Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Magic Meadow

With only a few hours out this morning at Nethergong and needing to be back home to go out with the family at 10am, I was out early this morning around 5:15am where the first few hours were spent birding. As the sun slowly started to warm up the long grasses along the stream, I started to spend some time looking for roosting dragonflies and after a brief search, I found the first of 11 Norfolk Hawkers seen today resting. With some nice light now, I slowly and surely crept nearer and nearer where I took a few shots each time before moving in again. With some patience, I ended up at a workable distance and took a few shots of this stunner in the early morning sun until a fly buzzed too close and the Hawker was off patrolling again.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
I saw a couple more in the next hour before I decided to spend some time in the meadow next door which had yielded a few more Hawkers a few days ago. As I entered the sunny meadow, a Barn Owl kept me company but always kept its distance and a few butterflies took to the wing as I walked in the grasses. I decided to check the western side which was in full warm sunshine and within the next hour, I had found a further 7 Norfolk Hawker taking in the sunshine perched up in the brambles. Again, I moved in slowly and fired off more shots and had to remind myself every now and then that this dragonfly is nationally very rare and how fortunate I am to have this species on my doorstep.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
As mentioned before, I'm pretty sure that this meadow is used to mature up before they move back to the water to breed but with the ditches ideal at Nethergong for them, I'm hopeful that some will remain in the area. It wasn't only the Norfolk Hawkers that were present as I also manged to find 6 Broad bodied Chaser, 1 Hairy Dragonfly, 2 Large Red Damselfly, 2 Red eyed Damselfly, lots of Azure and Blue tailed Damselfly and 5 Emperor Dragonfly which included a mating pair. I don't often have the chance to photograph this sight so I was happy to just get a camera on them as they hid amongst the grasses.
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) - mating pair
I wish I had had more time as I didn't have a chance to check other parts of the meadow which I'm sure would have provided more species and photo opportunities but it was time to leave and make my way home. A lovely session in excellent surroundings and I feel this meadow has more to offer and I can't wait to get back out hopefully next weekend if the weather allows to investigate.
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) - mating pair

Friday, 7 June 2019

Norfolk Numbers Increasing

With the day to myself yesterday and sunshine forecast for most of the day, I decided to cycle over to Nethergong at 9am to spend a few hours before walking over to Grove Ferry to see what was about. The previous days walk around Nethergong for an hour had produced 4 Norfolk Hawker including a mating pair which looks good for the site and future of the species. This species has started to appear here more often in the past couple of years and I suspect that they use this site to mature and feed up before some then return back to Grove Ferry to breed. On arrival, the sun was shining nicely and as I started my walk, plenty of Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies were noted as were the first of 5 Broad bodied Chaser seen. As I scanned the frog pond, I picked out a couple of Four spotted Chaser and the first of 7 Hairy Dragonfly perched nearby with a Blue tailed Damselfly for breakfast. This allowed me to creep up and fire off a number of shots of this species before he flew off but soon returned to the same area to take in the warmth of the day.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) - male
Moving on around the site mid morning and by now, the sun was quite warm but little did I expect what I encountered next. On the eastern edge of the site in the sun I started to see the odd Norfolk Hawker patrolling and hawking above the ditches. I counted 4 at first and as I continued on to a sheltered sunny spot, there were up to 11 Norfolk Hawkers all in the air together having a feast on the flying midges. To see so many of this nationally rare dragonfly in one area was a sight to behold.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - female
More was to come as when I left the site through a meadow, I flushed 4 more which brought my total for the site to at least 20 Norfolk Hawkers. What an amazing number to see at this superb area for wildlife. Through the meadow I also noted 3 Black tailed Skimmer and 3 Emperor Dragonfly. The walk to Grove Ferry is only about 10 minutes and I was soon on site and after having a good drink and something to eat, I set about seeing how many Norfolk Hawkers I could find. The wind had now got up which proved quite challenging but in a couple of hours, 1 managed to find at least 16 Norfolk Hawkers in the various ditches and dykes.
Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
Also noted were 5 Hairy Dragonfly, 3 Four spotted Chaser, 2 Emperor Dragonfly and hundreds of Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies with lesser numbers of Red eyed Damselfly. With a good total seen, I then made my way back to Nethergong where walking back through the meadow produced at least 10 Norfolk Hawker flushed from the long grasses. It had been a very good day with at least 36 Norfolk Hawker noted between the two sites and no doubt, others missed but it looks good at least for the future of this species in the east of Kent.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Not So 'Scarce' This Year

