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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Lesser Emperor at Link's Road flood pool

Taking a lunchtime sojourn on the Link's road car park today, I immediately saw the adult Yellow- legged Gull at 12 noon, stood right in the middle of the car park, it spent most of the time preening and then sat down until it got up to fly when a child ran over to a nearby puddle. It flew and then came back until a car heading straight for it, forced it to fly over the seawall and sit on a piece of ruined old sea wall. It was very sunny and as I was walking back to the car and past a large pool which had flooded the road just past the turn to the car park when I saw at 12.25pm, a large Emperor- sized, large- winged dragonfly (appearing a tad smaller than Emperor Dragonfly) flying around in a large circle over the large puddle/ pool. The length from the eyes of the Dragonfly to the anal appendages at the end of the abdomen must have been around 3 inches long. It had a powerful flight and change direction in a milli- second. Surely, it must have been fresh in from the continent (wind direction was E/SE)? What struck me most was the very obvious blue "saddle" on the 2nd and third segments (from the top) of the straight abdomen. It had a brown thorax. I then watched this fantastic Dragonfly almost constantly for 4 minutes, it kept flying in a large circle around the pool obviously hunting for food, I never saw it land or at rest. Once or twice, it flew over the north wall of Link's road, only to to return seconds later. I watched it down to six feet, so it was reasonably confiding in flight. Watching it sideways on, I noted the blue segments were wrapped completely around the whole circumference of that part of the abdomen, with the blue contrasting with the rest of the abdomen, which was dark brown with a central dark black line. I then checked the eyes (a crucial ID feature to separate it from the smaller vagrant Emperor) and could see they were green. It was a fantastic, self found, male Lesser Emperor Dragonfly!!, my first British one. I had missed them on several occasions in the UK, the one seen nearby at Lound and one I tried to twitch in Cambridge Science Park several years ago had been dipped. I have however, plenty of recent experience of seeing this species in the Mediterranean, where having regular holidays, I have seen probably over a hundred over the years. I always see Lesser Emperors in flight and never at rest or perched! The Lesser Emperor appeared to fly towards a weed by the wall, but wasn't seen at rest at all during the period of observation, it flew back from over the wall and then around again whilst I stood on the wall, looking down at it again getting good views. The only problem was I didn't have my macro 150mm lens with me only my 500mm with a 1.4X converter it was too close for that!! So sadly no pictures of a truly impressive Odonata! Obviously the Lesser Emperor was looking for food and not finding any it decided to finally push off north. I last saw the Lesser Emperor fly north over the wall where it appeared to dip down and disappear. I didn't see it fly further away though. I tweeted the news out to all and sundry ringing Andrew, Rob & Paul & Jane. But despite the arrival of Rob Wil, Morris and Dick W and a thorough search of the local area, we were unable to find it. Sharp- eyed Rob Wil picked up an excellent orangey summer plumaged Knot that flew north and a fine adult summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull that flew onto the car park all too briefly before flying north again. POSTSCRIPT: A Lesser Emperor was also seen prior to this sighting not that far away along Winterton North Dunes on Monday 9th July.

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