if they manage a small second brood , late July/early August .
I arrived back at the pond , having not found any Broad Bodied Chasers on the woodside vegetation alongside the large meadow , a favourite spot for resting between feeding or mating . I did however find , in almost the same spot as the male , a female Smooth Newt , without the flashy crest of the male , and altogether much more sombre in colour . A couple of minutes later , the male turns up , and gives her a nudge , and I thought , this could be interesting . Now , I don't speak Newt , but I'm pretty sure that I hear the word 'headache' , to which the male turned and sank to the bottom again . Thicker cloud came rolling in , and it got much cooler , so I decided to head home , but as I was leaving the pond enclosure , I very nearly stepped on this female BBC , which could well have been the one I saw egg laying and being mated . She must have been cold , as she made no attempt to move , which gave the opportunity for a really close up shot of one of these insects , the ancestors of which flew 300 million years ago . Even today , they look like something out of a horror film , with massive eyes dominating most of the head , the legs covered in spines to keep hold of the insects it catches whilst in flight , finishing in pterodactyl like hooks , and a retractable jaw , that can extend and grab it's prey . She didn't move a muscle while I was photographing her , but then the sun came from behind the latest cloud , and started to warm her up . She responded by first working her front pair of wings , then the back pair , and soon she was off on the next part of her short adventure as a flying adult , having spent almost a year as a nymph on the floor of the pond . I added one more species of butterfly on my way back to the car , a pair of male Small Coppers , as usual , fighting over the ownership of a flattened molehill , before refuelling on a Meadow Buttercup . The rain turned up at about 10 o'clock this morning , and at mid afternoon , it is still raining .


Warren Baker said...

I like the newts Greenie. i'll have to check out my pond for some, might get a photo if the weather bightend up this weekend :-)

Phil said...

Two very interesting posts Greenie and some great photo's as well. Still haven't found a Green Hairstreak at New Hythe although I did see a couple on Mull.

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie.
A great informative post today, not saying that your others aren't :-)
Nice photo's especially the B.B.Chaser's, although the pond shots were well caught, right place, right time.

ShySongbird said...

A fascinating and informative account (this and the last) with great photos again, Greenie, always so many handy tips such as looking 'for Buckthorn which has been chomped' :) Amazing close up of the BB C and it seems their sexual habits are similar to that of the Dunnock!

Lovely to see the Smooth Newt too, I have been trying to find Newts recently and thought I was on to a winner at a small reserve recently when a pond had a sign by it saying 'Newt Pond' but despite watching for some time there was no sign, maybe the Newts couldn't read :)