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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Their Imperial Highnesses - on 15th July, 2015

My pal, John (see footnote to this post), had told me of a fishing pond behind his property, where Emperor dragonflies were present. I've been pretty-much tied up with domestic projects lately but feeling a little stir crazy and it being fine weather, I decided to take a couple of hours or so out, and visit the location, calling in at my local patch to talk to the farmer first.

As I was not sure how long I'd be at the farm (about three quarters of an hour as it turned out) I'd not said anything to John about my visit, but was going to give him a call when I got there. To our amusement, John had arrived there just a couple of minutes before me!

I'm pretty sure that I'll have seen an Emperor dragonfly before my interest got well and truly sparked by the Odonata, and I'm 95% certain that I saw one by a different fishing lake on 24th June when my wife and I went out to lunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but I've never photographed one.

One was instantly spotted when we started to look, but in an inaccessible place. We took a wander around the perimeter of the pond, and spent a good half hour trying to photograph a male specimen. It seems however that this quick-flying species rarely settles, and we were having no luck at all capturing one in flight at a great distance.

Even when one came much closer, and started to interact at high speed with a Four-spotted Chaser, we just couldn't get it in frame for long enough to achieve focus. I mentioned to John that, at this rate, our best chance was to hope for an oviposting female. I did get some shots, however, of the Chaser, which I believe, by the shape of its anal appendages (I'd never have guessed I'd use that expression in writing!) to be an immature male - please correct me if I'm wrong. Update:- I've been told by my good friend Noushka, who knows about such things, that this is a fully mature male. I've modified the caption accordingly. Thank you, Noushka!

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - near Ibstock
After probably 15 minutes or more of trying, John suggested moving round the pond by around 45 degrees as he'd previously observed that they slow down somewhat when flying into the wind. This proved to be inspirational as a  male Emperor was soon spotted which seemed to habitually slow down when it got in front of us. I had to choose between high ISO (= noise, but faster shutter speed to freeze wing movement) and low ISO (a clean image for detail, but with movement blur). I went for 1000 ISO, which is about as high as I can push it without serious noise and significant loss of detail kicking in!

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (male) - near Ibstock
I was still trying to get more images of the male Emperor when John beckoned me to where he was. There, close in, and hidden from my original position by reeds, was an oviposting female Emperor! 

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) (female) - near Ibstock
At one point there was a brief aerial interaction between the female and the male but it all happened too quickly for us to capture. After a solid hour of waving around a hand-held heavy camera and lens my arms were aching and it was time to call it a day. I suspect that I will not have time to visit again before they're gone until next year, but it was a most enjoyable session. Thank you, John.

Thank you for dropping by. I'll try and get another post in during the next few days, but if I don't, please don't be concerned if there's an even longer period than usual between my posts. I've got friends from Canada coming to stay for two and a half weeks and I'm almost certainly going to be preoccupied with enjoying their company and wall-to-wall birding!

Footnote: For ages now, I've referred to my pal, John, as 'Titus'. In the early days of our friendship he asked me not to use his name in my blog posts if I was referring to the Barn Owls which he had in his garden as he didn't want to be pestered by people or have his owls disturbed. I came up with Titus White as an alias for him (Barn Owl = Tyto Alba) - something that amused John as, unbeknown to me at the time, his dad's second name was Titus! John has adopted the name Titus John White for his own blog usage, and openly refers to himself as John, so I though I might as well do the same from now on. John is his real name but White isn't, so there is still an alias there.