by Paul Cormacain
FROM near the Rock comer comes a report from Isobel of a sighting of what would appear to be a bluet dragonfly.
It was a male, and to be accurate it was an Irish Bluet. We now have variable bluets, azure bluets, northern bluets, and southern bluets, but this particular insect was an Irish Bluet.
These creatures were first discovered in 1981, and it has to be said the discovery was a surprise, a pleasant surprise, totally out of the blue, you could even say. Similar odonates are found in northern Europe, but none have ever made it to Britain.
The bluet is about 30 mm long, with a wingspan of 40 mm. The male has a blue and black patterned abdomen, and the new book on Ireland's Dragonflies, by Brian Nelson and Robert Thompson, details how the head underside, eyes, thorax and abdomen base are all apple green.
I have to say that the book goes into even more detail, but my description of the male will have to suffice for now. The ladies of the species are more sombrely coloured, the more common one being coloured green.
There have been no detailed studies of the Irish Bluet, so if anyone out there wants to further the cause of science, or wants to get a degree in bluet studies, now is your great opportunity.
Earlier on in the year, I came across some bluets in a lovely, wild, remote spot, visited a few times complete with binoculars, magnifying glass, and camera
The bluets were extraordinarily busy, one sat on a clump of rushes for a time, but by the time I came back with camera the creature had flown, and rested no more that day that I could see.
Indeed, all I saw the rest of the day was fast flying bluets, and not one of them ever took time to sit and think or sit and be photographed. Perhaps they were all camera shy!
Over the last month or two I have seen the occasional dragonfly. They were all flying fast, none wanted to be identified or photographed, and chances are we shall see no more till next spring. By that time I think it just possible that I will change my deodorant, and the odonates will find me more attractive. They might even allow me to photograph them.
Last week's good weather brought out the butterflies and other insects. I came across one spot where there was a convention of common or garden snails, a place where nine of them had got together.
I know that during the winter, and during long dry spells, these insects do get together and talk about the "good old days". The first half of September does not constitute winter, nor was there a long dry spell, but the snails must have felt the need to gather together and talk.
Snails are creatures of the night, and if you go out early in the morning you can still see them wandering around, even though they know they should be safely in hiding to avoid enemies.
Even during the day, I would regularly see them heading from one place to another, and even if there are thrushes in the vicinity. Us humans tend to eat snails and frogs when we go to the continent, or to Indonesia or China, but the song thrush has a different habit. He eats snails at home all the time.
Thrushes eat large numbers of snails. They come across them in gardens, in banks and ditches, in hedges, among rocks and in stone walls. The thrush takes the lip of the snail in its bill, then proceeds to hammer the shell on a rock, using it like an anvil.
The shell lip usually remains intact, but the large shell is pulverised and breaks into many pieces. The thrush then feasts.
There may be as many as 80 types of snails here, but the one we tend to see the most is the garden variety, Helix asperses
For the scholars, the plural of Helix is Helices. There are no boy or girl snails, which you would think makes it pretty boring for the snails. All snails are similar.
When it comes time to breed, and produce more little snails, two adult snails get together. One becomes a "male", and the other becomes a "female". The male injects sperm into the female, and the female is then pregnant
The male now becomes a female, the female a male. The new male now injects sperm into the new female, and she is now pregnant Are you following this lesson?
The two males, or are they females, now go their own separate ways. Each can now lay up to forty eggs, and after about a month the eggs hatch into miniature replicas of the parents, all simultaneously male and female. It is all quite miraculous, if slightly difficult for us humans to follow.
Slightly faster than the snails are the beetles. Well, actually some of the beetles can travel at an enormous speed when you think about how small they are. Some of the beetles I saw were churchyard beetles.
I do not quite understand the origin of the name, for the creatures are found in dark places such as basements, cellars, crypts and farmyard sheds.
The creatures I saw were about 25mm long, were moving about in daylight, travelling from under one stone towards another stone, or just disappearing under low branches. Or perhaps they were looking for a church!
Saturday 18th, Sunday 19th September - Castle Espie is hosting a Green Living Fair for the sixth consecutive year. Well worth a visit. Call Espie for more details, 91874146.
Sunday 26th September - Harvest Home, a celebration of the harvest at Tannaghmor Gardens, details from Museum Services 383'4 1635
Monday 27th September - Lisburn RSPB start the new season with Birds of the County Down, with ]an Jackson, contact 4062 6125 for more details.
Saturday 2nd October - Lisburn RSPB have a trip to Ramore Head and Bann Estuary, more from 9266 1982
Saturday 16th October - RSPB Members' Day at the Greenmount Campus. Talk to the RSPB for more information.