… you wait years to see a Southern Migrant Hawker, and then loads come along at once!
Enthused by yesterday’s success, three-quarters of the team headed across to Cliffe looking for Southern Emeralds again. We arrived about lunchtime, just as the weather was brightening and warming up – perfect, after a grey and occasionally drizzly morning. (I’d seen 22 Common Sandpipers and an LRP on KGV, in case you were wondering).
Once again, there was no shortage of Scarce Emeralds, like the one above. (Shame I didn’t notice the ragged wing, otherwise this would’ve been quite a nice photo). Eventually we managed to find a female Southern Emerald, on the ditch corner near the wooden gate, about 150m from the second viewing mound. A surprisingly striking insect, lacking in any blue, and giving a generally pale lemony green impression in flight. Once stationary, the bicoloured pterostigma was visible… but it didn’t hang around since it seemed to get a lot of grief from the Scarce Emeralds. Consequently, I didn’t get any photos – will just have to go back a third time!
After pointing out a Grass Snake, we got talking to a couple of other people in the small group who turned out to be John and Jill Brooks, the Kent dragonfly recorders. They’ve very recently re-discovered Dainty Damselfly on Sheppey, while carrying out atlas survey work at a couple of private sites. (And before you ask, no, I haven’t got the details!). We talked about the Southern Migrant Hawkers in Essex, and while discussing of the habitat at Hadleigh, Roy commented prophetically that our current location looked pretty good for them as well.
No more than ten minutes of barbarus searching later, things suddenly got a bit excitable: people running alongside the ditch, accompanied by shouts of “affinis!”. A pair of hawker dragonflies were flying about in tandem, the male appearing strikingly blue as a weird sense of deja-vu descended. After a few better views, the dragonflies were almost certainly Southern Migrant Hawkers, but someone netted them to absolutely confirm the first Kent record since 1952.
And here they are – Mr and Mrs Southern Migrant Hawker:
After some photos had been hastily taken, they were released pretty quickly, but to my knowledge haven’t been seen again. We didn’t stay much longer before heading off to look for scruffy Dark Green Fritillaries; however we did have time to note a single Emerald Damselfly (sponsa), a smart Wasp Spider and a Spoonbill before leaving.