Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Emerging Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis)

After netting a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs at the weekend, I decided to bring a couple back home with me to the pond to see whether I could photograph them emerging. They looked fit to burst so I thought I would not have that long to wait. I carefully put them at the base of a couple of reeds where one immediately stayed in the shallows. A check of it on Monday and Tuesday morning saw it just beneath the surface where it was no doubt changing over the breathing from water to air. Having annoyingly caught Covid again, I was home from Tuesday where I kept on monitoring the situation. It wasn't until very late on Tuesday night around 11:15pm that I checked to see the nymph had already left the water and looked likely to emerge. I set about getting all the equipment ready and then settled in on a blanket at the pond and waited and waited and waited. At just after midnight the miracle of transforming from the nymph to damselfly started and I was able to once again view this spectacle and capture every stage with the camera. In just under and hour the damselfly was fully emerged with wings fully inflated. It continually amazes me that whilst most people were asleep, this piece of natural magic was happening unknown to everyone. At just after 1am I decided to call it a night and after collecting the damselfly and storing it in a mesh container for the night I went off to bed content... but with still a quite high temperature, sore throat and annoying cough. I was up early the next morning where I drove over to Nethergong and released the damselfly back into its correct habitat where hopefully it will help enhance the next generation. It was then back home for me to rest up for the day. Hopefully I will be well enough for a visit out over the weekend to see what is about. I have put the times under the photos to show the real time that it takes this species to emerge. 











Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female emerging

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Emerging Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis)

I was very lucky last year to have about 15 Southern Migrant Hawkers at Nethergong and through their season, I was able to observe them mating and egg laying. Having never seen or photographed a Southern Migrant Hawker nymph, I was optimistic that if I had a few netting sessions at the right time, that I might stand a chance of finding some. Fast forward to this year and around early April, I had my first netting session and with quite a bit of water still in the pool, it took a while until I started to net a couple of Hawker nymphs. Enter my massive mistake. Although I had done a little research on the nymphs, I now know I was not fully prepared to identify the Migrant Hawker nymph and the Southern Migrant Hawker nymph which are very similar in appearance. I spent a while looking at the few nymphs caught and really couldn't make my mind up what they were. The mask on the Southern Migrant Hawker nymph is somewhat squarer than the longer mask of the Migrant Hawker. The female also shows a longer ovipositor. I went back a few weeks later and with the pool drying up quickly, I soon found about 40 Hawker nymphs. Again I had a look through them and found a few potential candidates so decided to take four back home with me to photograph and put in my pond with a view to hopefully photographing an emergence should they be Southern Migrant Hawker. My biggest mistake was made next. Unfortunately when I returned a week or so later the pool had completely dried up and there were no sign of any nymphs. I was gutted. Maybe I should have realised this and moved them to another pool on site. This really annoys me still as it's likely the growing colony are wiped out. I just hope some appear there again this year. Anyway early last week I was putting the washing out when I noticed an exuviae at the pond. I took it inside and after examining it through the hand lens, was confident that it was indeed a Southern Migrant Hawker exuviae. I knew three other likely candidates were in the pond so kept an eye out each night. Again the next night a Southern Migrant Hawker emerged which I missed. On Thursday when I went out at night with the torch I could see a Hawker nymph at the base of the reed. I waited for some while but nothing happened. On Friday night I checked again and this time the colours could be seen through the larval skin. I was pretty certain this was a Southern Migrant Hawker nymph now but again due to a strong breeze, nothing emerged. Enter Saturday night and when I went out to look around 10pm, the nymph was higher out of the water on the reed. The colours were now clearly visible and I was now in no doubt that this was a Southern Migrant Hawker nymph. A look through the internet reveals no photos of them emerging so this was even more important that I witnessed and photographed this event. I set about getting all the equipment ready and then settled down on a blanket at the side of the pond. Around 10:20pm the nymph climbed higher and started to settle down to emerge. Over the next one hour and forty minutes I had the privilege to watch a male Southern Migrant Hawker emerge into the darkness. They really are quite yellow compared to other hawkers emerging. Having captured the whole emergence and the time just after midnight, the hawker took off into the darkness to hopefully mature up and help the next generation. What a super night and always nice to capture something you have never seen before. On the downside, it still hurts about not moving the nymphs when I had the chance and make me wonder how many others would have emerged. I have now spent a lot of time learning the different features about the two hawkers nymphs should I find myself in this position in the future. Fingers crossed for a good season and that they might return. I will certainly be looking. 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - emerging male

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Impressive Norfolk Numbers

Visits to Westbere and Grove Ferry in sunny and warm conditions looking predominantly for Norfolk Hawkers produced and excellent 64 (43 at Grove Ferry, 21 at Westbere). This is the highest day total that I have had of this species since they colonised the area. No doubt there are many more out there too. I decided to see whether I could get any pleasing images of one of my favourite species so spent a while searching areas until I eventually found a few where the light was good, the angle of shot was good and viewing was not restricted.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male

It was also good to see 4 Brown Hawker, my first of the year and even more of a miracle that I managed a semi alright shot of a female that was partially hidden in nettles. I hardly ever manage to photograph this species every year so to capture this one is in itself a win win.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - female

 Other species seen included 20 Scarce Chaser, 2 Hairy Dragonfly, c100 Banded Demoiselle, 1 Emperor Dragonfly and hundreds of damselflies of varying species. At Grove Ferry there were 5 Emperor Dragonfly, 8 Black tailed Skimmer, c10 Four spotted Chaser and again, plenty of damselflies noted.  

Friday, 17 June 2022

They're Out There!

Last year I was sent a photo of a pair of Dainty Damselfly from a new site on the North Kent coast so with this in mind, I had pencilled in a visit to the site in early June to see whether there were any on the wing. On a warm morning last week I arrived on site and started searching initially through the long grasses where a few Azure and Variable Damselfly were noted. It wasn't long however until I found a small damselfly flying and when it come to rest, I was pleased to see it was a male Dainty Damselfly. Further searching in the next hour found quite a few more Dainty in the long grasses including a few pairs in cop and mating pairs too. I set about getting a few photographs and was able at times to lay down and slowly move in and achieve a few pleasing efforts. Once you get your eye in, the males can be easily identified in flight due to their size and two and a half black segments on the abdomen. As the weather warmed up I made my way to the pool to see whether and ovipositing could be noted. I was somewhat taken back when I started to scan and most I were seeing were Dainty Damselfly. It was pretty impossible to do an accurate count but in my first initial efforts, I must of had at least 100 Dainty Damselfly. I was seeing the odd Azure Damselfly in there but everywhere I looked, Dainty was the predominant species. I checked the ditches nearby where once again Dainty Damselfly were seen flying in pairs and egg laying. With the ditches checked around and the main pool there must have been in excess of 200 Dainty Damselfly seen. I suspect the ditches that could not be checked probably had them on too. It seems they favour pools where the weed etc is on and just below the water's surface. They also seem to like egg laying in numbers as often large groups could be seen together in a small area. What a result to see this rare damselfly seemingly spreading in Kent. I'm sure other pockets must be out there on the Kent and Eseex coasts. It just needs more observers to become more familiar with how to identify them and get out there and look in suitable habitat. Needless to say, a superb session where c10 Scarce Emerald Damselfly were also seen along with plenty of Four spotted Chaser, Black tailed Skimmer and Emperor Dragonfly. time and weather permitting, I hope to return soon. 

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - female

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - mating pair