Jumpin’ Jack FlashNatural History
You all get those days. Nice and sunny. Balmy almost. Not too breezy. Perfect day for getting to grips with a few more hoverflies in the garden.
Except for a minor problem. The hoverflies have decided to take the family to the beach. Or at least something amongst these perfect conditions is not quite right and there is barely a hoverfly in sight.
So the options are to get on with some gardening or stare at the pond and see if there is anything worth photographing there. And as it turns out there is a full-scale mating ritual in progress. You will all have seen those natural history films of the small bird-of-paradise birds, sidling up and down branches and flicking their wings like little automatons. Well here we have a Poeciobothrus nobilitatus – one of the dolly flies – leaping around the stage, jumping from side to side, and flicking his wings to display his white wings tips. The female of his attentions is unimpressed and takes shelter in a private viewing area under a leaf.
The display continues with more frantic wing flicking. The sideways jumping is now incorporated with a more complex flight pattern around the pond. Short flight, jump sideways, jump forward, jump back. And the little white wing spots flick in and out like a demented Morris dancer. It’s like Mick Jagger doing a Morris Dance to Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Do flies have leks? This dance was joined by another male. The female got into a position where she could see what was going on, but still seemed reluctant to pick a mate. I’ve never noticed before that you can discern reluctance in a fly. And the dance continued. And was still continuing as the first hoverfly emerged to distract my attention. Next week I may give more attention to the Dolly flies and their little rituals and try to better capture their high-speed dance on camera.