Friday, 31 July 2015

'Southern' Delights!

With the forecast for today looking very good with light winds, I had unfinished business with the nationally rare Southern Migrants Hawkers at Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex. I hoped that after my last session where I managed a distant record shot, that the weather would be on my side for once and that I may be able to see them and get a few decent images. I arrived at around 10am where the sun was already quite warm and the wind was indeed, very light which was good news. After getting ready and a brief snack and drink, I made my way to the pond where Neil Phillips had seen them the other day. There was already someone on site but despite waiting around for a while, we had no sightings so I decided to have a wander around. I checked a likely area with no luck but walking back to the main pool, I found 1 Southern Migrant Hawker flying up and down the boardwalk which showed well. I took a few images thinking they were quite good, they were to the other day but little did I know what lay in wait for the next hour or so. As I arrived back at the main pool, another dragonfly enthusiast saw a hawker on the other side of the pool where Neil had photographed them the other day. We walked round and was greeted by a superb male Southern Migrant Hawker flying around a small opening which along with another male, stayed around for an hour or so. We had 2, probably 3 male SOUTHERN MIGRANT HAWKERS sightings on this pool and after my 'record' shot the other day, I certainly improved on these with some stunning views of them perched and in flight. I did not expect to get shots like these of such a rare dragonfly in this country but even I am really pleased how they come out, some of my best photos I think I have taken this year. As the sun went in for a while, they landed nearby and allowed some nice profile shots from the side showing the key features of this species. Neil Phillips joined us for a while and was soon firing off a number of shots and after a good look at them through the binoculars, I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the car where I saw 1 Southern Migrant Hawker still flying up and down the boardwalk. Also seen today were a few Ruddy and Common Darters and 1 Emperor Dragonfly. A superb session with the images I had dreamed I would get in the bag and nice to be able to spent time and study them at close range. I don't think I will take a better set this year and to capture such a rarity is just the icing on the cake, suberb!

Southern Migrant Hawker (male)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Emerging Willow Emerald Damselfly

Having had a very sore back for the past few days and thankfully with the school holidays now here, I have been able to rest up but have not really been able to get out much for any photography. The weather does not seem to have been that good for a few days now so I don't think I have missed that much. This morning I decided enough was enough and thought I would have an early morning session at a few sites near Reculver. I arrived at 5.45am where the sun was already shining but it felt quite cold for once. I spent some time walking around where I did not note that much, just 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Small Red eyed Damselfly, c15 Common Emerald Damselfly, 1 Migrant Hawker, a few Common Darter and quite a few Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselfly. I decided to move on to a site at Reculver to look for Willow Emerald Damselfly but despite a search, I failed to find any. I did see quite a few Common Blue Damselfly here and 1 Migrant Hawker. With the sun now warming up nicely I drove over to Marshside where out of the wind, I thought I would look for Willow Emerald Damselflies along the road near 'Little Grays Farm'. I started walking along the road checking the bank side vegetation where a few flew up and into the trees and as I scanned the reed line, I could see a Willow Emerald Damselfly emerging. Thankfully I was able to get into a position where I spent the next hour sitting down and photographing the emergence. If I had been a bit earlier, I would have managed more shots as it emerged from the exuviae but I was more than happy to witness this first for me and take a number of pleasing images. Like any emergence, its just a privilege to sit and witness the spectacle and I doubt whether many have been observed emerging in this country although they are spreading well. Towards the end of the session as I was getting ready to leave, I heard a rustle of wing beats in the reeds and watched as a Migrant Hawker climbed up the reeds and made its maiden flight. Another quality session and always nice to come home with a few photos to look at. Hopefully another session on Friday at Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex if the weather looks good for more Southern Migrant Hawkers. I just hope they are still around and give me a few chances with the camera.

'Teneral' Willow Emerald Damselfly (male)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Southern Migrant Hawker

With news in the past few days filtering out that a few nationally rare Southern Migrant Hawkers had been seen at Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex, I arranged to meet the man himself who has spent a lot of time studying this species in this country, Neil Phillips. I made the drive this morning leaving home around 8.30am and arrived an hour or so later where the forecast sun was trying to come through. I have never visited this site before but there was some great habitat for a good number of dragonflies. Neil arrived just before 10.30am and we were soon joined by TV producer Stephen Moss who also wanted to see this rare species and off we went in search of our quarry. We were soon looking at the pool where Neil had seen them a few days previous and had managed to obtain some stunning images, click HERE for Neil's Blog. The weather played a big factor today however as it was quite windy for most of the day and although the sun was out, the clouds always prevented any prolonged sunny spells. We waited and waited and then I saw a hawker flying over the pool which we all got on, but at a distance, it was difficult to definitely say it was a Southern Migrant Hawker although Neil felt it probably was. Again more waiting and then during another sunny spell, a hawker appeared on the other side of the pool and seemed to vanish into a sheltered area. We walked around and joined some others who were also looking and our luck was in as the hawker was flying around at head height, sometimes only a few feet away as it flew past us which gave us the chance to check out the features. Neil was soon grilling it and was happy this was indeed a male SOUTHERN MIGRANT HAWKER. We had more brief views before it soon disappeared again. Back to more watching and chatting and were were joined by more people but no more sign so a few decided to go an check out another area they have been seen in. This proved a good decision as we were soon being called to this area where they had found a perched male. Although I was chuffed to have seen one, I did want a photo and I was soon looking up high into a tree where it was pointed out to us. It was indeed quite high but through the binoculars, the striking blue eyes and abdomen could be seen and although I only had the Canon f4 300mm lens on, I rattled off a few shots before the sun come out again and it took flight.

Southern Migrant Hawker (male)

We then watched for c10 minutes as it flew around over the reeds and hedge line and I managed pleasing views of this beauty. Flight photos were out of the question as it never paused but I was at least happy to have photographed this very rare dragonfly, albeit a record shot. It landed again distantly in another hedge so we left it here and walked back to our original place. No more sightings here although we did see a Southern Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly and a few Ruddy Darter so before I left, we returned back to the area we had seen it in and once again saw it in flight. Moving on we also saw a couple of Migrant Hawker which concluded a very good day. It would have been nice to get a few flight shots but I was really pleased to have been able to see this rare dragonfly and be able to obtain good views of it. Many thanks to Neil Phillips for meeting me and taking the time to show me around Wat Tyler and off course, delivering the all important Southern Migrant Hawker. Happy days!!

Southern Migrant Hawker (male)

Monday, 20 July 2015

Hairy Goodbyes!

The last few sessions I have had of late have failed to deliver any sightings of one of my favorite dragonflies, the iconic Hairy Dragonfly. I have found myself in mid April the past few years waiting for the first warm sunny days where I have ventured out to see the first dragonfly of the year on the wing. Iv'e often had a few no shows in mid April but the anticipation builds up until one session, you hear the buzz of wings take off and you watch as the Hairy Dragonfly flies off. I have had a few encounters this year and its always a thrill to get the first images of the year as they look in pristine condition. It seems that Westbere Lakes had not had the best year for them or either I have been unlucky for I have seen a few most sessions but not the numbers and encounters I managed last year, and especially not with the camera. My next mission with this species is to try to find some nymphs come the late summer which maybe I can photograph and rear through to emergence next year. Again, this would be a superb opportunity to photograph this event and one that I hope will maybe happen sometime. I might have seen my last this year but you never know, but here are a few photos from this year, some of which I have not published yet of the super Hairy Dragonfly.

Hairy Dragonfly (mating pair) 

Hairy Dragonfly (male)