Despite all the blustery weather, it has remained mild, and in sheltered spots there are still some insects about. At the weekend we saw red admiral and comma butterflies, and quite a number of common darter dragonflies in the sheltered parts of the woods. A small white butterfly was also on the wing, and there are still plenty of bumblebees, wasps, hornets and hoverflies in places, enjoying the late autumn fruit. There are also quite a few plants still in flower, providing nectar for these insects – notably still some ox-eye daisies in flower in our meadow, together with clover, sainfoin, some late buttercups and late willowherb.
These are a few photos taken at the weekend.
Comma Butterfly (pictured with point and shoot camera)
I confess to a weakness for backlit photos, as I just feel that backlighting, or at least light that is coming obliquely from behind, really brings out something mystical and magical about the subjects. This weekend we were blessed with the most fantastic light for photography, with the autumn light coming in at a low angle and making the insects and plants shine in a way that it does not during the high summer.
I set out deciding to focus on this light and took some photos around our woods. There has been something of a late summer revival in the weather, and it was very warm, with late speckled wood butterflies, large whites, brimstones and common blues on the wing, as well as emperor dragonflies, southern hawkers, common hawkers, brown hawkers and lots of common darters still basking and hunting around our meadows and ponds.
One particularly special moment came while I was photographing a lovely little spider, and a common darter dragonfly actually came down and landed on my hand. I managed to move my hand and take one picture before it flew away.
Perched on my hand – a common darter dragonfly
Backlighting is special, although you need to make some adjustments to exposure or you end up with a silhouette – I use the exposure compensation setting to over-expose the pictures relative to the metred value, keeping the camera in aperture-priority mode to give me control of depth of field. Sometimes you need to over-expose by more than you think!
Autumn is very fast approaching, but for the moment, there is still the opportunity to take some summery photos, and I was grateful for the light at the weekend to help me capture these backlit images.
For the last week or so, we have noticed lots and lots of common darter dragonflies around the edge of Betty’s Wood, our newly-planted area adjacent to the ancient woodland area. At the edge of this site, we have a wide strip that is naturally-regenerating woodland, with a central area that has been planted. Whenever we see a little sapling emerging, we protect it with a tree-guard and cane to help prevent it being browsed off by muntjac deer and rabbits, at least until it is able to take care of itself. So we have a lot of these canes sticking up among the grass and wildflowers. It is these canes that common darter dragonflies seem to love.
On almost every cane along the south-eastern border of the woods, in the shelter of the trees, sits a common darter. Males and females are both sitting there, occasionally jousting for position on what is presumably a more desirable cane.
Dragonflies love to sit on dead stems of reedmace, sedges and other emergent plants in the ponds, but despite having a profusion of these emergent stems, the common darters seem to prefer the bamboo canes, and particularly like the sheltered section in the lee of the ancient wood, where there is little wind and lots of sun for most of the day.
I managed to take a few pictures of these beautiful dragonflies over the last few days in the midst of all our hay-making activity.