Monday, 12 October 2009

Savernake afternoon

I visited Savernake Forest with Wayne this afternoon in glorious golden sunshine. We visited the 'purple patch'[Purple Emperor country] near the column and the nearby pond, which has developed nicely since it was redug last winter. The pond held 3 male Southern Hawkers and a female which came in to oviposit. She was grabbed in the act by one of the males, forced to mate, but then broke away and escaped. There were also an in tandem pair of ovipositing Common Darters which took flight before I could get my lens onto them!
Other insects of interest were several larvae of the Pale Tussock moth on 'walkabout' getting ready to pupate underground; a robber fly with prey on a sunny oak trunk along with a female Oak Bush-cricket and an extremely well camouflaged Grey Shoulder-knot moth!
All it needs is a little sunshine to get things happening again. We may revisit again tomorrow earlier in the afternoon to get more dragonfly pics.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

No dragons but.....

'Trapped' at head office today in Devizes, but coming back from the car mid morning I disturbed a Hummingbird Hawkmoth which was nectaring on a clump of Valerian by the office wall. It flew up just above the first floor window level and proceeded to sunbathe. Luckily I had my camera with me and got some distant [even for my zoom!] shots. Some interested colleagues saw it too. Unfortunately it flew off before giving the opportunity for in-flight feeding shots. Amazingly this is my first sighting this year! No repeat of the fly-by Southern Hawker there a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Late dragons and predators

As you may or may not have noticed I haven't posted for some time! A combination of a torn shoulder muscle and crushed nerve, starting a new job and unsuitable weather when on my days off!
Anyway, today I managed to squeeze in a short 1 hour visit to a local pond I only discovered this year at the Woodland Trust's Warneage Wood at Lower Wanborough.
It's a small round pond approx. 8 metres across.
In the glorious Autumn sunshine [20degC!]I watched 3 male Southern Hawkers battling it out for territorial rights over the limited surface area while a lone female quietly sneaked in to lay eggs unseen and unmolested [but unfortunately too obscured by vegetation to provide a decent image]. These males quite often approached me so close that they were inside my closest focussing distance!
Also present was a lone male Migrant Hawker and two male Common Darters.
Another male had unfortunately become lunch for one of the bankside spiders!
While on the subject of predators; I was pondering the absence of any damselflies when what should drop in but a fabulous Grey Wagtail - the arch nemesis of all damselflies [and some dragonflies if they aren't careful...]. So I'm guessing that this bird may have 'hoovered up' all the remaining late damsels!?
A supporting cast of calling Buzzards overhead and a fly-by Comma made this a delightful short tranquil interlude in an otherwise hectic weekend.
Make the most of the sun - it's changing by the end of next week...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Records for 19th August 2009.

Yesterday I was able to regain access [at long last] to one of the most important odonata sites in Wiltshire. It is a private site that is also a SSSI and is our only acid bog habitat [that includes standing water]. My main concern was to establish that Small Red Damselfly was still present - which I am pleased to say is there in reasonable numbers [100+]. Mating was noted including pairs in cop and in tandem. Keeled Skimmers were also there in good numbers [30+] again with mating behaviour noted. Other species present included a patrolling male Golden-ringed Dragonfly which caught a Wasp then used one of my tripod legs as a perch while he consumed his snack with a sting in the tail!
Migrant and Southern Hawkers, Emperor, Common Darter; plus Common Emerald, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies completed the line-up.
I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't find any Black Darters as they were there [albeit in small numbers] during my last late summer visit several years ago.
I still hold out hope and perhaps they are just late emerging at this site.
Now I have re-established contact I will be revisiting next year in Spring to [hopefully] confirm the continued presence of Downy Emerald and late summer to see if Black Darter is back. Common Hawker also seems to have disappeared but was only ever included from one sighting.
I also visited the WWT's site of Landford Bog but there was no open water and the only odonata was a single teneral male Common Darter!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Coate Water Country Park

I managed a brief visit to the above late this afternoon during a small glimmer of sunshine. Haven't managed much fieldwork lately what with helping my eldest daughter decorate and set up her new [first]salon in Swindon town centre and helping my other daughter prepare for her move to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music!
Anyway, I am pleased to be able to report that Small Red-eyed Damselflies [Erythromma viridulum]are back at Coate!! I was able to find at least 4 on the model boating lake in blustery, cool and partly overcast conditions. If I can manage a return visit in better contidions hopefully there will be more. This is particularly pleasing as there appears to be none at the 'hospital pond' this year. Perhaps they emerged, found little or no weed to use and moved over to nearby Coate Water?
Also present were several Common Emerald Damselflies [Lestes sponsa] and a few Common Blue-tailed, Red-eyed and Blue-tailed Damselflies. Dragonflies were represented by a single Common Darter!
The other good news is that the land next to Coate Water has been saved from development [at least for the time being....]

Monday, 10 August 2009

Records for Saturday 8th August 2009.

