Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Lure of West Kent

With news of a few Golden ringed Dragonflies being seen by Mark Tomlins near Lamberhurst in a private wood, I arranged to meet up with Mark who had kindly agreed to take me to the area within the woods. After meeting up for a brief chat, we drove on down to the woods where after parking up, we continued further into the woods in his 4x4. I had in my mind that we would be sitting near a stream but I couldn't have been further from the truth when we pulled up to see a large circular pond in the middle of the woods. Mark had seen a few Golden ringed Dragonflies visiting the pond in previous days and as we started to scan the pool, it wasn't long until 1 Golden ringed Dragonfly flew in and started to fly around the pool before coming to rest on the furthest possible perch. Mark had photographed one a few days earlier on a few nearer perches so I didn't concern myself with trying to get some shots on the other side. How wrong I was for the Golden ringed Dragonfly decided to vanish and despite waiting around for a few hours, it never returned. For compensation though, there were good numbers of Large Red, Azure, Blue tailed Damselfly and White legged Damselfly along with a few Four spotted Chaser, Broad bodied Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly and Brown Hawkers. The lily pads were littered with Southern Hawker exuviae and Silver washed Fritillary and White Admiral were numerous in the woods. Despite the no show of the Golden ringed Dragonfly, it was still a really nice day and superb area within a wood to spend hours studying the local wildlife. 

Four spotted Chaser (male)

White legged Damselfly (male) 

White legged Damselfly (immature male)

Monday, 19 June 2017

Dazzling Demoiselles

I spent a few hours on Sunday morning at Nethergong where the aim was to see if any Emerald Damselfly could be found and then hopefully locate a few exuviae of this species which I could add to my growing collection. However, despite a good search of the long grasses alongside the stream and reeds on the waters edge for any exuviae, I drew a blank on both fronts. Hopefully they will emerge during this warm spell this week and I may encounter them during next weekend. I did spend a short while pond dipping at the stream which produced 3 Emerald Damselfly nymphs of good size which looked like they may emerge soon. As I then sat back at the waters edge having a drink, I noticed a good number of Banded Demoiselle patrolling the stream and this kept me occupied as they flew out every now and then to either catch prey, chase females or intruders. It was this point that I decided that rather than walk around searching in the heat, I would sit back and try to get a few photographs of the males and just enjoy the experience of these stunners. Its easy to overlook them as they speed down the stream quickly but when perched and quite close, the detail and colours on them is nothing short of incredible. As I had been sat patiently at the stream, a few male Banded Demoiselle moved in and rested on the reeds which gave me the perfect excuse to take a number of photos. I noticed with one male that he would fly out to catch prey and after returning back to the perch, would spread his wings a few times which provided yet more photo opportunities. I really can't get enough of this species and hopefully will have a few more encounters with the camera this season. Also noted as I sat at the stream were 2 Emperor Dragonfly, 2 Hairy Dragonfly, 1 Norfolk Hawker, 1 Four spotted Chaser and good numbers of Blue tailed and Azure Damselfly. I'm hoping to get out at the weekend for another search of this area as well as trying to fit in a trip to Westbere to see how the Norfolk Hawkers are doing. From what I am being told, they are having a good season in east Kent with sightings at a number of locations. 

Banded Demoiselle (male)

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Few Garden Emergers

Before going out this morning, I went out into the garden to check the pond and could see that a Common Darter had just emerged. I had just started to eat breakfast so decided to take a few shots and then return indoors to eat a bit before returning outside again every now and then to take a few more photos. Over a period of c20 minutes, it had soon pumped up its wings and abdomen and was starting to colour up. I had to go out rather soon after so I hope all was well and that it made its maiden flight safely.

Newly Emerged Common Darter (female) 

Common Darter Exuviae

Last week, I had a female Common Blue Damselfly emerge which at first stumped me due to the lack of perpendicular lines on the caudal lamellae but it seems that this can happen in some individuals. The spine on S8 however, confirmed the id as did the shape of the pronotum. 

Newly Emerged Common Blue Damselfly (female)

Hopefully a few more visits out soon to see and photograph whats about and it won't be long until its Willow Emerald Damselfly time!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Southern Hawker Exuviae

Having started collecting the exuviae of the dragonflies and damselflies in the past few years that I find when I am out in the field, there have been a few species that have eluded me and one of these have been the Southern Hawker. I have no problem finding the adults but have yet to find any good areas where the nymphs are or at least, where I can access to survey the ponds. Thankfully, this changed in dramatic style when I made a visit to west Kent to meet Mark Tomlins who took me to an area within a wood where a good sized pond was. As I started to scan, I could see a good number of hawker exuviae, probably c15 were seen on the underside of the lily pads with more unseen i'm sure. With a bit of effort and wet legs up to the knees, I managed to collect 9 exuviae. On returning home, I consulted a few books and come to the conclusion that they were all Southern Hawker exuviae. I knew straight away when I collected them that they were not Emperor Dragonfly exuviae as the eye shape was wrong so was quite excited that these may well be new exuviae for me. Although not too clear in the shots, one of the key identification features is the shape of the epiproct which when examined through a 10x hand lens, matched the photos I could see in the books. The mask was long and slender in length which shows well and distinguishes it from the Brown Hawker which has a more broad mask. My exuviae collection is continuing to grow and I must admit, I get just as much satisfaction looking and finding these as I do photographing the adults. I still need a Brown Hawker exuviae but I think my next mission will be to see if I can find any Emerald Damselfly exuviae in the next few weeks. I have a good site for these so the next few sessions will be spent searching through the reeds and grasses. Fingers crossed, I may just get lucky.

Southern Hawker Exuviae (side view) 

Southern Hawker Exuviae (side view) 

Southern Hawker Exuviae (side view) 

Southern Hawker Exuviae (top view) 

Southern Hawker Exuviae (underside) 

Southern Hawker Exuviae (view of the mask)