Monday, 7 December 2015

End of the season

Now in early December, the season in Northants is over. The last reported sightings were on 1 November, with a Migrant Hawker at Ditchford and a Common Darter at Sulby Gardens. From then the weather deteriorated and nothing more was seen.

Thanks to all who sent in records either directly or via

The BDS now has an on-line recording syste called iRecord, available at this link. It works in a similar way to LivingRecord. Could I ask that all recorders use this from now on. iRecord can be accessed at

Many thanks.

Monday, 26 October 2015

End of October Update

A glance down the Hot News page on the BDS website ( shows that some southern counties are still showing reasonable numbers of species, more than we are here in Northants. There are even good numbers of Willow Emeralds in Norfolk and Red-veined Darters elsewhere. Back home, the decline is well under way though with only 2 species left now. Reported sightings are few and far between and I must admit, I only tend to go out once a week to chart the decline. I still aim to find Migrants into November and a target of getting Common Darters into December is still to be achieved. Today (26/10), the weather was really clear although a bit breezy and the dragons at Ditchford were hard to find. I first spotted a female Migrant Hawker buzzing around the grassland, and only realised she was a she when she landed in the brambles to soak up some sun. Her first landing site was low down with a very messy background, but then for some reason she moved and landed in a much better place for me. I managed to get an in flight shot that showed her with a meal. I watched her fly around with this bug in her jaws, and drop the inedible wings. There were plenty of strange moth-like bugs around so it must have been one of them. Also on these brambles were 4-5 Common Darters including this old female.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Fermyn and Fineshades Woods

I spent a glorious hour at Fermyn Woods on Friday watching Common Darters and Southern Hawkers around the Big Pit Pond. The weather was great and there was good activity to observe.

On Sunday, we walked around Fineshades and due to forestry work, our usual route was closed and the detour took us past the wildlife hide. The pond there is quite overgrowth but was buzzing with activity. There were around 10 Southern Hawkers, several Migrants Hawkers and many Common Darters. You can't approach the pond, only observe from the hide which was really frustrating because the Southern Hawkers were hovering perfectly.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Summer gives way to Autumn

As we enter the start of true autumn (not the arbitrary "metrological autumn" that starts on 1 September), the decline in the season is well underway and visits to our wetland sites generally show only a couple of species. Migrant Hawkers are still around in good numbers, with adults recorded on the Nene at Thrapston and around the main Town Lake there, the River Ise at Burton Latimer, Ditchford and Irthlingborough Greenway. All these sites also show plenty of Common Darters, with many ovipositing pairs recorded this week at the Irthlingborough site. Today at Irthlingborough, I also saw a make Southern Hawker do a fly past through the ditch. I am hoping to see more here in the next few weeks as this is a potentially great site for them. At Thrapston on Sunday, I found a single pristine male Common Blue Damselfly that I estimated had emerged within the last two weeks.

I was able to visit Summer Leys last Friday, to try out my new 600mm lens on some birds, and after a good collection of shots of a Little Egret, the short walk from the hide to the car park showed many Migrant Hawkers flying in the late afternoon sun, and several Common Darters basking on the fence posts. The 600mm only focusses to 4.5m which doesn't give great magnification for dragonflies, so these shots are cropped a little. As the evenings draw in and the sun gets lower in the sky, this is a more frequent sight on sunny days.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Southern Hawkers showing well

My favourite site during early autumn is Fermyn Woods Country Park because the two ponds there - the Reedy Pond and the Big Pit are great places to watch Southern Hawkers. Between early September and mid October, numbers are about the best in the County. Here, the Southern Hawkers completely outnumber the other autumn species such as Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters. This afternoon (20/09), we took a walk around Fermyn which started off with good sunshine (the morning was really sunny), but soon descended into overcast conditions. I just had time to get these two in flight shots of a male on the Reedy Pond. Unfortunately, there were two fishermen on the stand on the Big Pit pond, so I wasn't able to get any shots from there but on the opposite stand I did find a female Migrant Hawker ovipositing into a piece of floating wood.

Earlier in the week, I visited the Greenway ditch at Irthlingborough and had good views of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters including several ovipositing pairs of the latter. I haven't had too much luck with Darters this year, and haven't really achieved any successful shots of them. I also found a very old female infuscans form Blue-tailed Damselfly (thanks for the correction MT) and a single female Emerald Damselfly oviposting on the far bank. I have never noticed female Emeralds ovipositing alone before, but guess that this isn't unusual.

Last weekend, we walked around Irchester Country Park and visited the Big Foot Pond. I haven't been here for several years and it was great to see that the pond is still healthy and alive with dragons. Plenty of Common Darters were buzzing around the water and the woods were full with Migrant Hawkers and Southern Hawkers.

Watch out for Darters resting on fence posts at this time of year, absorbing as much  of the dwindling sunlight as they can.

Finally, Stuart Page reports finding two Banded Demoiselles around the Nene at Ditchford. I have not seen any for quite a while now, so this is a great late sighting.

Female Common Darter, Big Foot Pond at Irchester Country Park

Female Blue-tailed Damselfly (Infuscans colour form), Irthlingborough

Migrant Hawker, Irthlingborough

Migrant Hawker, Irthlingborough

Migrant Hawker, Irthlingborough

Southern Hawker, Reedy Pond at Fermyn Woods

Ovipositing Migrant Hawker, Big Pit Pond at Fermyn Woods

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Migrant Hawker Madness

I had a great hour at lunchtime in amongst 50+ Migrant Hawkers at Ditchford. They were all over the place and performing well for the camera. The sun was shining and the adults were too!

