Sunday, 10 September 2023

Late Southerns in the Sun

A few weeks ago a few Southern Emerald Damselfly were found at a new site at Seasalter in North Kent and being a nationally rare damselfly, I was keen to have a visit and see them for myself. Yesterday I met up with Mark Chidwick who watches this area and we were able to find 2 Southern Emerald Damselfly, a male and a female which were in a suitable area where they may possibly breed or indeed may have already bred last year. This however we do not know and it is hoped that they may have already mated and egg layed in the pool which has now completely dried up but fills with water during the winter months. as far as I'm aware, 3 have been seen there in the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see whether any appear next year at this location. With sun and very hot conditions, I was able to spend some time capturing a few pleasing images of this lovely species which can be identified by their bi-coloured pterostigma on the wings. It would be nice to think that this species can slowly spread in the county as there are only a few other sites for this species. I look forward to hopefully a visit next year where fingers crossed, they manage to emerge and continue to build in number. 

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) - female

Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus) - male

Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Ovipositing Brown Hawkers

I had noticed looking back through my notes that around this time last year, I photographed Brown Hawker ovipositing into decaying wooden sticks in the stream at Nethergong. Despite having dipped for nymphs over the years, I have only ever once caught a Brown Hawker nymph. I decided to hatch a plan whereby I would put a few pieces of wood in the stream with a view that if Brown Hawkers egg layed in them, I would be able to take one back home to my pond where hopefully they would emerge in the next couple of years. In this way, I would be able to study this species better and hopefully watch a few emerge... and as a bonus, maybe collect a few exuviae of this species of which I only have one. Having put a few pieces of decaying wood at various points along the stream a few days ago, I made a visit a few days ago where in lovely sunny weather, I decided to visit them to see whether they were being used and if so, maybe a few photos opportunities. I personally find the Brown Hawker the hardest species to photograph so in this way, at least they would come to me and give me a few shots. The first bit of wood I visited straight away had a female Brown Hawker ovipositing into it and I was able to slowly make my way nearer and take a few shots. I spent the next thirty minutes here where eventually, 3 female Brown Hawker were all sharing the log and busily egg laying. It was interesting watching the females ovipositor slowly pushing into the soft wood and injecting the eggs. They spent about twenty minutes constantly moving around the log before I needed to go. I carefully removed the piece of wood and gave it a wash down under a tap before bringing it home where it is now floating in my pond. I'm not sure how long they take to hatch but hopefully soon, I will have a few Brown Hawker nymphs which over time, I can photograph in my indoor tank set up. There are still a number of floating pieces of wood in the stream so no doubt these will be found and egg layed in. A pleasing hour or so's work and nice when a plan comes together. 

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) - ovipositing female

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Some Southern Success!

With sun forecast until lunchtime today and quite light winds, I made a visit over to Oare Marshes where I hoped to find and photograph the Southern Migrant Hawkers that had been seen there a few days earlier. On arrival at 10am, the sun was shining and I made my way over to the west flood ditches. I had been told that they were quite overgrown and this was the case as the paths could barely be seen. Getting down to the waters edge was also overgrown and if it wasn't for where the cattle had been down to drink and had flattened some vegetation, I think I would have struggled to see what was there. Thankfully this is why the Southern Migrant Hawkers are here as they prefer to egg lay near the waters edge and where the cattle have stirred up the mud and made some deep holes, this will provide some excellent ovipositing sites. After an initial walk around briefly looking for Hawkers, I eventually found up to 5 Southern Migrant Hawkers with a few on territory which allowed me to try for a few photos. They didn't land at all which meant my only options were flight shots. With a few being quite uncooperative I kept on walking around hoping that an individual would allow me to grab a few photos and eventually found a willing subject. I spent some time watching him and where he often hovered and then set about rattling off a number of photos. As ever, the majority were not much but there were a few in there which were not too bad. I was also aware that the cows were making their way towards me and not being a favourite of mine, I thought I had better make my way back where on the way it was nice to see a Norfolk Hawker patrolling. I also saw 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Brown Hawker and plenty of Common and Ruddy Darters. A pleasant few hours but sad to see parts of the site being neglected and left to just grow out of control. Hopefully this will be rectified in the near future. 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

Sunday, 16 July 2023

Willows on the Wing

With sunshine forecast today but strong winds, I was desperate to try and see my first Willow Emerald Damselflies of the year at Nethergong, a highlight that I look forward to every year. I initially checked a few areas that normally deliver but with the wind ripping through the area, I had no luck so continued on until I found a nice sunny sheltered area. It wasn't long until I was watching the first of c40 Willow Emerald Damselfly rising from the emergent vegetation and perching up which allowed me to get a number of early season photos of one of my favourite species. They really are a stunning species and I made sure I put the camera down and made time to study the finer details on them.With a good number seen today, I'm hopeful of a good showing of this species this year on site and with only a week left at work until the summer holidays, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to spend searching and photographing them. Walking back to the car, I also saw c10 Migrant Hawker, 1 Southern Hawker, a few Common and Ruddy Darter, 2 Small Red eyed Damselfly and a few Azure and Blue tailed Damselfly. 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - male 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female