Friday, 5 July 2013

STOP PRESS!! New Wiltshire location for Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly!

I have just received news that Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) has been discovered on temporary pools in the middle of Salisbury Plain Training Area [SPTA]. These were found on 29th June by Iain Perkins who is studying the biology and distribution of the rare Fairy Shrimp (Chirocephalus diaphanous) there. When I found out he was doing this I suggested that the habitat the shrimp utilises is very similar to that which is suitable to the damselfly. Iain agreed to keep his eyes open for this species...and my hunch proved correct!
Now Iain has his eye-in, the hope is that he might find Scarce Blue-tailed at other similar locations on the Plain forming some kind of meta-population perhaps. Watch this space!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

June Update Part II

Playing catch-up yet again! Hopefully just before some actual summer weather in July may give a flurry of new sightings! On 18th June Adrian Bicker [the developer of 'Living Record'] was visiting Wiltshire and managed to find Beautiful Demoiselle in a new location in VC8; on the Blackwater river in the SE of the county! This species was also seen in it's regular haunts on the Bybrook at Ford and Box by Damian Pinguey and Chris Beard respectively [at the former in very good numbers - thankfully!]
On 19th June I met up, by accident, with Colin Pinchen at Lower Moor Farm where,as well as the already emerged species, we found several freshly emerged Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum)which we got shots. Also one possibly two male Emperors (Anax imperator) [which didn't stop flying], both species were new for the year!
Red-eyed Damselflies were now about on the dipping ponds in good numbers, including several mating pairs. At least 2 of the males had a heavy burden of mites on the undersides of their abdomens; looked pretty uncomfortable!
I also visited pit 95 where I found quite a nice example of the praenubila form of the 4-spotted Chaser:
On 25th June Paul Winter discovered the first Emerald Damselflies (Lestes sponsa)of the year at Cadnam Common Pond. On the same date Colin Pinchen found the first Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)of 2013 at the WWT's Langford Lakes reserve. Emerald Damsel also turned up at Kite Pool in Savernake for Ian McColl on 30th. Finally, as well as Emerald Damsel and Brown Hawker, Gareth Harris recorded the first Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) at Swillbrook Lakes in CWP; 2 freshly emerged individuals _ one near it's exuvia! So despite the slow start things are starting to pick up!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Mid May to Mid June update

Things have finally returned to some semblance of normality after being away on holiday [in Florida] until the beginning of June! So now I have been able to play catch up on the state of Wiltshire's Odonata. First of all, I'm delghted that Sherston Primary School, under the guidance of their Head, continue to monitor the pond and wildlife area in the school grounds. Large red and Common Blue damsels have been seen so far along with Broad-bodied Chasers - including an exuvia [great proof of breeding there!] Regarding exuviae; several more observers are now finding and recording exuviae at sites which is great news - also late instar larvae! Peter Sketch, Neil Pullen and Gareth Harris' CWP team are among those now doing so. There is an excellent photographic guide to identifying exuviae/larvae now so if anyone else is interested let me know and I'll provide details. Barry Watts is again keeping an eye on Stourhead ponds/lakes in the far SW of the county and, on 19th May, saw Large Red damsels and a teneral Downy Emerald - nice to know they are still present there.
Mike Hamzij reported the first Banded Demoiselles at Whaddon on the Bristol Avon on 22nd May and also 2 Beautiful Demoiselles [strays from the Holt colony possibly?]; then on 8th June he recorded the first Scarce Chasers of the year there - along with the first White-legged Damselflies and some Blue-tailed damsels. Lorraine Blakey visited Langford Lakes on 26th May recording Common Blue and Blue-tailed there; but also a male and female Broad-bodied Chaser on the new reedbed/scrape area. The first record of odonata I've received from this reserve extension!
Rod Stowell reported the first Red-eyed Damsels on 3rd June from CWP - but I'm sure they have been present since well before then! He observed 2 of them harassing a male BB Chaser 'guarding' an ovipositing female - a dangerous game to be playing!! The regular Hampshire crew have been visiting VC8 New Forest area [Cadnam and Plaitford Commons] Where, in particular, Paul Winter [on 5th June] saw Small Red and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies plus Keeled Skimmer! On 11th June, Chris Beard walked a 1 mile stretch of the Salisbury Avon from Old Sarum to the 5 Rivers Leasure Centre...but only found 3 male Banded Demoiselles in that stretch - not a good sign!? On14th Damian Pinguey visited the Bristol Avon at Mortimore's Wood and found very few Banded Demoiselles and only one White-Legged Damselfly; a worrying trend? Fortunately, on a visit a few days later, he saw many more freshly emerged Banded's - so hopefully they have just been delayed rather than absent.
To reinforce this I visited the River Cole at Roves Farm [by the scrape] and saw over 20 Banded Demoiselles [breathes a sigh of relief] plus large numbers of Azure Damselflies, 3 mature Large Reds and about 20 Blue-tailed - but no Anisoptera!
With the weather hopefully warming up tomorrow there will be a chance to go out again looking for new species for the year - even if it is a short break from the dreary weather!

