Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 21, 2016

Little Paradises

Two weeks spent in the wonderful Devon countryside near the northwest fringes of the Dartmoor National Park.  Splendid!!

This is somewhere marvellously rich in wildlife and I didn’t have to wait long for my first little gem.  Just a couple of days in, strolling around a hillside near Lydford and I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of this small and somewhat understated beauty…

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio). Ross Gardner 2016.

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio). Ross Gardner 2016.

The Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly takes well after its name in that it is one of our less common species, with a restricted distribution, mostly in the South West of England, Wales and also parts of Ireland.  They are insects of the shallow waters of heathland mires and apparently inconsequential wet flushes.

This is just how it happened here.  A shallow stream, narrowing from a small rushy pond to within a stride’s width across our path.  It seemed of little consequence amid the expanse of moorland country dwarfing it on the hillside beside it.  The movement of a larger dragonfly  – a Keeled Skimmer – drew my attention and my eye was in.  Soon the furtive darting of the damselfly caught my eye and I was drawn in to this little paradise, reserved for just those creatures whose every need it provided for.

I would find many such tiny utopias, such indeed, as might be referred to in my latest book, ‘The Greater World of Little Things’.  Places swamped, as it were, by the grandness of the landscapes of which they are a part of, but arguably all the more remarkable for it.  Take this spot beside the rushing water of the River Taw in Belstone Cleave by way of example…

A wet flush beside Belstone Cleave. Ross Gardner 2016

A wet flush beside Belstone Cleave. Ross Gardner 2016

This is, on the face it, one of the less remarkable photographs I took during my holiday, yet it was somewhere that had me for a time captivated.  It was full of life.  The lushness of the vegetation can easily be appreciated from the picture, but not so the frog whose horizons it largely comprised.  Nor can the ‘singing’ of the numerous Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridis) be captured by a camera.  Hawker dragonflies hunted on the abundance of small insects that rose from the grasses, while the flat boulder to the left provided the favourite perch from which a handsome male Keeled Skimmer could survey his territory.

Dartmoor is a fine and wonderful place, but one that would be poorer without its little paradises.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male. Ross Gardner 2016

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) – male. Ross Gardner 2016

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