OtherPix: 20: Mating
This photograph was made at a small, boggy lake in the south of Finland in July 2010 where we saw quite a number of the really impressively-sized Siberian Hawkers (Aeshna crenata). Along the edges of the lake we regularly spotted ovipositing females and we soon discovered that the easiest way to find them was actually to look for the accompanying, nervously hovering males engaged in what's known as 'non-contact guarding': keeping a close eye on the egg-laying female and chasing off any other males that might try to interfere with her. The female in this photograph had just finished laying her eggs and had tried to sneak off unnoticed, but one male had spotted and pursued her, forced her down to the ground, and grabbed her with his claspers. What followed was quite a comical scene; for five minutes the male tried with all his might to pull her off the ground and fly away with her to the nearest tree top for a bit of smooching, but she flatly refused and continued to hold on to some grasses with her legs. So after a lot of loud, wing-clashing effort, he finally gave up the battle and flew off. Then she did the same, sat down low on a nearby tree and allowed us to photograph her extensively. Her behaviour was probably nothing to do with 'feigned headaches' but with her realisation that because there were no eggs to fertilise, she might as well save herself (and him) the trouble.