Thursday, July 11, 2019

On the trail of the Red-Veined Darter.

With lots of people seeing Red-Veined Darters it seemed to be a good idea to visit Stansted Airport Lagoons, a traditional site for this species in invasion years and a top spot for local odonata, so when Mike gave me a call it was a no brainer to join him to try and find what for me would be a lifer.

We got to the lagoons, now carefully manicured to remove practically all vegetation, and started the search. It was all quiet until we got to the corner out of the wind in the NW when the mayhem started.

Several Emperors, lots of Black-Tailed Skimmer, a few four-Spotted Chasers and two Broad-bodied chasers. Lots off azure/common, a few blue tailed, and a couple of large-red-eyed damselflies, were all whizzing around in the corner, and in the midst of these several bright red darters. We spent a while looking at these, but it was hard. They were territorial on the edge of the water, but were constantly chasing away larger dragons so getting a good view was difficult. One alighted on the grass with better views, but it didn't have much red in the wings - was it a Common Darter? I got a few shots of a few of them, got excited by some reddish on the wings and list fever was beginning to set in. Mike was as always the voice of calmness and sense so we carefully looked for the evidence, but much was dependent on the quality of my photos, taken with a long lens hand-held. Regular readers could be forgiven for having some scepticism as to the outcome at this point.

It was evident as soon as I downloaded them and checked the photos against my new copy of Dijkstra that we had the Darter! here's some photos. they show the key features, a reddish hue at the base of the wings, pale pterostigma, and on a couple a blue colour to the lower eyes. Fantastic! And that bright red colour will remain in my memory for a while.


the first photo I looked at .... the red in the wings, and the pale pterostigma are really noticeable.
blue colour of the lower eyes here
we wondered about this as it had very little red in the wings, but pale pterostigma and blue lower eyes seal the id of this one too.
Overall there were about five darters of red colour of which we are happy with the identification of three as red-veined.

Whilst all this was happening a Banded Demoiselle flew by and we saw a couple of Small Red-Eyed Damselflies on some vegetation. A Common Tern spent some time, and also 15 Lapwings, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and a family of Greylag Geese. We had several Marbled Whites on the fields, as well as Ringlet , Essex and Small Skipper, Small Heath, Meadow Browns, a couple of feeding huddles of mainly Large whites but also small and green-veined whites, a Small tortoiseshell and as no list is currently complete without a Painted Lady we had one of those, and also two forms of Latticed Heath Moths

Literally, a red-letter day.

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