Sunday, 25 September 2016

A 'Willow' Weekend

It feels like an age since I was last out looking and photographing dragonflies, what with work being quite busy and other family commitments, I have found it quite a challenge to get out in the fine weather we have been having. Having said that, this weekend along with a few other friends and family, we decided to camp at Nethergong where I hoped I might get the chance to have a wander around with the camera. Saturday dawned with some lovely weather and with some fishing planned with a friend, we were all set up at the lake at 7.30am where we spent about 5 hours catching a good number of Carp between us. As the day warmed up, I started to see a number of Willow Emerald Damselfly flying through our swim, many in tandem where they would land in the reeds. This continued for some time and I probably saw c20 Willow Emerald Damselfly. With the fishing slowing down for a while, I went and got the camera and was soon firing off a number of shots of these little stunners. With some good light for photography, I ended up with some pleasing efforts and it was also nice to share with others about the success story of this damselfly.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (male) 

 Willow Emerald Damselflies (pair in tandem) 

Although I have walked around the lake on numerous occasions, I have not encountered them here before so it was nice to see them in this area. I suspect if I looked through the other swims that I would have seen a similar pattern with them flying around in tandem. Also seen around the lake were quite a few Common Darter and a few Migrant Hawker with one male perching up nicely for a few photos.

Migrant Hawker (male)

Weather permitting, I am hoping to get a few more sessions in before the seasons slowly draws to a close. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Migrant Hawker Flight Challenge

Having walked a lot around Nethergong of late, you can't help but notice the good numbers of Migrant Hawkers that effortlessly glide around the paths and rides and put on a good display. I have spent quite a bit of time watching and photographing them perched but I always like the challenge of trying to capture a male in flight and this proved to be the case yesterday. Once they have matured, you can find them along the stream where they patrol up and down and regularly hover and this makes them one of the easiest hawkers to photograph in flight. I took a walk along the stream where I soon found a male flying up and down and after seeing his movements and where he often paused to hover, I moved into position for some photos. The only factor that worked against me was the slightly noisy background but he showed well for c15 minutes where I was able to grab a number of pleasing shots. As I continued up the stream, I encountered a few more Migrant Hawkers on territory and also a few Brown Hawkers which I briefly tried to photograph. If the Migrant Hawker is the easiest to photograph, the Brown Hawker in my opinion is the hardest of the hawkers to photograph and it was not surprising that I ended up with no shots and got frustrated by the whole episode. One day I will get a decent shot of one of these if I persevere i'm sure. Hopefully I will encounter a few more Migrant Hawkers in flight soon where I can really enjoy the challenge of capturing these in flight, I thoroughly recommend it.

Migrant Hawker (male)

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Patience Rewarded

With some warm sunshine and light winds predicted for today, the challenge today was to simply get a better image if possible of the Willow Emerald Damselfly ovipositing into stinging nettle stems at Nethergong. After some correspondence with a few people, it would seem that my findings do constitute a first for the UK and with some help from other enthusiasts on the UK Dragonflies Forum, it appears from research that c60 species of plant and tree have been used by Willow Emerald Damselfly to oviposit in, but most interestingly, no mention at all of stinging nettle stems being used. I arrived at Nethergong at 9.45am in already warm sunshine where I spent the next four hours in the area where the Willow Emerald Damselflies have been seen. An initial check of the stream produced no sightings at all but checking one of the sunny rides, I found c15 resting up, mostly females with the odd male present. My last few visits have seen them appear at the stream early afternoon in tandem so with an hour or so to spare, I took a walk around where I found a few Migrant Hawker where a few flights shots were had, 4 Brown Hawker, 1 Southern Hawker, 1 Azure Damselfly and c10 Emerald Damselfly. After having a spot of lunch and drink, I spent the next few hours at the stream where I observed c25 Willow Emerald Damselfly, many in tandem and again ovipositing into the stinging nettle stems. I spent quite a while just watching them through the binoculars where the pattern seemed to be that they would lay 1 or 2 eggs and then be whisked off by the males to the next stem. This continued with the other pairs and after finding a good spot, I sat on the edge of the stream and awaited their arrival at the nettles. Most of the time they would be on the far side of the stream and this meant I had to use the 1.4 converter on the Canon f4 300mm lens which I really don't like for dragonflies but it did give me a little extra reach. For a lot of the time, they would go quite deep into the nettles where various parts of them were hidden by leaves but occasionally I could get a good view where at last, I managed to get a few nice shots of them ovipositing into the stinging nettle stems which can be seen clearly. With some shots in the bag, I called it a day and made my way back to the car. An excellent session with some better shots of what may be new information on where Willow Emerald Damselflies lay their eggs.

Willow Emerald Damselfly Ovipositing into Stinging Nettle Stems 

Willow Emerald Damselfly (tandem pair)

Stream showing overhanging Stinging Nettles

Monday, 29 August 2016

A Showy Little Stint!

I thought I would have another visit to Reculver this morning where the plan was to try and get better views and photographs of the Baird's Sandpiper and Little Stint. With it being a Bank Holiday, I knew a few other birders would be visiting Reculver today so with that in mind, I was out of the house at 5am and driving over to Chambers Wall to park up. As the light picked up, I wandered on down to Coldharbour and arrived c10 minutes later where I walked to the eastern end to view for the waders. As I walked down the seawall 1 Common Sandpiper called and flew by and a few waders could be seen further down. I started to scan them and picked out 5 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank, 1 Redshank, 1 Little Stint but no sign of the Baird's Sandpiper. I had a look around for it in Coldharbour but it seemed it has moved on. Thankfully I saw it on Friday so I was not to disappointed. My attention was then drawn towards the Little Stint. I have only ever seen one at Reculver and that was in flight so the task was to try to get a few shots of this attractive little wader. At first, it stayed with the Dunlin but a while later it flew right into the eastern end corner where thousands of midges were on the waters surface. With no one around at the moment, I moved a little closer and hoped it would continue walking towards me and give me the chance to get a few photographs. The light was not that good but the sun did come out later but luck was on my side as the Little Stint walked right by me within 3 metres and gave excellent views and I was able to take a number of pleasing efforts.

Little Stint

I have photographed them before at Oare Marshes but they have often been little dots but this was something special indeed to have this scarce Reculver bird standing in front of me. I made the most of it and it seemed not to worry about my presence at all as it continued to hunt for midges. With a few birders seen walking along the seawall, I moved back and continued my walk along the seawall after speaking to a few people who were not too happy that the Baird's Sandpiper had seemingly moved on. Other birds I noted this morning were 1 Whimbrel, 3 Curlew, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Common Sandpiper, c10 Sanderling, 4 Turnstone, c60 Yellow Wagtail, 5 Whitethroat, 5 Golden Plover, 1 Kestrel, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 10 Swallow, 3 Reed Bunting, 3 Gannet and as I approached the car, 1 Mediterranean Gull flew over. Although I did not see the Baird's Sandpiper again, the views and photographic opportunities of the Little Stint more than made up for it. Hopefully some more good birds will continue to arrive at Reculver in the next week before I have to return to work.

Little Stint