Thursday, 22 July 2021

Southern Migrant Hawker Season is Here

Last year at Nethergong, I was lucky to find a male Southern Migrant Hawker which in itself, was a very good record inland. It was patrolling a small pool surrounded by reeds which had dried up. I managed to take a record shot at distance which at the time, I was happy with as it proved the record. Jump forward a year and last week I was walking around Nethergong when I noticed a small Hawker which when it come to land at some height, was an immature male Southern Migrant Hawker. The next day I found another in a different area there and then as I walked through an open area, I suddenly noticed quite a few dragonflies on the wing. As I scanned them all, they all seemed to be immature Southern Migrant Hawkers apart from 1 male. There were at lest 10 Southern Migrant Hawkers in the air at once, quite a spectacle to see but excellent to have such a scarce species this far inland. I waited around in the hope one would land but with the heat building up, they stayed on the wing. With my first day of the summer holidays today and with the sun shining, I arrived at Nethergong at midday with a view to looking for Willow Emerald Damselflies in preparation for my dragonfly tour their Saturday. After parking up, I thought I would go and look at the same area the Hawkers appeared in last year in the hope maybe a male Southern Migrant Hawker may be present. As I got nearer, I could see a few Hawkers flying over the reeds and they were indeed Southern Migrant Hawkers. There were a few small areas of dried up mud which they prefer to lay their eggs in and spending the next 3 hours in this area, I was pleased to see at least 6 Southern Migrant Hawkers which included a tandem pair which then flew down into an area, probably to oviposit. How amazing that would be to have these breeding on site. Throughout the coarse of the session, I was able to spend my time attempting flight shots and photographing them perched where I had excellent views of this stunning species. The heat eventually got the better of me and feeling quite accomplished, I made my way back to the car. I suspect I will find myself back there tomorrow to once again, enjoy one of our most attractive coloured dragonflies... and maybe attempt a few more photos. 

Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Willow Emerald Damselfly Nymph

Having not found any Willow Emerald Damselflies last weekend at Nethergong, I decided to take my outdoor tank along for a session where the plan was to net a few fully grown individuals and try to photograph them in my tank on site. Having parked up quite close by as there was quite a bit to carry (tank, table, tripod as well as a camera bag), I was soon setting up and putting some weed and water in the tank where it needed to settle for a while. This gave me the chance to net a few Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs which there were plenty of. I managed to net a newly moulted nymph which was pretty white where the pigmentation had not darkened yet. I thought this would be a good subject to photograph so after introducing it to the tank, I had a brief wait until the nymph was in a few suitable photographic positions. Normally at home, I can take my time and make sure the glass is in pristine condition but using the natural water on site, there were plenty of things and  bits in each shot which were slightly annoying. I have tried to clean up the shots but I would be there all day removing everything but I think the shots have come out quite well considering. It was interesting seeing how quickly the nymph started to darken from its almost white state when I netted it but I suppose when you are underwater standing out like a sore thumb, it's pretty important to blend in quickly as most things want to eat you. With a few shots in the bag, it was time to pack everything away and return home. A nice few hours with the tank set up outside which I should do more often as it's great fun, when everything works out that is!

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) Nymph - male

Sunday, 4 July 2021

It's Nearly Time!

It's getting round to one of the most exciting times of the year for me when the Willow Emerald Damselflies start to emerge so with this in mind, I spent an hour last weekend making my first walk alongside the waters edge at the stream hoping for an early individual. Unfortunately none were seen which I thought might be the case so instead, I went and got the net and tray and decided to have a while netting at various points to see if any nymphs could be found and if so, what kind of stage they were at. In an hours netting I managed to net 105 Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs with only about 30% looking nearly fully grown so they have a while to go yet. I normally expect to see my first adult in the second week of July so fingers crossed some are emerging then. Yesterday (Saturday) I made an early morning visit to Nethergong to once again walk along the waters edge looking for early Willow Emerald Damselflies but despite a good search, I didn't see any. Netting in another part of the ditch produced another 60+ Willow Emerald Damselfly nymphs which looks encouraging for when they emerge. I did spend a while at one of the ponds where c30 Common Darter were seen emerging and making their maiden flights and despite the dull skies, I managed a few shots of them with their pristine wings. In the long grasses c10 Emerald Damselfly were noted along with Blue tailed and Azure Damselflies. Weather permitting, hopefully next weekend will see the first Willow Emerald Damselflies emerging and once again, I can reacquaint myself with one of my favourite species.  

Blue tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans)

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) - teneral males

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) - female

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Norfolk Hawkers Building Up

With conditions looking very good late afternoon yesterday with sunny warm skies and a light wind, I spent a couple of hours at Grove Ferry looking for and photographing the stunning Norfolk Hawkers. Whilst they are normally easy to see at this time of year, finding individuals in good conditions perching in suitable areas for pleasing shots can be a little more challenging.  Having walked around the ditches at Grove, I managed to see 37 Norfolk Hawkers which I think is my highest total to date. Most ditches seemed to hold them and I spent quite a while just sat down watching them patrolling their territory and chasing off other males sometimes at a great height before returning to carry on. A few flight shots were attempted with varying results but eventually, I ended up with a few keepers although I really should have done better I feel. It's taking me a while to get used to the Canon 7d mk ii and with such a sensitive manual focus on the Canon f4 300mm lens, it can be frustrating to get shots just out of focus. All part of the fun though and i'm always learning and trying to improve. A few males were seen perching making for some nice photo opportunities but my bonus shot of the day had to be a mating pair which flew into a sheltered corner I was watching and perched up. Whilst I do see a few mating pairs from time to time, photos can be hard to obtain so these were really pleasing to obtain. Plenty else to see including 4 Emperor Dragonfly, 1 Broad bodied Chaser, 2 Four spotted Chaser, 4 Black tailed Skimmer, 1 Hairy Dragonfly and a variety of damselflies. A pleasant session with lots of lovely views of the Hawkers and a few nice images too. 

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - female

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - mating pair

Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male