Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Trip to Norfolk!

Well actually, just a 10 minute drive down the road to Westbere Lakes where there is a thriving colony of the nationally rare Norfolk Hawker. This dragonfly in the past few years continues to go from strength to strength with plenty of sightings this year in the Stour Valley and beyond in east Kent. I have spoken to a number of observers this year who have seen groups of 7-10 at different locations around the area and it really looks likely now that they are breeding or attempting to breed away from the Westbere Lakes stronghold. I would really like to spend a day in the area doing a count as I think we would all be surprised by the number around but its just getting the time to get out for a good number of hours. However, please feel free to continue to email or tweet me with your sightings of this dragonfly. They are all very much appreciated and help build up a picture of how this dragonfly is doing in east Kent. With a number of sightings being seen, I made a visit to Westbere Lakes for an hour or so Sunday afternoon in sunny but quite windy conditions. As I neared the dykes near the river, I soon saw the first of c10 Norfolk Hawker flying up the channels and across the paths chasing other males around. I spent some time having a good study of them before the camera made an appearance and a good number of photos were taken. I found one male which was showing quite nicely in flight and I spent some time firing off a number of photos. A few turned out quite nicely but with the wind being quite strong, it was quite challenging and hopefully I can return for another attempt at this. Weather permitting this weekend, I can share my time between looking for Emerald and Willow Emerald Damselflies emerging and another visit to Norfolk to take in the experience once again. Its certainly worth a visit if you have the time. 

Norfolk Hawker (male)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Willow Emerald Damselfly Nymph

With a few Emerald Damselfly on the wing now and a very early Willow Emerald Damselfly seen during the week in eastern England, I thought I would make a visit to Nethergong yesterday morning in the hope that a walk through the long grasses next to the stream might produce either of the species. On arrival early morning, it was cloudy and quite windy so the task was made harder by the fact that nothing was going to readily fly in these conditions. However, despite a good search of the area and stream side reeds, I could not find any or any exuviae. I suspect that another week will see the Emerald Damselflies emerge and I normally see my first Willow Emerald Damselflies in the second week of July. I had to return home around 8am to take my daughter to karate but decided to return to Nethergong after with my tank where the plan was to do some pond dipping and see whether I could find any nymphs, preferably Emerald and Willow Emerald Damselflies. I was back on site at 9am where I spent a while setting up the tank and sorting  background colours etc. The camera was put on the tripod to make the job easier and then it was time to collect a few nymphs. I tried a few different areas and was surprised to catch a number of well grown Emerald Damselfly nymphs which were easily identifiable by their tennis racket shaped mask and dark banded caudal lamellae. It wasn't long until I soon found a few well grown Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs which all appeared a little broader along the back compared to the Emerald Damselfly nymphs. The pale banding on the caudal lamellae was evident as was the shorter mask which is one of the key features in identifying this species. I put a well grown individual in the tank on some weed and thankfully, she was more than happy to stay pretty still most of the time where I was able to rattle off a number of pleasing images of this nymph showing the key features. It was very refreshing and nice to be out in the field photographing the nymphs in the tank rather than indoors and although quite a bit of equipment was needed, I could at least park a few metres away. With both the Emerald and Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs looking ready for emergence pretty soon, I hope that weather permitting that I can return next weekend where hopefully a few are flying. I spent an hour or so at Westbere Lakes this afternoon where I saw c10 Norfolk Hawker and took a number of images which I shall hopefully post during the week.

Willow Emerald Damselfly Nymph 

Willow Emerald Damselfly Nymph Caudal Lamellae 

 Willow Emerald Damselfly Nymph

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Lure of West Kent

With news of a few Golden ringed Dragonflies being seen by Mark Tomlins near Lamberhurst in a private wood, I arranged to meet up with Mark who had kindly agreed to take me to the area within the woods. After meeting up for a brief chat, we drove on down to the woods where after parking up, we continued further into the woods in his 4x4. I had in my mind that we would be sitting near a stream but I couldn't have been further from the truth when we pulled up to see a large circular pond in the middle of the woods. Mark had seen a few Golden ringed Dragonflies visiting the pond in previous days and as we started to scan the pool, it wasn't long until 1 Golden ringed Dragonfly flew in and started to fly around the pool before coming to rest on the furthest possible perch. Mark had photographed one a few days earlier on a few nearer perches so I didn't concern myself with trying to get some shots on the other side. How wrong I was for the Golden ringed Dragonfly decided to vanish and despite waiting around for a few hours, it never returned. For compensation though, there were good numbers of Large Red, Azure, Blue tailed Damselfly and White legged Damselfly along with a few Four spotted Chaser, Broad bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly and Brown Hawkers. The lily pads were littered with Southern Hawker exuviae and Silver washed Fritillary and White Admiral were numerous in the woods. Despite the no show of the Golden ringed Dragonfly, it was still a really nice day and superb area within a wood to spend hours studying the local wildlife. 

Four spotted Chaser (male)

White legged Damselfly (male) 

White legged Damselfly (immature male)

Monday, 19 June 2017

Dazzling Demoiselles

I spent a few hours on Sunday morning at Nethergong where the aim was to see if any Emerald Damselfly could be found and then hopefully locate a few exuviae of this species which I could add to my growing collection. However, despite a good search of the long grasses alongside the stream and reeds on the waters edge for any exuviae, I drew a blank on both fronts. Hopefully they will emerge during this warm spell this week and I may encounter them during next weekend. I did spend a short while pond dipping at the stream which produced 3 Emerald Damselfly nymphs of good size which looked like they may emerge soon. As I then sat back at the waters edge having a drink, I noticed a good number of Banded Demoiselle patrolling the stream and this kept me occupied as they flew out every now and then to either catch prey, chase females or intruders. It was this point that I decided that rather than walk around searching in the heat, I would sit back and try to get a few photographs of the males and just enjoy the experience of these stunners. Its easy to overlook them as they speed down the stream quickly but when perched and quite close, the detail and colours on them is nothing short of incredible. As I had been sat patiently at the stream, a few male Banded Demoiselle moved in and rested on the reeds which gave me the perfect excuse to take a number of photos. I noticed with one male that he would fly out to catch prey and after returning back to the perch, would spread his wings a few times which provided yet more photo opportunities. I really can't get enough of this species and hopefully will have a few more encounters with the camera this season. Also noted as I sat at the stream were 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 2 Hairy Dragonfly, 1 Norfolk Hawker, 1 Four spotted Chaser and good numbers of Blue tailed and Azure Damselfly. I'm hoping to get out at the weekend for another search of this area as well as trying to fit in a trip to Westbere to see how the Norfolk Hawkers are doing. From what I am being told, they are having a good season in east Kent with sightings at a number of locations. 

Banded Demoiselle (male)