Sunday, 31 May 2020

Norfolk Heaven!

One of my particular favourite species I look forward to seeing every year is the Norfolk Hawker. I can spend hours just watching them flying up and down the ditches in the Stour Valley and Nethergong and as well as time spent studying them, they are a very photogenic species which often perches and hovers in flight. This past week has seen a good number flying and a visit earlier in the week to Grove Ferry produced at least 15 Norfolk Hawker and over the weekend at Nethergong, just north of Grove Ferry, I managed to find up to 9. All of this and it's still just about May. It looks likely that it's going to be a good season for them and I hope in the next month or so to make a number of visits to watch and photograph them and continue my quest to improve on my flight shots of this species. I had intended to try for a few flight shots earlier in the week at Grove Ferry but on arrival, the wind was quite strong and my favoured ditch had the wind howling through it which meant they had moved to other areas. With this challenge put off for a while, I then went in search of some perched individuals and after watching quite a few at distance, I eventually found a willing subjects which flew in and landed nearby allowing me to grab a few pleasing shots.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
A couple of visits to Nethergong over the weekend produced good numbers of Norfolk Hawker where most were found roosting in the sunshine in the reeds as well as a few in the meadow resting up in the long grasses and bushes. I managed to find a willing subject resting on a branch and after slowly moving in with the camera, I was able to take a number of photos of this stunning dragonfly. Other species noted over the weekend at Nethergong included up to 5 Hairy Dragonfly, 2 Red eyed Damselfly, 1 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Broad bodied Chaser and good numbers of Blue tailed and Azure Damselfly. Hopefully this warm spell will continue and I can make a number of visits to enjoy the wide variety of species now on the wing and fingers crossed, continue my flight challenge of the Norfolk Hawker.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male

Monday, 25 May 2020

Today Was A Good Day!

With warm weather forecast and light winds for today in east Kent. I made the most of this and spent 4 hours wandering around Westbere and then Grove Ferry. It was one of those days where it was good to be out, warm sunshine, light winds and plenty of dragonflies and damselflies to watch and photograph made for a lovely session. Wandering at Westbere produced 25 Scarce Chaser with a few posing for photographs including a cracking male and Banded Demoiselle numbers continue to increase.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - male

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) - immature male
This species really fascinates me and I found myself under their spell again as I stalked a few to get a few more pleasing shots.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male
Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies were well over a hundred each with lesser numbers of Large Red and Red eyed Damselfly. There were c8 Hairy Dragonfly noted as well as 1 Black tailed Skimmer but my personal highlight here was when I flushed my first Norfolk Hawker of the year, always a very special moment for me throughout the year.
Black tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - immature male
A 2nd Norfolk Hawker was seen a while later patrolling a ditch but rather than reach for the camera, I just watched in awe through the binoculars. After a few hours of walking around I made my way back to the car and then drove the few minutes to Grove Ferry where I spent another 2 hours wandering around. The highlights here were at least 5 Norfolk Hawker patrolling up and down a few ditches which after a bit of patience, finally rewarded me with a few usable images.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
Not the greatest light as it was directly overhead but I'm not complaining too much. Other bits seen here included 2 Four spotted Chaser, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 2 Black tailed Skimmer and c7 Hairy Dragonfly working the ditches. A few Variable, Azure and Red eyed Damselfly were also noted. A really nice few hours spent out and with plenty to see, observe and photograph, I made my way home very content.  

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Getting Hairy at Westbere

With some lovely sunshine, lighter winds and warmer temperatures yesterday, I spent a cracking few hours at Westbere Lakes and then called in briefly at Grove Ferry before going home. I have been struggling to photograph Hairy Dragonfly of late so decided to arrive around 9:45am where the plan was to search some areas before they got too active. On arrival, the weather was indeed beautiful and it was simply a pleasure to be out and about. I spent nearly an hour near the entrance where I often check where the sun get in quite early and walked slowly through the grass checking carefully as I went. A few damselflies rose up and then in front of me was a stunning male Hairy Dragonfly looking superb in the sunshine. He seemed quite settled so I was able to move into a position and fire off a few shots.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male
I made sure I had a good study of the details before the wings started to vibrate and he was off and landed higher up. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so flying up and down the area catching insects with ease where he would then land again to feed. Although some positions were hard to obtain a photograph, I was able to take a number of photos when he perched in better areas.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male
After feeding well, he then moved off for the day to no doubt hunt for females. A good start to the day. I continued on where I managed to see a total of 15 Hairy Dragonfly which included a mating pair which I was able to creep up on and take a few shots before they sensed I was there.
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - mating pair
Walking along the river saw 14 Banded Demoiselle, 5 Scarce Chaser hiding in the nettles, 6 Large Red Damselfly and better numbers now of Variable, Azure, Blue tailed and a few Red eyed Damselfly. It was simply a day where life felt good, I had my photos and lovely views of various species. Before going home I called into Grove Ferry to see what was about and to check whether and Norfolk Hawkers were flying. I only spent an hour here but saw 3 Hairy Dragonfly, a few Variable, Azure, Blue tailed and the odd Red eyed Damselfly and a search of the reeds produced 3 Hairy Dragonfly exuviae but no Norfolk Hawker exuviae yet! The weather seems to be warming up next week so hopefully I can make a few more visits during the week to see whether I can see my first Norfolk Hawkers of the year.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

A Demoiselle Date!

With the last of the warm sunny days for the time being yesterday (Saturday), I had a walk again at Westbere Lakes to see what could be found. I spent most of the time walking up to the river and then west towards Fordwich before returning the way I had came. There were quite a few other people out also having their exercise which proved challenging, especially if I wanted to photograph anything near the path, so a few chances were definitely missed. It was still lovely to be out and my challenges for the day was to try to photograph a male Hairy Dragonfly and a male Banded Demoiselle. I don't seem to be having much luck on the Hairy front and despite seeing 7 Hairy Dragonfly, none were seen to perch. This swayed my attention to the Banded Demoiselle of which I saw about 10. They are normally very skittish and this proved the case again as time and time again, I stalked them only for them to fly off just as I was about to get a photograph. Perseverance is a powerful tool in this game and eventually I was rewarded with a superb male Banded Demoiselle which posed beautifully for a short time and allowed me to fire off a few shots and appreciate those lovely colours. As I was off the pathway, I didn't have to worry about others passing and it was just a delight in the warm sunshine to be studying this beauty at close range. They are certainly a species I look forward to seeing every year. With some shots taken, I made my way back to the car where on the way I managed to see a few Variable, Azure, Blue tailed, Red eyed, and Large Red Damselfly but numbers still remain quite low but hopefully this will all change in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed for some better weather again soon and a few more visits out and about. It won't be long until the first Norfolk Hawkers are flying in the Stour Valley, a species I get really excited about seeing and photographing every year.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male