Monday, 2 May 2022

Dainty Damselfly Nymph Studies

I had a visit to Sandwich Bay on Saturday morning where with permission, I had a brief netting session in one of the pools that holds the Dainty Damselfly. After a while I had caught a few likely nymphs and so took them back to the observatory where I then set up my tank outside to take some photos. After preparing the area and getting everything ready, I then settled down to go through the nymphs to identify them. There were a few Variable / Azure Damselfly nymphs in there which could be partially identified due to their heavy spotting on the back of the head behind the eyes. I then found a few individuals which lacked the spotting on the head and then looked at the caudal lamellae to distinguish whether they would be Common Blue, Blue tailed or Dainty. Common Blue are quite easy to identify due to their dark bands across the lamellae and the Blue tailed tend to have more slimmer and pointed lamellae. The setae on the lamellae are also a feature to check. This then left me with a few individuals which lacked the spotting on the head, had 7 antennae segments and best of all, caudal lamellae which are broadest in the distal half, quite rounded and a point at the end. These I was confident were Dainty Damselfly nymphs. I had introduced a small piece of weed into the tank against the glass where the nymph was put in. It was then a case of waiting until appropriate moments happened where I was able to fire off a number of pleasing images with many showing the features visible to identify this super rare species. After a while I then returned all the nymphs back to the pool where I had found them. Many thanks to Sandwich Bay for allowing me to net and take photos here, much appreciated. In the afternoon I made a brief visit to Westbere Lakes where I managed to see 3 Hairy Dragonfly, 1 Red eyed Damselfly, 1 Banded Demoiselle along with a few Blue tailed, Azure and Variable Damselflies. The weather looks like it may be warming up down here over the next week. Fingers crossed next weekend gives me some time to see what has emerged and maybe a photo or two

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) nymph showing id features including lack of spotting behind the eyes, 7 antennae segments and Caudal Lamellae broadest in the distal half

Sunday, 24 April 2022

The Season Has Arrived

After what feels like a long winter, the season has finally arrived! Having seen a few species appearing over the past week on various social media sites I was eager to get out myself to see if any dragonflies or damselflies could be found. Although sunny but with a biting northerly wind, I spent a few hours at Westbere Lakes yesterday where in a few sheltered spots I managed to find 14 Large Red Damselfly, 9 Variable Damselfly and 1 Azure Damselfly. They were all mostly in one area along the river. A few of the Large Red Damselfly were making their maiden flights from the reeds into the Stinging Nettles to rest up. Having not photographed them for quite a few months now I was a little rusty to say the least but after a while and a few errors, I ended up with a few usable images. It was just nice to see them again and weather permitting, hopefully I can get back out soon to see what other species have emerged. Happy times are here! A quick check in on Nethergong produced 2 Blue tailed Damselfly at the pond and dipping in another area where I had seen Southern Migrant Hawker ovipositing last year produced... 7 Migrant Hawker nymphs! With this pool drying out quite quickly, I'm still optimistic that if I give it a few weeks, I may well find a Southern Migrant Hawker nymph. I'm sure they are in there.  

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - male

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) -  male

Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum)

Monday, 13 December 2021

2021 Odonata Highlights (August - October)

I spent quite a few hours during August at Nethergong where I was trying to gather evidence that the Southern Migrant Hawkers were attempting to breed on a small dried up pool. Being on site so much also gave me the chance to study their movements and I decided at an early stage to see whether I could get some pleasing flight shots of this species. After hours of firing away and a few pleasing efforts earnt, I soon found an individual showing well in an accessible area and set about studying its movements. The image in my head was a sideways shot perpendicular to the lens with all of the dragonfly in focus showing off the superb colours. I had quite a few 'nearly' shots until eventually all the pieces fell into place one session and I was able to rattle off a burst of photos. Thankfully in there were a few very pleasing images which made all the hundreds of out of focus shots worthwhile.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

More studying of the area soon revealed a few mating pairs and with patience I was able to stalk a few pairs and get a few images. I also witnessed quite a lot of ovipositing and even one blue morph female attempting to egg lay on my walking boot.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - mating pairs (female blue form - bottom photo)

I felt that most of my free time was with this species but with every chance that they have already / might breed, I really enjoyed learning about this species, and educating some of the campers about this species.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

I didn't have to wander far in August (a few metres) to see quite a few Willow Emerald Damselfly and a few sessions were had including one early morning photographing them at dawn as they warmed up for the day.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis)

A field trip to Sandwich Bay produced a few Southern Emerald Damselfly and it was nice to be able to show them to others who this was a new species to see.

