Wednesday, 15 May 2019

A Walk at Westbere

As is often the case, it seems the weather during the week is dry, windless and sunny and then comes the weekend... where it seems to be raining, windy and unpleasant. The past few weekends have seen this pattern of weather when I have tried to make a few visits but with only a small window during the weekend to get out, there's not really much of a choice. I made a visit to Westbere Lakes last weekend where there were small glimpses of the sun but with a brisk wind and rain at times, I was not that optimistic of seeing that much. In a few hours walking around the sheltered paths away from the wind, I managed to find c30 Variable Damselfly which were very much as there name suggests, variable. Some had no bar between the eyes as the classic Variable has, some had complete ante-humeral stripes as opposed to the broken ante-humeral stripes but all seemed to have the joined segments on S1 and S2 forming the U shape. Many were still not fully mature so I expect the markings may well change in the coming days.

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) -  male
Anyway, it's always and education every year to get back to studying the difference between the Variable and Azure Damselflies. Also seen were c30 Azure Damselfly, 7 Large Red Damselfly providing a few photo opportunities, c20 Blue tailed Damselflies and 4 Banded Demoiselle along the river. With a busy family weekend ahead, I probably won't be able to get out to see whether the Scarce Chasers and other species have emerged yet at Westbere but with a couple of weeks of work coming up soon, I'm hoping to make a few visits out to catch up on the missed species so far.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male

Friday, 10 May 2019

Early Morning Magic at Thursley Common

As well as being very fortunate last week at Thurlsey Common to photograph the emergence of a Downy Emerald, I also wanted the chance to be able to see and hopefully photograph a teneral Downy Emerald as it left the safety of the grasses and reeds and made for the trees. I spent quite a while walking around the Moat Lake early on where other than hearing a Cuckoo, a few Crossbills flying over, I had most of the place to myself. After a good search, I eventually found a couple of newly emerged Downy Emeralds with their exuviae and with the sun starting to come through the trees and warm up the area, I waited for one individual to venture up the reed. The wings started to flicker and a few moments later, the Downy Emerald made his maiden flight where a few seconds later, I was able to watch him land in the nearby Heather. This was too good an opportunity to waste so I slowly moved in with the sun behind me and took a few distant shots. At this time of the morning the sun was still quite low and provided a lovely bright image and with no one still around, I moved in again until I was in a great position to fire off a number of pleasing shots of this cracking dragonfly from a few angles. A family appeared walking their dog and asked what I was photographing and were soon themselves appreciating this dragonfly at close range. With my photos happily obtained, it wasn't long until the Downy Emerald flew off again and was watched flying high up into one of the Pine Trees. It was a while later that I had a brief chance of photographing a female Downy Emerald which was quite low down in a Pine Tree before she was off and flew off again higher into the tree to no doubt rest and mature up. Although my session was probably a week early to see more emerging and better numbers, I was more than happy to have photographed and emergence and a couple of teneral Downy Emeralds. Weather permitting, I shall hopefully be back soon to see if I can once again find some Brilliant Emeralds emerging as I did last year and enjoy the odonata that this wonderful site has to offer.

 Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - Teneral male

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - Teneral female

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Emerging

With the Bank Holiday Monday weather looking quite good early on in the day and light winds, I made the hasty decision to make the 90 minute drive to Thursley Common in Surrey. Leaving Kent at 4am in the dark, I arrived just after 5:30am to an almost empty car park. A quick drink and bite to eat and after getting all the gear ready, I set off for a walk around the Moat Lake near the car park. A visit here last year was rewarded with good views of emerging Downy Emeralds and a chance to get my hands on my first exuviae of this species. I was soon checking the emergent vegetation and with the sun now shining, I was quite optimistic that I would find something. In a favoured area, it took me a while to find the first of 9 Downy Emerald exuviae but I couldn't find any adults at first. I continued on checking likely areas until at last, I caught sight of a teneral Downy Emerald flying up from the vegetation towards the trees. Fortunately for me, it landed on some Heather in the sunshine and I was able to spend some time taking a number of photos which I shall post in due coarse. With the weather slowly warming up, it soon flew higher into the trees to mature up. I continued searching finding just one more Downy Emerald which I grabbed a few photos of before taking a break to drink and eat. I suspect my visit was a week too early to see better numbers emerging but I wasn't going to be beaten. I carried on walking around the lake checking areas when all of a sudden, my luck changed. I was checking a clump of grass when I noticed a Downy Emerald nymph looking like it was about to emerge. This was a great relief and for once, this was in an area that I could get into a good position to take photos. The bad news was that it was near a path where often the dogs run into the water. This was too good a chance to miss so I settled in on my belly and waited... and waited. A few passers by walked by and many asked if I was alright. It must of looked like I had fainted face down but I was able to reassure them wit a number stopping by to have a look at my prize about to emerge. Other than having to intercept a few dogs running past me into the water, I had a lovely relaxing time and after what seemed an age, I could see the Downy Emerald starting to emerge. The clouds were starting to build now and during the next 90 minutes, I found myself photographing in lovely sunshine and then cloudy conditions. A tricky problem with the settings being continually changed but eventually, I ended with some superb views and a few pleasing shots for my effort... and a sore back and neck. Walkers continued to walk by with a few stopping to look at the dragonfly emerging and they all seemed very impressed with what they saw. With the emergence successful and time now running out as I needed to leave at 11am to return back home, I packed up and walked very happily back to the car. Although not the numbers I wanted to see on this visit, I was really pleased to see a couple of teneral Downy Emeralds and get a few photos and also capture a full emergence of this species. Hopefully all being well and weather permitting, I will return again soon to hopefully look for the nationally scarce Brilliant Emerald emerging.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) Emerging

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Red eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) Emerging

It's always quite exciting to study and photograph a species emerging that I have not seen before so with this in mind, I have spent a few sessions at Nethergong recently with the net trying to locate the Red eyed Damselfly nymph. As well as trying to photograph this species emerging, this is a species of which I have no exuviae yet for my collection. After a few blank sessions dipping in the stream where they appear in small numbers, I finally managed to net one a week ago and brought it back home and introduced it to a section of my garden pond where I could hopefully keep an eye on it. I already had a few stems for it to choose and it wasn't long until I could see it one morning clinging to the stem just above the water surface. With all the equipment ready to hand, I let the nymph settle down before I moved in and set up the camera. I have photographed a number of species emerging and this was one of the quickest emergences I have witnessed. I don't know if this is normal for this species but when it decided to start emerging, it went at some speed. Even the speed of the wings pumping up was as quick as I have seen on any species photographed so far. With my photos in the bag, I let the damselfly rest and colour up before I returned it back to Nethergong and the stream where I found the nymph. The added bonus was that I was also able to collect the exuviae for the collection. Today, I spent a while at Westbere Lakes where I was able to find a few species to photograph in the ever changing weather which I shall hopefully post in a few days. From quiet times, I now suspect we are in for a very busy few months.

Red eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - female emerging