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.

Friday, 25 August 2017

More Willow Emerald activity

Of course I had to return to Finedon today, especially as the weather was so good. I met up with Darryl who had already spotted the first male. Over 2.5 hours we found one mating pair and an ovipositing pair, so 5 adults in total. Looks like the next month or so should bring more activity.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Willow Emerald Damselflies

At last!!!!

I was about to give up hope of finding the Finedon Willow Emeralds, when I spotted this male perching among the branches. My first shots were back lit, so I moved around to get a better image, but still had to crop substantially to get something that shows what it is - not great but a satisfactory record shot after many hours of searching.

I think I only saw 1 male but did see some fresh ovipositing scars in the new Willow growth so there must be at least two adults present (out of 160 or so scars I found!). Probably brother and sister!

If you visit Finedon Pocket Park, look among the Willows that are growing out of the water. The Emeralds are very hard to spot, so look for movement within the trees. I only ever saw this one (and the ones last year) on the bear branches - whether the leaves disguise them too much I don't know.

The key feature to look for is the light wing spots (pterostigma) which are distinctly different from the dark ones on the regular Emeralds. Also, the males lack the light blue colouration to the thorax and end of abdomen that are clear on regular Emeralds.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

August update

I haven't posted for about 1 month now because I have spent every lunchtime at Finedon looking for the Willow Emeralds. Since they emerged in the east from the end of June, I have been expecting them at Finedon and making near daily visits to search for them but without any success. Last year they were seen in Bedfordshire and adults were recorded at the same sites over the weekend (12-13 Aug), so I am expecting them to appear at Finedon any day now. Still, there are plenty of other species to see.

I saw 30+ Migrant Hawkers at Finedon and they are appearing elsewhere including back gardens all over the county. Southern Hawkers are now showing well at Fermyn Woods, and Small Red-eyed Damselflies are cropping up at Weldon, Deene Park, Irthlingborough, Lyvedon New Bield and Barnwell Country Park. I even found a male and female at Finedon, which are new to this site. Common Darters are now around in good numbers, but Emperors and Brown hawkers are still present, although in declining numbers.

I'll keep looking for the Willow Emeralds and will of course post updates.

Immature male Migrant Hawker

Common Darter

Ovipositing ;pair of Common Darters



Mating pair of Emerald Damselflies

Ovipositing Emperor

Monday, 17 July 2017

Ovipositing Brown Hawkers

Now is a great time to see Brown Hawkers ovipositing. They favour submerged logs and branches, and will occasionally use wet mud. Eggs are inserted into wet or moist areas where it is easier to get the ovipositor into the substrate. 

Scarce Chasers are still present on the Nene, where James Underwood reports them from near Oundle. Be quick though as their season is coming to a close. At Barnwell Country Park, James watched the large colony of Small Red-eyed Damselflies on Mill Lake and also saw Brown Hawkers, Emperors and Black-tailed Skimmers

Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters are starting to appear and I saw 5 Migrants at Finedon today, hunting around the open glades along the footpath towards the pond. Gravel pits such as Summer Leys and Dicthford should start to show as well.

Common Blue Damselfly

Broad-bodied Chaser, Old Sulehay

Ruddy Darter

Brown Hawker ovipositing

Common Darter

Ovipositng Emperor

Mating pair of Emerald Damselflies

Ovipositing Brown Hawker

Friday, 7 July 2017

Ovipositing Broad-bodied Chasers and others

I am making regular visits to Finedon now as we approach the Willow Emerald emergence date, although predicting the date is not easy. I did see a couple of Emeralds with light pterostigma (a characteristic of Willows) which did get me quite excited, although I didn't get a clear enough view of them in the trees and anyway, immature Emeralds all have light pterostigma. There were plenty of "normal" Emeralds around with several pairs ovipositing into plants growing around the pond margins.

Several Broad-bodied Chasers were ovipositing, and I managed to merge a sequence to show how the female progresses to lay her eggs. While this was happening, a Four-spotted Chaser buzzed her and was promptly seen off by her attendant male. A couple of Emperors were also egg laying as were many Azures.

At Hanging Houghton, there were only a few Beautiful Demoiselles around, but the two females present were egg-laying, while a pair of Bandeds and a Beautifuls flitted above.

James Underwood reports seeing Brown Hawkers and Southern Hawkers hunting the rides in Brookfield Plantation. Red-eyed and Large Red Damselflies were still on view at a flooded quarry near Gretton while both species of Darter near to Harringworth Lodge Lake. 

Male Emerald Damselfly

Ovipositing Emperor

Merged sequence of a Broad-bodied Chaser ovipositing

Male Four-spotted Chaser harassing the Broad-bodied Chaser

Female Beautiful Demoiselle