Damian Pinguey visited the 'Chippenham Pond' site behind the Volvo garage on Saturday where he saw Ruddy and Common Darter amongst others.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Records for Sunday 2nd August

Not posted for a while - a combination of being away on holiday [to Corfu] and rubbish weather when able to go out!
I was very pleased to receive a report [with photos] from a new recorder, Barry Watts. He lives in Frome and visited Stourhead for the first time on Sunday. As well as some Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies he saw the first reported Migrant Hawker and Common Darters for Wilts for the year. As well as this there was an ovipositing Brown Hawker, some Broad-bodied Chasers and an ancient female 4-spot Chaser [looking her age!]

On the same day I had the first Southern hawker in my garden for some time - a pristine male in his prime.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Savernake - Emperors of the Purple persuasion!

I visited the excellent Savernake Forest near Marlborough today to see if I could find and photograph the Ruddy Darter seen on Sunday. No luck, 'only' 2 Broad-bodied Chasers and a male and female Emperor. I then went to the column to find the butterfly namesake - Purple Emperor - and saw at least 3 in the canopy and one [presumed female] down low checking out sallows for oviposition potential. Then, walking along the track, I found a male sucking up minerals from a damp shady patch on the ride which allowed amazingly close approach. This fulfilled a lifes ambition to get up close and personal with 'his Majesty'. It nearly climbed onto my finger too when offered but spooked before it's rear pair of legs were aboard!! My wildlife moment of the year so far...

Records for Tues 14th July

I revisited Great Western Hospital pond to see if any SRED's had appeared, but strong winds had kept away all but a few Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damsels. Not even any Skimmers or Emperors! The recent rain had raised the water level [it is a balancing pond] and the aquatic vegetation was submerged so nothing for the SRED's to perch on even if they had been present!

Records for Sunday 12th July

Wayne Clinch visited Savernake Forest [for Purple Emperor butterflies]and after seeing some at the 'Column' he checked out the pond opposite where, as well as Broad-bodied Chasers he saw a single Ruddy Darter. This is the first one reported for the year.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Bentley Wood Pond

Rob Turner visited one of the ponds in Bentley Wood today and, as well as Large Red and Azure Damselflies he found an emerging Southern Hawker. He managed to get a photo just after it had 'flattened out' it's wings, next to it's exuvia. The wings are rather blurred as they were being vibrated in preparation for the maiden flight! He also had good views of Purple Emperor and White-letter Hairstreak butterflies - not bad for a day with less than ideal weather conditions!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

More Records for 4th July 2009

Last Saturday Rob Turner, our County Bird Recorder, was mist netting/ringing at Calne sewage works when he spotted a Golden-ringed Dragonfly there. The works are adjacent to the River Marden. This is a new location for this species the nearest being Spye Park, around 3 miles away to the SW. It could be a wanderer from that site or it could be breeding on small feeder streams nearby. Worth further investigation...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sightings for 4th July 2009

Today I visited Red Lodge Wood [north of Wootton Bassett], primarily to look for and photograph an aberrant Silver-washed Fritillary [which I was successful in doing]. But as there are 3 ponds there I expected to see some odonata - and I wasn't disappointed. With Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies around the ponds plus 2 male Broad-bodied Chasers sparring for territory on the small pond at the eastern end of the main ride. Also in this area were a male and female Southern Hawker and a Brown Hawker. A female BB Chaser sat enjoying the sun on the opposite side of the ride - away from all the frenetic male activity!

Sightings for 2nd July 2009.

Mike Hamzij revisited the Bristol Avon at Whaddon today. As well as seeing his first Brown Hawker of the year he also saw 3 Emperors and at least 10 Scarce Chasers holding territory along the river. Several of the males had scuff marks on their abdomens which shows that they had successfully mated as this is where the female holds on during the wheel position.
I, meanwhile, visited Birch Pool in Savernake Forest only to find it nearly dry. Despite this there were still several Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies present. A larva seen to crawl quickly from a mud slurry 'pool' to the only patch of water left looked like a Chaser larva - but the mud was too deep to allow closer investigation!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Records for 1st July 2009

In a bid to survey another tetrad in the Cotswold Water Park [CWP], I braved the sweltering conditions and walked around lake 26. The most noticeable feature were the huge numbers of Common Blue Damsels - the whole lake was covered in them. There must have been at least 100,000!!!
Red-eyed Damselflies were obviously having a good season here, there were around 140 in the lily pad areas including tandem and ovipositing pairs.
Black-tailed Skimmer was the most numerous anisopteran with an estimated 120 present including mating pairs and ovipositing females.
4-spotted Chasers were still hanging in there with 31 individuals starting to look worse for wear!
Smaller numbers of Blue-tailed and one [still!!] Large Red Damsel plus a solitary Banded Demoiselle completed the damselfly list.
One Brown Hawker and 9 patrolling male Emperors plus two ovipositing females finished the species total of nine for the day.
While trying to obtain some in-flight shots of a patrolling male Emperor, a Comma flew out across the lake and was promptly captured and consumed on the wing!

