Wednesday 9 September 2020

Rare Dragons in the Lake... Lessor Emperor - Leybourne Lakes Country Park (11 Aug 2020)

New dragonfly species are few and far between for me these days and the list of species I haven't seen in the UK (of those that have occurred) is down to one native species (Northern Emerald), a few regular or recent colonists (Red-veined Darter, Dainty Damselfly and lessor Emperor) and then a whole heap of the super-rare species.

I tried to see Northern Emerald in NE Scotland one summer and, in the process, submerged myself up to knackers in boggy-peat water when I trod on what I thought was firm land - it turned out I had attempted to walk on water, and I couldn't. Trousers and footwear removed, all was well until I needed fuel in Aberdeen and promptly had to fill the car with petrel whilst dressed only in my boxer-shorts. Standing there like a Wally with my petrel-pump in hand, I thought all was well until several hundred pedestrians walked on to the petrel station forecourt, fresh from leaving an Elton John concert nearby...

Red-veined Darter has officially given me the slip on several occasions - and I haven't been 100% of a couple of my own sightings. But they are relatively common for an uncommon species (John has seen them..), so I have little doubt I'll see one soon. 

A colony of Dainty Damselflies was found in 2009/10 under the new bridge that takes criminals back over to the Isle of Sheppey. They were seen for a few years, and are possible even still there, but my two half-arsed attempts were fruitless (or even damselflyless...). But John Clements saw them, so they can't have been too difficult to see... Alas, all I can do is wait for another colony to be found (which it now has - at Sandwich Bay BO).

I had tried for Lesser Emperor a couple of times, once near Cambridge whilst returning from a work trip and a second time at Dungeness - unfortunately, on both occasions either the weather or observer incompetence intervened and I failed in my quest. But, no bother, I'd find one sooner or later - wouldn't I? After all, John Clements has seen them...

My wait to find my own Lesser Emperor ended on 11 Aug, within 10 metres of the house, at Leybourne Lakes Country Park. Sitting on a bench, overlooking the lake, on 10 Aug I thought I saw a blue waistband on a large dragonfly - but then, no further sightings. With only a little more effort the following day I finally relocated my quarry - a rather spectacular Lesser Emperor.

The beastie spent much of the day quartering the nearby patch of dead willow tree in the lake and settling there on several occasions when the conditions warranted such lazy activity...

A Vagrant Emperor (44) last November and now Lesser Emperor (45)...what will my next species of Odonata in the UK be? Dainty Damselfly, surely?

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