Tuesday 17 September 2019

More Willows

I counted a record 12 Willows at Finedon (17 Sept), including three ovipositing pairs including this very flexible pair. The pond is now dry and only Willows, a single female Common Emerald, a few Ruddy darters and Migrant Hawkers were present.

Elsewhere, Willows have been seen at Fermyn Woods Country Park. This is great after I found egg scars there last year - this is around the Big Pit Pond. The pond at the Cirby Eurohub now also hosts Willows, and good numbers were recorded at nearby Priors Hall.

Definately the best Willow Emerald year so far.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Ten Willows at Finedon

My last post claimed that I had seen the highest number of Willow Emeralds so far, which I promptly went and beat by seeing 10, including two egg-laying pairs at Finedon. This is looking to be a good year for them, so I expect this to be beaten again soon.

One particular male was very obliging and allowed me to get really close with my 100mm macro lens and I noticed the pale blue mandilbles, something I'd not seen before

Meanwhile, Judy & Terry Wood found another colony on a gravel pit lake adjacent to Oundle Marina, close to Barnwell Mill Lake. They were lucky enough to find two pairs egg-laying together a sight I would love to see.

Photo by Judy & Terry Wood

Friday 30 August 2019

Highest number of Willow Emeralds so far

I saw seven Willow Emeralds at Finedon today, including this lone female egg-laying into a young Willow stem. That's the highest number I have seen at Finedon, and I hope a good sign that this will be a great season for them.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Willow Emeralds starting to show in good numbers

There seems quite a gap between the first Willow Emerald sighting at Deene Park and the records that are now coming in. This is a more typical date, certainly compared with the last 2 years which has been 27 August and 20 August. 

I found my first at Finedon on 23 August when I saw an awkward tandem pair of Emeralds that turned out to be a make Common Emerald and female Willow Emerald. The pairing didn't last long as the male couldn't maintain his grip.

On 27 August, I found what I at first thought were four different males but looking at the photos, each one showed the same eye damage so it was actually only one.

Elsewhere, Willows have been recorded at Barnwell Country Park on Mill Lake, more at Deene Park Lake with egg-laying scars an at Priors Hall near Weldon.

No sign of the Southern Migrant Hawker.

Female Willow Emerald

Mixed pairing with a male Common Emerald

Female Common Emerald after being abandoned by the male Common Emerald

Male Willow Emerald

Male Willow Emerald

Female Willow Emerald

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Southern Migrant Hawker

Perhaps it was blown in with the high winds over the weekend, or perhaps it got here on it's own, we'll never know, but this male Southern Migrant Hawker showed really well today and boy if you think "Common" Migrant Hawkers hover, this one stayed put for what seemed like minutes. I filled my camera's buffer many times watching him hover in front of me.

And those eyes - stunning.

I'm keeping the location under wraps for now as it is a delicate site.

Monday 29 July 2019

Sorry I haven't posted for a while

Since my last post, all our species have emerged and we have had the hottest day on record with >38 degrees C recorded.

The season's first Willow Emerald was photographed at Deene Park, but none have been seen since. This is a new site, and I hope more will be seen as they reach their peak. At Finedon, despite the pond drying out, plenty of "Common" Emeralds have emerged which is a promising sign that the Willow larvae have also survived. The ususal first sighting of Willows at Finedon is mid August.

I spotted a set of interesting photos of mating Scarce Chasers from the Big Pit Pond at Fermyn Woods Country Park. This is very unusual, as they normally only breed in static waters close to rivers. No egg-laying was seen, so there isn't definitive proof of breeding but its worth keeping an eye out. Mature male Scarce Chasers have also been photographed at Summer Leys, although I failed to find any and no females have been seen. Immatures were recorded in late May, so again this is suggestive but not proof of breeding.

Most interesting are two sightings of Lesser Emperor at the Walgrave Hide, Pitsford Nature Reserve, separated by a few weeks.

Both Scarce Chaser and Beautiful Demoiselles have been on the move the year, and in addition to the sightings at Summer Leys and Fermyn Woods, a female Chaser was seen close to the River Ise, along with a pair of Beautiful Demoiselles (see photo). Adult males were subsequently seen on the Ise at Finedon and at Burton Latimer. These areas both have fast flowing sections that are ideal for this species. Earlier, I received an email about someone who had seen Beautifuls on the Ise in Kettering, but I received no further communication or confirmation, however added to my sightings it looks feasible.

Here are some of my recent photos, and I promise to keep the updates more frequent now.

Tandem Common Blues at Summer Leys

Mating Scarce Chasers, River Nene Lilford

White-legged Damselfly, River Ise, Finedon

Egg-laying Emperor, Segro Park Burton Latimer

Female Beautiful Demoiselle at Finedon Pocket Park

Egg-laying Small Red-eyes, Segro Park Burton Latimer

Common Darter

Egg-laying Brown Hawker

Sunday 16 June 2019

Yardley Chase field trip

This year's field trip to Yardley Chase came at the ed of a solid week of rain and suffered a little from the aftermath. The morning started off sunny but soon clouded over with the occasional burst of sun. Downy Emeralds are OK with this weather and in fact, it kept the Four-spotted Chasers away and gave the male Downys free reign over the best territories with minimal interaction with the Chasers.

