Saturday, 23 July 2016

Rare Red-eyed Damselfly at Pennington Flash

Following the inaugural planning meeting of the L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteer Group this morning, I decided to take the opportunity to look for the Red-eyed Damselflies that have recently been reported up on the Leeds Liverpool Canal at the northern end of the Flash. Graeme Robertson was at the Volunteers meeting and he was intent on doing the same, so we paired up and went off in search of them together.

Fortunately, Charlie Owen was also present at the Volunteers meeting and, as he knew where they had first been spotted by Colin Davies, he was able to give us information about where to look.  It was good to see Charlie out and about after having suffered a stroke earlier in the year. And he's no more at home than at Pennington Flash.

After a quick look in a couple of the bird hides en route to the canal, we were soon up and over the bridge and searching the lily pads for these damselflies which are new to this area. It wasn't long before we found some suitable lilies and shortly after that the damselflies themselves. The Red-eyed Damselfly is quite rare this far north and I'm told that this is the first time one has been reported in this area.

I'm quite new to this kind of photography and I don't yet have a macro lens suited to taking closeup photos of dragonflies and other insects. After my first couple of shots I realised that the 1.4x teleconverter which is almost permanently attached to my 300mm lens wasn't going to be needed and so I removed it.

Depth-of-field is the watchword with this kind of shot and this means a high f-stop number and good light. Today the light was variable but I did manage to get a few acceptable shots of the four or five males that I saw today. However, I've still got a lot to learn in this aspect of photography.

It was best to shoot the damselflies parallel to the camera sensor plane to get the whole insect in focus - any head shots perpendicular to the sensor tended to have the tail out of focus with my lens. The damselflies would flit around for a while before coming to rest on a lily pad a couple of metres from the canal bank. Once on a pad they seemed to defend it quite aggressively from all corners.

After we'd done our best, Graeme and I set off back to our cars, but on the way we came across this Ragwort plant which was filled with Gatekeeper Butterflies. It was however, quite difficult to get a shot of one with its wings open as they tended to close them while feeding. There were also a couple of Meadow Browns and one stripy Cinnabar Moth caterpillar for whom this plant is a delicacy.

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