Posted by: Ross Gardner | May 14, 2020

Johnny on the spot

I am a firm believer that when it comes to finding and seeing sought after things whilst out and about in the wild places that you can make your own luck.  I am also however,  a firm believer that there are also those times when you need to be, as the saying goes, in the right place at the right time.  All the better still if you’ve got a camera handy.

Yesterday was a decidedly cool one for May, with intermittent sunshine and a chilly north wind.  Not the best conditions for an encounter with an especially sun-loving species of an especially sun-loving group of animals.  But as luck would have it, whilst actually searching for some tiny moth wings that had disappeared into the vegetation, my eyes fell on this beauty……

Brachytrom pratense

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) – male.

The Hairy Dragonfly is often the first of the dragonflies to be seen in the year, on the wing from the end of April in favourable years.  It is always the first of the ‘hawkers’ to be seen, this being the collective name given to most of our largest and most impressive of dragonflies.  At around 6cm long these are one of the smallest.

They have expanded their UK range over recent years, but this is still nevertheless an uncommon dragonfly, found chiefly in the southern parts of England, scattered in Wales and very few locations in Scotland.  They are always a treat.  In my part of Southeast Essex I am blessed with a couple of good sites for this species and I have noticed a few times in the past that they are a quite dispersive species.  This one had pitched up some distance away from the low lying marshland, threaded with weedy ditches of which they are so fond, resting up in brambles on the edge of a meadow by an ancient wood.

Amongst a sunshine fickle band, Hairy Dragonfly are particularly quick to down tools and settle in the vegetation when the clouds come over.  Who knows how long this one had been hunkered down for on a day of way less than optimum conditions.  This was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to point a lens at a male of the species and with the temperatue at around 10 or ll degrees celsius, it had no intention of taking flight.  I was able – to coin another phrase – fill my boots and at close quarters.

Brachytrom pratense - close up

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