Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Hanging On!

With a small window of sunshine last Sunday afternoon, I made an hours visit to Nethergong to see what was still flying. There are not many weeks left of the season now and numbers seem to be slowly dropping but despite this, it was pleasing to find 12 Common Darter, 12 Migrant Hawker and 11 Willow Emerald Damselfly. There were a few areas where the wind was blowing a bit which I didn't search which may have yielded a few more but I hope to get another chance before the month ends if the weather allows. I'm hopeful if the conditions are better to find a few more Willow Emerald Damselfly as last year, I saw an individual in the second week of November but it very much depends of the weather. I spent some time looking for a few photo opportunities and after a bit of searching, was rewarded with a Migrant Hawker and Willow Emerald Damselfly in a nice autumnal setting. Fingers crossed this is not my last sighting this year and with next week off work, it would be nice to be able to enjoy one last session with my beloved Willow Emerald Damselflies. 

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Autumn Gold

With the last few days and this weekend seemingly dominated by heavy rain and last weekend, gale force winds, I have not managed to get out at all to Nethergong to check on the numbers of dragonflies and damselflies still on the wing. Working all week only means I have the weekends to get out now and with the weather deteriorating, there may not be too many other weekends to get out before the season draws to a close. I will just have to hope that the next few weekends delivers some sunny mild weather to allow me to visit to see if the Willow Emerald Damselflies, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters are still to be seen. With autumn now well and truly here, I always try to spend some time photographing the remaining species with a feel of autumn in the background. Now the leaves are falling and turning colour, they make for some interesting shots and with this in mind, I spent a few hours a couple of weeks ago in the morning sunshine looking for resting Willow Emerald Damselflies to photograph. After a while looking in some sheltered sunny areas, I soon found a few individuals and settled down to capture a few pleasing images. At this time of year, the sides of the thorax on the Willow Emerald Damselfly take on a lovely golden colour which adds to their lovely emerald colour. It took me a while moving angles to get a few autumnal backgrounds but after a while, I  had a few shots to work with. Weather permitting, they will go on into early November if the weather allows but I just hope I get the chance to make another few visits to see and photograph them before their time is up. 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Waiting for the Weekends!

With work seemingly dominating life during the week, it's been left to the weekends to visit Nethergong to enjoy the last month and a bit of the season. It has been a bit of a lottery with the weather but the last few weekends have thankfully delivered some quite nice sunny spells (unlike this weekend) where I have spent a few hours walking around noting good numbers of Willow Emerald Damselfly, Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. With much of my attention normally swaying towards the Willows, I have been on the lookout for some Migrant Hawkers to photograph and although many have been out of reach, I have found the odd individual to photograph. A careful check last weekend of some sunny sheltered areas proved productive with a few low perching male Migrant Hawkers which allowed me to spend some time sitting down and taking a number of photos of this attractive Hawker. Whilst sitting still taking a few photos, I soon become aware that there were a few Willow Emerald Damselfly perched up in the sun nearby which I couldn't resist. A few campers wondered what I was doing sat down looking at a bush and I was able to show them both species up close which they enjoyed. We are in to that period now where the weather will soon deteriorate and sunny warm days will become a memory but I'm hoping that a few weekends will allow some hours in the sunshine to enjoy what is left of the season.  

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male




Saturday, 5 September 2020

The Dainty Damselfly is Back!

It hadn't been that long since I had taken up the role of Kent Dragonfly Recorder that I received a phone call from the Sandwich Bay Warden, Steffan Walton telling me that the very rare Dainty Damselfly had been discovered on a private pool with no general public access in the area. I believe that a group doing a bio blitz in the area had stumbled across this mega rarity. I had never seen this species and for some reason, never ended up going to the Isle of Sheppey where they were seen in 2011but it was most definitely on my 'most wanted' list to see. The flight season come around this year but due to the pandemic, it was at first not possible to visit to survey for them but as the weeks passed, I was at last granted permission to visit the site with Steffan where on a warm late May morning, I was soon viewing the small pool where they had been seen last year. Having never seen this species before, you imagine my excitement then when Steffan put me onto my first ever male Dainty Damselfly. I made sure I made a note of all the features required for an id and made my way through them one by one. I was happy to see one but it wasn't long until we started to see more and by the end of the session we had seen a brilliant 30 Dainty Damselfly. Many were in tandem out over the water already ovipositing and although a little distant for the camera, I couldn't help but snap away and ended up with a few useable photos. We also collected a few exuviae which were checked by Gill Brook and many were confirmed as Dainty Damselfly exuviae, what an addition to the collection. Having seen one of Britain's rarest damselflies, I drove home buzzing.

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) ovipositing
I returned again in the first week of June with Steffan and John and Gill Brook but little did we know what we were about to witness. As we arrived at the pool late morning in warm sunny conditions, we immediately started seeing Dainty Damselflies over the water in tandem and many mating pairs in the grasses near the pool. Everywhere we looked, we saw Dainty Damselflies and we soon realised that they were far more than when we had looked last time. In the grasses there were mating pairs everywhere you looked and I was soon stalking them and taking a number of photos.

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum)
A few males were also posing in the grasses showing off their characteristics well and I was again like a child in a sweet shop as I clicked away with the camera.

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - male
We started making counts in our own areas and over time, we come to the conclusion that there were at least 180 DAINTY DAMSELFLY, an incredible number to see of this rare damselfly. I wonder if this is the most ever seen in the UK at one site? We made the most of the time watching them resting, mating and ovipositing before we made our way back to the Observatory quite stunned by what we had just observed. I haven't retuned anymore during their flight period but it would be quite possible that over 200 could have been seen. We did survey another pool a few hundred metres away and found a solitary female Dainty Damselfly so it is hoped that they may well spread to other areas and slowly colonise. I think I can safely say as far as Odonata goes that seeing Dainty Damselfly this year and in such numbers will be my highlight of the year quite easily. Fingers crossed that they have a good winter and emerge next year in good numbers and that others get the chance to see this stunningly rare damselfly.  


Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - female