Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 21, 2013

The Last Dragons

As the summer fades into autumn it is to only a few species of dragonfly that we can look, for creatures to merge the seasons with those ancient and still spectacular wings.  There are the two common species of Darter, of course – the Common and the Ruddy – which are very much in evidence.  It is the Migrant Hawker however, that is arguably the most impressive, perhaps of all autumn insects still on the wing.  Larger species might still occasionally be seen – a late-flying Brown or Southern Hawker – but more often than not that large dragonfly hawking the pond-side or woodland edge will be the Migrant.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - the blue markings on the male abdomen are easily seen.  Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) – the blue markings on the male abdomen are easily seen. Copyright 2008 Ross Gardner

Migrants (by nature) they may be, but these dragonflies are no longer the scarce visitors to the UK that they once were, back in the middle of the 20th century.  Migrations still occur, but they are now resident breeders across a substantial part of England, from the south coast up to the North Midlands, including also the southern reaches of Wales.  It seems that another ‘Migrant Hawker’ may well be following suit.  The Southern Migrant Hawker has been recorded at sites around South Essex and North Kent over recent years and, with egg-laying having been observed, may well be an imminent colonist.  With uncommon Emerald Damselflies and rare dragons, this corner of the country has proved an interest place to be.

The Migrant Hawker is very much incumbent on our shores, ensuring that the thrill of watching dragonflies can last for several more weeks yet.  They are diligent in their patrolling, back and forth without only occasional relent along their chosen track, perhaps along the bank of a ditch or pond, along the line of a hedgerow or edge of a wood.  They may also be seen in number, maybe 10 or 20 individuals, hunting high over the ground.  Singly or otherwise, they are always a fine sight.

The females are marked with yellow and insert their eggs into the stems of emergent water plants.  Ross Gardner 2010

The females are marked with yellow and insert their eggs into the stems of emergent water plants. Ross Gardner 2010

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