Monday, 2 July 2018

Small Red-eyes

Our Small Red-eyed Damselflies are doing well so far, with colonies cropping at at new sites. The Weldon colony is growing, although thanks to the exploits of a family of House Sparrows, not quite as fast as expected. I sat watching engrossed as the Sparrows picked off the emergent Damselflies from the water's surface. Luckily I watched many take their maiden flights straight into the trees around the pond, and there were many adults at territory on the water, including an ovipositing pair.

House Sparrow with a beak full of Small Red-eyes

House Sparrow with a beak full of Small Red-eyes

Ovipositing pair of Small Red-eyes

Territorial male Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Sunday, 1 July 2018

A trip to Canvey Island, Essex

I've been planning to go to Canvey Island to see the Scarce Emeralds and Southern Migrant Hawkers for several years and when Darryl contacted me with the suggestion that we go on 1 July I jumped at the idea, especially as the Mother-in law was due to visit for the day. We visited the ditch opposite the recycling centre and soon located two of our three target species - Scarce Emeralds and Southern Migrant Hawkers. Our third target species, the Southern Emerald remained elusive. We saw hundreds of the Scarce Emeralds including mating and egg-laying and about 25 Southern Migrants including one take its maiden flight. I collected three exuviae. A great day even though we didn't find the Southern Emeralds.

Southern Migrant Hawker

Male Scarce Emerald Damselfly

Southern Migrant Hawker

Scarce Emerald Damselfly

Tandem pair of Scarce Emerald Damselflies

Monday, 25 June 2018

Only one species to go now....

Once upon a time, the Migrant Hawker was reliably the last species to emerge in Northants. When the Small Red-eyed Damselfly appear, this changed with some years showing Small Red-eyes first and some years the Migrants. Now though, with the arrival of the Willow Emerald, Migrants are consistently last but one. This year, Mark Piper reported the first Migrant on 22 June, and James Underwood saw the first Small Red-eye at Weldon on 25 June.

Elsewhere, Barnwell Country Park is showing well with many Scarce Chasers, Black-tailed Skimmers and Emperors (especially ovipositing).

At Hanging Houghton, the Beautiful Demoiselles are still showing well.

Emerald Damselfly and Ruddy Darter numbers are building well, with plenty at Finedon, Norton and Yardley Chase.

I haven't receved any records from Boddington Reservoir fecently, so was pleased whrn Bee Jackson sent some to the facebook group, listing Common Blue Damselflies, Emperors and Black-tailed Skimmers among others.

Mating Black-tailed Skimmers, Old Sulehay quarry

Damaged male Southern Hawker, Yardley Chase

Female Southern Hawker, Yardley Chase

Recently emerged Emerald Damselfly, Yardley Chase

Male Ruddy Darter, Finedon

Ovipositing Emperor, Finedon

Broad-bodied Chaser, Finedon

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Scarce Chasers on the move

It's always difficult to know which site to visit on an individual day - do I go and hunt for the Variables at Weldon, watch the Scarce Chasers at Wadenhoe or the Broad-bodied Chasers at Finedon? I chose Ditchford to look for ovipositing Hairys, and just as fate must have predicted, I found 4 male Scarce Chasers at territory around the first lake. Last year, John Showers reported an immature on the river, but further searches in June failed to find anymore. So, have they established themselves here or are these pioneering males? Stuart Page posted an image in our facebook group of a territorial male on the Nene between Ditchford and The Embankment at Wellingborough. The habitat here is suitable, but I wondered if the sewage treatment plant at Ditchford had an impact on their range - apparently not!. Keep your eyes peeled if you are in the area, in case they have established themselves here - also they should now be at Irthlingborough Lakes too.

Beautiful Demoiselles also appear to be on the move, with an adult found near Harper's Brook Lowick (Doug Goddard), on the Avon (Mark Piper) around Welford and around Norton and Long Buckby (Bee Jackson).

Mark Piper reports the first Emerald Damselflies at Welford and James Underwood saw the first Common Darters at Weldon.

An early morning pair of Banded Demoiselles, River Nene, Lilford

Banded Demiselle, River Nene Stanwick Lakes

Mating pair of Red-eyed Damselflies, photo-bombed by another male, Ditchford Lakes

Ovipositing Hairy Dragonfly, Ditchford Lakes

My first in-flight shot of 2018 - Red-eyed Damselfly, Ditchford Lakes

Friday, 8 June 2018

Peak time for Scarce Chasers

As the Scarce Chasers reach their peak over the next couple of weeks, 100s can be seen on the Nene, especially at Wadenhoe and Oundle where access to the water margins is good. I saw 100+ at Lilford, with 6 mating pairs, many sharing the same area and not interacting with each other - normally they are territorial, but can tolerate interlopers when numbers are high. Good numbers an be seen along the old railway line at Thrapston too, as well as Titchmarsh Nature Reserve.

Along the Brampton Valley Way, 100s of Beautiful Demoiselle flit along the trees and bushes as they mature before returning to the river. At Hanging Houghton I saw 26, and Darryl Sutcliffe saw many more further south.

