Saturday, 25 March 2017

Final Preparations Begin

With the season hopefully a matter of days away, I have been kept busy preparing pots of reeds for the pond and preparing specific areas for the dragonfly and damselfly nymphs to emerge on. The plan is that I will be able to photograph them as they emerge on the stems and reeds and if necessary, be able to remove the pots from the pond to achieve desired photos and angles. All of the nymphs I have been rearing in my indoor tanks have been put into the pond where they will be able to emerge as and when they want to. I will just have to keep checking every now and then to capture the moment. The past few evenings have seen quite a few Large Red Damselfly nymphs just under the surface with a few starting to breathe in air and I noticed last night, a couple are resting close to some stems I have put in for them to emerge on. Weather permitting, this may well happen in there next week. There have also been a few Hairy Dragonfly nymphs resting close to the surface with one well developed individual spending nearly all the time throughout the day and night with her head and thorax well out of the water. There are hundreds of tadpoles in the pond which the nymphs have been feasting on so this may explain why they are so well developed at this point. I went outside early this morning and took a few photos of her resting up and as can be seen from the photos, the markings are starting to show through and the dragonflies eyes are quite obvious to see.

Hairy Dragonfly nymph resting above the water surface

One of my concerns I noticed last year was that when they are very close to emerging and starting to breathe in air, the spiracles used for breathing pretty much stay open and that if the nymph falls or spends too much time underwater, they can run the risk of drowning. I have a few pots of reeds in place and a good amount of surface weed where hopefully the nymph will remain safe from this. With April arriving next week, we are nearly into that window where they will start to emerge and the season will begin in ernest. I just hope the preparations I have made deliver some good early photo opportunities for me to capture and share.

Hairy Dragonfly nymph resting above the water surface

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