Sunday, 17 September 2017

Magical Migrants

There was a cold northerly wind on Saturday but I decided late morning to pop over to Nethergong to see what was about and hoped a few sheltered spots would deliver some action. We are now entering that period in the year when the leaves are slowly starting to fall off the trees and its really feeling like autumn out there. On arrival, it was cloudy with spells of sunshine so I decided to spend and hour at the eastern end where it was sheltered. I managed to see c25 Willow Emerald Damselfly with most seen in tandem ovipositing into various trees and bushes but it was the Migrant Hawkers that made the trip worthwhile. I watched c15 flying around and every now and then, they would fly close to me to inspect what I was which gave me some lovely views. As they did this, the leaves were falling which reminded me that it won't be too long until the season slowly draws to a close. This made me put the camera down for a while and just took the time to sit back and marvel at them as they busily looked for females to mate with to carry on the next generation. As I walked back along the side of the stream, I noticed a few holding territory which provided me with a few photographic opportunities which I gladly took and a chance to marvel at their colours and patterning. A few Common Darter were noted resting on falling leaves which I have no doubt will provide some excuses for another visit to capture this autumnal shot but only 1 Emerald Damselfly was seen. The season has been a good one to me this year but I hope there are a few more memorable encounters before the final whistle is blown. 

Migrant Hawker (male)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A Willow Catch Up

Its seems to have been another good year for the local Willow Emerald Damselflies at Nethergong with well over 200 individuals noted in my observations, probably many more. I have mainly monitored one particular ditch for this species which uniquely egg lays in stinging nettle stems but of late, have ventured to have a good look at a nearby ditch which unsurprisingly has yielded more Willow Emerald Damselflies and an excellent number of gall marks noted on the overhanging willow trees, hawthorn and dog rose bushes. This all looks good for next year and I have no doubt that this colony has continued to spread out throughout the local area to form other colonies. I shall make it a mission of mine next year to wander further around these areas to see how successful this species continues to be. Its also really good to hear that they have been seen at a few new sites in west Kent as observers get more familiar with this species. There's not many sessions I make where the camera doesn't come out and I often find myself happily snapping away at this species knowing that although spreading well, I am still a very lucky person to have such a good sized colony to study and photograph on my doorstep. Hopefully the autumnal weather will allow a few more weekend visits for me to enjoy the delights this species has to offer.   

Willow Emerald Damselfly (female) 

Willow Emerald Damselfly Up Close (female) 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Southern Sunday

Having returned back to work after the summer holidays, its back to weekends birding and looking for dragonflies. With the season slowly drawing to an end, its left to a few species to fly the flag and with some sunshine this morning, I decided on a very brief visit to Nethergong at 9.15am to see what was about. I only spent about 30 minutes on site and walked the eastern end in the sunshine where I noted c10 Willow Emerald Damselfly warming up, 1 Migrant Hawker, 3 Common Darter and 1 male Southern Hawker which posed nicely in the sunshine for a few photos. I had hoped to find and photograph this species at rest as they are one of our most stunningly coloured dragonflies but so far this season, they had eluded the camera. Therefore it was very satisfying to get the lens on them although as usual, their choice of chosen perch was not to my liking. With autumn now in full swing, I will have to hope the weather is kind at the weekends to allow me to make a few visits to enjoy the last part of the season.  

Southern Hawker (male)

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Elusive Mr Brown

During the past few years of photographing and studying dragonflies and damselflies, you start to build up a picture of what species are very approachable, quite approachable, approachable with care and you don't really stand a chance. For me and others I have spoken to, the Brown Hawker falls into the latter category. I have normally always found this species hard to approach and photograph. My normal experience with them is a buzzing of wings exploding from the grasses, reeds etc ahead as they see you before you get a chance to see them. When you do see them land, there brown colour can mean you are looking at them without even registering them before they take flight again. My only real shots of any quality I have of this species have seen me stalking ninja style through grasses on my chest to achieve my goals. I am told that my best chances of approaching for a decent shot are when the female is occupied during egg laying at the waters edge but up and till now, I am still waiting for this chance. Having waited for me chance during this season, I thought that it may be another blank year for shots until last weekend when I encountered a couple of Brown Hawkers during a sunny/cloudy spell. Even then, they only landed a few metres away on the far side of the stream at Nethergong which resulted in my using the Canon f4 300mm lens and 1.4 converter.

Brown Hawker (male)

Although this got me much nearer, Its most definitely not my chosen way to photograph this species. My brief second encounter was at least a bit sunnier and I was able to use the Canon f4 300mm lens to achieve a few shots.

Brown Hawker (male)

As well as the adults, this species generally continues to elude me as I have only photographed the nymph once and I still need to find and collect a Brown Hawker exuviae despite looking for one on a good number of occasions. Despite their almost impossible willingness to land for me and in flight I normally always give up as they are a tough species to photograph, I still enjoy the challenge every year and already look forward to my next encounter....... Whenever that will be!