Monday 26 July 2010

Shock News!!!

Despite spending at least 65 minutes outside today (20 minutes to and from the tube station, 5 minutes getting lunch, and 40 minutes filthily twitching the Common Scoters at Rainham – London life list = 220), I did not see a Southern Migrant Hawker!

So, clearly it’s not me that they’re attracted to – must be Roy or Jono. Any reports of small flocks heading towards Cheshunt or Wanstead?

Sunday 25 July 2010

Just like buses…

… 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:southern_migrant_hawker_male


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.


Saturday 24 July 2010

Southern Migrant Hawkers in Hadleigh, Essex!

I commented in my previous post that Southern Emerald Damselfly was a rare beast in the UK, but nevertheless a fair few people have seen them. Southern Migrant Hawker is rarer still (approx seven records to date, I’ve been told), and has never been ‘twitchable’… so news of several together in Essex earlier this week was interesting. Details of the location this afternoon made things even more interesting, so a rapid response crew was assembled to go for a look.



The site is Hadleigh Country Park, north of Canvey Island. We parked on St Mary’s Road by the junction with Station Road and School Lane (NB parking restrictions, and take care not to block driveways), went through the gate labelled ‘country park’ and headed ESE down through some scrub to the north edge of some grazing meadows, north of the railway. The hawkers were pretty consistently seen along a sedge-lined ditch about half a mile from the car – this ditch runs south from a small pool and wooden cattle corral for about 2-300m. The best stretch seemed to be immediately south of the pond, and all the photos shown were taken there.

This is roughly the route:

hawker directions

I certainly saw five males concurrently along that ditch (though others had a few more, I think) plus an immature male about two-thirds the way from the car to the pond. There are a few Migrant and Brown Hawker in the area as well, plus Small Red-eyed Damselflies and Scarce Emeralds around the pond, and Marbled Whites on the grassland. The Southern Migrant Hawkers were almost constantly active, only occasionally ‘hanging up’ when the sun went in for more than a few minutes.


It’s interesting to speculate about whether the recent wave of rare dragons and damsels from the continent is the start of colonisation. Willow Emeralds are back on the (spread)wing in Suffolk again; in a few years, will we view Dainty Damsel, Southern Emerald and Southern Migrant Hawker as regular species in the south-east?



Sunday 18 July 2010

Scarce (but not Southern) Emeralds at Cliffe

Spent about three hours at Cliffe Pools this afternoon, looking for the few Southern Emerald damselflies reported recently. This is a very rare species in the UK, with the first record as recently as 2002 on one of my old patches – Winterton Dunes. A ‘twitchable’ colony was at Sandwich Bay in 2004.

Unfortunately, neither I nor the other Lestes hunters could find any, though up to three had been seen this morning. The Scarce Emeralds were considerably compensation though – I’ve never seen so many before, with approaching 100 on a short stretch of club rush lined ditch.



And now onto a new branch of natural history for the blog… I’m reliably informed that this is a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper. Thanks H!


Thursday 8 July 2010

Three mediocre year ticks

gull-billed tern little_bittern

white-tailed plover white-tailed plover2

Oh, and I had a lifer in between that lot as well… but I couldn’t even manage a photo as bad as these of a River Warbler!