With some sunshine forecast for yesterday morning, I decided to spend a few hours at Westbere Lakes again to see whether the Norfolk Hawkers had increased in number. In about 3 hours, I only managed to find 4 Norfolk Hawker and hoped for more but I suspect their numbers will slowly build over the next few weeks. The day however belonged to the Scarce Chasers were I managed to find 42 which I believe is the most I have seen at this site on one visit. During the last few years, I have only just about managed double figures with this species so to see this number was excellent. Throughout my walk, it was nice to see a good number of males on territory and its always a nice sight watching them zoom off their chosen perch to see off other males before normally returning back to the same perch. With this in mind, I decided to try to find a male that I could photograph that didn't have a cluttered background and after a good search, I found my target. This species with a slow approach will let you get quite close and I was then able to take a number of pleasing photos of this male. As can be seen halfway up the blue abdomen on this species by the dark markings, there are signs where the female has hung on where the pair have mated and the powder blue pruinescence has been removed. Other species noted on my walk included 10 Black tailed Skimmer, 3 Hairy Dragonfly, 1 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Four spotted Chaser, c50 Banded Demoiselle and hundreds of Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies. There were also good numbers of Red eyed Damselfly noted. Hopefully in between the heavy showers which we seem to have at the moment, I can make a few more visits during the week to Grove Ferry and Westbere Lakes to monitor how the various species are doing this season.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) male

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Norfolk Delights!

With the weekend here and sunny hot temperatures forecast for South East England, it was a perfect day to go looking for one of my favourite species I look forward to seeing every year, the Norfolk Hawker. I was dropped off at Grove Ferry around 9:45am where I then spent three and a half hours in the hot sunshine checking various ditches and dykes for my target. With the weather conditions so good and light winds, there seemed to be dragonflies and damselflies everywhere. It really was a spectacle seeing so many flying about and flying low over the water. As I walked through the grasses, every step produced masses of mating and tandem paired damselflies. On my initial early check, I only managed to find 1 Norfolk Hawker in a favoured ditch  which kept me occupied for some time as he flew up and down his territory but with the sun in my face, photos were not going to be ideal. I wandered on for a while where I checked an area for exuviae and was pleased to find 4 Norfolk Hawker exuviae quite close together as well as a couple of Hairy Dragonfly and Emperor Dragonfly exuviae. After a break in the shade for a drink and bite to eat, I returned to checking the dykes and soon found a few more Norfolk Hawker now on the wing. In the next hour I managed to find 13 Norfolk Hawker including 1 mating pair and an ovipositing female. With the sun now moved around a bit, it was time to try for a few images and I soon found a willing subject patrolling an area with a Four spotted Chaser. Every now and then he would fly into a near isolated patch of reed and this gave me the opportunity to fire off a few pleasing efforts, possibly some of my best shots of this species perched yet. At this distance and sitting low down out of the way, I was able to study the superb subtle markings on these lovely dragonflies. With time nearly up, I made my way back to the entrance to get picked up. Other odonata seen included c25 Hairy Dragonfly, c30 Four spotted Chaser, 1 Broad bodied Chaser, 3 Emperor Dragonfly and literally hundreds and hundreds of Variable, Azure, Blue tailed Damselfly with lesser numbers of Red eyed Damselfly. An absolute feast for the eyes and with a week still of work, I'm hoping to return soon to see how the species are fairing this year and whether the Norfolk Hawkers are increasing in number. Well worth a visit in the next few weeks if you are in the area and with lots of species to see, you won't be disappointed.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male