Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Blown away (again)

Every year stuff comes round and stuff moves on.  Another year, another swallow.  Marvellous though all of the seasonal comings and goings are, I guess we all have those handful of special things that manage to gobsmack us each and every year even though we've seen it all before. 

I was standing in an overgrown field staring at butterflies but it wasn't the ringlet that did it. It was the momentary reflection of sunlight  in the corner of my eye followed by an unmistakable plasticky clatter of wings and then the breathtaking moment when a brand new dragonfly perched on a hazel leaf right in front of me. As I slowly rotated my head to get a proper look without scaring it off, so the female southern hawker slowly rotated its head to and fro and we scrutinised each other. There is no escaping the immense fixed eyes that fold right around the top and sides of the head.

The big hawkers are truly astonishing insects, right at the top end of my list of living things that impress me anew year after year.  I began compiling a top ten in my head of things that never fail to blow me away again with each annual first encounter.  The year's first harebell among the marram grass; the sight and sound of massed geese dropping out of the sky in a Lindisfarne dusk after a summer in the arctic; the first full throated blackbird song of the year; the smell of gorse blossom in early summer sun......  I wonder what yours are?

To see the empty nymph case of a Southern Hawker, click here . The mould of the eyes is fascinating.

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