Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Large Red Damselfly - Mini-series of insect stories

Here is story number 3 in my insect mini-series

Large Red Damselflies (West Cork, ROI)

The most enjoyable part of his job was done. All he had to do now was hang onto her head.

It was a bit boring, but if he let her go another damselfly might catch her and turf out his sperm. So he waited.

From his leafy vantage he surveyed his realm with satisfaction.

When he had reached maturity he had searched for a good breeding ground. The vegetation beside this slow running stream offered an excellent habitat.

Yet it was hard work. There always seemed to be another male wanting his piece of prime real estate and he was constantly defending his territory. His reward for his vigilance was this female who had flown in to check him out and found him worthy.

From the moment she arrived and indicated her willingness, he grabbed her by her thorax before moving into the tandem pose while he readied his sperm. It didn’t take him long. Within a few seconds he changed position and they curled themselves into a wheel to mate. Copulation took a good deal longer - about fifteen minutes – although he didn’t mind that! 

When they finished she tried to fly away but he grabbed her head and held her in the tandem position again. It was only by forcing her to stay attached to him, that he could guarantee she wouldn’t mate with rival males before she laid her eggs. 

He looked down into the stream at the submerged leaves and stems; the perfect place to lay her eggs was right below them.

He wished she would get on with it.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Stick Insect - Mini-series of insect stories

Here is the second story in my insect mini-series

Stick Insect (Savusavu, Fiji)

You might ask what he was doing climbing a car.
Like all adventurous mountaineers before him, he might answer, ‘Because it was there.’
After all, with compound eyes which allowed him to see well during his largely nocturnal activities, he couldn’t use the excuse that he had mistaken the car for a tree... or could he?
Because, while out foraging, this dedicated herbivore had indeed climbed up a car and was now perched somewhat precariously on the wing mirror. Only he knew why he came to be there, a stick insect enigma, surveying his world from his unusual vantage point. 
Aware of his vulnerability, he rocked gently, mimicking a twig moving in the breeze. In the normal course of events this behaviour might fool predators, but stuck out on the wing mirror in broad daylight meant he was stretching his luck. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the sort of stick insect who could, chameleon-like, change colour to blend in with his surroundings. 
If a predator did approach, he could drop to the ground and play dead, thus fooling the enemy into thinking he was nothing more than an indigestible twig. And if that didn’t work, he could unleash his pièce de résistance and vomit up the contents of his stomach. That should do the trick.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Carpenter Bee - Mini-series of insect stories

As a result of my promise under the Photographing Hidden Gems post on 3 June, here is the first of a mini-series of stories based on some of my insect photographs

CARPENTER BEE  (Ouzoud, Morocco)
 It was his nature to be solitary. He flitted from flower to flower, searching, feeding. Always searching, always feeding, always alone. No hive for the likes of him.
He paused between the flowers, testing the air for intruders.
Uncertain, he hovered, turning first one way, then the other. A vibration ruffled his iridescent navy blue wings. It was barely perceptible, yet it sparked a need, a longing, an imperative.
He turned a full circle, perplexed. The vibration receded.
A scent distracted his attention. He descended to land on the thistle’s purple flower head. He crawled into position and probed until his proboscis found the channel leading to the nectar.
Now the vibration interrupted his feeding again, so subtle he almost missed it. The imperative strengthened.
He lifted away from the thistle and turned to face the disturbance. A distant shape was coming towards him. The imperative overcame his instinct to flee. Instead he flew directly towards the shape, his body humming and pulsing in bewilderment and excitement.
The shape coalesced into another Carpenter bee and when he reached her his confusion dissolved.
Their tiny bodies briefly joined in fleeting harmony, the imperative to mate overcoming their shy dispositions.
She immediately began to search for suitable wood in which to drill and lay her eggs. He dutifully followed. Soon he would have a nest to guard.

This little chap received a passing mention in my travel essay ‘African for Softies’ published in the Writers Abroad anthology: Foreign and Far Away

Monday, 8 June 2015

Diving and Writing – some of my favourite activities

I love any sort of diving: scuba, snorkelling... and I love writing. Finding opportunities to combine the two for travel articles or short stories is always a pleasure.

I wrote a piece of flash fiction based on a real experience cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa. The Great White is a much maligned animal and whilst it must be treated with respect, it is not a mindless killer! I was astonished by its sheer beauty. My story was published on the Cafelit website.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Photographing hidden gems

 Hello again – I’ve just returned from a trip through France and Spain. Although I didn’t spot any dramatic photo opportunities like my Moroccan buried in the sand, I found a gorgeous seedhead as big as a tennis ball and a tiny, iridescent green beetle on a flower close to an almost dry riverbed in Spain. Sometimes it’s necessary to keep your eyes peeled for the minutiae to find hidden gems.

Whether I will use either of these in a story or travel essay remains to be seen, but I’ll keep 
them on file.