Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tank Troubles and Moulting Nymph Skins!

Earlier in the week when I went to check the tanks I noticed that one of the Emperor Dragonfly nymphs had moulted and the complete skin was on the surface of the water. Knowing that this must have happened when I was at work I set about trying to find it. Unfortunately I did find it, but it was in the jaws of the big Emperor Dragonfly nymph which had obviously found it resting up. I hadn't been caught long and as much as I didn't want to watch it, I had never really seen this beast in action. It eat it from the abdomen end first and after eating half of it, let it go where remarkably the small Emperor nymph dragged itself away to safety. It didn't last long however and did not make it through the night. I have since seen the Emperor Dragonfly nymph hunting small nymphs and its certainly feeding well. Looking in the other tanks, I have also this week seen the Brown Hawker nymph catching small shrimps, the speed of the attack when close enough is too quick for the eye to see. The Broad bodied Chaser unlike the Hawkers sits patiently and when something gets close enough, suddenly launches its attack. Lastly the Large Red Damselfly was seen eating a small damselfly nymph and almost looks ready to emerge soon. I will keep and eye on them as hopefully the next few weeks may see the first ones starting to emerge. I remember last year that the abdomen went quite red in colour prior to emergence, something to look for. I decided today to have a quick session at Nethergong where the idea was to catch a few small prey items for the nymphs in the tank and pond. After returning I thought I would have a photography session with the 20mm Emperor Dragonfly skin that had been moulted in the week. Depending on the species, dragonflies can moult 10 -14 times during larval development and each time a complete skin is left. When moulted the labial mask and Labial palps are visible showing the business end of why they are such dangerous predators underwater. After setting the camera up I took a number of shots from different angles and was able to study the mask through a magnifying glass, yet more new information to learn. I could have probably done with a 100mm macro lens for more quality and detail but they didn't turn out too bad with the 150mm macro lens. I have also seen a few damselfly skins as well in the tank so this may give me the excuse for another session later in the week maybe, if time allows!

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (side view) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (top side) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (side view) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (side view) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (underside) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (underside) 

Emperor Dragonfly Nymph (underside)

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Wheatear's Arrive at Reculver

With a single Wheatear arriving a couple of days ago at Reculver I made a brief visit yesterday morning before work for 10 minutes where after a quick search I could see the male Wheatear sitting up nicely on the rocks. Its always a buzz to see the first of these attractive birds returning back to the area and after a nice view, I continued on to work. This morning around 9.30am and with the weather not sure whether it wanted to rain or be sunny, I made another visit to Reculver with the camera. There was a chilly biting north wind which made for an eye watering few hours but we are in that 'migration' window where things will start to turn up. The sun was in and out as I made my way west along the seawall and after scanning the rocks, I soon located the familiar shape of the Wheatear. Often after arrival, they are quite wary and this proved to be the case as photos were quite hard to get as it fed actively in the rocks and under the cliffs. I settled down on a few rocks and after a while it started to move a little nearer and I was able to get a few images. I'm still getting used to the camera but so far am pleased with the results that I am getting.


Wheatear

Room for improvement i'm sure and hopefully this will come as the year continues. I moved on where I wanted to see if any other birds had arrived along the seawall. I walked down as far as the Green Wall but with the rain starting and the biting wind reducing me to teary eyes, I made my way back. I did note a few birds including 3 Curlew, 2 Little Egret, 6 Sanderling, 5 Redshank, 1 Red throated Diver, 2 Oystercatcher, 3 Turnstone, c15 Linnet, c600 Dark bellied Brent Geese and back at the Oyster Farm, 1 Black Redstart was seen but soon moved deeper into the farm and out of view. A quick look inland on the way home produced 1 Great crested Grebe, c10 Tufted Duck, a few Gadwall and 2 Chiffchaff, one in fine voice singing. Hopefully an early morning outing tomorrow to Reculver to see what else may have arrived overnight. 



Wheatear

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reculver Calls!

With the migration season seemingly starting at Reculver with a few Black Redstart arriving in the past few days, the added bonus of Short eared Owls hunting late afternoon and a Barnacle Goose in with the Brent Goose flock, I made a visit to the area after work. Since having my Canon 7d, I think this is about the first time I have used it on the birds so it may take me a few sessions to get used to it and produce something of good quality. Arriving in clear sunny conditions about 4.20pm I walked up to the towers and took a good look at the rocks which produced my first Black Redstart of the year. I spent about 15 minutes trying to get a few shots, most not turning out that well but I ended up with the shot below which is not too bad, slightly over exposed but its a start.

Black Redstart

Moving on to the seawall I saw a few Oystercatcher, Redshank, 2 Little Egret, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Curlew and a Ringed Plover. Along the seawall I met up with Dave Barnes who had seen a Short eared Owl hunting over the Oyster farm. We had a chat whilst scanning and I soon picked up the Owl as it quartered over the far side and dived down. When it appeared again there were 2 Short eared Owls and they briefly spiraled before going their own way. I walked on in the hope of getting some kind of shot but at this point the sun had gone in and was soon covered by descending mist. As I walked around the Oyster Farm, it made a few passes but always quite distant but I took a few shots anyway.

Short eared Owl

Moving on it or an other one was seen perched on a post and I was able to take a few shots but again, the light was not good at all.

Short eared Owl

In the fields behind the Oyster Farm were c600 Dark bellied Brent Geese and they took flight together producing a lovely spectacle of noise as they flew over my head back to the sea. As I scanned I picked out the Barnacle Goose and I managed a quick shot before it was lost in the large flock.

Barnacle Goose with Dark bellied Brent Geese

It was also pleasing to see c40 Golden Plover as well as singing Skylarks, Reed Buntings and a flock of c20 Linnet. There were c20 Corn Bunting in a bush in the middle of the Oyster Farm and a single Grey Heron flew up. Only about an hours birding but nonetheless, a pleasant session and great to be back out birding. Not long now until the first Wheatear's arrive, any day now I reckon!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Bands of Beauty!!

After reviewing some of my shots yesterday with the Banded Demoiselle nymphs, I come to the conclusion that the green background may not have worked like it has with some of the other nymphs I have photographed. With this in mind and looking at other photos of this species on the internet in different surroundings, I set about finding a more subtle background and went in the end for a few brown dead leaves from the garden. After positioning the leaf in the tank at the right angle and lighting the tank so the light picked up the leaf well, this made for a nice background colour and I hoped that this may show more detail in the shots. With most of the Banded Demoiselle nymphs already returned to a local river where they already breed I kept a couple back and spent some time last night in the kitchen. I spent an hour taking a good number of shots using manual mode, f8-11, ISO 400 and speed set to 250 and I think the results have worked out well with the subtle brown background compared to the session before. As well as taking photos it was also a nice excuse to be able to study them at close range and see the wing buds already well formed in some individuals. To think for some of these will transform from a not great looking nymph into superb flying Demoiselles soon and complete their epic journey is what it’s all about. All were returned this morning to the river to continue their adventure. Hopefully my camera will be there to capture some of them later in the year! 





Banded Demoiselle Nymph