All of a flut­ter over close-ups

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

ANY pho­tog­ra­pher likes his or her sub­ject to sit still and that makes wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy dif­fi­cult – un­less you are tak­ing pic­tures of plants.

Drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies are some of our most colour­ful in­sects and yet they are quite skit­tish about hav­ing their photos taken. So why do you see so many pic­tures of these crea­tures in close up, full colour and high res­o­lu­tion?

It’s quite sim­ple, when the weather gets a bit over­cast they slow down and act like proper posers on var­i­ous plants and flow­ers. Also, at this time of year, there is no short­age of drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies mo­tor­ing around the re­gion to add a splash of sum­mer colour.

You can tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween stick-thin dam­sel­flies and stur­dier drag­on­flies in flight and at rest. In flight drag­on­flies are much more fo­cused on where they are head­ing; in a solid straight line about the same height above ground un­less dis­turbed. Dam­sel­flies ap­pear to zig-zag a lot more and to have more trou­ble get­ting around than drag­on­flies.

When they land, dam­sel­flies will rest with their wings laid back along their long, slim bod­ies. Drag­on­flies set­tle with wings at right an­gles to their thicker tor­sos, hence lots of in­tri­cate de­tail on pic­tures.

I un­der­stand a huge drag­on­fly fly­ing to­wards you might seem ter­ri­fy­ing to some peo­ple but the big myth is that these won­der­ful beast­ies will sting you. In folk­lore they have been given names like ‘horse stinger’ – a great name for a hero in Game of Thrones.

A friend of mine showed me a pic­ture of a large drag­on­fly on his hand and told me that it was try­ing to bite him. How­ever its jaws are not big enough to break hu­man skin although they are a fan­tas­tic in­stru­ment when chomp­ing on smaller in­sects.

My first ex­pe­ri­ence of tak­ing pic­tures of dam­sel­flies in re­pose was quite spec­tac­u­lar when I got some great shots of a strik­ingly blue banded de­moi­selle. The first thing I no­ticed was its colour and big black eyes. Then I no­ticed its wings had a black band, which pro­vide its name. The band looks a bit like some­one has picked it up by the wing and left a fin­ger­print.

This is a large dam­sel­fly which lives along the edges of slow-flow­ing rivers and canals, still ponds and lakes and among lush veg­e­ta­tion.

Male banded de­moi­selles are me­tal­lic blue with broad, dark blue patches on each wing; fe­males are me­tal­lic green with pale green­ish wings.

Of the UK’s dam­sel­flies, only the banded de­moi­selle and sim­i­lar beau­ti­ful de­moi­selle have coloured wings. Fe­male beau­ti­ful dam­sel­flies have brown wings and a green body, the males have dark-coloured wings against a me­tal­lic blue-green body. My sub­ject al­lowed me to shove the cam­era in his face and get some glo­ri­ous shots. I don’t think I have taken any­thing as good since then but you will of­ten see me chas­ing through the un­der­growth on our re­serves.

To sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070. It is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four in Mersey­side. It man­ages around 60 na­ture re­serves cov­er­ing acres of wood­land, wet­land, up­land and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 mem­bers, and over 1,200 vol­un­teers.

To be­come a mem­ber of this branch go to: lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For de­tails about Cheshire Wildlife Trust go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

●● De­moi­selle in stun­ning fine de­tail

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