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

Saturday, 12 May 2018

An exciting week for our Dragons

The excellent weather over the Bank Holiday weekend, really got things moving with 7 new species recorded for the first time this year.

Bee Jackson reports Large Red Damselflies emerging in Norton near Daventry, while James Underwood reports Banded Demoiselles, Large Reds, Azures and Blue-tailed Damselflies at the pond in Weldon. He also created some excitement by posting photos of several Variable Damselflies from the same pond, on the Northants Dragonflies facebook group. It will be really great news if this turns out to be a colony, but also quite confusing as this is not your typical Variable site - it isn't that well vegetated, but does have a strong colony of Azures.

Jeff Blincow saw our first Four-spotted Chasers and Broad-bodied Chasers in the Yardley Hastings area, while the first Banded Demoiselles were seen on the Nene at Irthlingborough by Tony Vials, who also reports Broad-bodied Chasers near the Whitestones ponds at Twywell Hills and Dales.

For my part, I witnessed hundreds of Red-eyed Damselflies emerging at Ditchford Lakes, along with a few Blue-tailed Damselflies and Common Blue Damselflies.

Immature Red-eyed Damselfly, Ditchford

Red-eyed Damselfly, Ditchford

Emerging Azure Damselfly, Weldon

Female Banded Demoiselle, Weldon

Monday, 7 May 2018

Early May Bank Holiday

The fantastic weather allowed for some quality dragonfly watching. First off, I found 100+ emerging Large Red Damselflies, and a single Azure Damselfly. I also had the privilege to watch and photograph the full emergence of a male Hairy Dragonfly, something I've been trying for for 15 years. It was one of those occasions when everything came together: timing, the weather, and a good clean background! I found him at around 0930hrs and recorded his emergence until 1130hrs when he was ready for first flight.

Friday, 4 May 2018

The 2018 season kicks off

After a long cold winter and early spring, the season finally got going with Large Red Damselflies seen at Priors Hall on 22 April by James Underwood. This was followed by more Large Reds at Fermyn Woods on 1 May by Roland Bogush. This is the first year for a long time that I missed seeing Large Reds in April, but I am glad that James found them. I must get over to to Priors Hall one of these days.

Anyway, my first sighting was on Star Wars day, when I found three emerging Hairy Dragonflies at Ditchford Lakes Nature Reserve. Two took their first flights while I photographed them, but the third was some way behind. No damselflies were in evident, but with good weather due over the weekend, I am sure that will change.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Late November Darters

Still more reports of Common Darters are appearing with around 16 seen at Priors Hall, near Corby by James Underwood and several including an ovipositing pair at Yardley Chase by Jeff Blincow. Jeff also saw a Migrant Hawker which puts it as pretty much the latest date so far. If this mild weather continues we may yet see our first December Darters.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

And I thought it was all over!!

Well, just as I'd given up for the year following drawing a blank at three different sites over the last week, Darters keep appearing in Norton near Daventry up to 16 November, and Judy & Terry Wood report 6 Darters and a Migrant Hawker at Barnwell Country park on the 14th.

Still two weeks to go to beat the County record of 29th November.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Late October

As we move from October to November, the season is slowing down and coming to an end. During the last week, Common Darters and Migrants Hawkers have been abundant at the scrape in Summer Leys. At Ditchford, only Common Darters are now present, and at Finedon no Willow Emeralds have been reported for several weeks now. I hope we get Darters well into November, so keep an eye out.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Ovipositing Willow Emeralds

I took a quick trip to Finedon on a very sunny Friday (22 Sept) and had to return for a 1 0'clock meeting. I saw only one Willow Emerald, on the small Willow on the far bank near the wet Willows. This is my first sighting on this tree. The male quickly disappeared before I could take a shot of it, and I saw no more, so concentrated on the ovipositing Common Darters instead. There were around 25 pairs, egg-laying in groups around suitable spots and I let my camera rip trying to get some decent shots of them. As I rushed back to car, I passed Jim Dunkley headed towards the pond, and guess what, he quickly located a tandem pair who went on the oviposit into the stems of the wet Willows, and Jim captured the great shots below. I hope the warm weather predicted in the coming week leads to more sightings of the elusive Emeralds.

Egg-laying Willow Emeralds (photo by Jim Dunkley)

Egg-laying Willow Emeralds (photo by Jim Dunkley)

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Red-veined Darter

I received a note that a record had been posted on Twitter by Jacob Spinks of  an immature make Red-veined Darter at Pitsford Reservoir. The location was a shallow pool in a bund area from the main reservoir. The photo doesn't show a teneral, but the male was yellow so definitely immature. This is suggestive that breeding occurred earlier this year during the major influx of this species. No others have been seen. Red-veined Darters can crop up anywhere, and this is an out-of-the-way site so its not surprising that adults weren't seen here in June.

At Ditchford and Summer Leys plenty of Migrant Hawkers are buzzing around the main lake alongside Common Darters, Red-eyed Damselflies and Common Blue Damselflies.

At Finedon, Willow Emeralds are still around, but still in low numbers. I succeeded in finding fresh egg-laying scars in the central willow tree, about 3-3.5m up.

On sunday 17 Sept, James Underwood reports seeing Banded Demoiselle on a stream at Weldon. This is an unusually late date for Demoiselles.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Spot the Willow Emerald

I've bumped into a few people at Finedon looking for the Willow Emeralds, many without success. They are very hard to find and require a lot of effort, mainly because of their habit of perching amoung the Willow trees and that their green bodies are well camouflaged against the leaves. Numbers are still low, I have only ever seen 2-3 males at a time, further adding to the difficulties in seeing them. Today I saw 2 males in the submerged Willows, perched on dead branches. They do move around often and this is perhaps the best way to see them as their movement catches the eye. I have seen other species such as Darters disturb them, but they frequently return to the same branch, or one of several. I have even seen territorial behaviour between two males, when one nearly ended up in the water. There is still plenty of time until their season ends, so if you haven't seen them yet keep trying.

Fresh egg-laying scars in the Willow branches

Territorial Male on a dead Willow branch

Spot the Willow Emerald!!
Crop of the above shot

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

More Willow Emeralds

I hope readers of this blog wont get bored with Willow Emerald posts, but this is an exciting time and I am sure to post many more before their season finishes at the end of October. It hasn't been since 2006 that a new dragonfly species has colonised Northants, although this is the third colonisation event since my tenure as County recorder began (Small Red-eyed Damselfly in 2004, Scarce Chaser in 2006 and Willow Emerald Damselfly in 2016). It gives a great opportunity to study a new species as well as watch as it spreads. So far, no Willows have been seen outside of Finedon Pocket Park, but I can't imagine they are not elsewhere.

Today, I was lucky enough to encounter this male on a dead branch beneath the middle Willow tree, with an absolutely perfectly clean background. The top picture clearly shows the three diagnostic features of the male: 1) pale wing spots (called pterostigma); 2) lack of pale blue coloration to the thorax and abdomen; 3) the claspers at the end of his sbdomen.