With news in the past few days filtering out that a few nationally rare Southern Migrant Hawkers had been seen at Wat Tyler Country Park in Essex, I arranged to meet the man himself who has spent a lot of time studying this species in this country, Neil Phillips. I made the drive this morning leaving home around 8.30am and arrived an hour or so later where the forecast sun was trying to come through. I have never visited this site before but there was some great habitat for a good number of dragonflies. Neil arrived just before 10.30am and we were soon joined by TV producer Stephen Moss who also wanted to see this rare species and off we went in search of our quarry. We were soon looking at the pool where Neil had seen them a few days previous and had managed to obtain some stunning images, click HERE for Neil's Blog. The weather played a big factor today however as it was quite windy for most of the day and although the sun was out, the clouds always prevented any prolonged sunny spells. We waited and waited and then I saw a hawker flying over the pool which we all got on, but at a distance, it was difficult to definitely say it was a Southern Migrant Hawker although Neil felt it probably was. Again more waiting and then during another sunny spell, a hawker appeared on the other side of the pool and seemed to vanish into a sheltered area. We walked around and joined some others who were also looking and our luck was in as the hawker was flying around at head height, sometimes only a few feet away as it flew past us which gave us the chance to check out the features. Neil was soon grilling it and was happy this was indeed a male SOUTHERN MIGRANT HAWKER. We had more brief views before it soon disappeared again. Back to more watching and chatting and were were joined by more people but no more sign so a few decided to go an check out another area they have been seen in. This proved a good decision as we were soon being called to this area where they had found a perched male. Although I was chuffed to have seen one, I did want a photo and I was soon looking up high into a tree where it was pointed out to us. It was indeed quite high but through the binoculars, the striking blue eyes and abdomen could be seen and although I only had the Canon f4 300mm lens on, I rattled off a few shots before the sun come out again and it took flight.
Southern Migrant Hawker (male)
We then watched for c10 minutes as it flew around over the reeds and hedge line and I managed pleasing views of this beauty. Flight photos were out of the question as it never paused but I was at least happy to have photographed this very rare dragonfly, albeit a record shot. It landed again distantly in another hedge so we left it here and walked back to our original place. No more sightings here although we did see a Southern Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly and a few Ruddy Darter so before I left, we returned back to the area we had seen it in and once again saw it in flight. Moving on we also saw a couple of Migrant Hawker which concluded a very good day. It would have been nice to get a few flight shots but I was really pleased to have been able to see this rare dragonfly and be able to obtain good views of it. Many thanks to Neil Phillips for meeting me and taking the time to show me around Wat Tyler and off course, delivering the all important Southern Migrant Hawker. Happy days!!
Southern Migrant Hawker (male)