Sunday, 31 May 2009

Black-tailed Skimmers & Emperors Now Flying

I took the family to Stanwick Lakes and within minuted of arriving we found the first Black-tailed Skimmer emerging low down amoung the grasses of the pits sorrounding the ranger's hut. The photo above shows one with the characteristic glassy wings of a recently emerged adult. I estimated about 20+ adults were emerging. Also seen:

Common Blue Damselfy 1000+
Red-eyed Damselfy ~100
Hairy Dragonfly ~3
Four-spotted Chaser ~4
Banded Demoiselle ~500 on all areas of the River Nene.
Blue-tailed Damselfly ~100

I was hoping to find Scarce Chaser here, as they are only a few km up the road. Alas, I saw none.

I have received records from Mark Piper & Nick Roberts who report:

"We explored a number of sites on the Nene west of Northampton today May 30th. In addition we explored ditches and pools around the Swan Valley Industrial Estate complex close to the M1 15A junction. Highlight of the Swan Valley trip was the discovery of ~5 Beautiful Demoiselles (inc. 2-3 males) in a drainage channel at OS SP721586. An atypical site shared with several Banded Demoiselles and within view of factories and housing estates. So the Beautiful Demoiselle has now reached Northampton itself. In addition a female Hairy Dragonfly was seen along this channel, another 2 males were patrolling a lake nearby at OS SP723584. Also in the Swan Valley area were good numbers of White-legged Damselflies along the ditches and canal, more interestingly several were in cop. around the lake where the 2 male Hairy D's were seen. Very good numbers of Red-eyed Damselflies were also seen, 1 Four-Spotted Chaser and 10+ Broad-bodied Chasers. The R.Nene near Kislingbury at OS SP708596 gave a female Hairy Dragonfly and a cracking male Emperor Dragonfly. Again several White-legged and Red-eyed Damselflies were seen"

Saturday 30th May

Greens Norton Pocket Park had some 15 Beatuiful Demoiselles, this is the earliest recorded date. Also note where 55 pairs of ovipositing Azures with a number of singles, two Broad Bodied Chasers, One Blue Tailed Damselfly and one Large Red Damselfly. These seem to be scarce at the reserve this year.
On the River Tove site where I undertake the new BDS monitoring programme, Beautiful and Banded were about in reasonable numbers. One pair of Beautiful Demoiselle were noted in tandem. This weekend saw Red Eyed Damselfly and White Legged Damselfly for the first time. There is a scarcity of azure and blue tailed this year.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Downy Emeralds flying at Yardley Chase

Beautiful weather today, ideal for dragonfly spotting. As I haven't yet seen Downys in flight, I went to Yardley Chase again. In the one pond complex I visited, there were 20+ males at territory. From previous years, I know that Downys are present on most of the 14 pond complexes, so that makes a rough population estimate 400 (if we assume there are an equal number of males & females). I practiced some in-flight photos and managed a couple of good ones (above). I had to set the camera ISO to 1250 to get a reasonable shutter speed as they fly so fast, so the images are a little noisy. They are my best so far.

Don't forget the Northants Dragonfly Group field trip to Yardley Chase in 13 June - a few spaces are still available (NB: Yardley Chase is a permit only site, with no public access. This field trip has been organised with the permission of Compton Estates). Contact me if you want to come along.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Ditchford Damselflies and Scarce Chaser on the Nene

As the weather was good today, I went back to Ditchford to hunt for more Variables. Alas, I could find none, not even the male I saw last week. There has been a majpr influx of Painted Lady butterflies in the county and elsehwere, so I wonder if this Variable was a migrant?
At Ditchford, I saw:
100+ Common Blue inc mating pairs (see photo)
100+ Blue-tailed Damselflies inc mating (see photo which shows a rufescens-obsoleta female colour form)
100+ Red-eyes inc many mating
20+ Azure Damselfly
5 Hairy Dragonfly inc mating pair
3 Four-spotted Chaser

Numbers are definately down on what I would expect for this time of year. Perhaps a consequence of the poor weather or a result of the poor summers in 2007 & 2008.
After work, I stopped off at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead to search for Scarce Chaser. Amoung the 100+ Banded Demoiselle, I only saw one, see photo at top, which shows a male just getting the blue colour to his abdomen.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Four-spotted Chaser in-flight photos

I went back to Yardley Chase in the hope of trying out some in-flight photos of Downy Emeralds. None were flying, so I tried to capture some of the many Four-spotted Chaser. Boy, are they fast!! I noticed that they hover around their territorial perch and following their behaviour, I managed these two photos. Both taken with Canon 40D and 55-250mm IS lens. I tried to photograph an oviposting female, but in all the photos I took, the camera focused on the background and not the female, so none came out well.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Variable Damselfly in Northants!

The weather today was not ideal for Dragonfly hunting and I would normally have not bothered. However, this morning at work was quite stressful as I dealt with a major issue and I needed the break. Not having been to one of my favourite sites - Ditchford - recently, I chose to head off there. Have you ever had the feeling that you are fated to do something? Well, not long after arriving I spotted a male Variable Damselfly, a first for Northamptonshire (outside of the sites in Cambridgeshire which are inside the Northamptonshire VC32 recording area). I managed only 1 sharp picture, above, which clearly shows the characteristics to separate it from the more common Azure. I believe that this cannot have been the only one, but I couldn't find anymore, perhaps becuase of the weather. Looking at the photo, you can see that one wing is mal-formed suggesting that it can't fly too far. So, was this locally bred or a wind blown stragler from elsewhere? The other picture is a Red-eyed Damselfly eating lunch.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

21 May 2009

Well, I thought the wind would never die down, so I took a chance and visited the River Ise at Finedon. As the wind blew large holes in the sky, some warm sunshine came through and prompted some activity.

Banded Demoiselle - ~20 M&F

Large Red Damsefly - ~10

White-legged Damselfly - ~2 tenerals. This is a good early date, which is normally ~25 May to beginning of June. The windy weather didn't seem to prevent or delay.

The coming Bank Holiday weekend looks like great weather for more dragonfly hunting (at last)!!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The weather today was sunny, rainy and windy (it can't make up its mind). With a spare hour before lunch, I popped 'round to the Nene at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead on a Scarce Chaser hunt. I caught sight of a female trying to fly in the wind - she was promptly grounded by a gust. In amoungst the grasses by the river were three more Scarce Chaser; 100+ Banded Demoislle; 100+ Common Blue Damselflies; and about 50 Red-eyed Damselflies. Scarce Chaser have been recorded here before, but not this early in the season which is indicative of them breeding here (not absolute proof though as I could not get close enough to the river margins to hunt for exuviae.

15 May—Darryl Sutcliffe took a trip to the Nene at Aldwincle and saw two pre-flight emergent Scarce Chaser. Photo below copyright Darryl Sutcliffe.

Based on this tip-off, I visited the Lilford site and found a further 3 perched on the emergent reeds.

10 May—I went to Yardley Chase again, following promises of great weather and saw 7 species (not bad for early May). Last year, I found the first Downy Emerald exuviae on this date, so I returned early in the morning in the jope of find some emerging.
Downy Emerald - 1 female emergent & 4 exuviae.
Large Red - 100+ adults inc oviposting and emerging.
Four-spotted Chaser - ~20 emerging and 1 adult.
Broad-bodied Chaser - 2 Adults (M&F) and 1 emerging female.
Azure Damselfly - 50+ adults inc emerging.
Hairy Dragonfly - 10 including emerging, males at territory and 1 pair in-cop.
Blue-tailed Damselfly - ~10 adults.

7 May—David Irven saw 3 Broad-bodied Chaser at Salcey Forest.
Large numbers (100+) Common Blue Damselflies at Summer Leys reported by Darryl Sutcliffe.
10+ Banded Demoiselle, both male and female, and Large Red Damselflies on River Ise at Burton Latimer
Blue-tailed Damselflies emerging at Southfields Farm Marsh
6 May—Two female Banded Demoiselle on the River Ise near Burton Latimer

2 May - Hairy Dragonflies were undergoing their characteristic synchronised emergence at Yardley Chase this morning, with over 10 emerged and a further 5 exuviae collected from just one pond.
Photos show an emergent at the hanging phase and a fully emerged female basking in the occasional sun.
Chris Emary reports 10 plus Large Red, 2 + Common Blue Damselfly and 10+ Azure from the River Tove at Greens Norton. Some of these being very blue indicating that they may well be a few days old.

1 May—Azure Damselflies join the Large Reds at Southfields Farm Marsh. Looking at the colouration of this male (see photo), it is at least one day old, which makes emergence in April.

Doug Goddard spotted a number of recently emerged Common Blue Damselflies at Summer Leys

26 April - I chose to visit Yardley Chase today as there are many Large Reds emerging elsewhere and the Chase always has good early emeregences. I saw 20+ Large Reds emerging and managed to getgood photos of one just emerged and another mature female
25 April—Chris Emary reports Large Red Damselflies at Greens Norton Pocket park.

24 April—More Large Reds at Southfields Farm Marsh. See photo below copyright Mark Tyrrell
22 April— Seven Large Red Damselflies emerging and taking their first flight at Southfields Farm Marsh SSSI (MT).
21 April—Keith Walking reported Large Red Damselflies at Stoke Wood End Quarter near Desborough
18 April—David & Sally Irven saw the Couhty’s first Large Red Damselfly at Old Sulehay