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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wed 6th Oct 2010 - Furze Butt Field, Totland.

This week the GG team were working with the Rangers and the task was to clear an overflow pond which had become very overgrown. The first two photographs show before and after shots, taken from the same position, this will give some idea of just how big a task it was! This shows just one end of the pond, a similar amount of work was carried out at the far side. We split into 3 basic teams, two working at cutting down the trees (waders needed!) and dragging them out, the other team lopping off the branches and stacking the timber for reuse, bonfires or logs.
The weather forecast gave rain up until 9 am in the morning - and for once they got it spot on. An excellent turnout of GGmers enjoyed some pleasant October sunshine even if a few did go home wetter than when they arrived!

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

No sooner had we finished work this week when several dragonflies, including a stunning Emperor Dragonfly, decided to investigate the (now visible) pond. I managed to take a photograph of two mating Ruddy Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) (see image). Dragonflies belong to the insect order known as Odonata, meaning “toothed jaw” - their mouthparts are serrated. They differ from damselflies in that they hold their wings out from their body while damselflies hold theirs along the length of their abdomen. Ruddy Darters can be distinguished from the Common and Vagrant Darters because they are the only ones which have all black legs. The head, thorax and abdomen of the male are a vivid red, while the female is slightly smaller and a golden yellow colour with black markings. They can be found between the months of July and November, with mating taking place on the wing. The coupled pair perform a dipping flight over the water, and while the female jettisons the fertilised eggs at the water surface, the male hovers nearby to protect the female by driving off any approaching males. The larvae spend the year beneath the water surface, before emerging and pupating into adults. They are found in temperate regions throughout Europe as far west as Siberia and as far south as the northern Sahara, and numbers seem to be increasing in some locations such as central England. It tends to prefer quiet bodies of water that feature semi-aquatic vegetation such as rushes and reeds.

There are many legends and myths about dragonflies and damselflies, many being evident from their common nicknames. In the U.K. dragonflies were called ‘Horse Stingers’ and this name may come from the way a captured dragonfly curls its abdomen as if in an attempt to sting. An old name for damselflies was ‘Devil’s Darning Needles’, stemming from an old myth that if you went to sleep by a stream on a summer’s day, damselflies would use their long, thin bodies to sew your eyelids shut!

Many thanks to Carrie for her nature lesson and the photographs.

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