Sunday, 12 July 2020

The BEST Emergence Photos

It's been just over 5 years that I first photographed my first Emperor Dragonfly emerging and since then I have been lucky enough to photograph a good variety of other species emerging. Every emergence is special in its own way and it's just a privilege to be able to sit and study this before your eyes. The photos are always an added bonus to the spectacle but as ever, I try to achieve the best shots I can in the different circumstances I come across. With a few Emperor Dragonfly nymphs in my pond I was hopeful this year of seeing and photographing one emerging and the past few nights have seen me constantly checking the vegetation just in case. It was Thursday night around 21:50 that I went out to the pond with the torch to check again. The night was still, mild and no wind and I felt that this was a perfect night to emerge on. I was in luck as an Emperor Dragonfly nymph had climbed up some of the grasses as the edge of the pond and was in the process of thrashing its abdomen around to make sure there was enough clearance to emerge. I went inside and got all the necessary equipment and made my way outside again knowing I could be out there for a few hours. I stayed back as I normally do to let it settle and then moved slowly in and set up. It was a perfect night to be out, except for the midges which were winding me up every few seconds but after a while, even they got few up of me. I had a really pleasing view through the viewfinder of the grasses and then the blackness of the sky. I often like these backgrounds as it shows the subject off well and also provides me with that sense of the dragonfly emerging in the darkness. After a further wait the nymph skin started to crack at the back of the thorax and the emergence had begun. I sat there for a good hour or so photographing what has to be my best ever set of emergence photos. Whilst I am often hard to please and can be quite critical of my own photos, these are a set I will find hard to beat and am over the moon with. Thankfully all went well and I left the Emperor Dragonfly in peace and made my way to bed just before midnight. A check in the morning revealed just the exuviae there and a nice reminder of what had been a most fantastic experience again.


Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) - female emerging

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Stalking In The Grass

The Willow Emerald Damselfly season has started a good 10 days earlier than last year and I'm already making the most of my early morning visits. A few visits last weekend saw a few emerging and making their maiden flights where often they fly straight to the trees and are lost to view but a number will fly and land in the tall grasses next to the stream. This gives me the opportunity to creep up and take a few shots before they continue their flight towards the trees where they will mature up over the next few weeks. Sunday morning saw a very brief window of sunshine and it was nice to see a few Willow Emerald Damselfly land in an area where there are a few poppies and other wild flowers growing which immediately gave me the idea of trying to capture one with a flower in the background. If nothing else, it would look a bit arty and colourful and certainly wake the photo up. The slightly tricky thing was getting into a position with the tripod and camera where I could do this but after a bit of faffing around, I was able to start taking a few pleasing images of the shot I had in mind. After about 15 minutes the sun disappeared and it never was seen again during the session. A continued walk through the grasses for a hundred yards or so produced a few more Willow Emerald Damselfly flying out of the grasses but it's still a little early I suspect to get the bigger numbers emerging. Hopefully with better weather forecast for this weekend, I may get lucky and see a number emerging and making their maiden flights. Despite being at work this week, I did have an early morning session earlier in the week at Nethergong where I was able to take a few more photos which I shall post in due coarse. I also need to try to fit in sessions at Oare, Sandwich and Cliffe during the next few weeks to see a few more species. There's not enough time... aaaaahhhhhhh!

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - female

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

A New Life Begins

Over the weekend, I decided to have an outdoor session with my tank at Nethergong where after a few minutes of netting at the stream, I had collected a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs. I had already set up the tank with water and a little weed and then set about trying to capture a few pleasing shots of the nymphs. It's always a little tricky doing this outdoors as there are many issues that can go wrong but despite these, I managed to take a few very pleasing shots. With 2 nymphs kept, I decided to then bring them home to see whether I could photograph one emerging. I kept them in the tank next to the pond and put a stick in it so they could emerge and then checked it throughout the evening. Around 10pm when I went out to check the tank, I could see one of the nymphs had already climbed up the stem and was preparing to emerge. I was quickly into action and set about getting all the gear ready at the pond and then settled in for a hopeful emergence. There is something quite magical about sitting in the darkness watching an emergence but the ever present midges were enough to keep me occupied. It wasn't too long until the nymph started to emerge and then during the next hour, I watched once again as the Willow Emerald Damselfly emerged and began to pump up its wings followed by its abdomen. It was just before 11:30pm that I was finally making my way to bed. I was up the next morning early where I collected the damselfly and drove the few minutes to Nethergong where the damselfly was released in the same area where the nymph was collected. A visit tonight produced a few more Willow Emerald Damselfly flying from the grasses to the trees at the stream and 3 Norfolk Hawker and 1 Emperor Dragonfly were also at the stream. Fingers crossed for some nice weather at the weekend where hopefully I can return to once again spend time with one of my favourite species.
Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) Nymph

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - emerging female

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Although the weather didn't look good at all for dragonflies this morning with strong winds and drizzle in the air, I decided to give Nethergong a go to see what was about. On arrival at 6am the wind really was quite strong and it didn't let up in the four hours I was there. I started up with a dip with the net along the stream at various points to see whether I could net any Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs to see what stage of growth they were at and the ones I did net were all pretty much fully grown. What I didn't expect to see as I walked through the long grass at the stream was a large Emerald fly up from the vegetation and crash into the grasses. As I scanned for it I suddenly found it and was overjoyed to see that it was a Willow Emerald Damselfly. This is about 10 days earlier than most years and it looks like they may well emerge earlier this year. With this in mind, I returned my net to the car and used the monopod to walk alongside the stream and gently brush the grasses and vegetation. A very good move as in an hours search, I manged to find 11 Willow Emerald Damselfly making their maiden flights. This is always a highlight for me during the year, watching this species making their first flights over the grasses to the nearby trees. With the light being so dull and also windy, I hadn't even taken the camera with me but with the mood lifted, I returned back to the car once again and collected it and returned to the spot where a few had been seen last. A good search at last provided me with a male at rest and in between the damselfly getting blown around everywhere, I somehow managed to end up with a few useable images. I even used the flash at one point as the light was so low but despite the conditions, they didn't turn out too bad. I'm know there will be many more opportunities to come with this species in the next few months and weather permitting, I will be back again tomorrow morning for another look. Last year I had a record day count of just under 400 Willow Emerald Damselfly, the most I'm sure in the country for the last few years and I'm hopeful this site can deliver the numbers again this year. Can I please remind all that Nethergong is a private site and permission from the owners needs to be sought first. I have in the past taken a few people around the site and they are generally very happy to allow this if I am present on the site as well.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) - teneral male