Sunday, 20 October 2019

Autumn Stars

The last couple of days have seen a considerable drop in temperature during the days and nights and with rain and winds featuring quite highly, it's seems the days of sunshine, mild temperatures and light winds are a distant memory. With some sunshine forecast for around midday yesterday (Saturday), I decided on a later arrival to Nethergong where I spent a couple of hours walking around the site looking for what species could be found. On arrival, it was still quite cloudy with only the odd sign of sun coming through but a few patches of warmth provided a few Common Darters with a perch to take in the heat. Eventually having walked around with not much seen, the clouds did break and the sun made an appearance which led to an immediate response from the dragonflies. The next hour searching saw 17 Willow Emerald Damselfly, 22 Common Darter and 5 Migrant Hawker being seen and some time was briefly spent photographing a Willow Emerald Damselfly which I shall post in due coarse. The star of the session was when I found a male Migrant Hawker perched up which then provided me with some time studying and photographing this beauty. With rain earlier in the day, the Hawker still looked like its wings hadn't quite dried out completely. Autumn does provide some fantastic colours and this male really stood out well from the surroundings which made for some nice photo opportunities. After working from different angles and the sun now getting warmer, the wings started to vibrate and it wasn't long until he took off and started to patrol. I'm not sure if I will get another go at photographing this species this year but if not, I think this set is probably one of my better attempts with the species. With a week off work now and the forecast looking better as the week goes on, I hope to return to once again take in what enjoyment this season has and maybe, a photo or two will come my way.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Making The Next Generation

With the weather being very changeable in the past few weeks and seemingly little warm sunshine to enjoy (at least during the weekends), whenever the sun does appear, there seems to an immediate appearance of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. Knowing their season is probable coming to an end, they seem very aware of trying to find a female more than ever to carry on the next generation. During my last few sessions at Nethergong, I have managed to find a few mating pairs. Some have seen me first and have exploded from their perch and flown off but others have been very accommodating and allowed me to get quite near with the macro lens and take a few photos. With the temperatures dropping quite considerable lately, they probably only have a few weeks to go until their time will be called. Until then, every slightly warm glimmer of sunshine will have this species busily searching the streams and dykes for females in which to mate with. With a week off work next week, I'm hoping for a few sunny days to allow both them and me to enjoy the last few weeks of the season. Hopefully a few Willow Emerald Damselflies will also be still on the wing to enjoy.

Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta) - mating pair

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Autumn Three

With the end of the season slowly starting to creep up and many species season over, there are at least a few species left to enjoy here in east Kent. With some sunshine over the weekend, I made an afternoon visit to Nethergong where good numbers of Willow Emerald Damselfly, Migrant Hawker and Common Darters were to be seen enjoying the late sunshine. It was nice to just have a wander around the site and with the camping season now over, I had the site to myself. I was able to spend time at the stream watching the Willow Emerald Damselflies and capture a few photos of males waiting for passing females.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male
Migrant Hawkers were to be found patrolling along the stream and woodland edges and a check of a few areas found a few perching males which gave a few photo opportunities as was a mating pair which was not far away.

 Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - mating pair

 Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male
In the sunny glades, Common Darters suddenly sprang up unnoticed from the paths but soon landed nearby again. It was one of those afternoons do just simply enjoy the dragonflies. The weather appears to be on the turn now but I have to hope that the weekends deliver the sunny days with a decent temperature to tempt out the dragonflies to coincide with my visits. Hopefully, there will be at least a few more visits to enjoy the rest of what the season has to offer.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - female


Saturday, 5 October 2019

Wasp v's Common Darter

Having not managed to get out much in the past couple of weeks due to family trips and the weather not great when I do have the time, I was eagerly anticipating getting out today to see what was still on the wing. It wasn't until my second trip of the day to Nethergong that the sun finally made an appearance and with that, a few of the autumn species were to be seen well in good numbers. A good walk around the site produced at least 51 Willow Emerald Damselfly with a good number seen in tandem ovipositing into various trees and bushes. A while was spent finding a few individuals for the camera which posed quite nicely. I will post these in due coarse. No doubt others were missed but nice to see that they are still around in reasonable numbers. There were also c20 Migrant Hawkers with a few males photographed along with a mating pair and Common Darters were numerous with at least 25 seen basking in the sunshine. Whilst I have seen it a few times over the years, it is always a bit sad to see the demise of a dragonfly in front of you. Today whilst I was photographing a Common Darter, it was suddenly attacked by a wasp. Both spiralled to the ground and as I watched on, I could see the wasp initially stinging the darter. At this point, I really wanted to step in but with the wasp stinging, I was a bit wary of intervening. After a few seconds, the wasp took off but kept flying around the darter. I assume this was to let the sting take effect on the darter. I reluctantly decided to photograph the rest of what was about to unfold. Not nice to watch at all but nature can be raw to say the least. The wasp returned to grapple the darter where it started to remove the abdomen with its strong jaws. It then moved up to the head where this was soon removed and then in turn, the wings were bitten off. Finally, back to the abdomen which was finished off and then the thorax which I assume is the meaty meal for the wasp, was neatly folded under the legs of the wasp before it flew off with its prize. All that was left was a head, wings fluttering in the breeze and the abdomen which occasionally still twitched. Nature can be cruel but with so many predators around, it's inevitable that from time to time, that this will happen. It probably happens a lot but we just don't see it. On a brighter note, hopefully my next post will have a few of the classic autumnal species.  

Common Wasp  attacking Common Darter