Taking second place to the Migrants were one Brown Hawker that struggled to fly, several Common Darters and Common Blue Damselflies.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Hundreds of Migrants

Well, the Migrants are now taking over at our main gravel pits, rivers and lakes. While the weather remains changeable, the sunny spells are bringing them out in good numbers, although I am seeing more feeding off territory than searching for females on territory. At Ditchford on Sunday, only a handful of male Migrants were showing, and a single ovipositing female managed to avoid the few males that were present. A few Brown Hawkers, Common Darters and Common Blue Damselflies were also around. I managed some in-flight shots, although they never quite positioned themselves perfectly for me. In the next few weeks, as the weather improves (so we are promised), there should be more around giving better opportunities. I did try something a little different by shooting one in to the light, which gave a rather unusual viewpoint.

At Titchmarsh Nature Reserve, on Sunday pm, there were plenty of Migrants flying around the grassland areas between the Nene and the main lake, with only one male at territory on the river. I hunted for any last remaining Banded Demoiselles but could find none. Common Darters, Common Blue Damselflies and a single Southern Hawker were the only other species present.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Update and a visit to Whixall Moss, Staffs

I returned from holiday and back to work with no dragonflies seen for over 2 weeks. How did I survive? My first Migrant Hawkers of the year were in my back garden, during a family party, where I saw four at once, mixed males and females. At Ditchford, I struggled to find any territorial males in the overcast conditions, but this one (photo below) did hang around for a few minutes when the sun came out. Common Darters, Brown Hawkers and Common Blue Damselflies were also present.

At Irthlingborough, a few remaining Small Red-eyed Damselflies sat on the algae, along with Brown Hawkers ovipositing into the muddy banks, Common Darters and Emerald Damselflies. I found a drowned Brown Hawker, which I fished out with my monopod but it was dead on arrival, only to then see another alive which I also rescued. I guessed they had a tussell and ended up in the water. 

I took my daughter and a friend to the VFestival in Shropshire and took the opportunity to visit Whixall Moss, in Staffs only about 45minutes further north, looking for Common Hawker and Black Darters. I have not seen Common Hawker before, but a male Black Darter did appear in Northants in 2009. There were many Darters along the ferns on the trials and at the ponds I saw plenty of both species, including mating and ovipositing along with lots of Emerald Damselflies, a Brown Hawker, Common Darter and a single Common Blue Damselfly. The male Common Hawkers didn't let me get any inflight shots, so I concentrated on the ovipositing females. The male Black Darters were on the mature side and didn't show the beautiful colouration that I was hoping for, being mostly all black, however it is the females that really shone with their fantastic golden yellow and black colours. One unfortunate female had been grasped by a rare Raft Spider. The site is hard to find, but I may go again in June next year to see the White-faced Darters.

Ovipositing Brown Hawker, Irthlingborough

Drowned Brown Hawker

Surviving Brown Hawker

Migrant Hawker, Ditchford

Mating Black Darters

Ovipositing Common Hawker

Black Darter eaten by Raft Spider

Female Black Darter

Male Black Darter

Female Black Darter

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A Late Large Red

I have visited a few sites in the last week or so hoping to find a Migrant Hawker with no success so far, however there are always plenty of other species to see of course.

The ditch at Irthlingborough continues to entertain and I was able to get a few shots of the Small Red-eyes in their mating wheel, something I haven't managed before. Normally Small Red-eyes perch some distance from the bank, but thus narrow ditch gives great close-up views. Small Red-eyes are a also present across the A45 in the Pocket park and on the large lake just over the footbridge, I managed my first shot of this species on land, another shot I haven't managed before. It looks like a good year for this species!.

Numbers of Ruddy Darters are building well along with Emerald Damselflies. I visited Cransley reservoir for the first time in several years and was pleased to see that both of these are still breeding there. I should have gone earlier to check that the Hairys were still present so will make a note for next year. This is a large reservoir and I estimated 5000+ Common Blues!

The Beautiful Demoiselle is again present on the Brampton Valley Way and Harleston Heath near the golf course where David Warner recorded 13 adults on a small section of stream. Graham Martin sent a photo of a female seen in Salcey Forest.

At Yardley Chase on Saturday, I saw a lonely Large Red and a single Downy Emerald, both good late dates for their respective species.

Keep an eye out for Migrants, there must be some around!

Mating Small Red-eyed Damselflies

Male Small Red-eyed Damselfly (on land!)

Female Emerald Damselfly

Female Ruddy Darter

Male Ruddy Darter

Female Ruddy Darter

Female Ruddy Darter

Old Male Four-spotted Chaser

Male Large red Damselfly


Sunday, 12 July 2015

More Small Red-eyed Damslflies

I couldn't resist another trip to Irthlingborough on Friday to see more Small Red-eyed Damselflies. I brought along Tony from work too. There were plenty more about and we were lucky enough to find several pairs ovipositing. I hope that numbers increase over the next few weeks and will keep an eye on the population. In the air, the Emperor was showing well along with Four-spotted Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers.