Sunday, 20 May 2018

'Dewy' Four spotted Chaser

I was up and out of the house at 4.30am yesterday and today where I drove over to Grove Ferry and spent a few hours searching for any Norfolk Hawkers emerging. I have spent most evenings last week from 9 - 10.30pm searching a particular ditch for this species to emerge but so far, I have not been rewarded. I have however seen a few Emperor Dragonfly emerging which were picked out quite easily by torchlight on the reeds so I am still relatively confident that if I keep trying, I may well get to find and photograph the emergence of a Norfolk Hawker. I think I may have been a few days early but the weather looks quite good for this week so I am hoping that I can visit during the week again in the evenings. I also managed to see a few Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies as I searched the area. I then drove over to Westbere Lakes where in a few hours I noted 7 Hairy Dragonfly, 5 Scarce Chaser, c15 Banded Demoiselle, growing numbers of Red eyed Damselfly and good numbers around of Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselfly. This morning, I again spent an hour or so at Grove Ferry unsuccessfully searching for any Norfolk Hawkers emerging or their exuviae. Just a few dewy Variable and Azure Damselfly of note in the long grasses. With no sun forecast until lunchtime , I decided on checking around the entrance at Westbere Lakes in the hope of finding a few dewy dragonflies. I spent an hour walking through a patch of very wet stinging nettles and reeds and got totally soaked for my efforts but all was worth it in the end as I found a dewy Four spotted Chaser, my first of the year. I spent a while taking a number of photos and with the added dew, that made for some lovely photo opportunities. With no sign of any sun, I decided to return home to get some breakfast and if lucky... catch up on a bit of sleep as these late evenings and early mornings are starting to catch up with me. Hopefully I can report back on how the Norfolk Hawker challenge is going (or not) during the week.

'Dewy' Four spotted Chaser (male)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Orange Dragon Awakes

With some nice sunny spells last Sunday afternoon, I decided on a late afternoon visit to Westbere Lakes to see if I could locate any Scarce Chasers. I had not long arrived and was checking an area near the entrance which is often a sun trap when I noticed what looked like an orange highlighter pen in amongst the greenery of the reeds. It was of course a Scarce Chaser, one of 7 seen that afternoon. These dragonflies which are nationally scarce provide some lovely colours for the photographer and it wasn't long until I was creeping through the reeds in order to take my first photos of this species this season. It was also nice just to spend some time observing them and I'm sure they probably hadn't been on the wing that long.

Scarce Chaser (female)
Hopefully they will have a good season and there numbers will build up in the next few weeks. As I continued on, I saw good numbers of Variable, Azure and Blue tailed Damselflies as well as a few Common Blue Damselflies but I still await seeing my first Red eyed Damselflies this year. A good showing of 10 Hairy Dragonfly were noted with a few males seen posing well in the sunshine which provided a few nice photo opportunities of this stunning species.

Hairy Dragonfly (male)
Along the footpath near the river I saw the first of 3 Banded Demoiselle, also new for me for the year and a teneral male showed nicely for yet more camera action. It wont be long until the river is swarming with them.

Banded Demoiselle (teneral male)
Only an hour or so walking but very worthwhile indeed and a nice finish to the weekend. Today (Wednesday) will see the start of my evening visits (9-11pm) to a site in east Kent to see whether I can locate any Norfolk Hawker nymphs under torch light preparing to think about emerging. I aim to try weather permitting to visits most nights to eventually photograph an emergence of this species which I think I'm right in saying has hardly ever been photographed in the UK. Its a tough ask but I have a good few isolated patches of reed to check which I feel may deliver an emergence. All I know is, If I give it a good go, then I stand every chance of succeeding. I will continue to update during the next few posts on this challenge.
 Scarce Chaser (female)
Scarce Chaser (immature male)

Monday, 14 May 2018

Emerging Downy Emerald

With my main targets last weekend at Thursley Common to see and photograph a Downy Emerald and find an exuviae which were all nicely accomplished, I thought I might have an outside chance of finding and photographing part of or all of an emergence of this species. I must have timed my visit quite nicely as throughout the session, I found 5 Downy Emerald emerging and probably missed quite a few others I suspect as most were well hidden. Whilst some were in rather precarious positions, I was able to get myself into an area where one was emerging and although not the best angle for photos, I was quite pleased with the results. I annoyingly missed the start but was then able to sit or balance for a while as I watched my first ever emergence of a Downy Emerald. Their choice of emergence sites was sometimes puzzling as it seemed they didn't have enough room to emerge in but somehow with their long spider like legs, the ones I saw managed to successfully emerge. After spending some times resting up, most then flew up into the nearby trees and a couple flew into the nearby long grasses. As ever, a real privilege to witness this and always nice to personally see something I have not seen before. With all the action now coming thick and fast and with my first Banded Demoiselles and Scarce Chasers seen and photographed yesterday at Westbere Lakes, it wont be too long until the next post arrives to showcase these beautiful insects.

Emerging Downy Emerald

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Away Day at Thursley Common

With a number of Downy Emeralds starting to emerge at Thursley Common during the week, I hatched a plan to make a visit over the weekend to see if I could find and photograph them and hopefully collect an exuviae of the species to add to my collection. I think I have only two photos of a Downy Emerald, one in flight and the other quite high up in a tree so I was keen to address this issue. The weather this morning promised early sunshine and then clouding over but hardly any wind and having read a bit about them, it seemed that they would still be emerging if it clouded over. I was up at 4am and after getting ready I left home at 4.30am and ninety minutes later, I pulled up not surprisingly in an empty car park. I had a bit of drink and some breakfast and with the sun now shining through, I made my way to the Moat. I had an idea where they would be emerging and entering this area, I straight away could see an exuviae. A quick check confirmed it was indeed a Downy Emerald exuviae, the first I have seen and a bonus for my collection. I was happy with one but little did I know that I was to find c60 Downy Emerald exuviae over about 20 metres, amazing. I'm sure there were many more as well that went unnoticed. Not long after I had started checking I soon found the first of 5 newly emerged Downy Emerald and I was able to at last, spend some time studying them and their superb colouring. I have seen photos from others in the past showing some lovely rainbow colours not long after emergence on the head and thorax and it was great to take a number of photos showing these colours off well.

Downy Emerald (teneral male)
As I continued to search throughout the morning, I soon started to find Downy Emeralds emerging, 5 in total that I could see but no doubt others that I missed. I did manage to photograph most of an emergence which I shall post in due coarse but there chosen sights were quite tricky to photograph from. This has to be one of my best ever sessions, both from a photography point of view and the experience. With a number of pleasing images obtained and plenty of time studying this lovely dragonfly, I made my way back to the car around 11.45am... along with c20 exuviae which I had collected. No doubt I will photo these soon for another post. I also saw a number of Large Red Damselfly which rounded off an excellent trip. More to come from Thursley during the week.

Downy Emerald (teneral female)