Friday, 17 May 2013

16th May 2013. Lower Moor Farm.

After a week of miserable weather conditions brightened up today and a trip to the Cotswold Water Park [after a tip off by Chris Beard [thanks Chris!] was very fruitful. Near the dipping ponds were 2 male and 1 female Downy EmeraldCordulia aenea followed by 5 more [3 males and 2 females] emerging along the boardwalk [a repeat of last year]after Rosie Ray called us having 'staked' them out! Chris Beard LH image; Steve Covey RH image. At this location there were also several Large Red Damsels emerging on the side of the boardwalk - as well as many elsewhere on the reserve. A further search in the vegetation around the dipping ponds turned up a number of Common Blue Damselflies Enallagma cyathigerum from very teneral to immatures. Image Steve Covey. At the pond edge I found a fresh 4-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata perched near it's exuvia. Image Steve Covey. Finally, after Chris had disturbed one earlier, I managed to find a freshly emerged male Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa which was perched in a useful photographic location. The sun had gone in by now and it welcomed the warmth from my finger! LH image Steve Covey; RH image Chris Beard. So 4 new species for the year [BB Chaser for VC7 and the rest for the county as a whole] was a very welcome result for a brief period of 'proper' Spring weather... My thanks go to Rosie and Chris for their companionship and tracking skills!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

6th May 2013

Derek Jenkins, Furzley Pond and VC8 come up trumps again with another first for the year! This time it's a freshly emerged Broad-bodied Chaser. No photos I'm afraid though. This disparity between first emergences in the South and the North of the county show just how big a county Wiltshire is!! Given the forecast through the weekend I doubt any Anisoptera will be forthcoming in VC7 until at least early next week...but keep looking:o)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) ♀ .

A visit to Roves Farm in the hopes of getting an early Broad-bodied Chaser turned up a very teneral Azure Damselfly instead! 2nd species of the year....

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) ♀.

More sightings of Large Reds. I found 6 freshly emerged at King Charles Pond in Blackmoor Copse on 2nd May and Peter Sketch found 4 at the meadow pond at Ravensroost Wood on 6th May. But still no sign of other damselfly species or any dragonflies yet...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) ♂.

1st May 2013.
I also found my first odonata of the year in the shape of 3 teneral Large Red Damselflies. This was at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's [WWT] reserve of Lower Moor Farm in the Cotswold Water Park [CWP]. Also saw and photographed my first male Orange tip of the year :o)

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) Female

Wednesday 1st May 2013. Damian Pinguey takes the honours for first odonata in VC7 for 2013. Several were seen at 'Chippenham Pond'. Including a semi mature male which must have emerged a few days ago..!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

We're off at last!

Honours for first Odonata of the year to be seen in Wilts VC 7/8 goes to Derek Jenkins who found a Large Red Damselfly at Furzey pond, Cadnam in the very SE corner of VC 8 on 25th April. Well done Derek.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

