There are two rivers called the “Loire/Loir” in France: there’s the main “La Loire” (female) and the more minor “Le Loir” (male). Le Loir is a tributary of La Loire. La Loire is the one everyone has heard of; this is La Loire of wine fame and the longest river in France. We are staying a couple of nights on Le Loir at Luché-Pringé. The interesting thing, it seems to me, about Le Loir is that it is a sizeable river but it is non-navigable. Its non-navigability appears to me to mean that the wildlife relying on it is left pretty much undisturbed. Five years ago when our car was en panne (broken down) at this site, I wasn’t into Odonata which is a shame because, as evidenced by the Banded Demoiselle that greeted our arrival, the banks of the river were alive with them.
There are many things I could not have done with real film or, at least, real film like Fuji Velvia (over)rated at a paltry 50 ASA. (A lot of photographers reckoned it was more like 40ASA.) Don’t get me wrong, Velvia was (is?) fabulous colour film in terms of its quality but flexible, it most definitely was not. I now have my camera set to 400 ASA in strong light and 800 ASA in poorer light. This gives a much better chance of snagging the Odonata in which I’ve become so interested. The other thing I’d never have done with real film is what I did the day we arrived, wandering slowly along the banks of Le Loir; our river bank was seething with damselflies of several kinds and I rattled off a ridiculous 130 shots, equivalent to four rolls of relatively expensive film. Thank Darwin for reusable pixels!
The following (full) day was pretty much the same story. Two days into our holiday and I’d shot the equivalent of eight rolls of film. The stock requirement for an eight-week trip just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Most prevalent were Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) which were flitting everywhere sunny. These, I recognise almost instantly with no more than a brief pause to exclude the very similar Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). Every now and then the action would increase as a female zoomed past ardently pursued by a male or two.
My usual approach is to grab pictures as I can and to identify what I’ve shot back at base with the aid of a laptop screen and a book. Just occasionally, however, you know you’re shooting something new. This was the case on our first afternoon when we snagged something unusual. The something unusual was clearly a Clubtail Dragonfly, a Gomphid. Light and position were not great but I could see it was eating something. The something turned out to be a damselfly whose head had already been been devoured but whose abdomen and wings still protruded from the Clubtail’s jaws. “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” This was my first sighting of a Common Clubtail (Gomphus vulgatissimus).
Day Two, a full day, produced more photo opportunities of Clubtails and I fell into my usual self-made trap of assuming that they were all the same species. Not so. Subsequent closer inspection of the pictures showed that we’d been seeing and snapping both Common Clubtails and Western Clubtails (Gomphus pulchellus). This wasn’t new but it was still less than familiar. I was a happy camper.
It’s also very easy to be a little dismissive of blue-coloured damsels. Another mistake because there are many similar species. Again, I tend to snap away for later perusal expecting little exciting. Once again I was mistaken. Amongst a myriad White-legged Damselfies (Platycnemis pennipes) and a lone Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), I saw something less than usual (to me, anyway). Don’t blame me for the less-than-appealing English name of these creatures but I am almost certain I have snagged a tandem pair of Goblet-marked Damselflies (Erythromma lindenii).
Yikes! Two new species is as many days. It can’t go on, there aren’t that many species available. 😉