Monday, 29 June 2009

Here be dragonflies

Another first for this journal today: we've had eels, crabs and even a snake. Now here's a dragonfly debut. I'm sorry it's a bit blurred but I couldn't get nearer; like the little warriors in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, they are superfast flyers. This one was in the grounds of Shandy Hall at Coxwold, famed home of Laurence Sterne of Tristram Shandy (See What a garden! The house is fascinating, too, and the director of the Sterne Trust, Patrick Wildgust, is a marvellously enthusiastic curator and guide. I emailed him the dragonfly, the season's first sighting there (does anyone know what kind it is? I will research meanwhile. Update: I think it's a female Common Hawker judging by the excellent website of the British Dragonfly Society. A common hawker is one of those people cited in window notices by people who also don't want canvassers or Jehovah's Witnesses. They would if they looked like this. Stop press: No, maybe not. See helpful Comment.

Patrick sent back this startling picture of a Death's Head hawk moth. It was part of a project by the local primary school and also starred in an exhibition on moths at the hall, where moth traps are regularly run. The next exhibition is going to feature a collection of famous artists reinterpreting the celebrated black page, shown with the moth. This idea was picked up by Lemony Snicket in his Shandyesque A Series of Unfortunate Events, which is on the hall's bookladen shelves. So is a condensed Tristram Shandy issued to US troops during the Second World War, along with 399 other classics, apparently to remind them what they were fighting for. Here's a Speckled Wood from Tristram's garden too.


Anonymous said...

I'd say that it was a Southern Hawker, not Common. Note the distinct 'triangle' on the 2nd abdominal segment and the 'bars' at the end (on a Common these would be pairs of 'spots').

MartinWainwright said...

Thanks very much! I'm not surprised that my moth blindness extends to dragonflies (but comforted that my pic was good enough for you to spot that). Much appreciated, M