North Cliffe Wood – 15/07/12

A sunny Sunday morning saw a visit to my local woodland at North Cliffe. Despite it being primarily woodland, the area of heath in the south-west corner has been a good place to encounter several of the Aeshnidae species hawking along the woodland edge, including the ironically scarcer Common Hawker Aeshna juncea. In recent years, due to prolonged dry spells, there has been a distinct lack of water on the site, this leading to a rapid reduction in the numbers encountered here. Around two years ago a small pond was excavated on the heath, in the hope that it would retain some water through the summer months, giving resident species somewhere to breed. Last year there was very little activity around the pond, though it did manage to retain water, at low levels, throughout the summer. This year I wasn’t expecting there to be a big change, however I have been pleasantly surprised.

Heathland Pond

Heathland Pond

My visit this time resulted in no less than eight species of odonata being present, by far the biggest contingent being that of Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa. There were a minimum of 350 present around the pond and in adjacent juncus grasses, one of the highest concentrations around one pond recorded in East Yorkshire, quite amazing considering the pond didn’t exist two years ago. A female Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator added interest, constantly being harassed by the Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata as she tried, unsuccessfully as far as I observed, to find a suitable site to oviposit. There were several Azure Damselflies Coenagrion puella and Blue-tailed Damselflies Ischnura elegans around the pond, however I only managed to pick out one Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum. Just as I was about to depart a male Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum put in a brief appearance before disappearing from view. The eighth species was Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis, found hunting along the heathland edge, they appeared camera-shy, which has proved the case on many occasions. I’m now looking forward to see how the rest of the odonata season unfolds here.

It wasn’t until I was reviewing my photos at home, that I noticed I’d caught a scarce occurrence by chance, that of a mixed pair in tandem. Despite the numbers present, a male Emerald Damselfly L. sponsa had managed to accost a female Blue-tailed Damselfly I. elegans, a pairing that was clearly doomed to fail.

Emerald Damselfly - Lestes sponsa and Blue-tailed Damselfly - Ischnura elegans

Mixed pair of Emerald Damselfly – L. sponsa and Blue-tailed Damselfly – I. elegans

Emerald Damselfly - Lestes sponsa

Emerald Damselfly – Lestes sponsa

Common Blue Damselfly - Enallagma cyathigerum

Common Blue Damselfly – Enallagma cyathigerum

Four-spotted Chaser - Libellula quadrimaculata

Four-spotted Chaser – Libellula quadrimaculata

Six species of butterflies were observed, with a nice specimen of Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria posing well for the camera. Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and Ringlets Aphantopus hyperantus were obvious, along with small numbers of Large Skipper Ochlodes venatus. As I returned to the car a single Green-veined White Pieris napi and Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta were observed.

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria

Speckled Wood – Pararge aegeria

Large Skipper - Ochlodes venatus

Large Skipper – Ochlodes venatus

On the way back along the western footpath I disturbed a good half dozen Grass Snakes Natrix natrix, mainly young snakes, though one was a good four foot in length. There were several species of flies, sheltering out of the stiff breeze along this edge of the wood. Two hoverfly species encountered included Helophilus pendulus and Eristalis horticola. I photographed two further flies, neither of which would win any beauty competitions, Sicus ferrugineus and Dexiosoma caninum. Finally of note, on piece of wood near the bridge across to the heath, I observed a probable Digger Wasp, though I’m unable at this point to name it to species level, other than to say it appears to be one of the Ectemnius sp.

Hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus

Hoverfly – Helophilus pendulus

Hoverfly - Eristalis horticola

Hoverfly – Eristalis horticola

Fly - Sicus ferrugineus

Fly – Sicus ferrugineus

Dexiosoma caninum

Dexiosoma caninum

Digger Wasp - Ectemnius sp.

Digger Wasp – Ectemnius sp.