Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Saxon Mill - A photo diary

Today I thought I would highlight some of my sightings with photographs to illustrate them.

As soon as I had locked up my bike I could hear the shrill call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I was very familiar with this particular call as I had heard it many times over the years. It was the cry of a juvenile woodpecker calling for its parents to bring it food.

I had suspected that there was a nest nearby because last week whilst I had a drink in the Mill I watched a pair of woodpeckers ferrying wood. With a little bit of searching and following my ears, I found the nest hole and waited for an appearance. No adult turned up but eventually, the youngster poked his head out.

You can tell that the individual is a juvenile due to the red crest on the forehead. By adulthood, this red patch will disappear and one will grow in on the nape of the neck.

Moving along my usual route I passed the Jackdaw tree where two sets of parents were busy feeding young. The warm and wet weather had caused the vegetation to grow greatly and I had to forge a path along the riverside through the nettles. As I moved I stirred up clouds of Banded Demoiselles that took to the air as I disturbed them. Each week I try to count them, a task which can be very difficult.

I counted 612 individuals all told and I am certain I missed many. Of those counted, 77% were male, resplendent in the deep blue coloration. After years of watching these delicate damselflies, this was the first time I spotted actual mating. The following three photos show the male in blue grasping the female in green behind the neck with his claspers. The grip is strong and the pair are able to fly in tandem. The male secretes a packet of sperm from one segment that he transfers to his penis in his thorax. The female then bends her ovipositor up to make contact and allow the sperm to connect with her eggs. This behaviour creates a wheel-like formation. This can last for up to 6 hours whereupon they will move to the waters edge and the female will deposit her eggs on reeds using her ovipositor.


I paused halfway along the river to sit and watch. Here the smaller woodland birds began to show, I saw a pair of Goldcrest, Blackcap, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Wren.

The little bird was singing intensely and was shifting its tail in agitation, in fact, they had the stiff upright tail pushed forward more than I had ever seen before.

Along with the Whitethroat in the meadow, I heard and then saw a Sedge Warbler, a species first recorded last year. Sadly it was too fleeting a glimpse to get a photograph, a task for next week I think.