Another highlight was finding an emerging Southern Hawker, which was very close to an emerging Four-spot that we found, bu we either missed the Hawker or she came out while we weren't looking. A couple of Emperors including an egg-laying female and the usual smattering of Damsels completed the day.

Male Downy Emerald

Emerging female Southern Hawker

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Black-tailed Skimmers return to Ditchford Lakes & Meadows

Ditchford Lakes & Meadows Wildlife Trust Reserve is one of my long-term regular monitoring sites. I used to find many emerging Black-tailed Skimmers and exuviae, but since 2011, it has effectively disappeared with only single adults recorded every so often. During my lunchtime walk on 3 June, I found several emerging adults and a few more exuviae. This is great news, but I can't explain why they disappeared or why they have suddenly returned. The site hasn't changed much in the past 8 years, in fact if anything it has probably become less like a typical BtS site than it was before. Perhaps they have adapted to breed in more overgrown habitats with few of the traditional male habitat requirements? Whatever, its great news for the site.

I also saw an immature Scarce Chaser, which following increasing records of this species in the area over the last few years suggests they have taken to breeding locally.

Many Hairy Dragonflies, an Emperor (and lots of exuviae) and loads for Four-spots were among the usual damselflies.

Tandem and male Red-eyed Damselflies sharing their territory

Recently emerged Four-spotted Chaser

Emerging Black-tailed Skimmer

Sunday 26 May 2019

Variable Damselflies

James Underwood reported finding a colony of Variable Damselflies at Wicksteed Park on 20 May, posting photo of males and mating pairs on our facebook group. The colony appears to be well established, but very localised on the fishing lake at the back of the park. I visited the following day, which was quite breezy and managed to find several males and ovipositing pairs on the lily pad leaves.

James also found a male Variable at Barnwell CP, and I found more at Weldon, confirming that last year's adults successfully bred there. Keep your eyes peeled, and inspect all of those Variables you see just in case.

The Willow Emerald pond at Finedon is all but dried up now, and all of the egg scars appear to have hatched. I don't know what impact this will have on the larvae, so we'll have to wait until late July - August to see what happens. Let's hope we get some good rain in the coming week. Despite that, I found several Broad-bodied Chasers buzzing around the pond including an ovipositing female, and this obliging maturing male on the ride. You may recognise the sapling he s perched on because I shot a Common Darter on the same one last Autumn.

On the Nene, Scarce Chasers are doing well, with many more emerging at Lilford and Waddenhoe - my two constant study sites. A report by Andy Gardner showed photos of immatures Scarce Chasers on the Nene parallel with the A45 at Irthlingborough Lakes. This is the first time that immatures have been seen here and implies successful breeding. Great to see that they are still inching their way towards Northampton.

Female Scarce Chaser just before her maiden flight, Lilford

Male Variable Damselfly attempting to mate with a female, Wicksteed Park

Male Variable Damselfly, Wicksteed Park

Ovipositing pair of Variables (right), Wicksteed Park

Maturing male Broad-bodied Chaser, Finedon Pocket Park

Saturday 18 May 2019

Three new species in mid May

Quite a week this week, as the weather got better with three new species seen around the County.

Four Scarce Chasers were seen by James Underwood at Barnwell Country Park, along with many Banded Demoiselles, Hairys and the usual damselflies. My early morning trip to the Nene on the 14th failed to find any emerging Chasers, and as it happens I was one day out. I returned on 6th and found three Scarce Chaser exuviae and 1 just about to emerge as I had to leave for work.

James has been very lucky this year with his first sightings, and to add to his record, he photographed White-legged Damselflies on the brook at Weldon. This is about 2 weeks earlier than normal.

I picked up a photo on the Northamptonshire Nature facebook page of an immature male Beautiful Demoiselle, seen near Duston in Northampton. Time to check the Brampton Valley Way next week.

I photographed Large Reds emerging many times, but this I have struggled to find any. However, I haven't before photographed another damselfly until this week, when I found this Azure just about to hatch.  

A quick walk along the Nene by Thrapston Sailing Club showed 2 Scarce Chasers, including the male shown below which has already lost part of his wing and numerous Banded Demoiselles and Red-eyed Damselflies.

Male Scarce Chaser at Thrapston

Monday 13 May 2019

Broad-bodied Chasers

A photo was posted on our facebook group by Ricky Sinfield, of a Broad-bodied Chaser at Summer Leys on 12 May, and then Roland saw one at Barnwell and I found a freshly emerged adult at Finedon, along with 3 exuviae. In all my years visiting Finedon, I have never found exuviae there before today.

Sunday 12 May 2019

Hairy Dragonfly Emerging

I was surprised about how little action there was today, considering the break in the weather. I hunted around and came across this female Hairy Dragonfly settled in place to emerge. The whole event took around 2.5 hours and it was great to watch in the warm sun.

On the way out, I came across this newly emerged Four-spotted Chaser, which is the first of the year.