Thursday, 31 July 2014

Blue Eyed Boy Makes My Day!

After dropping the family off at the beach with some friends about 10.30am this morning I headed over to Nethergong campsite where the plan was to have a wander around and maybe try to find some dragonfly and damselfly larvae in the shallow ponds. After speaking to the owners I made my way off in the sunshine where I had a good few hours photographing and looking at dragonflies. As I walked up the main path a Migrant Hawker was on the wing but I made my way to a ditch where I had a patrolling Brown Hawker the other day and hoped it would still be there and maybe a chance to capture a photo of this camera shy species. On arrival I could see a large Dragonfly flying up and down but this was an immature male Southern Hawker. I don't have many shots of this species so set about trying to capture a flight shot. I only had a few gaps in the reeds to work with but I managed a few shots and a couple turned out not too bad.

Immature Male Southern Hawker

As I watched the Hawker I noticed a small Hawker appear in the ditch and as it flew past I was amazed to see bright blue eyes and a blue abdomen. I straight away new this was a male SOUTHERN MIGRANT HAWKER, a rare dragonfly in this country and a Mega species for East Kent, is this the first I wonder? I have never seen this species before but have been told by others if I saw a male I would know straight away. I was lucky that it flew low down against the reeds making the dragonfly stand out well and how well those bright blue eyes stood out. A few seconds later and it was chased off by the Southern Hawker and gained height and was lost to view. I waited around hoping it would return and despite spending the next two hours walking around checking dykes and ditches I failed to refind it. I later returned to the original ditch where there was now a male Migrant Hawker flying around and it was good to see how different these two species can be and that I had not gone mad. I saw a few more Migrant Hawkers and checked them all but nothing stood out at all. I wonder where this individual has come from and perhaps they are slowly spreading, are more individuals out there and that not many people are looking for them, time will tell I suppose. Although I didn't get a chance of a photo, I at least have a visual memory of the occasion and maybe I will get my chance with this species one year. After the excitement and walking around other species seen today included 3 Brown Hawker, 3 Black tailed Skimmer, 1 Broad bodied Chaser in very good condition still which provided a photo opportunity, quite a few Common Darter with a few Ruddy Darter, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, c20 Banded Demoiselle and lots of Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselfly.

Male Broad bodied Chaser

This evening I spent and hour trying to photograph Brown Hawkers again at Westbere Lakes but despite seeing c6, none posed and when one did catch a female Banded Demoiselle if flew high up into a tree to have its dinner. Anyway a brilliant day with a new species seen being the Southern Migrant Hawker and a few shots in the session. I am camping with family and friends at Nethergong over the weekend and so weather permitting I shall be able to grab an hour or so to see if the blue eyed beauty can be found again.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The 'Ex' Factor

With the forecast looking quite sunny this morning and only a few hours available to go out until we went out as a family I decided to visit a private site south of Reculver and see if I could find any exuvia or larval cases of dragonflies and damselflies. Armed with my daughters pond net in lemon yellow and a few trays and wellington boots I left home at 6.30am where a minute or two later I arrived. The sun was already shining and as I walked down the path Common Darters were already rising from the bushes. I set about walking a few metres into the water and checking the various clumps of reeds and was soon finding what I think were Common Darter exuvia. I collected a few which I will photograph and post in a few days. Walking on there were lots of Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselfly and a few Emerald Damselfly rising from the reeds but a check of a few clumps of reeds produced some much bigger exuvia which provided a nice photo challenge.

Migrant Hawker Exuvia

I thought at first they were going to be Emperor exuvia but they were a lot smaller and measuring them on arriving home revealed they were between 30 and 35mm in length. I found 6 of them in a small area and after checking some dragonfly books and photos and based on their length, believe they are probably Migrant Hawker exuvia, although please correct me if I have got this wrong. I am yet to see a Migrant Hawker at this site this year but suspect they emerge at night and move off once dried out. I will hopefully have a look for some more in the next few days.

Migrant Hawker Exuvia (side view) 

 Migrant Hawker Exuvia (underside) 

After collecting a few I took to the water with a net for a bit of dipping. I obviously need to brush up on this for I only managed to catch 1 probable Common Darter larvae, again I will post some shots later in the week of this. I will try a few more areas in the coming weeks for some dipping as I'm sure I can catch something quite nice to study and photograph. The last bit of the session was a quick wander around the area where I saw a few Black tailed Skimmer, 1 Small Red eyed Damselfly, lots of Common Darter, 1 Ruddy Darter, 1 Emperor Dragonfly and 1 Four spotted Chaser. The family are off the to the beach tomorrow with friends giving me a few hours out from around 11am. I may well pop back down to Nethergong for some pond dipping and see also if I can cross paths with the Brown Hawker!

Migrant Hawker Exuvia (top side) 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Catching Up With The Chaser

One of the sites that I have regularly visited this year near Reculver have seen a good number of Four spotted Chasers. Although they are generally quite common around, although literally just across the road in Reculver airspace I have yet to see this species and it remains a scarce species there. With finding a few good species at this site this year, Lesser Emperor Dragonfly, Southern Emerald and Scarce Emerald Damselfly, I have often ignored this species with the camera and made it a priority the last session to get an image of this Chaser. Most of the time they were busily patrolling territories and landing out of reach for the camera but I found an individual that wasn't in too bad condition that was regularly using the same perch. I took a number of shots with a few turning out not too bad, changes angles occasionally to try to get a photo with a clean background which was a challenge with plenty of background noise to contend with, reeds, branches etc. Just the one photo today, no need for lots. I like the angle on this one with a hint of glare on the wings. Simple pleasures that we get from taking photos of these fascinating dragonflies.

Four spotted Chaser

Monday, 28 July 2014

A Walk in the Wind

With the forecast looking a bit dodgy after midday I opted for a quick session this morning at 9am where not in ideal conditions for finding dragonflies I drove over to a site south of Reculver. On arrival it was cloudy and most annoyingly, very windy but I thought there might be a few sheltered areas where I could get looking. I spent about 2 hours wandering around and saw a few species including c50 Common Darter which provided the camera with a little action this morning including a nice close up of the compound eyes.

Common Darter

Also seen were hundreds of Common Blue Damselfly but despite being everywhere were not easy to get any photos of. I managed a few shots later on which despite the cloud and dull skies, did not turn out too bad.

Common Blue Damselfly

Moving on I noted 1 female Emperor Dragonfly, 4 Black tailed Skimmer, 1 Ruddy Darter, lots of Blue tailed Damselfly, 3 Small Red eyed Damselfly and c10 Emerald Damselfly. With the clouds getting even darker and drizzle in the air I walked back to the car and within a few minutes was home putting the kettle on. Lets hope this weather improves in the next few days and that I can get out in between family events for a few hours to find a few dragonflies.

Common Blue Damselfly