Cherchez les Femmes

IMG_1365_Digue The track into our current blissful campsite crosses the top of farmer Luc’s digue [dyke]. The dyke holds back the water  and forms the lake beside which we are camped. I keep expecting the Dutch contingent to rush up to the dyke and habitually stick their fingers in it but, so far, this hasn’t happened. What does happen is that, for the two weeks that we have now been here, whenever we’ve walked on the grass beside the lake and walked or driven across the digue, flashes of bright red shoot up and zoom off.

IMG_0219_Scarlet_Darter IMG_0221_Red_Butler Introducing Red Butler (left) and Scarlet O’Darter (right). “Red” is a male Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) and “Scarlet” is a male Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea). Both these guys strut their stuff around the lake, sitting on the ground either on grass stems or on the stony track over the digue, producing flashes of red as they fly away having been disturbed or to give chase to a passing spot of lunch. The intense red of the appropriately named Scarlet Darters, which are particular numerous, produces a very impressive flash. On appropriate days, i.e. those which are warm and sunny, we’ve seen them for the whole of our two weeks. Our curiosity has been, where are their ladies?

IMG_0501_Dam_BustersI’m not an idle dragonfly watcher but, up until very recently, on this trip I had not seen a single female of either Red or Scarlet. Then, just a couple of days ago I spotted my first female Red-veined Darter. Female dragons can be a little confusing to identify but I knew she was a female Red-veined Darter because she was firmly attached to her suitor, a male Red-veined Darter, who was leading her in their Dambuster-like ovipositing flight across farmer Luc’s lake. I can only hope that her bouncing eggs don’t blow a hole in Famer Luc’s dyke. If they do, there are several experienced hole-plugging Dutch on hand to stem the flood.

IMG_1342_Mrs_Scarlet_DarterThe dyke is a very sunny spot and therefore very attractive to our sun-loving friends. Today we were once again filling an idle hour or two checking out the action down at the dyke. As well as sun, there was also a very strong wind blowing down the lake and over the dyke so most of the action turned out to be dragonflies, and particularly the poor little weaker-flying damselflies, hanging on very firmly in the teeth of a gale. When the subjects are more reticent to fly, they can be a little easier to approach, though, and Francine, following my guidelines of “photograph it first and grab me second”, snagged this picture of a dragonfly she didn’t recognize. Joy! Just when we might have expected her to be Gone with the Wind, there she was, the long-sought-after Mrs. Scarlet O’Darter. Hardly the flashy, scarlet woman one might have expected but splendid in her apparent scarcity, nonetheless, and only the second I’ve ever seen. I certainly haven’t witnessed the Scarlets’ mating habits yet.

Given that it’s taken two weeks for us to spot a Scarlet Darter female and almost two weeks for a red-veined Darter female, I’m beginning to wonder if there may be some time delay between the male and female emergence schedules. Alternatively, the females may “hang out” somewhere different, approaching the males’ strutting grounds only when they are ready to mate. A third possibility, of course, is that we are blind and simply missed “the Misses”. Curious!

If any reader happens soon to be going on an Odonata spotting trip in the company of a specialist … 😀

Posted in 2010 Spring

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