Saturday, 20 July 2019

Early Morning Rewards

With the Willow Emerald Damselfly season underway this week at Nethergong, I wanted to see if I could find and photograph an emergence of this species. A couple of visits during the week had produced 44 newly emerged Willow Emerald Damselfly. With this in mind, I arrived quite early this morning at Nethergong where unfortunately, the weather was not that great with cloudy skies and quite a strong breeze but thankfully, the stream was in the shelter of the trees and it felt quite sheltered here. I had a few initial walks up and down the stream and found a few Willow Emerald Damselflies having already emerged and waiting for their maiden flights in the vegetation and eventually found a couple of damselflies in the middle of emerging. As I kept on searching, I parted some reeds and found a Willow Emerald Damselfly nymph clinging to the reeds and not too far from the bank at all. Using my monopod to lay on the reeds, I was then able to get an uncluttered view of the nymph and settled in and waited. I went back to the car for the tripod and after setting up, I was poised and had a lovely view. The nymph went through the motions of making sure the site was suitable enough to emerge from and after a period of stillness, the damselfly started to emerge. With the tripod set up low, I was able to good a good angle on the emergence and throughout the next 2 hours, I took a selection of photos of each stage as the Willow Emerald Damselfly emerged. Occasionally a few early morning campers would walk by and a few were quite inquisitive as to what I was doing laying down in the reeds. Other than fighting off Mosquito, I was able to show them this sight that not many others have probably observed. They seemed quite impressed and left me to carry on firing off shots. Eventually I had my set and feeling quite pleased, I moved my monopod and left the damselfly to wait for the warmth of the day to make his maiden flight. I've said it many times I'm aware but what a privilege again to witness such an amazing spectacle of this lovely species. Breakfast had been earnt but later in the day, I returned for and hour to see what was moving. The wind had moved round by now and was quite strong but I did manage to see 12 Willow Emerald Damselfly making their maiden flights, 1 Brown Hawker, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Norfolk Hawker and quite a few Azure and Blue tailed Damselfly. More good news was on the cards though when I found my first ever 3 Small Red eyed Damselflies for this site. I have looked in previous years with out success so it was very satisfying to at last see some at Nethergong. I'm sure a further search in the area would turn up more of them and that's maybe a job for another day.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male emerging
Small Red eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) - male

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Willow Season Arrives

Mid July heralds the beginning of the Willow Emerald Damselfly season at Nethergong and a time I always look forward to every year. A few visits over the past weekends to survey the stream with a net provided good numbers of fully grown Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs along with lesser numbers of Emerald Damselfly nymphs. I was hopeful that a visit after work this week would produce the first adults flying and this proved to be the case yesterday when I made a visit to Nethergong at 4pm in sunny, warm conditions where I found 6 Willow Emerald Damselflies making their maiden flights from the vegetation at the stream. It's always exciting seeing the first ones of the year and some time was spent observing their fresh markings before the camera got the better of me and I spent some time photographing a few individuals before they flew off into the cover of the nearby trees. No doubt in the next few weeks that good numbers will be emerging and I hope this site once again proves to be one of the best sites in the country to see this species. Other dragonflies noted included 1 Brown Hawker, 4 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Four spotted Chaser, 1 Black tailed Skimmer, 16 Emerald Damselfly and good numbers of Blue tailed Damselfly and Azure Damselfly. With less than a week to go until the summer holidays arrive, I'm hopeful of a few visits to monitor the Willow Emerald Damselflies in the next month and hopefully a visit to Oare Marshes for the Southern Migrant Hawkers which seem to be slowly building in number.

 Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - teneral female

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female exuviae… and friend

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) Emerging... Nearly!

For one reason or another, I have not managed to get out as much as I would have liked in the past few weeks but thankfully this weekend, I have managed a few hours at Nethergong where the Willow Emerald Damselfly season is nearly upon us. In other areas, this species is already flying but I normally see my first at Nethergong during the third week so I am hopeful that this coming week will see the first emerging here. To back this up, I have spent a few mornings dipping in various parts of the stream during Saturday and Sunday and have managed to find at least 50 Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs. Many were fully grown and weather permitting, I hope be able to make an after work visit to see whether any have emerged yet. Dipping has also produced a few Migrant Hawker nymphs as well as Emperor Dragonfly nymphs, Emerald Damselfly nymphs and a fully grown Brown Hawker nymph. Walking around Nethergong has produced the odd Emerald Damselfly but numbers are still currently low. It was last weekend whilst checking the frog pond that I noticed a few Emperor Dragonfly exuviae on the reeds and as I continued searching, I soon become aware that quite a few Common Darters were emerging. Better still that continued searching provided me with my first few Migrant Hawker exuviae that I have managed to find at this site. This morning I was due to lead a wildlife walk around the site at 8am for 6 people when as I checked the pond, I noticed a Migrant Hawker was emerging about a metre from the bank. I only had a few minutes and the rain was starting but I was able to lay down on my belly and capture a few photos before leaving and meeting the clients. After meeting up and telling them of my find, they were keen to see there first dragonfly emerging so a few minutes later, I was able to show them this fascinating sight. To say they were happy was an understatement and we spent a while watching the emergence and I was able to get a few more photos. I was also able to show them emerging Common Darters and plenty of exuviae which they enjoyed before we moved on. I had earlier collected a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs which they studied and this gave me the excuse to explain their lifecycle. After we had continued on walking we ended up back at the pond where once again, we watched the Migrant Hawker pumping up its wings and yet more photos were taken. I have yet to photograph this species emerging and this is the closest I have got so far but hopefully, my luck will change in the near future. A very successful tour of the site for the clients and nice to be able to share some dragonfly and damselfly knowledge with them. As mentioned earlier, Hopefully I can find my first Willow Emerald Damselflies next week or weekend along with hopefully a search for Southern Migrant Hawkers at Oare Marshes. Fingers crossed they return like last year.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male emerging

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Another 'Stag' Party!

After seeing my first ever Stag Beetles a few nights ago in Whitstable and savouring the experience, I really wanted to see them again and hoped that Steve would have a few more in his garden. Despite him spending quite a while searching, no more have been seen yet but I'm still hopeful that he will get a few more that I might be able to see and photograph. Seeing my recent tweets on Twitter, Andrew Malone put a few photos up of Stag Beetles in his garden which is also in Whitstable and mentioned that I was welcome to visit if he was in one evening. Thankfully last night, Andrew sent me another photo saying that a few males and females were in his garden and that was it. A few messages later and I was soon arriving on his doorstep and venturing into what is a stunning wildlife garden. Andrew showed me the holes the Stag Beetles come out of after years underground and various noises could be heard in the undergrowth. It wasn't long until I was photographing a couple of male Stag Beetles up close and also making the time to study these stunning insects. There were two ideal scenarios that I wanted to see which included seeing a Stag Beetle in flight and seeing my first ever female Stag Beetle. With some patience, I eventually managed a couple of images of a male Stag Beetle preparing to fly and then watched it flying around noisily before being lost to view over the neighbour's garden, superb. Andrew wouldn't be beaten and before I left, he found a female Stag Beetle walking through the grass which I was then able to briefly photograph and study before she was returned back to the grass to continue her night. An excellent hour spent studying these quite remarkable insects and also, my thanks must go to Andrew for his great hospitality and tour of his lovely wildlife garden and of course, showing me a few Stag Beetles. Fingers crossed that Andrew or Steve will get lucky again and that I might be able to make another visit to improve on my shots taken so far and further my knowledge on this species.

 Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) - male

Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) - female