Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Butterfly Stunner in Kent

After dropping the family off in Meopham today for a karate tournamernt I made my way back towards Reculver for a while where not long after news broke that the Monarch butterfly located yesterday at Ruckinge near Hamstreet was still present today. After speaking to Dave Brown who kindly organised permission for access, I made my way down there where on the way the clouds thickened and the skies darkened. As I approached Ashford I drove through some of the worst rain I have ever seen and driving was a challenge as the road looked more like a river. I arrived in Ruckinge eventually where it was pouring down and met Dave who took me to Bernard Boothroyd's house where the Monarch was. As we got out of the car it was absolutely pouring still and we ran for the house to get some cover. Thankfully we dried off for a bit and had a cup of tea before the rain showed signs of easing. Andy Appleton had now arrived and along with Bernard we made our way to the eucalyptus tree where it was last seen and started scanning. Remarkably after a few seconds I found the MONARCH at rest about 10 metres up and for the next hour it didn't really move at all and I had to be content with a few record shots of this new British butterfly species for me.

Monarch Butterfly 

It did stop raining briefly where we hoped it would open up its wings for us but despite the odd teasing movement, it stayed where it was. The sky started to darken again and we left it in peace and after saying out many thanks to Bernard, we left for home.

Monarch Butterfly

Whenever a Monarch is seen in Britain, it naturally raises questions about its origin. I would like to think that with the recent stormy weather and winds that maybe it has been blown up from the south. One thing I do know is that this species has been happily added to my British butterfly list.

Monarch Butterfly

Saturday, 19 July 2014

MEGA 'Stoned' at Reculver

Not to panic, I haven't been out all night wandering around Reculver taking drugs, it refers to a text message I received this morning from Chris Hindle alerting me to a Reculver Mega, a Stone Curlew. I was happily sitting indoors having breakfast when Chris text about the bird and said that it was present on the ridge at Coldharbour and as far as he knew, it was still there. I was dressed like a bullet and after grapping the binoculars and camera I was out driving sensibly down the Thanet Way to Chambers Wall where a few minutes later I arrived. I made my way to the seawall and trying to get the camera out and get ready I noticed a man and his 3 dogs walking in the direction of the ridge and a few cyclists along the seawall making their way in that general direction. I was soon scanning the ridge and on my first attempt drew a blank and thought it had probably moved on but on my second scan, I noticed a head sticking out from behind some vegetation and there it was, a STONE CURLEW. At this point it immediately took off as the cyclist passed and flew inland towards Chambers Wall crossing and appeared to land. I took a number of shots but having had the settings set for dragonflies yesterday, they were completely wrong for ariel shots, add to this that I had completely forgotten to put on the 1.4 converter and I had made a complete mess up of the situation...... or had I.

Stone Curlew

The chances of me connecting with this bird were quite slim due to the cyclists, joggers and dog walkers but I made it, and despite some not good shots I even managed a couple of shots of the 3rd ever record for Reculver.

Stone Curlew

If you had told me this when I woke up this morning I would happily have taking these odds to see such a good bird for Kent and Reculver. As I walked back skipping I met Chidders who had arrived just in time to see it fly from a field and fly off high towards Thanet Earth. Whilst back at the car we added 1 Marsh Harrier and 1 Common Buzzard. Many thanks to Chris for the call this morning and some better shots can be seen on his Blog:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Taking on the 'Brown' Challenge!

After finishing work this afternoon I cycled down to Westbere Lakes where I wanted to continue the challenge of trying to get a few images of the Brown Hawker. I have tried for a few years to get a decent image but to date, I have not achieved this. I think this species has got to be one of the hardest dragonflies to photograph and although seen easily at Westbere, getting views of them perched is pretty hard indeed. I spent a couple of hours walking up to the river and then towards Fordwich in what can only be described as 'very hot' conditions and managed to see c15 Brown Hawker. Like most occasions when I have seen this species, I had excellent views of them in flight and when they did catch some large prey they would fly up high into the trees where it was too far for the camera to achieve anything of any quality. If I didn't see in flight first I had the added problem of walking down the path only to hear a rattle of wings a few metres ahead before a Brown Hawker would emerge and fly off and despite walking slowly and checking ahead of me, I still couldn't see them, they really are a hard species to pin down. After watching a few individuals hunting one finally landed in a tree and this gave me the chance to get my first shots of the day, despite the horrible background and parts of the Hawker missing, this is about a good as it got. 

Brown Hawker

Moving on I managed to capture one in flight and despite many other shots, all were just out of focus and this will at least present another challenge for another day.

Brown Hawker

As I made my way back the temperature was slowly dropping and a couple of groups of Brown Hawker were hunting over the path and passing within a few feet of me. I waited patiently for one to land but they just kept on flying around and finally I moved on and it wasn't until near the end of my walk that one passed me and seemed to fly into a bush and land. I slowly moved around and scanned the bush and eventually I could see it hanging. It wasn't the best angle but at least I managed to get a few shots of this so far nearly impossible species to photograph. 

Brown Hawker

Also noted today were 2 Norfolk Hawker, a few Black tailed Skimmer, hundreds of Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselfly. The challenge continues and I will be back to try again for a decent flight image or one posing in the sunshine with hopefully a better background than todays effort. Hopefully a visit out over the weekend although the weather may have other ideas!

Brown Hawker

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Good Range of Species on the Wing

With the weather being quite warm this week so far, I have made the odd trip after work to a private site south of Reculver where the place has been alive with dragonflies. The sun and warm temperatures have certainly made for some good action with a good range of species noted. On my rounds I have noted good numbers of Emerald Damselfly, hundreds of Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselfly, c12 Emperor Dragonfly including 4 ovipositing females and whilst watching these I was surprised to see the male Lesser Emperor Dragonfly fly by which not long after showed on and off for c15. I spent some time trying to capture some shots but again this proved pretty much impossible as it didn't stop once and was continually twisting and turning. I at least ended up with something and maybe these can be improved upon if we meet again, that shouldn't be hard!

Male Lesser Emperor Dragonfly

There were Black tailed Skimmers everywhere and I also saw c5 Red veined Darter including a mating pair but they did not allow a close approach for any photos.

Male Red veined Darter

Also noted were 2 Banded Demoiselle, the first time I think I have seen this species here and c15 Small Red eyed Damselfly on the waters edge which provided a few photos of this still scarce species.

 Male Small Red eyed Damselfly

Add to this some Red eyed Damselfly, good numbers of Common and Ruddy Darter and a few Four spotted Chaser and it has been quite a good few days at the site.

Male Emperor Dragonfly 

Female Emperor Dragonfly Ovipositing