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first dragonfly of the year Vagrant Emperor - Anax ephippiger

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Offline lucy

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« on: April 07, 2011, 19:45 PM »
It settled on my balcony railing, sunning itself. Pity I only saw the wings!  
The recent hot weather is certainly having an effect.  Lots of Bluetailed damselflies are already flying.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 09:45 AM by lucy »

Offline lisa

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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 07:37 AM »
I'm not going to say what I think it is, apart from it obviously has a great sense of artistic style. My money's on Steve  :)
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Offline parthenope

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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2011, 00:11 AM »
Hi Lucy/Lisa,

Thanks for the vote of confidence, it's a difficult one though!

The most obvious visible feature are the pterostigmas (the coloured bar on the leading edge, near the tip of each wing) which in this case are relatively long and narrow and are a straw colour suggesting that the insect could be the Broad Scarlet - Crocothemis erythraea. The orangey yellow viens along the leading edge of each wing would back this up given the lighting conditions, The orangey yellow patch at the base of each wing on Crocothemis erythraea would be hidden by the perch from this angle but the insect is out and about in April.

There is an alternative however! The Yellow-veined Skimmer - Orthetrum nitidinerve is also out in April and has a yellow pterostigma, though not quite as long as C.erythraea. It also has yellow veins roughly where C.erythraea would appear to have them in these lighting conditions.

In order to rule out Orthetrum nitidinerve could you post an enlargement of the right hand wings Lucy? Hopefully we might be able to see the cell patterns a tiny bit better to avoid any confusion.

Regards
Steve
« Last Edit: April 16, 2011, 00:18 AM by parthenope »
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2011, 18:05 PM »
Hi Steve,

Is this sufficiently close? (If not, I could post each wing separately.) The day I took the photo and the following one there were large numbers of dragonflies on the move along the coast.  They were of different sizes and species, but I couldn't really identify any of them - they were zipping about very quickly and quite high up - I saw a seagull swallow one!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 18:08 PM by lucy »

Offline parthenope

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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2011, 20:31 PM »
Congratulations Lucy,

I think you have just posted the first photos of a Vagrant Emperor - Anax ephippiger ( formerly Hemianax ephippiger ) on the forum!
Your enlargement of the wings clearly show the pterostigmas do not have thick dark borders at the front or back so that rules out both the Broad Scarlet - Crocothemis erythraea and the Yellow-veined Skimmer - Orthetrum nitidinerve , the two species I suggested previously. However the pterostigmas and costa (leading edge of the wing) are a match for the Vagrant Emperor!

The day I took the photo and the following one there were large numbers of dragonflies on the move along the coast.


These insects originate from Morocco/North Africa and sometimes move up into Europe. In March 2004 I watched a Vagrant Emperor come ashore at Nerja in AndalucĂ­a having presumably made the short crossing across the Straits of Gibraltar/Mediterranean from Morocco or Algeria. On the same day I found another further in land in a valley leading away from the coast into the Sierra Almijara.

In the last 6 months at least 3 have reached Cornwall, one in October, one in February and one or more in April, including one last weekend! While examining the photographs of those individuals it has struck me that your wings/pterostigmas match them very well. And of course your quote of observing a movement of large numbers of dragons along the coast ties in nicely. Some have even reached the Faroe Islands on this occasion. The current Vagrant Emperor sightings in the UK are the first for 13 years, (I found the last one way back in June 1998.

I hope to have an article up on Cornishnature about the Vagrant Emperor influx into Cornwall very soon.

Congratulations on your find :clapping:
Steve
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 22:23 PM by parthenope »
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2011, 09:45 AM »
Thanks Steve! I'm really glad this one chose my balcony to rest for a while!  There's a reference to the migration in Portugal around the same time (haven't found any for Spain):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39280703@N08/5595868131/

It's impressive how far they can migrate - I've read they're even able to survive an Atlantic crossing and turn up in the Caribbean.  

Thanks for your id skills, and looking forward to reading your article.





« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 09:47 AM by lucy »

Offline lisa

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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2011, 09:24 AM »
Here's more on the Vagrant emperors' migration, mentioning Cornwall and Spain http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/vagrant-emperor011.html#cr
Keep those eagle eyes open "our Woman in Barcelona"  :)
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Offline parthenope

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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2011, 22:45 PM »
Hi all,

I have now posted an article/summary of the Vagrant Emperors that reached Cornwall on my website here:   http://www.cornishnature.co.uk/cornish-dragonflies/57-the-vagrant-emperor-anax-ephippiger-.html  During the Cornish influx I am pleased to say that I managed to photograph the first attempted breeding of the Vagrant Emperor in the UK (a female ovipositing).

There is a name check for Lucy and a link to this Iberianature Forum topic :sign:

Steve
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2011, 19:20 PM »
Hi Steve, congratulations on tracking down the Vagrants! 

These migrating phenomena are amazing, thinking back to the wave of Painted Ladies a couple of years ago (which I also experienced on my balcony - remember they kept trying to settle on the open page of my book!). 

The reports this summer will be interesting.

ps. beautiful drawings