Chaddesden Woods, August 2016

"I am the gate-keeper" "I am the key-master"

“I am the gate-keeper”
“I am the key-master”

A day of elusive insects and amphibians in Derby last weekend, but there were some treats amongst the frustrations.At this time of year the numbers of dragonflies are really apparent, and I featured a Southern Hawker from this patch last month.

There were more Southern Hawkers around this time, sometimes coming so close past my head that I heard the buzz of their wings. But what they wouldn’t do was stop, not for a moment. They would briefly hover about five centimetres from my camera and stare right at me, but at that point they were too close to focus. This was as good as it got:

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Well, it is identifiable from that as a male Southern Hawker.

They weren’t the only elusive species. A family of Sparrowhawks had recently fledged and were crashing about the trees, calling, and generally being very obvious. Except visually. They just wouldn’t come out anywhere I could get a photo.

Juvenile Sparrowhawk

Juvenile Sparrowhawk

Fortunately some things were being a little more obliging and posing for photos. It was a lovely sunny day and there were a range of butterflies flitting around.

Gatekeeper Identified by the double white spots on the wing

Gatekeeper
Identified by the double white spots on the wing

Common Blue

Common Blue

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

While the Hawkers were being so frustrating, the male Common Darters were apparently keen to have their photos taken, posing repeatedly whenever I sat down. They obviously want to be in my 2017 calendar!

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The ponds had one last treat to yield before we headed home. I mentioned last time I was there that I’d spotted one single newt, briefly. This was a big thing as in 2015 the ponds were wrecked by vandals, and I hadn’t expected a swift recovery.

So I was even more delighted to catch a little hint of movement out of the corner of my eye as I was about to leave. I crouched by the pond, waited, and…

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A newt larvae. More than a tadpole, but not yet an eft. Small, but perfectly formed. The language here is frustrating. There isn’t a good word that I’m aware of for this stage of development, not one as poetic as tadpole or eft. If you know of one, please share. I’ve had wiggle and metamorph suggested, both of which appeal for different reasons.

Happily it wasn’t alone, and we soon spotted four or five of them with the largest maybe two centimetres in length.

You can see the feathery external gills at this stage, something that become internal in the adults.

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While it’s hard to identify newts at this stage, it’s fair to assume these are Smooth Newts as that’s what we’ve seen there as adults. I’ve not mastered taking photos into water yet, but once I’ve got my own pond I’ll be getting plenty of practice!

I think the moral of this story is that no matter how frustrating your day may start, don’t write it off as patience is rewarded.


And a few more pictures just to round it out.

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This entry was posted in Amphibians, Birds, Invertebrates and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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