Sunday, 2 November 2014

November Darters

The last month of the dragonfly season in Northants, is now upon us, and started with 6 Common Darters recorded at Ditchford on the 1st. I had hoped to find at least one Migrant Hawker but despite reasonable weather conditions they failed to show. Terry & Judy Wood saw one at Barnwell Country Park on 31 Oct so I expect some are still around, waiting to be seen.

I would love this to be the year that we get a Darter record into December, and with the warm spell recently this might just be possible.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Late October Common Darters

During he last few weeks, I have failed to find any Migrant Hawkers and only a few Common Darters. The weather has been warm, but not sunny, which may help explain this. I am sure there are Migrants out there and maybe even a few Southern Hawkers left.

As the sun gets lower in the sky, and its warmth is reduced, Common Darters rest on light, reflective surfaces such as logs, fence posts and even leaves. At Ditchford, I found one resting on a pile of Canadian pond weed dredged from the lake by the fishermen. I also found this mating pair on some concrete steps.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Southern Hawker frenzy and other updates

As September draws to a close, there are still a few species out there to see.

On 21 September, Stuart Page saw a female Black-tailed Skimmer at the western Ditchford Lakes. This is a great late date, probably the latest in the County. David Warner was also out and about and saw a Blue-tailed Damselfly at Kislingbury gravel pits, along with the usual late summer species.

I took a walk to the Whitestones Ponds at Twywell at lunchtime on 22 September. The three ponds are pretty much dried out, with only a little water left in the Broad-bodied Chaser pond. I only saw a single old female Ruddy Darter. This is in stark contrast to this time last year when there were plenty still around, and several Southern Hawkers too.

On 23 September, at Ditchford, in among the Migrants and Common Darters, I saw a single Common Blue Damselfly.

On 26 September, I saw ~40+ Common Darters including ovipositing pairs, ~30 Migrant Hawkers and 1 Brown Hawker at Burton Latimer Pocket Park.

The Big Pit pond at Fermyn Woods is a great site to see Southern Hawkers at this time of year. I popped down there today (28 Sept) as it was a reasonable afternoon. The pond was buzzing with around 12 males, many clashing when their territories crossed. Standing on one of the fishing stands, one male kept circling me looking for females - unsuccessfully at least while I was there, and several clashes occurred. One particular male had a damaged leg that didn't retract correctly and it was interesting to use this as an identification feature during the clashes. I heard several sets of rustling wings in the reeds, but was never too sure whether these were from ovipositing females or fighting males. Only 2 Common Darters put in an appearance.

That makes a total of 7 species in the last full week of September - not bad!

Female Ruddy Darter at Twywell Hills and Dales

Male Common Darter at Fermyn Woods

Males Common Darter at Fermyn Woods

Male Southern Hawker, Big Pit Pond at Fermyn Woods

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker (with damaged leg)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Two Hawkers at Ditchford

I returned to Ditchford hoping to get some more mating shots of Migrant Hawkers. The weather wasn't quite so good and the numbers were markedly down on Monday, but there were still 30 or so flying. No mating shots, but a few good head-on shots, such as this one where the hawker is cleaning his eyes from cobwebs etc. after searching among the reeds for a female. On my way out, I encountered this Southern Hawker flying around the meadow close to the water. He actually took up a territorial position over the water alongside the Migrants. Southern Hawkers don't breed at Ditchford, but appear occasionally, but I have never seen one take up territory before.

Southern Hawker

Migrant Hawker


Monday, 8 September 2014

Migrant Hawkers galore

Ditchford is my favourite site for Migrant Hawkers because there are so many around and you can get quite close to them. This lunchtime, there were in excess of 100 adults around, including at least 6 mating pairs. There was so  much activity that the pairs weren't staying still for too long. It's great to watch the males fighting over territory and cleaning their wings and feet from cobwebs. A Brown Hawker flew past, and a couple of Common Blues and Common Darters were also present.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Titchmarsh Nature Reserve

It's been a long time since I visited Titchmarsh, so I decided to call in this afternoon. Our first sighting was a female Common Darter on the footpath just passed the carpark. We turned left through the gate to head towards the River. Several Migrant Hawkers were buzzing around the bur-reeds on the river margins, and I caught sight of a couple of mating pairs. While watching and photographing the hovering males, about 10 male and 1 female Banded Demoiselle appeared. The female was part of a mating pair, but I thought something was unusual, as the male wasn't a Banded. It turned out that a male Common Blue Damselfly had grasped the female Banded. The pairing didn't last long enough to record though. Many more Hawkers and Common Darters were around, although I didn't see any Male Darters. On  the return, I found a male Ruddy Darter and a male Common Blue that was only a few days old, as he hadn't gained the full blue colouration yet. September seems a rather late date to emerge for a Common Blue.

