Sunday, 19 March 2017

Not Long To Wait Now

A check of my pond the last few nights have seen up to a dozen Large Red Damselfly nymphs resting just under the surface and all being well, they will hopefully emerge in the next few weeks. As I checked again last night in the dark with a torch, I could see one individual resting on some weed with the back of its head sticking out clearly allowing the spiracle openings to start the process of breathing from water to air. I went and got the camera and although not the best shots at all, it at least shows the nymph with its head above the surface and even walking about on the weed.

Large Red Damselfly Nymph

This will probably continue most nights now for a few weeks until they are ready to emerge. With this in mind, I have sectioned a part of my pond off and introduced a few sticks in plant pots that they can emerge from. The plan is that they start to emerge on my sticks but rather than lay over the pond at awkward angles trying to photograph them, I can remove the pot and stick and lay it on the grass next to the pond where I will be able to photograph them more comfortably. Today is also the first day that one of the Hairy Dragonfly nymphs I am rearing has spent most of the day just under the surface and occasionally has been sticking the back of its head above the surface line. Another sign that these are entering the last part of their lives as a nymph but I will endevour to monitor and take a few photos when the chance arises. Its always a long wait from the end of the season to the new one but within a few weeks, we will hopefully have our first species on the wing. Roll on the good times!

Large Red Damselfly Nymph

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Make Time This Season To .........

Witness the emergence of a dragonfly or damselfly. Up until a couple of years ago, like many others, I used to spend time during the summer watching dragonflies and damselflies flying around but seldom thought about where they had really come from and the process of emerging from nymph to dragonfly. I made it my business a few years ago to go out and search likely areas for any emerging dragonflies and after much searching, found a Common Blue Damselfly in the latter stages of emerging from its larval skin. I was mesmerised and just remember sitting back in the wet long grass at this miracle happening before my eyes and then watching the wings and colours slowly develop. To then watch this tiny insect in some cases make its maiden flight produced a great deal of satisfaction and the fact that it had actually 'made it'. I have never forgotten this initial encounter but have taken it a stage further in the past few years by seeking out some species to photograph the whole emergence as they leave the water through to their maiden flights. This has taken many hours in some cases of searching early mornings through the reeds and grasses to late evenings with a torch looking into likely areas. I decided to again take this forward and made a pond in my garden where I collected a few dragonfly and damselfly nymphs which naturally occur in the area or nearby to rear through to emergence. This gave me the opportunity to observe the pond regularly during daylight and darkness and the rewards have been very special. To photograph the whole emergence of the Emperor Dragonfly for c 3 hours in the middle of the night was amazing. Knowing everyone was asleep but this natural wonder was happening with no one aware made it even more special. I have since witnessed and photographed a number of species emerging and many of them have been captured on camera with some pleasing results. Every emergence is different but still totally rewarding and I hope during this season, I will be able to continue to capture this mostly unseen area of their lives. As the title suggests, I urge all of you interested in dragonflies and damselflies to make time this season to witness the emergence of a dragonfly or damselfly and like me, you will be mesmerised by the whole experience.

'Emerging' Large Red Damselfly

'Emerging' Azure Damselfly 

'Emerging' Broad bodied Chaser 

'Emerging' Emperor Dragonfly 

'Emerging' Hairy Dragonfly 

'Emerging' Willow Emerald Damselfly

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Garganey at Reculver

Its that exciting time of year again when the migrant birds start to arrive on our shores and with the light mornings and evenings starting to develop, hopefully plenty of time to get out birding. I haven't been out birding much lately but a tweet today from Matt Hindle who had just found a male Garganey in Coldharbour lagoon soon had the birding bug kicking in. A message to Matt unfortunately brought negative news as it seemed to have flown off but a message later again in the day proved more positive as it had returned to the lagoon. With the sun shining, I made the drive over to Chambers Wall where after parking up, I walked on down to the lagoon. On the way I noted c30 Corn Bunting, 2 Lapwing displaying and on arrival at Coldharbour, I initially couldn't find the Garganey. There were a few Mallard on the water and a few Redshank could be heard but after a  change of position, I soon found the male Garganey asleep with a few Mallards. I have only ever seen 1 Garganey before at Reculver in 2012 and that was a brief encounter so it was nice to be able to study and take a few photographs in good light. I was joined by Derek Smith and we spent some time sitting on the seawall chatting and enjoying, what is probably, one of our best looking ducks. Its a rare bird to see at Reculver so a bonus to see and what will hopefully be a good omen for things to come. With the birding bug back, I think I will have an early morning visit out in the morning to see whats about before the predicted rain arrives.

 Drake Garganey

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

What Lies Beneath!

After my last post of photographing a Hairy Dragonfly nymph catching and consuming a damselfly nymph, I was amazed that not long after as I continued to watch, an Azure Damselfly nymph decided to walk along the stick where the Hairy Dragonfly nymph had just finished eating her prey. She was on the underside of the stick where she could be seen having a clean up and no doubt digesting her recent dinner. The Azure Damselfly nymph walked very slowly until she stopped right above the Hairy Dragonfly nymph where for a good few minutes, I made the most of this rare photo opportunity of the hunter and the hunted.

Hairy Dragonfly Nymph and Azure Damselfly Nymph

I was not sure if they were even aware of each other there and presume that as the Hairy Dragonfly nymph had just fed, she was quite content to just rest. As I continued to fire off a number of shots, I was startled to suddenly see a Water Boatman appear in the shot and land on the back of the damselfly nymph. This was too good an opportunity to miss and I rattled off 4 shots before the boatman was off.

Hairy Dragonfly Nymph, Azure Damselfly Nymph and Water Boatman

I continued to watch for a while and eventually the Hairy Dragonfly nymph started to move her legs and use these to remove bits of waste from her jaws. It may have been this movement that made the damselfly nymph realise that below lurked danger and the nymph at this point moved off at speed and into the weeds. These tank observations have proven very interesting, both from behaviour and identification points of view through to some nice photo opportunities that I probably would never encounter otherwise. Hopefully, I can continue to observe the changes they make through to their emergence.