30th July 2014

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A Southern Hawker, newly emerged from its hard larvae casing, visible. This one is still in the process of pumping fluid into its unhardened wings and abdomen

This Southern Hawker has been emerged a few hours and is about ready to fly.

This Southern Hawker has been emerged a few hours and is about ready to fly. The armoured casing of its larval form is clearer here.

A Common Hawker, in the garden this week.

A Common Hawker, in the garden this week.

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A juvenile or female Common Darter- the males are brighter red in colour.

Back to the garden, and to the Dragonflies that we have been lucky to see here, over the last few years. Dragonflies, incredibly acrobatic fliers, are almost identical now to their ancestors which hunted 300 million years ago! Dragonflies feed on insects caught in flight, trapped with the help of the bristles on their legs. They then carry off the prey to a perch, to feed. They spend the majority of their life-cycle under water, as eggs and then larvae, which are wonderful fierce, armoured creatures that take two years to mature. The larvae then crawl out of the water, split open and the adult emerges (see photo’s). It takes a few hours for the adult to pump fluid through the wings and abdomen, and for the wings to harden. Then they fly off to find a mate, and the life cycle begins again. The Common Darter flies from summer to late autumn and as their name suggests the Darter Dragonflies, whose wings are angled forwards in rest, spend time perching or hovering before darting forward to catch an insect. This one was resting on a cane I put specially at an angle by the pond to act as a perch. Hawkers do just that– they spend a lot longer on the wing, hawking and hunting, the males protecting their territory and searching for mates. The Southern Hawker is the one you are most likely to see in your garden, but this year we have also had this Common Hawker. Conditions: A fresh day of cloud and some sun, but still no rain! Temperature: Max 21- Min 16 C

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