Migrant Hawker

Female Common Darter

Male Ruddy Darter

Male Banded Demoiselle

Immature male Common Blue Damselfly

Female Common Darter

Sunday, 31 August 2014

End of August update

Not great weather recently, so limited opportunities to get out dragonfly spotting. Still, today was good, so at the end of a shopping trip to Riverside Retail Park on the A45 near Northampton, I popped to the Abingdon Meadow pond. Many Migrant Hawkers were flying in the fields and a few at territory, along with a couple of Brown Hawkers. Common Darters were also present including an ovipositing pair. Of more interest were the 20 or so Small Red-eyed Damselflies, that are a regular sight here. Unfortunately, the pond margins are becoming too overgrown and soon there won't be any viewing gaps left.

We took a walk around Summer Leys in the afternoon, and were joined by 100+ Migrant Hawkers along the paths, feeding in the hedgerows. I always enjoy seeing Migrants swarming in the late summer sun. A few Brown Hawkers were present and some Common Darters and a single Ruddy Darter. Damselfly-wise, we only saw a few Common Blues including several in-cop.

Female Common Darter

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Male Common Darter

Male Ruddy Darter


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Migrant Hawkers start their take-over

Ditchford was buzzing with Migrant Hawkers this morning, and I guess there were around 80 males and at least 3 mating pairs. Activity was good in the sunny periods which also produced a single Emperor, many Common Blues and Blue-tails and a couple of Common Darters. A surprise was a single female Emerald Damselfly. This species is a regular visitor here, but doesn't breed.

Friday, 1 August 2014

End of July Update

As summer reaches its peak, we are just about at that time where the number of species has reached a maximum.

At Irthlingborough Lakes on Saturday 26 July, there were plenty of Black-tailed Skimmers, Ruddy Darters, Brown Hawkers, the usual damselflies and a few Emperors. I didn't see any adults, but found many Migrant Hawker exuviae although I have had a few adults buzzing around my garden.

At Tywell, Broad-bodied Chasers are still in evidence with a few Ruddy Darters and Emerald Damselflies.

The River Ise still has good numbers of White-legged Damselflies, both at Burton Latimer Pocket Park and the bridge at Harrowden. Many pairs ovipositing and in-cop at both sites. At the pocket park were also many Common Darters, Brown Hawkers, and Banded Demoiselle.

Ruddy Darter at Irthlingborough Lakes

Black-tailed Skimmer at Irthlingborough Lakes

Tandem White-legged Damselflies on the River Ise

Mating White-legged Damselflies

Male White-legged Damselfly

Broad-bodied Chaser at Twywell Hills & Dales

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Small Red-eyed Damselflies

Well, the last of our breeding species, the Small Red-eyed Damselfly, has now appeared, with 50-100 present at Higham Ferrers pocket park and across the A45 bridge into the reserve. This site is also great for Brown Hawkers at this time of the year, and I saw about 50! Plenty of Banded Demoiselles were on the river and a few Ruddy Darters were present too.

John Windust reports Scarce Chasers still present on Harpers Brook at Titchmarsh Nature Reserve.

Ruddy Darter

Ruddy Darter

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Small Rd-eyed Damselfly

Female Scarce Chaser, Titchmarsh Nature Reserve (John Windust)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Ditchford Lakes in 30 degree temperatures

The hottest day of the year so far made dragonfly hunting at lunchtime quite an uncomfortable affair. The high temperatures did seem to suppress activity, with fewer adults than would be expected. One male and an ovipositing Emperor were around, along with many Brown Hawkers including an ovipositing female. Most of these I disturbed from hiding in the undergrowth. Many Common Blues, Red-eyes and Blue-tails as well as a couple each of Common and Ruddy Darters and a single Four-spotted Chaser. There were plenty of Migrant Hawker exuviae and am adult taking its maiden flight. How it survived the torrential rain and thunder this morning, I'll never know.

Ruddy Darter

Red-eyed Damselfly

Ovipositing Brown Hawker

Common Blue Damselflies

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Black-tailed Skimmers

In blazing sunshine and 27 degree temperatures, I headed off the Old Sulehay quarry hunting Red-veined Darters. None were around, so I guess that is it for this species this year. There were loads of Black-tailed Skimmers around, a few Emperors including two mating pairs, a few Brown Hawkers and Broad-bodied Chasers. Activity was less than expected, because it can actually get too hot sometimes. I detoured home via Paxton Pits hoping to see the Norfolk Hawkers, but none were present on their usual lake.