Oak Road Lake, Hull – 16/08/12

Thursday 16th saw me make my annual pilgrimage to this city site, surprisingly to try to see and photograph one of our scarcer damselflies. Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum is a recent newcomer to our national fauna, the first being recorded in Essex in 1999. In the intervening years it has spread rapidly, first being recorded in Yorkshire at this site back in 2006. Since then the rapid spread has been checked and only a small handful of locations have added this species to their list. All East Yorkshire sites are close to the Humber at Spurn, Paull, Hull and Goole. I’ve visited annually since they first appeared, their flight season being fairly short, in fact they’ve never been recorded in any other month here. They have been extremely difficult to photograph, due to their small size and usually being active far out over the water, resting on floating pond weed. Prior to this visit I’ve only photographed them once, this on a wet, drizzly day, the conditions preventing them from flying. On this visit however the sun was intermittent, I’d already walked around the lake once, only seeing distant individuals far out over the lake. I decided to make my last stop at the clearing near the seat on the southern side of the lake, on my first walk a couple of people were sat on the seat over looking the lake, so I didn’t want to obstruct their view. As I walked into the clearing a male was perched on a reed stem, but quickly flew off as it saw me approach. Previous experience would say that I had lost my best chance of getting a shot, however almost straight away, other males were coming in to land on the reeds, sometimes half a dozen at a time. This is not something I’ve experienced before, and goes against what I’ve encountered over the previous five years, so was some what of a surprise. I managed to obtain several shots, taking more than I’ve ever had the opportunity to take in the past, this included a copulating pair. The real challenge was to get a female, finally one settled and I thought my luck was in, unfortunately this was not this case, as a male swiftly grasped her behind the head and carried her off. Despite its scarcity in East Yorkshire, this is the most abundant species on this site, though the following six species were also observed:- Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans, Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator, Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis, Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata and Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - Erythromma viridulum

Small Red-eyed Damselfly – Erythromma viridulum

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - Erythromma viridulum

Copulating pair of Small Red-eyed Damselfly – Erythromma viridulum

Blue-tailed Damselfly - Ischnura elegans

Blue-tailed Damselfly – Ischnura elegans

Common Blue Damselfly - Enallagma cyathigerum

Common Blue Damselfly – Enallagma cyathigerum

The main reason for visiting was the dragonflies, though as I wandered around there were a few butterflies to note. Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria were very obvious, sometimes several males fighting for territory. Other species were all encountered in single figures, one of the most attractive being the male Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, though several Peacocks Inachis io, Green-veined Whites Pieris napi and a single Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris were also observed.

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria

Speckled Wood – Pararge aegeria

Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris

Small Skipper – Thymelicus sylvestris

Another recently colonist can also be encountered at this site with some regularity, and was definitely easier to find on this occasion, this being the invasive species, Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis. It is a large ladybird and to add to the confusion, can be found in several different colour forms. It is seen as a threat to our native species, though at this point in time it doesn’t seem to have arrived in large numbers in East Yorkshire. Elsewhere in the country though, there have been large aggregations of this species, with several hundreds hibernating together through the winter. This has also coincided with a decline in some of our commoner species found in the same habitat.

Harlequin Ladybird - Harmonia axyridis

Harlequin Ladybird - Harmonia axyridis

Harlequin Ladybird – Harmonia axyridis