Anyone following my blog or Twitter account (@MarcHeathym007) will have noticed that I have been spending quite a lot of time during the past week or so visiting Grove Ferry of an evening between about 9pm to 10:30pm to hopefully find and photograph a Norfolk Hawker. Having seen them ovipositing over the past couple of years in a few ditches, I was confident that if I put the time in, I might be able to track one down and capture the emergence. I have had a good look on the internet for some photos of this species emerging and cannot find any so this has also spurred me on to achieve this challenge. Prior to last weeks visits, I had spent a few evenings on site trying out the equipment and getting used to the midges, cows and various random scary noises that can be heard in the night. Last week, I then started my search which involved a torch and head torch whereby I spent some time checking various small clumps of reed hoping to see some activity of them or any other nymphs which might be ready to emerge. My first few evenings drew blanks on any sightings at all and all I tended to leave with was midge bites but a few days later, I found a few Emperor Dragonfly nymphs at the surface starting the change their breathing process. Again the next few evenings produced a few Emperor Dragonfly emerging which at least gave me confidence that I could find them if I tried hard enough. With news of some other Norfolk Hawkers emerging at other sites in the country, I was again looking at Grove Ferry one evening when as I checked an area of reed, I came across a nymph with its head out of the water. All I could really gauge was that it was a large Hawker, either an Emperor Dragonfly or do I dare say... a Norfolk Hawker nymph. As it was in a good position, I didn't go in too close as I hoped I could pursue this individual and capture its emergence. What happened next will be a highlight forever. I arrived at Grove Ferry last night (Tuesday) around 8:30pm where the sun was just starting to set, the winds were light and it felt quite mild. I walked straight to the area where I had found the nymph and looking through the binoculars, I soon managed to find the nymph already out of the water on a reed. It must have only just moved there as it was still quite wet. I set up all the equipment including tripod, camera, speedlite, chair, flask and moved in very cautiously. If I was going to succeed here, I was going to have to probably lay down or sit very low and after removing a few reeds to improve my view and have a clear sight of the nymph, I had the position I was after. I was still unaware at this stage what species I was looking at but I was convinced I could make out the green eyes which raised my excitement somewhat. When I was sure the nymph had settled well, I made my final move to a better position and waited. At around 9:10pm the nymph started to emerge and it was then when I saw the eyes coming out the exuviae, that I realised I was indeed photographing a Norfolk Hawker emerging. A sight that may not have been fully photographed in the UK before? With plenty of distractions around me including spiders, midges, cobwebs, cows etc, I found myself still shaking taking these photos but I somehow managed to stay on task. Once the dragonfly had completely come out of he exuviae, I was happy to take a few deep breaths and take a number of photos every now and then. It was here that I started to scan the reeds with the torch and maybe not surprisingly, I found another 2 large nymphs which may well be Norfolk Hawkers. I will be back to check on them possibly later tonight. I continued to take a number of photos as the wings pumped up with fluid and around 11.40pm, feeling tired and still a bit scared, I decided to call it a day and return back to the car and home. Words cannot describe the feeling I had last night although my Twitter feed may have expressed some feelings. I do like a challenge but having put many hours in searching late into the nights, I was really happy with my reward. I suspect many have not seen photos of a Norfolk Hawker emerging before so I hope you enjoy them just as much as I did taking them. The camera batteries are charged again and I shall be retuning to see whether I can locate the other nymphs to photograph. Watch this space!
Norfolk Hawker (male) Emerging