Monday 15 July 2013

Red Veined Dragons and Fun Running Damsels 15th August 2013

Meeting up with Badger in Abingdon at 9am we set off for Southampton. Reason? Four Red Veined Darters had been reported from the boating lake on Southampton Common yesterday. I was amazed as I never knew Southampton had a Common let alone it would attract such a rare migrant dragonfly. Normally RVD's are resident no nearer than southern Europe so this was definitely worth a visit and if seen would be a first for me and Badger. We arrived in Southampton at around 1030, perspiring freely in this continuing glorious and sunny weather and with the temperature rising rapidly. Unfortunately, unknown to us, a Fun Run for Cancer Relief was about to take place on the Common on this very morning. All roads leading to the Common were closed with the predictable ensuing traffic chaos, so after a serious contretemps with the Sat Nav and a tour of various Southampton back streets we abandoned technology, used common sense and just parked as near as possible to the Common and footed it as they say in Zimbabwe.

It wasn't far to go, in fact the Common was very close to where we parked and we entered the Common via a luridly graffitteed subway and then found ourselves surrounded by numerous lycra clad ladies of all ages and all shapes making their way to the assembly point for the Fun Run - apparently the Fun Run was for the fairer sex only and why not!

Thankfully the boating lake was close to where we exited the subway and soon we were walking around the concrete edge of the relatively small and shallow boating lake. The lake itself had the opaque, green consistency of mint sauce, along with the usual accompaniment of discarded lager cans, bottles and various other human detritus. Not promising.

Nonetheless on closer examination the lake surface was teeming with dragonflies of all shapes and sizes going about their business and almost immediately we saw a Red Veined Darter, distant but quite distinctive clinging to a twig in the middle of some lilies in the centre of the lake.

There was only one other dragonfly enthusiast present, a friendly fellow, local to Southampton who walked round to us and told us that  the best spot was on the opposite side of the lake where one was apparently settling on the concrete wall of the lake and allowing close approach. He was not exaggerating. Having walked around the lake we came to the aforementioned sunny spot and a Red Veined Darter answered all our prayers by not only settling on the edge of the lake wall but also on the tarmac pathway around the lake and giving us point blank views. Male Red Veined Darters are apparently territorial and this one by happy chance had decided that it would stake out this particular sunny and warm part of the containing wall and surrounding pathway to the lake. It showed little concern at our close presence and after making regular sorties over the lake always returned to within a few feet of us. At one stage Badger was prostrate on the tarmac getting close up and personal with our four winged friend and no one seemed to consider this exceptional. There were admittedly a few initial strange glances but in true British fashion Badger was then studiously ignored by anyone nearby

He's not with me!

The Red Veined Darter was a real beauty with a bright, wax red body and red head, prominent red veins to the forewings and a small saffron patch at the base of the wings that only showed at certain angles. Charisma in abundance. What a star. Others of it's kind were flying energetically hither and thither across the lake but none performed so obligingly as this particular individual. We watched it tilting it's body towards the sun adopting more and more extreme attitudes as it revelled in the warmth.

Although four had been reported yesterday we counted at least five males and our fellow enthusiast told us he thought they may have bred here although we did not see any females and thought it unlikely.

There were, as I mentioned earlier, many other dragonflies present, the most obvious of which were Blue Emperors, dominating the lake in their imperious manner, immediately investigating any other large dragonfly that came near and cruising around in the upper space above the lake. Broad bodied Chasers zipped at speed, low across the lake and countless Blue and Red Eyed Damselflies dithered and fluttered haltingly above the weed and lily pads, many in tandem, male and female together with the latter ovipositing. 

The Fun Run off to our left was now getting into full swing and as we took photos and video of the Red Veined Darter we were serenaded by various cheesy pop songs at high volume and the increasingly frantic exhortations and banter directed towards the hundreds of runners by the lady MC.

It was all in the worst possible taste but well organised, huge fun and for a very, very worthy cause. You couldn't help but get caught up in the sense of occasion and such was the heat at this stage mid morning I really feared for the welfare of the runners but once they set off no one seemed to succumb and everyone appeared to be having a good time. I could only wish them all the best for such a noble cause as we made our way against a tide of pink clad runners back to the car

1 comment:

  1. " The Opaque consistency of mint sauce" Great description.
    You just gotta love that Badger flat out and completely unworried about looking a total twat I can almost forgive him his vegginess.
    The pink clad ladies looked to be in competition as to which species was the red veined darter.