Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Reculver Red Rump!

I had intended to get up quite early this morning and do the rounds at Reculver but after waking up surprisingly late, I thought I would stay in and do some house chores. The girls needed dropping at clubs etc during the morning and as I was changing the duvet covers mid morning, I heard my phone go off down stairs. I asked Poppy who it was and she said "you have a message from Matt Hindle". Normally a message from Matt is good news and this was no different for when I opened up the message it alerted me to Red Rumped Swallow that he, Chris and Anne Hindle had just found south of Reculver Towers. The duvet was instantly left and I was in panic mode as not only was this a great bird anyway but also a Reculver patch tick.. I quickly said my goodbyes after grabbing the camera, binoculars and coat and was soon travelling down the Thanet Way to the area. I arrived not surprisingly quite quickly and although it was very dull with quite heavy cloud, I soon could see the Hindle family watching a group of hirundines. I joined them and very soon after, there it was in all it fantastic glory flying around with groups of Swallow, House and Sand Martins. After getting some nice views through the binoculars noting all the features, I thought I had better try and capture a photo of the occasion, easier said than done as like most will know, hirundines are not the slowest movers! I took a few images, a lot being out of focus but the odd one remained in focus and showed the features nicely, it was just a shame that the clouds were quite heavy and didn't give me a nice background colour.

Red Rumped Swallow

After flying around for some time and more nice views, the clouds started to break which typically meant that the hirundine flock including the Red Rumped Swallow moved off towards Reculver Towers where eventually it was lost to view. What was probably the same bird was seen a little later flying west past Bishopstone with a few hirundines. Also noted here was 1 Turtle Dove 'purring' away, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, a few Chiffchaff and Blackcap, 3 Skylark and 1 Grey Heron. A superb bird and great to catch up with this rare Reculver bird and add it to my ever growing Reculver patch list. I will have to find out what i'm on now for the area.

Red Rumped Swallow

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Azure Damselfly Emerges

With a slightly cooler day today but when the sun was out it was quite warm in the back garden, I took a few looks at the pond to see if any damselflies were emerging. Around mid morning I could see a Large Red Damselfly was in the middle of emerging from a sheltered stem in the pond so I watched its progress for a while and while watching, I nearly missed another damselfly starting to crawl up one of the carefully positioned stems. Unlike the dark Large Red Damselfly nymphs, this was very light in colour and used the stem to hide well whenever I tried to get a look. I decided to get the camera ready and after preparing food and drinks, I settled in for hopefully some emergence action. I let it climb up and settle itself down into position before I moved closer with the camera. After preparing settings which incidentally where AV mode, ISO 400, f8 and speed around 600, I then spent the next 30 minutes or so taking a series of photographs of the emergence and I was not disappointed with the spectacle or the photos I managed to obtain. I wasn't too sure which species had emerged but having looked at books, spoken to a few people and taking a few more shots a few hours later when the damselfly had some colour on it, I have come to the conclusion that it is an Azure Damselfly, my first of the year. Please correct me though if I am wrong. As mentioned in earlier posts, it won't always be this easy with photos but i'm not complaining at the moment, just thankful of the chance to watch and photograph this mostly unseen moment of nature. Also today, the Brown Hawker nymph which I have in a large tank in the garden moulted it skin today, its certainly grown a bit. I will hopefully take a few shots of the skin throughout the weekend.

Azure Damselfly Emerging

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Warm Day in East Kent Delivers!

With the warmest day of the year today predicted for South East England and long sunny spells forecast, I decided to have a drive over to Shuart near Reculver to look for any early Hairy Dragonflies. Last year I saw my first here on the 16th April and although it may be a little early for them, I thought it was worth a try. On arrival about 12.30pm, it was indeed very warm and with a light wind, I had a good chance of seeing one should any have emerged. I spent an hour or so walking around the sheltered hedges but despite a good search, I did not find any. I did see however every other British 'bug'! Hopefully the next few days will deliver the first Hairy Dragonfly as the weather looks quite good. I will try again to get out to search for them as i'm sure the warm weather will trigger some of them to emerge. Arriving back home mid afternoon and with everyone out shopping, I had a look at the pond and could see a Large Red Damselfly nymph on one of the sticks I had put out at a forty five degree angle. I had put this one at an angle on purpose and made sure that the backround was a natural green colour of the grass to hopefully contrast the damselfly emerging. After getting the camera and getting comfortable on the grass, I took a number of shots of the emergence. It had just about started emerging prior to me starting but I took a series of photos and ended up with a few pleasing images again. Today in the good sunlight I used AV Mode, ISO 400, f8 and the speed was no less than 600. Another quality session in the comfort of the garden and nice afterwards to sit out and have a cold drink and ice cream! I wonder what the next few days will bring?

Large Red Damselfly Emerging

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A Moment in Time Captured!

After getting up this morning and having a cuppa and breakfast, I popped out to the pond about 8am to see that a Large Red Damselfly was already in position on one of the stems and ready to emerge. This time I didn't rush for the camera but just sat back and watched the action unfold before my eyes. It often takes some time for the nymph to get fully ready, their legs trying to bind on to the stem in the best way. After drying out and getting into a favourable position, there is a moment of  stillness where I assume the nymph is preparing to emerge. I have observed that prior to emergement, the tip of the abdomen is often moved around, sometimes quite violently and at times, you think its grip may be released but they seem to hang on. As the damselfly emerges you see the top of the thorax swelling and quite quickly the head appears and starts to rise up. As if to get his breath back and take in the view, the damselfly then spends the next few minutes stationary before the legs gain strength and he reaches back to the stem. Again there seems to be a short rest here before the abdomen fully appears and he is free and a damselfly at last. I have had a few people ask me what the white strings are on the exuvia that are left behind afterwards. I must admit for a while I didn't know myself but having read quite a lot in the past few months, they are the tracheal tubes that once transported oxygen. They remain attached to the exuvia and are pulled out as the thorax is exposed. At this stage the damselfly is still quite small, the wings are all crumpled up but during the next 30 minutes or so, the body pumps and the wings and abdomen grow in size, its impressive to watch. The colouration starts to darken on the thorax and head and after the big ordeal and resting up, they often make their maiden flight, hopefully to survive for a short while and find a mate to repeat the process all over again. I made a few more excursions to the pond during the day and eventually I had 4 Large Red Damselflies all resting up on the stems, having emerged. With the sun shining I took a few shots of one emerging and just wanted to see how much detail the Canon 7d can give in these close conditions. The results were very pleasing but I suppose its much easier in the comfort of your own home laying on flat grass with not much in the way and the fences sheltering the wind. I'm sure it will be a bit trickier soon as I hang out over some water up to my knees in windy conditions trying to get 'that' shot. Just one photo today, I like the detail in this shot and its a moment in time captured of the nymph transforming into the Large Red Damselfly. If you haven't ever seen an emergence, get down to some water soon and scan the margins, you will see a miracle performed in front of your eyes. 

Large Red Damselfly Emerging