Female Common Blue Damselfly, Stanwick Lakes

Rufescens form female Blue-tailed Damselfly, Stanwick Lakes

Male Beautiful Demoiselle, Brampton Valley Way Hanging Houghton

Scarce Chasers, River Nene Lilford

Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Emperor has arrived

Bee Jackson spotted the first Emperor at the ponds in Norton, near Daventry (31 May) and since then they have been recorded at several other sites including Priors Hall during the Wildlife Trust BioBlitz on 2 June), and at Weldon by Darryl Sutcliffe.

James Underwood reports that the Variable Damselflies at Weldon are becoming harder to find, probably because they have moved to the water on territory, however James did find White-legged Damselflies along the stream here. The Weldon pond is becoming one of the best sites in the county, which is really weird considering it's a man-made pond (with a stream) that isn't particularly well vegetated.  

I found the first White-legged Damselflies on the River Ise at Burton Latimer on 24 May, and photographed more near Findon. The British Dragonfly Society are doing a special survey on this species, so please keep a look out and send me any sightings.

Finally, I saw 26 Scarce Chasers along the old railway line at Thrapston Town Lake, a mix or females and males at territory. Also, many Hairy Dragonflies and thousands on Common Blue Damselflies.

Male White-legged Damselfly, River Ise

Female White-legged Damselfly, River Ise

Scarce Chaser, Thrapston Town Lake

Immature Male Scarce Chaser, Thrapston Town Lake

Female Scarce Chaser, Thrapston Town Lake


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Scarce Chaser Hunting

Early in their season, the best places to see Scarce Chasers are in woodland rides close to the river, and I have visited the woodlands at Achurch, across the river from Wadenhoe, several times and seen hundreds of maturing adults. With the weather hot and humid, I set off from the car park at Wadenhoe Mill. Several females were perched just before the path across the meadow to the bridge and posed nicely for photos. It's a fair walk to the woodland ride, but worth it when I found 30+ Chasers flying around and perched, often together in sunny areas. I also got three Hairy Dragonflies and many Banded Demoiselles. Only one male Chaser was developing the blue colouration, but he was too far in to get a shot. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Two more species appear

Over the last week, Beautiful Demoiselle have been recorded in the Norton area, near Daventry. This is a potential new site for them, but is quite close to a known site near Long Buckby (about 3km), so it's possible they have spread to some of the other streams around here (thanks Bee Jackson).

Tony Vials reports seeing our first Black-tailed Skimmers at Bedford Purlieus, but as there is little water here I suspect they came from the nearby Yarwell Quarry which is an excellent site for them.

We took a cruise up the Nene from Oundle to Fotheringhay on 20 May, and I counted dozens of emerging Scarce Chaser - I could see them taking first flights or perched above their exuvia. The river also had 50+ Hairy Dragonflies hawking around the margins over the same route, again with exuviae visible.

My favourite Scarce Chaser sites at Lilford and Wadenhoe have been producing more Chasers, where I stalked 6 into the buttercup meadow. I have been visiting Lilford every morning looking for emergees, and have recorded a few, along with some beautiful dew-covered Demoiselles. Scarce Chaser tend to emerge from around 0700hrs, so you have to get there early - fortunately I can go on my way to work. 

Julia Rushton sent some shots to our facebook group of a large emergence of Common Blue Damselflies seen from the boardwalk at the new Rushden Lake shopping complex.

Finally, I visited Finedon Pocket Park and found it to be flooded after the extensive winter rains. That didn't stop 12 Broad-bodied Chasers buzz around along with Large Reds, Azures, Four-spotted Chasers and a single Hairy Dragonfly. Most of the Willows that contain Willow Emerald eggs are now submerged and I am a little concerned that this has harmed the eggs. I'll check with Adrian Parr of the British Dragonfly Society.

Female Banded Demoiselle, River Nene Lilford

Male Broad-bodied Chaser, Finedon Pocket Park

Female Broad Bodied Chaser, Finedon Pocket Park

Emerging Scarce Chaser, River Nene Lilford

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Scarce Chasers & Downy Emeralds

I spent most mornings this week visiting the Nene at Lilford in the hope of finding emerging Scarce Chasers, frustratingly finding none. I was pipped at the post by a sighting at Barnwell Country Park on 17 May, still I've got plenty of mornings next week to find them (the weather looks good too). I did find 12 Hairy Dragonfly exuviae - this is exceptional for this short stretch of river. Elsewhere, Scarce Chasers have been recorded at Thorpe Waterville by Darryl Sutcliffe and at Titchmarsh Nature reserve by Bee Jackson, as well as recent emergees at Barnwell by James Underwood   

The new colony of Variable Damselflies at Weldon appears to be confirmed with several people reporting seeing males, and when I visited I found a female and a male, but due to the warm and breezy conditions I couldn't get a photo. This is a really interesting find as this pond is not at all "typical" - whatever that means in relation to Variables, and I am planning on writing it up for the Journal of the British Dragonfly Society.  

At the Chase, I found 72 Downy Emerald Exuviae in one pond and found 5 emerging. I watched them all take their maiden flights. I managed an emergence sequence, which was another of my targets for this year. The next species due to appear is the White-legged Damselfly, which probably wont be for just over 1 week - so keep an eye out on our rivers.

Female Large-Red ovipositing next to a recently emerged Azure Damselfly

46 of the 72 Downy Emerald exuviae fro the Chase

Female Downy Emerald emerging

Mating pair of Large Reds

Four-spotted Chaser