After Shetland, I had planned to meet Dad at Inverness Airport and to spend the next four or five days together scouring some northern sites. My main quest was to find the Azure Hawker, which would be my 45th species of Odonata in the UK.
|Azure Hawker at Loch Maree|
So, on Tuesday 22nd, I arrived into Aberdeen having only seen a few Manx Shearwaters and Puffins early on, but a cracking view of Fair Isle the previous evening on relatively bumpy seas was worthy. I went straight to the Ythan Estuary but somehow dipped on the drake King Eider which had been present for a few weeks... typically it had moved off further down the coast.
I then drove to Inverness to pick up Dad and we headed straight for Loch Maree to give ourselves maximum opportunity of finding an Azure Hawker. Annoyingly, the weather had turned for the worse and we could only find a dozy Golden-ringed Dragonfly.
|Lesser Butterfly Orchid|
So, the next day, with brighter skies and lighter winds, we went straight back to Loch Maree and started our searches at Bridge of Grudie. It felt promising from the off and over the next couple of hours we had some excellent wildlife sightings, including a White-faced Darter, Spotted Flycatchers, two Large Heaths, and amazingly, a Lesser Twayblade which I found tucked up amongst the heather. The roadsides were also littered with Lesser Butterfly Orchids, all being in superb condition. Despite checking every tree base I still couldn't find an Azure Hawker, therefore, we moved slightly further west to Slattadale and to search an area of cleared woodland.
Almost straight away, upon entering the area, two hawkers flew up, and once settled, it soon dawned upon us that these were indeed Azure Hawkers. Over the next few hours, we may have seen around a dozen individuals making this, for me at least, an unprecedented total! They showed superbly but were buggers to photograph. What was interesting was observing the males which changed the colour of their abdomen when the temperatures became cooler. A summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver was also out on the loch.
|Azure Hawkers at Slattadale|
That very afternoon, Dad and I then went to Beinn Eighe NNR where we struck pure gold when after a few brief sightings of a Northern Emerald in the treetops, Dad then spotted one low down and found it perched on heather. Absolutely insane views were had of this stunning dragonfly, and despite the midge attacks, we obtained some decent images. To end this crazy day, we found a stunning pair of Black-throated Divers on a loch on our return journey to our digs.