2012 Round-up.

First of all - apologies [yet again ;o/] for a lack of posts after May last year and for failing to add images to the blog some of you so kindly sent me. Juggling getting out during the all too infrequent fine spells with processing data for the Atlas Project are partially to blame..I'll endeavour to do better this year! Again, despite the weather, we collectively saw 28 species in the county! As follows: Beautiful Demoiselle, Banded Demoiselle, Emerald Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Small Red Damselfly, White-legged Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, Hairy Dragonfly, Common Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Downy Emerald, Four-spotted Chaser, Broad-bodied Chaser, Scarce Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Keeled Skimmer, Black Darter, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter and Red-veined Darter A pretty good tally I think you'll agree. Despite this year being the second wettest on record I am pleased to be able to report some successes! During the all too brief days of bright, calm, sunny weather I, and other Wiltshire observers, managed to visit all the remaining hectads in the county that had had no or few records between 2000 and 2011. The end result is that all bar one of our 10k squares now have had some species recorded in them. That remaining one is only a partial Wiltshire square and is mostly chalk downland with the only water being the upper reaches of a winterbourne that is usually dry during the spring and summer. So, unless a garden pond in one of the scattered villages turns up trumps, it will remain a blank. But I think this is a great result for a county that is often perceived as being predominantly ‘dry’ chalk grassland! Also completed was all the fieldwork for the Cotswold Dragonfly Atlas Project. Gareth Harris now has the mammoth task of collating all this information and producing the eagerly awaited publication! Of course, we can’t rest on our laurels, as although the national atlas fieldwork is now complete, surveying needs to continue towards a proposed Wiltshire Atlas. For this the recording needs to be at a finer resolution – at least to tetrad rest for the wicked!! Moving on to the species themselves; Again, despite the general weather conditions, several species had a very good year. Perhaps it was a case of poor weather for the recorder but not for the recorded? Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) had an exceptional season within the Cotswold Water Park [CWP], with large numbers of emergences and exuviae noted at existing and new locations. I found an exuvia on the early date of 30th April at Lower Moor Farm. This was followed up by observations of emergence in early May; Terry Dabner, Rosie Ray, Chris Beard and I were fortunate enough to see and photograph these amazing transformations that make our beloved dragonflies so unique! (Images l to r: S. Covey; T. Dabner; C. Beard).
On 27th May Rosie Ray found a male Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense) at one of the lakes in the CWP. Then she found another the following day at a different lake some distance from the first which, I feel, must have been a different individual. This constitutes the first sighting of this species within the Wiltshire section of the CWP [and only the second for the CWP as a whole] as well as being the first confirmed sighting of Hairy Hawker in Wiltshire in recent times. The hope is that, given its continued expansion nationally, these two sightings may be the precursor of a breeding population establishing itself in the CWP. We shall be keeping a close eye on the area next year! The final two species which had a particularly good 2012 tend to be found together at the same locations [at least in Wiltshire]. These are Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) and Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). Both seem to thrive in habitats which frequently dry out during hotter summers; a boom or bust strategy which apparently works as, having been scarce in the county for the past few years, this year they were present in good numbers at their traditional [and some new] sites! Roves Farm scrapes, Coate Water CP and Ravensroost Meadow ponds were some of the former – with some newly created ponds in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts Lower Moor/Sandpool reserve complex being representatives of the latter. (Images by Steve Covey)
I perhaps also ought to mention Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) as this species was seen and commented upon by more people than usual – particularly the fact that there was usually more than one individual present. I myself saw a ‘swarm’ of 9 individuals hawking over a meadow at Sandpool Reserve, CWP! Given that, anecdotally, it appears this species more southerly distribution is becoming patchy [possibly as a response to climate change], it may be that it is being forced to move further north – and Wiltshire is its first port of call! I’d be interested to hear what others think? Conspicuous by its absence however was the Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum). This comparatively recent colonist has been hanging on a few sites in the Swindon area, but this year, to my knowledge, none have been seen. This is, hopefully, a temporary setback due to the excessive rainfall pushing the water levels up at the ponds it uses and so ‘drowning’ the Rigid Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) it uses to emerge, display and hunt from. So the species may still be in the area, but dispersed so much that it became ‘invisible’! By and large, for most of the rest of our species, numbers and distribution was much the same as previous years. Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva), for example, was seen at its regular haunts on the Bristol Avon and also at a couple of new maturation sites away from the river. Although, it wasn’t seen at Chippenham this year, or on or near the Salisbury Avon where it was first discovered last year. With much flooding occurring it will be interesting to see how that affects distribution over the next couple of years, with larvae maybe being pushed up tributaries that they don’t normally frequent... New and renewed populations of Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura pumilio) have been found in VC8 and just ‘north of the VC7 border’ in Gloucestershire mainly due to temporary pools developing in the soggy conditions, which gives cause for optimism for this species. The main obvious negative effect of the weather was the large numbers of individuals [particularly of damselflies] that had wings so distorted during emergence [through wet and windy conditions] that they would never be able to fly. Chris Beard estimated on one visit to Lower Moor that 50% of the population of Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) there was fatally damaged. I witnessed this while photographing the Downy Emerald emergences when a strong gust blew one off of its exuvia while its wings were soft and, as a result were irreparably damaged; then when my wife Terri found a crumple-winged Red-veined Darter [the only one reported in VC 7 or 8 this year] during our visit to Plaitford Common on the 8th September. (Images: left and centre, Chris Beard; right, Steve Covey)
One can but hope that this loss of large numbers of individuals from the potential breeding population doesn’t have a significant impact on our Odonata in 2013 and 2014. Fingers crossed for some drier warmer summers! Finally, my usual thanks go out to all those who persevered in getting out there during the brief windows of opportunity and for sending in those all important observations and images – and particularly for adopting Living Record, which makes my job much easier! In addition to those already mentioned in the report I’d like to give particular thanks to Ian McColl for his continued monitoring of the Savernake Forest ponds; a welcome to new recorder Lorraine Blakey who, although based in the Salisbury area, has been zipping around all over the county and Peter Sketch who’s efforts have been concentrated in VC7! Also Adrian Bicker who has added records in those squares in the SW corner – far removed from my base in Swindon. Finally many thanks to those who monitor the New Forest areas of VC8; Derek Jenkins and Paul Winter.