Thursday, 23 February 2017

Up Close With a Broad Bodied Chaser Nymph

I spent a few hours earlier in the week during the evening photographing a Broad bodied Chaser nymph up close in my indoor tank. I think its fair to say that as far as looks go, these nymphs have not been blessed in that department but are perfectly equipped for the type of lifestyle they lead. Rather than going in pursuit of prey, they normally lay low in the mud and silt with just their eyes and tip of the abdomen sticking up and wait for hours in the hope that some prey will pass overhead where in the blink of an eye, the jaws are opened and shot forward to grab the unsuspecting prey. I have witnessed a few of these attacks whilst observing them in my indoor tank and although I have mainly small shingle in there, they can easily move down in between them and hide. The hairs on their body are designed to cling onto the debris they mix with and this also provides more camouflage for them. They often take a while to locate but with a few bits of worm introduced to the tank nearby, this can usually prompt an attack. As this species spends quite a while sitting still, they often can make for an easier subject to photograph and when in position near the front of the glass, I was able to take a good number of photos and despite the lack of depth of field which is a challenge with macro photography, I was quite pleased with a number of photos. 

Broad bodied Chaser Nymph

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Tank Away Day

With the family going out with friends on Friday and most of the day to myself, I decided to have a few hours dipping at Westbere to see what I could find, study and possibly photograph. However, this time I decided to take along my tank with me and set it up next to where I was dipping. I don't normally do this but thought it would be a good test to see how it and I fared with the conditions. All being well, I hope to take it along with me to find and photograph nymphs that I do not get in east Kent. I eventually arrived on site with all the equipment and set up the tank, water, leaves and the background colour as well as the tripod and camera in position. I spent the next few hours walking a few hundred yards either side of the tank and managed to find a few Hairy Dragonfly nymphs as well as Variable and Azure Damselfly nymphs. I was going through the net on one occasion when I noticed another hawker type nymph in the net. I started to panic thinking it was a Norfolk Hawker nymph and knowing they are a protected species, was a bit unsure on whether I could photograph it. I started looking through a few photos on the internet and consulting a book I had with me and finally come to the conclusion that it was a Migrant Hawker nymph. The points leading me to this were the shortish mask, the lateral spine on S9 reaching beyond the middle of S10, the Cerci about half the length of the paraprocts and the shape of the epiproct which is quite distinctive when you know what you are looking for. I have never photographed one of these before as a nymph so was quite excited about my find. I introduced it to the tank and after a few changes of settings etc, started firing off a few shots.

Migrant Hawker Nymph - female (25mm)

Showing the Tip Shape of the Epiproct

I attracted a few passers by who were interested in what I was doing and I made the most of educating them about the nymphs. I was quite pleased with the photos but have had to do a bit of work on them to remove air bubbles, marks etc that I could not really help given the time I had to set up the tank. I also took a number of photos of the nymph in the white collection tray which show off the details quite well and I will hopefully publish these in due coarse. A really good experience with lots learnt about the set up and one that I will definitely try again. I may even have another away day at Thursley Common this year with the tank to find and photograph a few species that I have not photographed yet or that do not appear in Kent. 

Migrant Hawker Nymph - female (25mm)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A Day of Demoiselles

After reviewing my photos from my last post and a look on the internet for new ideas on how to capture these shots, I decided to have another visit to the stream at Nethergong where I spent an hour trying to find a few larger Banded Demoiselles. It took the best part of an hour before I finally managed to capture a near fully grown Banded Demoiselle nymph which measured 30mm, 10mm of this being the length of the caudal lamellae. I had already spent some time earlier in the day giving the tank a good clean and finding a variety of leaves which would be soaked and used as a background if needed. I decided to try that evening for a few photos but despite a good try, I really could not get the background colour right to show off the subject and so with this in mind, I decided to have another go first thing in the morning where the light would be much better. I was up and ready to photograph by 9am where in the conservatory, the sun was shining and warming up nicely and after getting everything into position, I was again looking to improve upon my shots. After taking a number of photos but the background not being quite as I liked, I thought I would use the sandy colour on the back of one of the table place mats. I rested it up against the back of the tank and using manual mode, f4 - f8, ISO 400 and speed set to 200 and some in camera flash, I then set about taking a number of very pleasing photos which seemed to work well with my choice of background. I may even go as far to say that these may be the best set of nymph photos I have taken to date.

Banded Demoiselle Nymph

This may be however due to the homework I did on settings and background but it just goes to show what can be achieved with a bit of patience and time. I also made time to watch and study the nymph and it was quite apparent that it spent most of the time moving like a Jack Snipe. For those that don't know, it seemed to have a bouncing up and down motion and slowly walked forward doing this. Maybe the moving up and down helps with the breathing or just a mechanism to avoid detection amongst the underwater weeds.

Banded Demoiselle Nymph

It was also noted that every few steps, it would pause and using its front pair of legs, spend some time cleaning and wiping the tips of the antennae. As it often moved, the abdomen would be raised in the air quite high and ever so slowly when relaxed, moved down to ground level. As well as taking the photos, I make sure I find the time to put the camera down and actually study the markings and try to learn something new about each species I collect. Hopefully in this way, I will continue to learn and expand my knowledge. Weather permitting, a few more visits out soon to see what I can collect and photograph before the season really gets going. 

Banded Demoiselle Nymph

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Banded Demoiselle Nymph

With a small window of opportunity yesterday, I made a brief visit to the stream at Nethergong where last year I managed to find and collect a few Banded Demoiselle nymphs. Unlike many dipping sessions, the method I find best works for this species is to disturb the weed in the stream with the net and then move the net downstream where anything released will hopefully float into the net. After a few dips, I soon managed to find a 2 Banded Demoiselle nymphs which measured about 20mm in length, quite small but plenty of growing to do. These are easily recognisable by their 'stick insect' like shape and large caudal lamellae. I already had the tank set up at home ready for a photography session so with my job done, I returned home and spent the next hour photographing them in my indoor tank and studying them at close range. Unlike a lot of nymphs which can be hard to photograph due to the speed they can move at, these were a bit easier as they often spent a lot of the time stationary or walking every now and then. When they seemed agitated, they had a habit of raising their abdomen and moving the caudal lamellae, maybe a warning strategy or something but when relaxed, they would lower their abdomen and move slowly. With a number of photos taken, I put them back into the bowl I collected them in and drove back over to Nethergong and released them straight away into the stream where hopefully they can continue growing successfully. I have visited a few sites lately for species but probably need to find a few more areas where I can find those nymphs I have not photographed yet. I still can't find any Southern Hawker nymphs although I have probably not tried that much in areas for them but hope in the next few weeks, I may get lucky and find a few other species to collect, photograph and release. It certainly passes an evening or two by watching and photographing them and hopefully adds a little education to myself and others who view and read about this fascinating part of their lives. 

Banded Demoiselle Nymph (20mm)