Monday, 18 June 2018

Winning the Flight Challenge?

Having been away all weekend camping with the family, I didn't get out at all to have a look for any dragonflies or damselflies but with some nice sunshine forecast for this afternoon, I made a visit over to Grove Ferry after work at 4:15pm for a look around. On arrival, there was a very brisk wind which as I walked through the reserve, got me thinking that it probably wasn't the best weather to attempt flight shots but ever the optimist, I decided that it was still worth a try. I spent nearly two hours on site where I managed to see 10 Norfolk Hawker including a mating pair and a female which was trying to oviposit but kept getting hassle from the males. Having walked the ditch a few times now, I found a few individuals that I thought I would try some flight shots with. As anyone will know with flight shots, there are a lot of factors I have mentioned in previous posts and added today was a strong breeze which meant the hawkers when hovering were constantly moving about as they tried to fight the wind. Having said that, I persevered and was rewarded with some nice flight shots which may be my best attempts so far this season of this species.
 



Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
 
You've only got to be slightly out of focus and your shot could be ruined but luckily today, I seemed to get a few fully in focus which was most pleasing. Always striving for the best shots I can, I will no doubt be back hopefully at the weekend to see if any improvements can be made. Only a few weeks now until the Willow Emerald Damselfly season begins and there should be some Emerald Damselflies emerging soon at Nethergong. On another note, I had 3 Migrant Hawker emerge last night from my garden pond that I was rearing to hopefully photograph emerging but I did at least collect the exuviae this morning for the collection. Maybe a few more should emerge in the next few evenings.
 




Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Southern Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna affinis) Emerge

2018 is turning out to be a cracking year for me in terms of photographing odonata and collecting new exuviae but surely it couldn't get any better could it? well yes it could actually. With news of the first Southern Migrant Hawkers emerging in the ditches at Canvey Island, Essex, I made a trip there a few days ago in the hope of maybe seeing some emerging and was hopeful that I may be able to collect a few exuviae which would be new for my collection. After arriving, I made the short walk to the ditch which runs parallel to Canvey Way and is also opposite the Recycling Centre and spent the next few hours searching the edges of the ditch. Amazingly, I managed to see 53 SOUTHERN MIGRANT HAWKERS all making their maiden flights from the reeds in the ditch where they then flew out over the bank onto the saltmarsh. A good search of the reeds not only produced a dozen or so exuviae which were collected but I even managed to see and photograph a couple of Southern Migrant Hawkers which had just emerged and were still clinging onto their exuviae.
 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) -  Newly Emerged Male 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) -  Exuviae 
 
I never thought this year I would be in this position to photograph this sight but I made the most of it and also took some time to just sit back and study them at close range. It really was some sight as I walked past the reeds and every few steps, they would rise from the reeds and be off over the bank.
 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) -  Newly Emerged Female  


Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) -  Newly Emerged Male  

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) -  Exuviae 
 
I would suspect there are still a good number to emerge from this site as the habitat looks great and hopefully they will continue their spread... ideally into Kent more where I hope to see some this year. I would imagine in a week or two that they will be returning back to the sight as mature adults to start the cycle over again. This is one stunning dragonfly that has to be seen and I hope to return back again in the first week or so of July to photograph the electric blue males on territory. Not only were there good numbers of Southern Migrant Hawkers seen but I also managed to see c200 Scarce Emerald Damselfly, c50 Ruddy Darter seen along with a few of their exuviae collected, 1 Black tailed Skimmer and a few Azure and Blue tailed Damselfly. A cracking session and another privilege to see and photograph this national rarity.
 










Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - teneral male  


Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - teneral female 


Monday, 11 June 2018

Transfixed By Those Green Eyes!

With some nice warm sunshine over the weekend, I found myself once again being drawn to Grove Ferry to watch and photograph the Norfolk Hawkers. The season for them soon passes and I've waited quite a while for them to emerge so I'm making the most of them while I can. After finding a few of them patrolling up and down the ditches, I set about a finding a few individuals to try and capture in flight and perching. Its always a challenge to try to capture these superb ariel hunters in flight but with a bit of patience and lots of practice, I occasionally get a number of shots which show off this species well. I still feel there is more to come and I just need that individual that will show off well and give me a few extra seconds to rattle off some more shots. I suppose that's what makes me keep going back for more. If I found it easy and always got 'that' shot, it wouldn't be a challenge. Hopefully their numbers will continue to rise in the next week and I will once again, be transfixed by those green eyes.
 








 
Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
 


Friday, 8 June 2018

Norfolk Hawker in Flight

With some afternoon sunshine and a light breeze forecast for yesterday (Thursday), I thought these would be ideal conditions for a visit to Grove Ferry to see the Norfolk Hawkers and attempt my annual challenge of trying to capture some flight shots of this species. Like the Migrant Hawker, the Norfolk Hawker is one of the species that will readily hover when on territory long enough some times for the photographer to fire off a few shots. I have seen over the past few years that at the start of their season, they don't tend to hover for that long but as the season moves on, they do seem to spend longer times hovering. I'm sure that the wind strength and weather also dictates this behaviour. I arrived at 1:30pm with the sun just starting to come through and it wasn't long until I reached the ditch in question where a walk up and down in the next few hours provided nice perched and flight views of 12+ Norfolk Hawker. There are quite a few factors as I have mentioned before if you are going to try to capture some flight shots: a willing subject that regularly hovers, light breeze to help them out, sun with a bit of cloud to prevent harsh photos, clear unobstructed views, correct camera settings and always checking the light speed, pleasing background colour to contrast against subject, quick focussing to lock on to subject, I always use manual focus... and then just click and hope! Thankfully, most of these factors seemed to work for me today and I was able to find a few male Norfolk Hawkers which did indeed show well and allowed me to fire off some pleasing photos.
 



Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
 
Using a Canon f4 300mm lens, I have to work quickly and getting the subject at a perpendicular angle to the camera is always quite challenging as they seem to always slightly be at an angle. Having said that, I am quite pleased with these efforts which show off this species well in flight.
 



Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
 
Still more work to be done to improve though and maybe next time, I might try the Sigma 150mm macro lens if they are close enough and showing well. A cracking few hours spent in this stunning species company watching and admiring them. also seen were c10+ Hairy Dragonfly, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 2 Black tailed Skimmer and good numbers around of Variable, Azure, Blue tailed, Common and Red eyed Damselfly. fingers crossed for some nice weather over the weekend as I feel I may well return!
 




Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male