When I went away on holiday for three weeks at the end of last month, I knew that returning to the UK would mean very short daylight hours, the first frosts and the end of what's been a tremendous year of insect encounters. Basically, I knew winter would have arrived.
I had quite a surprise then, when taking my first back around The Lodge to find dragonflies still around the newly created natterjack ponds on the new heath. This was on Monday 16 November and temperatures were hovering around the 10 degrees mark with the sun shining strongly. A single migrant hawker and three common darters were at large. No doubt among the very last of the 2015 generation.
When the skies suddenly cleared on Friday 20th and the sun came through I wondered if they were still alive. Frosts (the first, I presumed, of the winter) were forecast over the weekend, so I was pretty sure this would be my last chance of the year to see a dragonfly. Would they still be around?
Common darter by Gordon Langsbury (rspb-images.com). When did you see your last of 2015?
It took a while but eventually a common darter lifted into the air and landed on the fence railing to bask in what is one of the sunniest spots on the reserve. This was a male, but a female appeared and was even ovipositing (laying eggs) in one of the ponds as a third male watched on. There was no sign of the hawker, but these were easily my latest ever dragonflies.
The record though for The Lodge’s latest ever common darter is 1st December, so incredibly as it seemed to see these insects still active in late November, I’ll have to try harder next year!