Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Southern Surveys

With a day of warm sunshine but a brisk wind forecast, I had arranged with the warden of Sandwich Bay to survey a few private sites in the area for dragonflies and damselflies. After arriving on site about 11am, I really wanted to see whether I could find any mating pairs of Southern Migrant Hawkers and if possible, see them egg laying in the ditches. After finding the first female in the area the week before, this would be fitting to complete the picture of this species and hopefully confirm that they are attempting to breed in the area. The wind made for a difficult few hours but walking the ditches, I managed to find 13 Southern Migrant Hawkers which included one mating pair which thankfully appeared in front of me when I was taking a drink break. As ever in these situations, all kinds of vegetation is normally in the way but I managed to take a few photos to confirm that the species is indeed mating in the ditches there.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - mating pair
They eventually moved off into the shade to continue their private moment which ironically would have produced the best photo if I had managed to make it to the other side for a photo. I continued to walk and check the ditches where the cattle had left their footprints on the edge of the water when all of a sudden, a pair of Southern Migrant Hawkers flew up from one of the holes and continued to look for more egg laying sites. I was off in hot pursuit and saw them land a few more times in the cattle prints and slowly moved in for a shot. They were quite obscured but I had good views as they reversed down the hole to oviposit. I took a record shot which at least confirms that they are attempting to egg lay here.
Southern migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - Ovipositing Pair
Feeling pleased with the detective work, I made my way back and checked a few more dry pools where I found 2 Southern Emerald Damselfly resting. I spent a few minutes here taking a few pleasing photos as they blew around in the wind.

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) - male
Other bits noted today included 2 Migrant Hawker and 3 Emperor Dragonfly. Despite the strong wind, a very successful trip and nice to be able to slowly put the jigsaw pieces together with the Southern Migrant Hawkers. Hopefully next year all being well, we will be able to prove without doubt that they are breeding in the area as we already expect they are.

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) - male

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Waiting For Willows

After what seems to have been a very busy last month visiting various sites around the county, it was nice to be able to get back to Nethergong to have a relaxing session watching the Willow Emerald Damselflies. In only a few sessions in the past few weeks, I have seen over 200 Willow Emerald Damselflies emerge and can only guess how many others I would have missed emerging. I'm looking forward to a few more sessions over the next few weeks where I can monitor their numbers and see whether they are continuing to increase on this site. During the weekend, I have made a couple of morning visits in warm sunshine where I managed on Saturday to find 40 Willow Emerald Damselfly and today (Sunday), I found 21 Willow Emerald Damselfly. On both days, I saw a number making their maiden flights from the reeds which is always a joy to see. Also noted over the weekend included 2 Southern Hawker, 2 Brown Hawker and a few Migrant Hawker are now being seen flying around the site. On both mornings during my visit, there is a place that I check around 08:30 where the sun breaks through the trees on the south side of the site and it soon warms up the area. This is one of the first places that the Willow Emerald Damselflies can be seen during the day. Some are seen flying from the stream and flying up into the trees whereby others that are already mature can be seen descending down from higher trees to take in the sunshine. With some patience, scanning and luck, they will often perch quite close to the ground and allow photos to be taken with a slow approach. I spent an hour on both days this weekend just sitting in the sunshine waiting for them to come to me and it wasn't long until they started to appear and eventually land in some promising positions. It was then a case of moving in slowly and taking a few shots before edging closer in.

 Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female

 Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female
At this time of day, they are often still a little sluggish so you can often spend quite a bit of time with some individuals before they move off. It was great just watching them build in numbers from the trees as others appeared from the stream and quickly flew across the path to the safety of the trees. I certainly made the most of not having to walk around searching which is often the case. As most readers of this blog will know, this species has been very special to me over the past few years and I look forward to many more sessions tracking them this year... and I'm sure, plenty more photos of this stunning little species.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Super Sandwich!

With a day of warm temperatures and quite light winds forecast, I had arranged to carry out a survey of the dragonflies and damselflies at various private sites at Sandwich Bay with the warden, Steffan. Arriving at 10am in glorious warm sunshine, we spent about five hours walking around some of the private pools that can be found within the local area and found an excellent variety of species. The days highlights included 17 Southern Migrant Hawker including a pair in tandem and no doubt, about to oviposit into one of the dry ditches. I believe this is the first time a female Southern Migrant Hawker has been seen in the recording area.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Also noted nearby were 5 Scarce Emerald Damselfly and 7 Southern Emerald Damselfly. In one small dried up pool of only a few metres in diameter, we saw a male Southern Migrant Hawker patrolling and both Scarce and Southern Emerald Damselfly. Quite a sight I assure you to have these rare dragonflies and damselflies close together.
 Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes Dryas) - male

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus)
Other pools also held plenty of Emperor Dragonfly, Black tailed Skimmer, a teneral Migrant Hawker, Common Blue Damselfly and 10+ Small red eyed Damselfly. As we slowly made our way back a Brown Hawker was seen and having thanked Steffan for giving up his time and taking me around the area, I spent the last hour on my own at a pool where I found 4 male Red veined Darter. I was able to spend some time slowly stalking them and obtaining a few nice photos of a species I haven't seen for a few years. A brilliant day in excellent company at a superb place for odonata with a number of very special species noted and a few pleasing images taken. Happy days!

Red veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) - male

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Kent Lesser Emperors

I received a message last night from a fellow Odonata enthusiast that he had found 3 Lesser Emperor at a private site in Kent. It's been at least 5 years since I last saw a Lesser Emperor and only have a few distant record shots of this species so after a few emails, I arranged to meet this morning at the site at 10am. Thankfully on arrival the sun was just coming through nicely and throughout the next couple of hours, the weather improved making for a nice morning session. I was taken to a few of the hotspots where not long after, we saw the first of 3 male Lesser Emperor today flying by showing off that lovely blue saddle. A few more views were obtained from the area before we moved on to new areas to search. We spent some time checking others likely areas before we reached and area where 2 male Lesser Emperor were seen chasing each other. One of the males stayed in the area and I was willing him to land which after what seemed an age, he finally come to rest on a reed stem allowing me to grab a few rushed shots looking unfortunately directly into the sunshine. Nevertheless, I was happy to have finally managed at least a shot of this still quite rare species.
Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) - male
With the Emperor still perched up, I decided to get around the other side of it which would give me the sun behind meaning hopefully some better shots. I had to make my way through some reeds to get there but eventually I could see my prize in much better light and took a few initial photos before moving slowly forward again. I had a clear view by now and decided not to chance my luck and spent a few minutes taking in the details on this species and taking a few photos.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) - male
After a while he was off again to patrol and we decided after our luck to move off back to the cars. Other bits seen included a couple of Emperor Dragonflies, 2 Brown Hawker, a few Black tailed Skimmers and many Red eyed Damselfly over the water. On the way back home I called into Oare Marshes for an hour or so where despite sunshine and a strong breeze, I only managed to find 5 Southern Migrant Hawker, all males on patrol with one landing briefly for a few photos.
Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male
Quite a bit of the habitat has overgrown now in some areas and I'm hoping that they don't disappear as quick as they appeared in the past few years. Fingers crossed that their numbers continue to grow in the next few weeks. I shall return! Also seen here were hundreds of Ruddy Darter, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, and 1 Brown Hawker. The summer holidays have now arrived so I'm looking forward to a few sessions out in the next few weeks. Here's hoping for sunny skies and light winds!