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) - female

Dragging myself away from Nethergong, I made a trip over to Hothfield Common near Ashford to see Kent's current only colony of Keeled Skimmer. They are only here in small numbers but they manage to hang on each year. A wander around produced a few males and with patience I was able to take some pleasing photos of this species.

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) - male

News reached me that some Golden ringed Dragonflies were being seen at a small stream in west Kent so armed with directions, I had a few hours visiting the site where up to three were seen. It was a superb session sat by the stream on my own surrounded by nature watching and photographing this stunning species at close range. Add plenty of Beautiful Demoiselle and it was a memorable day.

Golden ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) - male

Back at Nethergong and one session saw over 200 Migrant Hawkers flying above my head which provided a spectacle for myself and numerous campers. They provided a few photos opportunities as they occasionally flew down to land.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male

As mentioned in my last post, I think I could have posted many others which provided a nice shot or memory. I shall post my top three shots in due coarse which I am currently struggling to decide. I may need the help of others with this!

Monday, 6 December 2021

2021 Odonata Highlights (May - July)

It's that time of the year again where I look back over the many hundreds of photos taken throughout the year and try to pick a few highlights. Despite the continued pandemic I managed to get out a  number of times but not as much as I would have liked. I also ran a number of successful odonata trips for 'Naturetrek' which were well attended and hope to continue this next year. As ever I have managed to find a few photos taken during the year which either fit the criteria of a 'nice' photo or a 'memorable' experience trying to obtain the shot. I will showcase them in two installments over the next few weeks before trying to find my top three photos taken this year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did taken them.

May - July

The odonata season started slowly this year with only a couple of Large Red Damselfly emerging from the pond this year but I was able to spend a brief session with one individual at the pond with a backdrop of Grape Hyacinths.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - male

With the Dainty Damselfly doing well the year before I was keen to see whether I could find and identify and nymphs of this species and after many hours of reading and finding out what I could about this species, I spent a morning at Sandwich Bay where a number were netted. I was able to then set up my tank on site and spent a while capturing a few photos to show off the key features. As far as I'm aware, not many others have photographed this species in the UK at this stage so that was quite special.

Dainty Damselfly  (Coenagrion scitulum) Nymph - female

A return a few weeks later saw over 400 Dainty Damselfly flying and to be in the same space as Britain's rarest damselfly was quite a privilege, and a few pleasing photos were taken too.

Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) 

June is normally the month where I spend my time enjoying the superb Norfolk Hawkers which can be found in east Kent. It was really pleasing showing clients this species on the trips this year and I was able to take a number of photos of this showy species. I hope that the habitat at Grove Ferry is improved next year as some of the areas we looked in this year are starting to get choked. It's all very well seeing this species well but more important that the habitat continues to be maintained so the species can continue to thrive.

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles)

I do love seeing the first Banded Demoiselle of the year and a few early visits provided me with a few images before they got to active.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - male

I think this year for me will be remembered for finding a colony of inland Southern Migrant Hawkers at Nethergong. I spent many hours there this year where double figures could be seen and mating and egg laying observed. Had they emerged on site this year and I just failed to notice them? Quite possibly but I intend to do some net dipping next year to see whether I can locate any nymphs. As I would expect, many hours produces many photos and a few projects were undertaken with pleasing results.

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

One of the pools at Nethergong has a healthy population of Common Darters and a few early mornings saw them emerging. It was pleasing to capture a few newly emerged individuals showing off those lovely new wings. Just magical watching them making their maiden flights.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - teneral male

I could have chosen so many other photos but I think this selection represents a nice few memories to the first part of the year. I will post the next installment in due coarse. I hope you enjoy!