Friday, 29 July 2022

Going for Gold!

With the summer holidays here and a little more time on my hands, I made the drive across to west Kent this morning at 10am in sunny warm conditions to look for the Golden ringed Dragonfly, a particularly scarce species in Kent. On arrival I was shocked at how overgrown the stream was and there was barely any stream actually visible. I decided therefore to do a little gardening and after fighting my way through the undergrowth to the stream, I set about trying to remove some of the overhanging vegetation. C30 minutes later and I could at least now see some stream and hoped that a Golden ringed would find this clearance to its liking. After cooling down with a drink I then spent some time sat stream side where not long after Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles arrived along with a couple of Blue tailed Damselfly and a single White legged Damselfly. Then the star of the show slowly glided by as a female Golden ringed Dragonfly flew in and checked out my gardening. She thankfully approved and landed on some nettles where I was able to move in slowly and take a few shots before a Brown Hawker arrived and they flew off over the bushes.

Golden ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - female

I waited a little longer and only a brief glimpse of a male flying through so decided to take a walk up the stream to see if any other area were clear enough to hold them. I did find two spots that were just about flowing through and both held male Golden ringed Dragonflies and even better, they were staying in the area and readily perching up. Again I sat down on the edge of the stream where one kept on flying in and landing only a metre or so away. What a stunning dragonfly to have in Kent. On one occasion one male flew up and took out a bumblebee before flying down to a perch further away and spent some time munching. With a couple of hours passing by quickly and plenty of photos and memories made, I made my way back towards the entrance where as I took one more look at my cleared area, a male Golden ringed Dragonfly was perched up. A superb session but worrying that as the years go by, will the stream eventually cease to operate and become overgrown. Maybe next year I will go down earlier and clear some areas in anticipation for their season. Seeing a Golden ringed Dragonfly in Kent is a good day, seeing 3 is magical. 

Golden ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

The Lone Ranger!

Saturday saw me taking a few clients around Nethergong for the day and showing them the various species of dragonfly and damselfly that can be encountered there. The main targets were the Willow Emerald Damselflies which thankfully we saw in good numbers, some were watched making their maiden flights from the vegetation and we even found some exuviae from this species. A dip with the net produced a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs which were new for the clients to see and study. Other highlights included c10 Small Red eyed Damselfly, 1 Norfolk Hawker, 2 Brown Hawker, 2 Emperor Dragonfly, c20 Emerald Damselfly, 2 Migrant Hawker, 1 Broad bodied Chaser, 2 Black tailed Skimmer, a few Banded Demoiselle and most interestingly... a male Southern Migrant Hawker on territory just over the road from the campsite. After my last post and feeling bad about losing all the Southern Migrant Hawker nymphs from the dried up pool, I definitely did not expect to see one this year here. I decided to take the clients and show them the habitat that Southern Migrant Hawkers like and was stunned when I found the male perched up. Where has this one come from, local? I can only think that in one of the fields there is a pool which also dries up in the summer but did have water in it later than the other one where the nymphs were. I did net in there but never caught any hawker nymphs. I can only think that this has emerged there. Does this mean there will be others? I returned this afternoon and initially couldn't find the hawker but checking another dried up area, I soon found the male Southern Migrant Hawker which stayed around for a while before vanishing. The mystery continues and I hope that a few more are seen there this year to give them a chance to try and slowly colonise again. I will no doubt be back very soon to monitor what is going on.  

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male 

Monday, 11 July 2022

The Willows are Waking

With some lovely warm sunny windless conditions over the weekend, I spent a while on both mornings looking for emerging Willow Emerald Damselflies at Nethergong. I generally see my first here during the second week of July and it's always a highlight to see the newly emerged ones making their maiden flights to the long grasses and nearby trees. I checked a few areas and although I found plenty of nymphs, I could only find about 10 Willow Emerald Damselfly. No doubt a little early here still and I imagine in the next few weeks that hopefully a few hundred at least will safely emerge. I managed to find a few in the long grasses and with some patience and slow stalking, I was able to spend some time photographing a pristine male. After a couple of hours of emerging the colours start to come through nicely and as anyone will know who follows me and reads the blog, the Willow Emerald Damselfly is a favourite of mine. With such a long abdomen they can be tricky to photograph and get all in focus but I was quite pleased with this set showing off those superb colours. There are bound to be many more experiences with this species over the next few months. Also see were a few Migrant Hawker exuviae, Broad bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly, Brown Hawker, Emerald Damselfly, Black tailed Skimmer but alas, still no Southern Migrant Hawkers. I'm still hopeful that they might find the pool again should they pass through. I will keep looking. 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - teneral male

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Emerging Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis)

After netting a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs at the weekend, I decided to bring a couple back home with me to the pond to see whether I could photograph them emerging. They looked fit to burst so I thought I would not have that long to wait. I carefully put them at the base of a couple of reeds where one immediately stayed in the shallows. A check of it on Monday and Tuesday morning saw it just beneath the surface where it was no doubt changing over the breathing from water to air. Having annoyingly caught Covid again, I was home from Tuesday where I kept on monitoring the situation. It wasn't until very late on Tuesday night around 11:15pm that I checked to see the nymph had already left the water and looked likely to emerge. I set about getting all the equipment ready and then settled in on a blanket at the pond and waited and waited and waited. At just after midnight the miracle of transforming from the nymph to damselfly started and I was able to once again view this spectacle and capture every stage with the camera. In just under and hour the damselfly was fully emerged with wings fully inflated. It continually amazes me that whilst most people were asleep, this piece of natural magic was happening unknown to everyone. At just after 1am I decided to call it a night and after collecting the damselfly and storing it in a mesh container for the night I went off to bed content... but with still a quite high temperature, sore throat and annoying cough. I was up early the next morning where I drove over to Nethergong and released the damselfly back into its correct habitat where hopefully it will help enhance the next generation. It was then back home for me to rest up for the day. Hopefully I will be well enough for a visit out over the weekend to see what is about. I have put the times under the photos to show the real time that it takes this species to emerge. 











Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female emerging