As well as exploring locally on foot and by bicycle I’ve been spending a lot more time in the garden this spring. Boy, did it need some attention! It’s not looked so good for years as it does now. The one part of the garden I hesitated to tackle was the pond. It had been looking sadder and more unkempt with every week that passed, and the water level was dropping steadily in the warm sun, No toad or frog had left its spawn there for several years, and I began to doubt that any life could survive in it at all. Then last Friday I took the plunge (not literally) and with a stick began to remove the thick green algal slime that was proliferating over the water surface.
I carefully examined any vegetation that I removed for signs of life. Mmmm…. what was that?…… a small newt, which I left to return to the water. Then a black, vaguely beetle-like creature which had its own crop of short green wisps attached to its body like a teenager’s first attempt at facial hair; then some more. I collected a few up in a jam jar and easily identified them as dragonfly nymphs. They couldn’t be described as attractive in any way but did seem to have the instinct to survive. This was much better! I returned them to the pond and realised they were actually quite numerous, and all in the surface layer of slime.
Next morning we were sitting by the pond in the sun drinking coffee when I noticed one of these miniature monsters attempting to climb up the pond liner on the opposite bank. It struggled to get a grip and fell back several times. I collected up some sticks and poked them into the slime to help it out. Slowly it dawned on me that there were actually quite a few of them and some were already in the process of emerging. By mid-afternoon some sparkling and immaculate adult insects were sunning themselves around the pond. I grabbed my kit and experimented with both lenses, the 12 – 100 and 100 – 400 zooms. I got some decent results with the long zoom but really they were just snaps.
The following morning was sunny again and it was clear that a full scale emergence was in progress. I took the whole process more seriously this time, using tripod and polarising filter,and taking plenty of time over it. I used a chunk of dry moss to cover the pond liner where it formed the background, and experimented with various ISO’s, shutter speeds, focal lengths and apertures. The main image above shows what excellent results the EM1.2 / Panasonic 100 – 400 zoom is capable of achieving. So this is the showcase image, but having watched and photographed several of these wonderful creatures in the process of emerging I realised I also had an rough and ready sequence of some of the stages they go though. While they may not be up to the mark technically I’m including these as well. (The upper insect is also in the main pic : 11.54 hrs).
I can remember seeing the beautiful blue adult male broad-bodied chasers around the pond but it was two or three years ago. There must have been a female as well, and the eggs that she laid hatched into the larvae which emerged last weekend. Sunday, of course, was the last warm sunny day so it must be hoped that at least a few of “our” dragonflies will survive long enough to reproduce.
I can honestly say that this was the most exciting and satisying wildlife experience I have had for years. Of course it’s great to travel abroad and see brilliant wildlife in new settings but the knowledge that you have helped to increase biodiversity in your own back yard is something else altogether.
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Postscript: the emergence is still in progress. I have just counted eight fresh insects around the pond but several do not appear to have expanded their wings fully. It doesn’t look like they will survive. Maybe they need the warmth of full sunlight to emerge successfully?