Last Friday was the fifth of October and the sun shone in the blue Charentais sky like a beautiful summer day with the temperature reaching 26 degrees centigrade. There was no wind and it seemed an ideal day to explore another little pond just about a kilometre or so away from the pond at Madion. It would have taken a bit too long on foot so we opted for the bikes so that we would not lose the afternoon sun.
The pond is not far from a small road and has woods and vineyards behind it. The surrounds of the pond had been cleared to stop the woods encroaching.
From a distance I spotted what looked like an extremely large dragonfly but as I got closer I realised it was two dragonflies in tandem. This was the first time I have seen dragonflies laying eggs. I would say these are Common darters (Sympetrum striolatum), as we get a lot of them in this area.
It was fascinating to watch the aerobatics of the pair.
The eggs were laid at the edges of the pond. The tail would just break the surface of the water as if to ensure that the eggs did not float on the surface to be easy prey to predators. Presumably, the eggs would quickly find a safe spot on the murky floor of the pond.
The frenetic tandem flight continues with the female’s tail being dipped for her to release the eggs. It looks a tiring exercise for the pair of them as they zoom from place to place, stopping from time to time at a selected spot for repeated dippings of the females tail.
There was more than one pair of the same variety of dragonfly taking advantage of the sunshine for mating and laying their eggs.
I also noticed a Willow Emerald Damselfly sitting looking beautiful beside the pond, its metallic green colour sparkling in the sunshine.
I wondered what was happening at the other pond so partly pushing the bikes through the grass we decided to take a “short cut” thereby avoiding the road.
We passed some vines, these are the Uni Blanc, as they are called here, or Ugni blanc if you prefer the Italian spelling which are widely grown around here and are likely to end up as Cognac or Pineau. The harvesting of the grapes has just begun. Almost all of the vines are harvested mechanically, apart from a few older vineyards where the distance between the vines is too narrow for the machines to pass and so these have to be harvested by hand. This is true of our immediate vicinity and does not hold true for vineyards producing high quality wine.
There were a few Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) plants in the grass but this one seemed particularly attractive to the local insects. The female common blue seemed to be receiving a lot of attention.
The sunshine and the advancing season led to pairing off on the Ragwort.
The pairing game continued on the ground but we wanted to push onto the other pond to see what was happening there.
At the other pond things were quieter and although there were a couple of darters performing their frenetic egg laying dance I could not get a shot of them. Perhaps it was too late in the evening (our short cut having provided more distractions than anticipated) but these days the fields and woods are getting quieter.
A month ago the Hemp Agrimony was in flower and full of butterflies, bees and other insects.
Now the flowers have finished and the little seeds float around the plants and waft in the air like miniature parachutes. Without their flowers the wood edges have become a lot quieter, less nectar bearing flowers for the bees and other insects. The hornets are still on patrol though.
They patrol back and forth on the look out for bees or other insects. It seems late in the season for them to still be hunting for prey for their larvae but I have seen more now than earlier in the year.
They take their searching seriously and trace the wood edges like little yellow bullets.
I think the butterfly outclassed the hornet but it did not stay around to argue.
The one thing that puzzles me is that the hornets I trapped in March were all Asian hornets, non-native hornets which are causing concern among bee keepers in France. However, I have never seen any of the Asian hornets in the countryside during my walks. So much the better for the bees.
The wild mint is still happily flowering providing a rich nectar, but the bumble bees are much reduced in numbers, the majority that I see outside the garden are Carder bees.
On the way home I noticed a butterfly on its side, attended by another one.
I could not imagine what they were doing, so I approached closer. Too close.
The apparently dead butterfly, finding her partner had flown off and left her, took wing leaving me feeling foolish. Even the poor butterflies don’t get a chance to get on quietly with their life when I’m around with my camera.