Saturday, 15 September 2018

Sunny Saturday Delights

With some nice warm sunshine forecast for this morning, I decided to have a leisurely walk around Nethergong to see what could be found. I arrived around 10:15am in glorious sunshine and spent three hours checking a number of areas where I managed to find c40 Willow Emerald Damselfly. Most were found in an area away from the stream where there is normally a shallow lake but this has completely dried up with the recent hot weather we had. This has meant that the overhanging Willow trees are now about two metres from the reeds but this didn't seem to deter the Willow Emerald Damselflies as quite a number of pairs were seen either in tandem, mating within the reeds and then flying up into the Willows where they were observed ovipositing.
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) -  pair in tandem
I can only assume that they like myself are hoping that the pool fills up during the winter period. I decided to stay in this area for a good hour as there were a few Migrant Hawkers flying and landing in the reeds as well as the odd Southern Hawker. This provided a few photo opportunities with patience and also a few inquisitive campers wondering what I was doing looking in the reeds.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male
They were soon given an education on some of the dragonflies that can be seen here and were soon themselves capturing a few photos on their phones of the Willow Emerald Damselflies. At the end of a pleasant session, I ended up seeing c30 Migrant Hawker, 2 Southern Hawker, 2 Ruddy Darter and a few Common Darter basking on the dead leaves in the sun which are starting to fall now. I may try to get back tomorrow morning if possible but if not, weather permitting, I shall once again hopefully be back enjoying the delights next weekend.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Monday, 10 September 2018

A Weekend Celebrating Pays Off

I spent the weekend luckily camping at Nethergong with family and friends as part of my eldest daughter's celebration of her 16th Birthday. Thankfully, the sun was shining for most of the time and I was able to spend some time having a wander around the site looking for dragonflies and damselflies. As we sat outside the tent on both days, plenty of Migrant Hawkers kept us company as they flew over the tent in small swarms and the odd Southern Hawker flew by. With some warmer sunshine mid morning today, I had an hour having a walk around a few areas and managed to find c35 Willow Emerald Damselflies. I suspect if I had checked a few more areas, then I would have probably seen a few more. I found a few individuals posing nicely for the camera which I couldn't resist and whilst watching a few Migrant Hawkers a while later, I could see a mating pair of Willow Emerald Damselflies on the edge of the reeds.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male
Whilst I have seen this on a number of occasions, I don't have that many photos as they can be very hard to approach and often fly away. Thankfully this time, I was able to move in slowly and take some pleasing images before they moved off in tandem.
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - mating pair
As I scanned the reeds, I could see a few more in tandem and watched one pair ovipositing into some Willow over a large pool which due to the hot summer, has no water in it at all. I can only assume they know what they are doing and are hopeful that the pool will fill with water during the winter period. I'm hoping over the next few weekends to make a few more visits to enjoy the rest of the season with one of my favourite species. Common Darters are starting to become more numerous of late so a few sessions no doubt to capture these autumn dragonflies.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - mating pair

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Autumn Damselfly

With Autumn moving ever nearer and a number of species season already over, its left to a few species to carry on into Autumn including one of my favourites, the Willow Emerald Damselfly. I have probably spent more time with this species than any other and never tire of watching, studying and photographing this species. Having returned from a week in Cornwall at the weekend, I needed to get my Willow fix so made a very brief visit to Nethergong on Sunday morning where the plan was to see if I could see and photograph a few Willow Emerald Damselflies, ideally showing that autumn is on its way. The leaves starting to already die off show some lovely vibrant colours which make for some superb background colours and it was this that I wanted to try to capture. Despite the early hour of my visit, I managed to find a few at rest in various areas but it was a little more tricky to get the subtle backroad colours I desired but after a brief walk around, I eventually found a few individuals which showed the autumnal feel I wanted. It was then a case of getting the camera settings correct and moving the angle ever so slightly between shots provided some nice different background colours hopefully showing that autumn is on its way. Thankfully, the Willow Emerald Damselfly should be on the wing for a while yet, enabling me to make the most of my visits in seeing and photographing this little stunner.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male

Sunday, 2 September 2018

'Common' in Cornwall

I have just returned from a thoroughly enjoyable family holiday in Cornwall where we stayed near Bodmin for the week and enjoyed many family activities. My highlight probably being the Sealife Safari where we saw up to 60 Common Dolphins alongside the boat giving superb views. Having spoke to the county dragonfly recorder for Cornwall, David Cooper a few weeks ago, I wanted to try to find a few locations for the Common Hawker. This is a dragonfly that does not occur in Kent at all and my only encounters so far have been at Thursley Common in Surrey. I photographed a female ovipositing a few years back (my only photo of this species to date) and had brief views of a male two years ago. David kindly gave me a few sites to look at and I opted for a nearby site to where I was staying, Breney Common. I was advised that this site was quite hard to find and so it turned out to be as we drove down tiny country lanes until we arrived at the site. We spent a couple of hours having a walk around and I then returned whilst the rest of the family chilled out at the car and had a drink. I managed to find 5 Common Hawker including 1 female which was seen ovipositing on the far side of the pool and despite the distance, I took a few record shots.
Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - female ovipositing
There were a couple of males patrolling the pool which at last gave me a chance to be able to study this species through the binoculars and look at the key identification features. They were quite territorial and chased everything that came into their area before returning again to await a female. I did try briefly for a few flight photos but soon gave up and continued to wander to other areas. I soon encountered another male which I think I disturbed and for a while, he flew around before finally landing. I was able to then get my first real decent views of this species perched before I slowly moved in with the camera. Most of the literature I had read suggested that this species is very wary so with this in mind, I moved very slowly and took a few shots every few steps.

Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
Eventually, I was at a good distance and despite the clutter and busy background which on this occasion, I couldn't have cared about, I was then able to take a number of pleasing efforts with the camera of my first male Common Hawker.

Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) - male
He was soon buzzed by a wasp and took off but I was well pleased with my encounter. Back at the pool and surrounding area, I stayed a while and noted 1 Black Darter, 6 Southern Hawker, 1 Beautiful Demoiselle, 1 female migrant Hawker ovipositing and good numbers of Emerald Damselfly. A superb little reserve which I could have spent many hours wandering around but I was well pleased with my encounter.
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) - male
Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea - female