Tag Archives: dragonfly

October Twilight

October is a very strange time of year – September seems like an extension of summer, but colder, and then very suddenly October arrives and the flowers of summer begin to die off, the leaves yellow, or redden, or both, and fall off deciduous trees as the nights grow longer than the days. Everywhere gets gradually more muddy as leaves, flowers and berries decay on the ground.  But there is still a lot to see amid all the nostalgia of another year growing to an end.

There are still some Swallows flying about on their journey south back to Africa. It's a good time to see and photograph them as they perch on wires. The light might not be so good though.
There are still some Swallows flying about on their journey south back to Africa. It’s a good time to see and photograph them as they perch on wires. The light might not be so good though.

At this time of year our swallows, the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), tend to perch for long periods to rest their weary muscles before making their autumn migrations. There were definitely fewer of them around Wicklow this summer, which is slightly worrying as something must be preventing them arriving safely in Wicklow.

The Autumn Hawker dragonfly usually arrives in August to hunt butterflies and other insects. This year they didn't arrive until mid-September and you can still see them patrolling footpaths and garden driveways.
The Autumn Hawker dragonfly usually arrives in August to hunt butterflies and other insects. This year they didn’t arrive until mid-September and you can still see them patrolling footpaths and garden driveways.

Ironically our autumn was better than our summer this year, although not quite as warm, although certainly more stable. Eventually the annual arrival of big dragonflies occurred, the Migrant or Autumn Hawkers (Aesna mixta) and there are still a few around, although very difficult to photograph or video as they fly. I usually watch one land and slowly approach to get a good photo. If you move slow they will remain still.  But there are some other very interesting insects around, and some are both interesting and slightly creepy, such as this one:

A noctunal visito to a window, this large and handsome insect is a Burying Beetle.
A noctunal visito to a window, this large and handsome insect is a Burying Beetle.

Burying Beetles are quite closely related to chafer beetles (like the Cockchafer) and dung beetles, like the Common Dor Beetle. However, unlike these beetles, Burying Beetles lay their eggs in corpses which they find in the countryside, and they actually bury the animals they find underground. They are very intelligent creatures and very recently it was discovered (with the aid of special cameras) that they keep their larvae in nests and will feed them mouth-to-mouth, as birds do. Even more remarkable, the young ‘tweet’ when they’re hungry. This extremely handsome species is Necrophorus investigator (but there are many very similar ones and some even quite different. Watch out for them this autumn as they fly across the deep night skies.

 

Very Hot July Wildlife

It’s an incredible summer this year, our reward for many which were well below par. Anyhow, if you’re coping with the heat stroke, the sunburn and the hot summer stomach bug doing the rounds (always during the good summers) then you might notice the amazing wildlife around at the moment. There are some very big dragonflies, such as the Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense) in the photo below. Many people assume this is the Emperor Dragonfly, due to the similar colouration, but the Emperor is way bigger even than this one.

The male Hairy Hawker is a very strong and powerful predator. I found this one trapped in a polytunnel.
The male Hairy Hawker is a very strong and powerful predator. I found this one trapped in a polytunnel. Don’t worry, he was okay, just a little parched.

Now for a little field craft. Now that the nesting season is drawing to a close you are going to start finding bits of eggs and even nests which have fallen from trees. Sometimes you might be a little suspicious as to how they got there. Were the eggs attacked before they hatched out? It’s actually very easy to tell. Look at this Wood Pigeon egg which I found beneath a tree. The secret lies in looking at the rim.

Note that the edges of the egg are pulled in. This can only have been done by the chick as it hatched out. Birds have an 'egg-tooth' on the ends of their beaks which they use to pull the edges in, cutting a perfect circle.
Note that the edges of the egg are pulled in. This can only have been done by the chick as it hatched out. Birds have an ‘egg-tooth’ on the ends of their beaks which they use to pull the edges in, cutting a perfect circle.

Moths usually like damper conditions, but there are dozens around at the moment, and the chance of some exotics showing up. Below is the beautiful Pale Oak Beauty (Hypomecis punctinalis), a species as large as a large butterfly. Its beautiful pattern acts as camouflage of the highest order. I found it outside my window yesterday.

The Pale Oak Beauty beneath an outdoor light.
The Pale Oak Beauty beneath an outdoor light.