Friday 26th May - Common Clubtail

There's been precious little to report on the bird front on the Meadow this week and in fact to be honest I've not actually spent much time there. I did have a PEREGRINE fly low and fast over my house one evening this week but that's been about it. On the odd occasions when I've visited the floods it's only loafing gulls that I've seen.

Today I went down to have a wander around the Trap Grounds and with this nice sunny weather it was a perfect opportunity to start looking at dragonflies and damselflies once again. In fact even as I left my house and started walking down the street a male Banded Demoiselle zoomed by, looking most incongruous in this urban setting. On the main Trap Ground's pond a male Emperor was hawking about imperiously and there were a few Azure Damselflies along the shoreline. Over at the end of the boardwalk I met Trap Grounds regular Nicola Devine who was photographing a pair of mating Large Red Damselflies. She showed me a photo on the back of her camera of a dragonfly which she wasn't able to identify. It turned out to be a Common Clubtail - quite an amazing find for the Trap Grounds! 

One of Nicola's photos of the Common Clubtail
This species is very localised throughout the country though there is a population on the Thames at Goring and each year at around this time local odonata fans make a pilgrimage there in order to try and see this elusive creature. The trouble is that whilst they emerge from the river where they spend their life as a nymph they then fly off some distance away where they pass their time hunting, often in woodland areas. It's therefore very hard to come across them after they've initially moved away from the river so to find one like this was amazing, especially as this was a long way from their traditional stronghold. In fact I only know of one other record of this species in this area, when one was found on one of the side streams near Wytham a few years back.

Nicola told me that in fact she'd seen the Clubtail in the same place yesterday as well so it seemed to have taken a liking to this spot. She took me over to where she'd seen it and sure enough, within about twenty minutes we initially got a brief view of it flying by before it settled quite close to the screen where I was able to get some reasonable photos of it myself. While we waited there was loads of bird activity in the tree in front of us with Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers, a Blackcap and a mixed Tit flock, all to be seen.

It's a shame that the angle wasn't quite right but it was a nice close view.
Whilst we were watching, a Hawker species flew by which at this time of year could only really be a Hairy Dragonfly. What's more a short while later we saw an ovipositing dragonfly on the far side of the pond which turned out to be a female Hairy. I'd not personally seen this species on the Trap Grounds before with Otmoor normally being the top site in the county to see this spring dragonfly. If you add in loads of mating Azure Damselflies and a few Blue-tailed it was a real feast of odonata action today.

Record shot of the ovipositing Hairy Hawker

For those wanting to look for the Clubtail you need to park in Aristotle Lane and then walk north along the canal a couple of hundred yards to just before the next canal bridge where you turn left (away from the canal) to enter the Trap Grounds. Head past the main pond and then turn left onto the boardwalk. Go to the end of this and then bear right a few yards to the wooden screen in front of what's known as Tim's Pond. With a bit of patience then you should get good views if it's still around.

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