Monday, 29 June 2009

GW Hospital Pond, Swindon.

Given that Small Red-eyed Damselflies [SRED'S] have started to appear in a few southern counties over the last few days, I thought I'd have a look at the hospital pond [even though 26th July is earliest date there so far!]. No SRED'S yet but there were a few Red-eyed there which is a new species for the site - probably spread from Coate Water nearby. Also present were hundreds of Common Blue Damsels, a few Blue-tailed and 3 male Emperors holding territory. As the pond is only a 7 minute stroll from my house I'll check regularly and report as soon as they appear. Still 28degC at 5.30pm!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Rivers and Lakes

Today I visited a couple of sites where Beautiful Demoiselles have been found last year. One on the Cole just north of Inglesham and another on the Thames. Didn't see any at either site but plenty of Banded's about plus Common Blue, Blue-tailed, and a few White-legged and Red-eyed Damsels. One male Emperor patrolling along the Thames.
At Coate Water in Swindon, on the model boating lake, a male Emperor plus ovipositing female. Also Common Blue damsels, Red-eyed and a 4-spot Chaser. Star though was a male Brown Hawker - first for the year - which I managed to capture in flight.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Dragonfly watching -street cafe style!

While enjoying a belated Father's Day treat from my daughters [a meal and the cinema]we were sat at an outdoor table at Frankie and Benny's at Greenbridge retail park, Swindon. What should give a slow flypast but a male Southern Hawker - my first for the year,and THE first for Wilts unless anyone else has already seen one. I can only assume it had come from the River Cole which flows through the middle of this retail park [although it is little more than a stream at this point!]
I also received a belated report of a male Beautiful Demoiselle at Stanton Park Wood on 30th May, seen by Tony Martin. This is the first record for Swindon and, along with last years sightings from the Thames and just north of Inglesham, we now have a distinct presence in the North-east of the county.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Another 'Beautiful Location'!

Mike Hamzij just emailed me to say that this morning he discovered another new site for Beautiful Demoiselle, near Broughton Gifford. This is on the same stream as he found the others near Little Chalfield but is 3kms away. This species will soon be catching up with Banded Demoiselle in the extent of it's distribution!

Sightings for 16th June 2009

I visited Roves Farm scrape by the River Cole in the afternoon, in the hope of finding an early Ruddy Darter - no luck there. But even though the scrape had dwindled to two muddy pools it was heaving with odonata!
Black-tailed Skimmers were everywhere, from territorial males, to mating couples and a female making her maiden flight! Must have been about 20-25 of them.
Also about 7 male Broad-bodied Chasers were on territory having constant battles with the 8-10 Four-spotted Chasers present too. A poor female BB Chaser was trying to quietly lay her eggs but was being constantly harassed by pumped up males trying to mate with her - this even included a male 4-spot [well, I suppose she does look a bit like a fat version of a 4-spot!]I tried a first attempt at in-flight shots of dragonflies using her as the subject. I don't think they turned out too bad [though they'll never be competition winners;o)]
Above all this mayhem patrolled 2 serene male Emperors.
Damselflies present included loads of Common Blue, Azure and Red-eyed Damselflies. Plus a few Blue-tailed [not sure if there are less of them or if they are just better at hiding!].
Finally, as I walked along the short accessible stretch of the River Cole that is near the scrape, I saw 4 male and 1 female Banded Demoiselles - plus a single White-legged Damselfly. Numbers of the latter species seem to have been dropping at this site during the past 3 to 4 years. It may be that the succession of summer flash flooding has scoured the banks clear of the lush emergent vegetation that this species loves....
But not a bad tally for just over an hour at the end of the afternoon.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) Ovipositing female 1.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) Ovipositing female. 2.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) Ovipositing female. 3.

A case of mistaken identity!

A case of mistaken identity!, originally uploaded by od0man.

Banded Demoiselle (Callopteryx splendens).

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa).

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Sightings from Sunday 14th June

Damian emailed me to say he'd visited 'The Pond' in Chippenham on Sunday to check it out for Red-veined Darters - no luck I'm afraid. But he did see loads of Black-tailed Skimmers, Broad-bodied Chasers and both a male and an ovipositing female Emperor. Plus Azure, Common, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselflies.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mike Hamzij visited his 'local patch' - the Bristol Avon near Whaddon, Trowbridge today and, despite the weather, found the following:

"First Red-eyed Damselflies of year there; only 4 on one patch lilies. Also first Emperor.
Literally 100's Banded Demoiselles, Plenty White-legged and Blue-tailed plus few Common Blue and Azure Damselflies. Scarce Chaser absent today."

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Early june on the Bristol Avon

Geoff Dicker has very kindly sent some photos of a few of the species he saw on the Avon near Whaddon the other evening. From top to bottom: White-legged Damselfly male; White-legged female; Banded Demoiselle mating pair. Nothing current to report - the weather needs to improve first....!