Monday, October 17, 2016

Emporer dragonflies hanging on to life

With South Wales’ last warm, sunny weather of 2016 forecast for this week, it’s at this time each year that I notice those creatures for whom life is running out.

Insects in particular catch my attention and dragonflies more than any other.

We have a decent-sized wildkife pond in the garden and, with a couple of benches overlooking it, we spend a fair bit of time just sitting and watching.

The Emperor dragonfly (left) is our largest and most spectacular. And they patrol not only the pond but also the hedges and three large oak trees in the vicinity. The males are very territorial and fight each other off. Other species are tolerated … but briefly chased off if they get too close.

It’s now October 17th and, in the sunny spells today, one male was still around, determinedly searching for a female to mate with or the right kind of tasty morsel. Ever optimistic, he can’t realise that time is running out. Can he?

They’re pretty fussy eaters. They patrol backwards and forwards through the air which, in the height of summer, is thick with other, smaller insects – especially around the pond and around the canopy of the larger oak trees. Yet they ignore them, until WHAM!

They pounce in mid-air. A quicker burst of speed, they grasp their prey and without pausing for breath, the fly off into one of the oak canopies to feast. A few minutes later they are back, again in no hurry to catch more prey.

It’ll be sad to see them gone. But I’ll be watching the wildlife pond, as I work or sip a cuppa or a pint on one of the benches, from early spring.

They’ll not be back until June or July as they’re one of the later arrivals but it’s like the first swallow or the first cuckoo – it’s more than a box to be ticked: It’s a note of joy.

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