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Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012, Year of the Dragonfly (and happy blog birthday)

Doorstep Birding is a year old today, and it seems fitting this is the 100th and final  post of 2012. It's been a year of rain, poor for bird passage,and  Lepidoptera . I am grateful for what I have seen and had a good few birding, moth and butterfly highlights. Thankfully too, another species group has really made my nature year.
 I set out this year with an increasing interest in Odonata, and my first goal was to see as many of the species that occurred locally to me.
This turned out to be a most enjoyable quest and mini challenge to which I couldn't help notch it up a peg by trying to photograph every species I saw also, especially all the Worcestershire (VC37) species..
It started on a parky Bank Holiday Saturday in the Wyre on the 5th May, with the Zygoptera (damselflies) , a Large Red Damselfly, and continued over that weekend with Beautiful Demoiselle next day at Upton Warren, and Banded Demoiselle there on the 12th.

Having been well and truly bitten by the Dragonfly 'bug' (they don't actually bite or sting ) I had arranged to visit a specialist site in Staffordshire on the 26th May, Chartley Moss. Emergence was a bit behind now, but fortunately the target species, White-faced Darter was seen, though they were still a bit teneral. I also saw my first Four- spotted Chaser ever and added Broad-bodied Chaser to the year list. I only managed to photograph one of these species, but thankfully it was the Darter, the others could wait and made up my VC37 challenge.

June was 'the' month in retrospect ! The biggy 'target' at the start of the month was Common Club-tail, not as common or particularly easy as it's name may suggest. However, towards the end of my second attempt, on what turned out to be a magnificent Bank Holiday Monday, I spied upon my one and only of the year, down on the slippery banks of the River Severn. During my search, I had also come across Common Blue, Blue-tailed and White-legged DamselfliesAzure Damselfly was the one highlight of an Upton outing two day's previously  so despite the poor weather, I was motoring on nicely at the end  Bank Holiday Monday morning.

 However things went from superb to brilliant when responding to a text from a local birder, I went to try and twitch a sighting of a dragonfly vagrant that warm sunny afternoon. Down at Grimley, I had my first of a few encounters with Red-veined Darter, a pretty rare beast in Worcs.

The following Saturday, it was relatively warm and rain free, and I found myself mooching down in the Wyre, ostensibly trying to catch up on the poor Fritillary Butterflies that had been so rain affected and hard to come by. It was here I had one of my most satisfying and rewarding encounters of the year, when I spotted a large determined looking dragonfly enter the clearing and settle. Tracking it down I was awestruck to see a stunning Golden-ringed Dragonfly obligingly resting up, a female.

Scarce Chasers were a surprise package of the year, turning up well away from their usual stronghold, with a population found by JK ,saving me much fuel having to go hunting them down. Along with them, Large Re-eyed Damselfly was seen for the first time by me on the same day, a very good day in which I also observed Black-tailed Skimmers at a separate site.

At this point I went off to America for a few days, but even in the heart of the New York metropolis, I managed to see  two species, one remains to be identified during the coming winter nights, but I have managed to ID, I think, the tiny Eastern Amberwing seen at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Back to Blighty and June held two more species for the year, Common Darter was always a given, but Emperor was most pleasing, with a record shot to keep the challenge alive.
The next worry was Emerald Damselfly.I believe they had been scarce locally the previous year, and the pools I was hoping to nab them at were dried out the previous year. They overwinter as and egg, and conveniently can withstand desiccation  Anyway, this year they appeared, and I was pipped to the post by an hour or two by fellow nature nerd JK one Saturday who phoned to advise me he had seen them, just as I was approaching the site !
The following day, 8th July at Upton I had a unexpected surprise, stumbling upon a perched up fresh Brown Hawker. It was nice and settled, and with this in the bag, there were only two species I was worried I may not see, Small Red-eyed Damselfly and Common Hawker, but it was too early to worry about the" tricky 2" they probably hadn't emerged yet ! In the meantime I added Southern Hawker on the 21st, and enjoyed what was about, studying the jizz and getting better pictures where possible of what was about.
By the 10th August I had seen and photographed Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker. I had all the Worcs species now bar the " tricky 2", and it suited me I had seen them all withing the ethos of the 'doorstep'  as well, my sort of 20 mile radius of home. I wasn't even sure if Common Hawker had been seen, it's not at all common, infact I think it has only been sighted in 1 10 km in Worcs during the current survey. Anyway, I did one slightly off doorstep trip to Croome Park for a gratuitous tick of Small Red-eyed Damselfly, it was a place worth a once over, and I picked up Brown Argus and Common Blues which had been so rare this year.

So that was it for Worcestershire Dragonflies and me, 23 species seen and photographed, plus the White- faced Darter in Staffs, I was more than pleased.
I was even more pleased, when on the 15th September, whilst at Titterstone Clee birding, I saw and recorded Common Darter !

 A couple of days away in Seville and a visit to the Alcazar, I was hoping I might see something there, and  I saw a couple of stunners, Orange-winged Dropwing, and Violet Dropwing
It's been a great Dragonfly year, I hope to do it all again in 2013, and possibly add a couple of  species if conditions prevail. I also hope to study more of the life cycle of this fascinating group of invertebrates. Thank you for reading... Happy New Year !


  1. Nice retrospective look at 2012, not good weatherwise as you say, but still lots to record out there.
    All the best for next year mate :-)

  2. Cheers Warren, all the best for 2013

  3. An enjoyable look at the year's Odonata Mark...a fine read with some quality pics. Let's just hope the weather is sufficiantly improved to help the butterflies and moths in 2013!

  4. Thanks Jase, indeed, lets hope for some invert friendly weather this year !