Wednesday, 21 August 2019

A New Site Record

With some nice warm sunny weather and light winds forecast for today, I wanted to make a thorough search of the Nethergong site to establish how the Willow Emerald Damselfly is doing this year on site. Whilst most of my sessions tend to be early morning, it is normally around midday that all the pairing action seems to happen, so with this in mind, I was dropped off at 12:30pm where I spent a good and productive four hours wandering around most of the site. It wasn't long until I started walking along the stream and noticed good numbers of Willow Emerald Damselflies in tandem, a few mating and plenty of ovipositing noted. In a good search of the site, I managed to find an amazing 386 Willow Emerald Damselfly which is a new site record for this species by some distance. They seemed to be every where I checked and I'm sure there were quite a few that were also missed. Some of the Alders and Willows observed had good numbers ovipositing and in some cases, up to 15 pairs were seen in close proximity using the same branch. It was certainly quite a spectacle to see. A few campers passed by and where quite interested in what I was photographing. I explained about the Willow Emerald Damselfly and how being a nationally scarce damselfly, how lucky they were to be seeing them in good numbers. They spent quite a while watching them and certainly seem interested. Today was not about photographs but I took a few every now and then including a mating pair and a few resting.
 


Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - mating pair
 
I could have spent a few more hours photographing them easily. It was also pleasing to see at least 7 Small Red eyed Damselfly including a few mating pairs on the main lake. It was only a few weeks ago that I saw my first here so this is encouraging news. Other bits noted included c15 Emerald Damselfly, 6 Banded Demoiselle, 1 Brown Hawker, 14 Migrant Hawker, a few Blue tailed and Common Blue Damselfly and good numbers of Common and Ruddy Darter. One of those sessions where it was just good to get out and brilliant to see such good numbers of Willow Emerald Damselflies. It must be one of the best sites in the country to see this species. A few days camping over the weekend at Nethergong with friends so hopefully I can have a wander around to see what's about with the camera.
 


Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male
 


Monday, 19 August 2019

A Taste of the South!

After finishing birding at Reculver yesterday (Sunday), I made an hours visit to Nethergong where the sun was shining quite nicely and there was only a slight breeze. Arriving at 9am which is still quite early to find most of the odonata, I spent my time on the eastern side of the site where most of the sun was and managed to find 74 Willow Emerald Damselfly with a few posing nicely for photos which I duly obliged.
 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male 



Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female
 
1 Southern Hawker was also flushed but landed again shortly and after creeping up slowly, I was in a position to rattle off a few shots and spend some time studying the quite superb colours on this species.
 

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male
 
One day I will find this species without all the clutter of the background and take a few desirable photos as I seem too with this species. Also seen were 5 Migrant Hawker and a few Ruddy Darter before I left for home at around 10am. I'm hoping for a later visit at some point this week if the weather allows and I can get out at the right time to once again, have a count of the Willow Emerald Damselfly and see if I can maybe get a photo or two of them in tandem or mating... or just a pleasing photo of them will do nicely. Fingers crossed for blue skies and light winds.
 


Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) - male
 


Monday, 12 August 2019

Plenty on the Wing

With lighter winds and some sunny spells forecast for yesterday (Sunday), I took a casual drive over to Nethergong around 9am where the plan was to walk around the east and northern section of the site and make a general count of the Willow Emerald Damselflies, before trying to capture a few photos of the top side of them without much clutter in the photos. It wasn't long until I had seen my first and them moving to what is probably one of my favourite areas in a sheltered sunny ride, there must have been around 30 Willow Emerald Damselfly all perched up in a small area. Moving on down the eastern side of the site produced a few more every few metres and this was the same on the north side too with good numbers all perched up in the exposed branches of the trees. A walk down the side of the stream produced a few newly emerged Willow Emerald Damselflies making their maiden flights. I ended up counting a respectable 112 Willow Emerald Damselfly which is up on last years total for the same period. I have yet to visit around lunchtime / early afternoon where normally they can be seen in tandem and ovipositing into the various nettles, bushes and trees so this will be interesting to see what kind of numbers I can see. They tend to disperse well around the campsite around this time so there are areas I have yet to look at which will hopefully increase the numbers. Weather permitting, I can get down in the next week or so to see what is happening with this species and continue to monitor them. After counting, I went back to a few areas and let the camera out of the bag where I wanted to capture a few shots of them from the top. Not always an easy task as they have such a long abdomen and getting everything in focus can be challenging. I found a few likely candidates low down and rattled off a number of shots, trying to eliminate the amount of clutter in the background with some working out quite nicely. Also seen included 1 Southern Hawker, 1 Brown Hawker, 4 Migrant Hawker, a few Blue tailed and Azure Damselflies and plenty of Common and Ruddy Darter. A relaxing session with plenty to see, study and photograph. Just how I like it!
 



 Willow Emerald Damselfly (chalcolestes viridis) - female


 Willow Emerald Damselfly (chalcolestes viridis) - male
 
  Willow Emerald Damselfly (chalcolestes viridis) - female
 


 Willow Emerald Damselfly (chalcolestes viridis) - male
 


Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Queen Comes To Kent

With news about a week ago of a Queen of Spain Fritillary butterfly being found in Kent, I couldn't help but think that it would be great to see such a butterfly in my home county. I remember many years ago as a child reading butterfly books and seeing pictures of the 'Queen of Spain Fritillary' and thinking, what an amazing name for a butterfly and such a lovely underwing. Being such a rare butterfly to our shores, I suppose I thought that I would stand little chance then of seeing this little stunner. Roll on a few days ago when Phil Smith refound the Fritillary in South Foreland Valley at Dover and yesterday morning (Friday), a tweet from Brendan Ryan who had also seen the Fritillary. I decided at that point that I had to make the effort to go and try to see this butterfly and after speaking to Brendan and getting some directions, I was excitedly on my way. Arriving c40 minutes later, I met Brendan who was leaving but kindly turned around and took me back to the area where the butterfly had been performing. By now it was cloudy and with no butterflies flying, we had to wait some time for the next sunny spell to arrive, which seemed ages. Eventually it appeared and all of a sudden, butterflies were again flying. Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue, Small Copper, Wall Brown, Peacock, Painted Lady were all enjoying the sun but no sign worryingly of the Queen of Spain Fritillary. Frank Cackett and Phil Smith turned up and with Brendan now leaving, we continued our search. For the best part of 2 hours I think, we searched all over the valley but no sign. I thought this was going to be our unlucky day when I decided to go and look at an area we had not searched through a kissing gate which looked quite sheltered. As I scanned the path, I could see what I initially thought was going to be a Comma but as I moved in nearer, I could see that I was the Queen of Spain Fritillary. The others were called and soon joined me where we spent the next hour taking a number of photos of this most attractive and rare butterfly which stayed loyal to this area thankfully. I had superb views of the underwing pattern but getting shots was pretty hard as it almost always had it wings open. With a few other locals arriving and a few shots obtained, I decided to call it a day and left happily for home. That's the amazing thing about this hobby. You can be sitting at home one minute and then the next, watching something you've never seen before. A truly brilliant afternoon and many thanks to Phil and Brendan for the directions to get to the site.
 











Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia)