Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Still hanging on...

Despite the grim wet and windy weather, when the sun does come out there are still some Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers to be found in warm sheltered spots! Damian Pinguey has recently seen Common Darters at Chippenham Pond and Mortimores Wood by the Avon.
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) Female

Nick Adams saw both species at Lake 26 in the CWP on 9th November and Gareth Harris had 2 Common Darters at Lake 68a/b on the same day.
Southern Hawker was still being seen on 2nd October at Cadnam Common Pond in the far SE of VC8 by Paul Winter. Derek Jenkins saw 15 Common Darters there on 9th November including 5 mating pairs!
So long as we don't get any prolonged frosts then it is possible we will still have some odonata on the wing for a week or two yet :o)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

More firsts for the year!

Paul Winter has visited Cadnam Common Pond during the last week and, as well as the usual suspects, has seen Small Red Damselflies (Ceriagrion tenellum) with the first Common Hawkers (Aeshna juncea) of the year with one on one day and two possibly 3 on another. He has also seen the first Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) there on his second visit.
On 24th July Damian Pinguey visited Green Lane Wood near Trowbridge and saw his [and the county's first] Migrant Hawker of the year. It was an immature male flying around the car park clearing.
On the same day Gareth Harris found an exuvia of the same species in the CWP, so both VC's now have their firsts for the year. They should become a familiar sight as numbers build, and should be with us until the first hard frosts in Oct/Nov - a situation hard to visualize at the moment as we're in the middle of a prolonged heatwave!
While slaving away in the garden in the oppressive heat yesterday, as a reward, I was treated to brief but welcome sightings of a female Southern Hawker and an immature male Common Darter.
Hopefully soon I shall see my first Migrant Hawker of the year too.....

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The return of the Small Red-eye!

After a tip off from Damian Pinguey yesterday, I visited the model boating lake at Coate Water Country Park in Swindon today. I'm pleased to be able to report that Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) is back!
...and back in good numbers - there were between 100 - 150 there! I saw several pairs in cop and in tandem plus some ovipositing going on.
With less than ideal conditions for the past couple of seasons it just shows that even very small numbers keeping the colony 'ticking over' can then result in a boom when conditions are right!
Males were zipping about all over the lake and even came close enough for an attempt at an in-flight shot!
I also checked out the hospital pond as it has recently been managed, with most of the bankside scrub removed and a lot of the Bulrush taken out. Unfortunately there are now some huge carp in there which have 'hoovered up' all the submerged vegetation. As a consequence of which there are no surface mats of algae either and so no Small Red-eyes this year....
Damian  had a single E. viridulum on a pond in the Town Gardens in Swindon last year - so a visit there will be a must in the next day or so!

Monday, 21 July 2014


...although first some late additions for June!
Damian Pinguey saw the first White-legged Damselfly (Platicnemis pennipes)of the year on the R. Avon at Mortimores Wood, just South of Chippenham on the 9th June.
This was followed on 29th June by the first Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), discovered by Alison Maddock at Bratton.
In between these was an interesting sighting of a very mature female Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) by Vernon Moger on 14th June ovipositing in his garden pond in Royal Wootton Bassett. This female had taken on the blue colouration of the male on several of her abdominal segments!
This could be a combination of over maturity and prolonged hot weather - I'd be interested to hear what others think!
On 29th June, Barry Watts found the first Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) of the year at Black Dog Wood near Chapmanslade just within the Western edge of the county boundary.
A different individual [or possibly the same!?] was seen on 6th July by Brian Seaman in the part of the wood on the other side of the road.
On 11th July I visited Red Lodge Wood to look for White-letter Hairstreak, but was pleasantly surprised to find the large pond near the entrance had been dredged and all the Marestail that had totally clogged the pond had been removed. As well as 2 male and 2 ovipositing female Emperors (Anax imperator), patrolling Southern and Brown Hawkers (Aeshna grandis), an old 4-spot Chaser and male Black-tailed Skimmer, there were many Emerald Damselflies (Lestes sponsa); which are quite thin on the ground, generally, in Wilts.

Finally, yesterday 20th July, I ran an insect ID workshop at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's reserve of Conigre Mead on the Western edge of Melksham, by the River Bristol Avon. As well as the usual suspects [Emperor, Southern and Brown Hawkers, Common Darter, Banded Demoiselle; Blue-tailed,  Azure, Common Blue and White-legged Damselflies] I was very pleased to see a mature male Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva) holding territory on the river bank. You could tell he had successfully mated due to the tell-tale scuff marks on his abdomen!

We later briefly saw the same or a different individual patrolling along the meadow ride adjacent to the river.
There are still a few species to be recorded yet this year so hopefully there will be some more news at the end of the month or in August.
As always, many thanks to the recorders mentioned for the use of their fine images to help illustrate this blog update.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

June Updates

What with being away in Italy for the first half of June and my internet access since then being very hit and miss [putting it mildly]I thought I'd leave it til the end of the month to let you know what's been happening. New species seen for the year, this month, include Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly [Ischnura pumilio]At both ends of the county in New Forest VC8 and CWP [Paul Winter and Gareth Harris respectively]. Also seen by Paul in the New Forest were Keeled Skimmer, Emerald Damselfly and Common Darter on 8th/11th June. Jonathan Parkhouse, who has fairly recently moved to Box, discovered several semi-mature Scarce Chasers on the Bybrook near his house on 22nd June.He managed to get a cracking trio of shots!
Also Phil Smith reported Scarce Chasers still present at the Caen Hill Locks on K & A canal at Devizes - having territorial fights with Black-tailed Skimmers! Lorraine Blakey has refound Bt Skimmers at Langford Lakes this year and got a cracking shot of a mating pair!
David Rear has found Beautiful Demoiselle at two new locations in SW Wilts; on the Ansty Stream and Oddford Brook near Tisbury. I also found them at a new location in the North. In the Winter I visited a location near Marshfield which has the Broadmead Brook running through it. I went to see the rare migrant bird, Red-flanked Bluetail! It's on the edge of the Cotswolds limestone and I thought at the time the stream looked perfect C. virgo territory. So I went back last week....and in a 1km stretch found 18 males and 5 females!! I love it when a plan comes together ;o) Also there were Banded Demoiselles, Blue-tailed and Large Red damsels; and a single male Broad-bodied Chaser.
I was particularly pleased to get the shot of the female showing her 'I want to be alone' wing signal! It must have worked as all males that approached then veered off when they saw her hold her wings out flat!
New recorders, Judy and Richard Gosnell from Royal Wootton Bassett,  found a male BBC on the Wilts & Berks canal at Chaddington Lock near RWB so hopefully they will provide more coverage in future from this under watched area - many thanks to you both.
Finally, I paid a visit to Roves Farm on 26th to [successfully] check if Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) had appeared at the scrape there yet. I saw one mature male and several immatures - but only one of the immatures would allow close approach for photos!
Also present among the reeds were several Emerald Damselflies (Lestes sponsa) including this immature female.

If further new species found during June come to light I'll add them later.
July should see the rest of the regular species start to appear....

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The continued expansion of Beautiful Demoiselle!

Over the last week Beautiful Demoiselle has been recorded in two new locations. The first was found by myself on a Wilts VCR bioblitz event at Lower Chicksgrove, near Tisbury last Saturday. I found a single teneral female next to the Nadder in less than ideal weather conditions!It has been recorded on the Nadder nearby before but not at this location.
Then Damian Pinguey found a teneral male by the Bristol Avon at Staverton - one of the main Scarce Chaser sites. There is a large population of Banded Demoiselles there, but never has Beautiful Demoiselle been seen there before; the river there is not at all the habitat type you'd usually associate with C. virgo!
It may be that subtle changes in our climate are affording this species the chance to be less demanding in it's habitat needs?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mid-May Update.

Since my last post things odonatological have moved apace!Broad-bodied Chasers are being seen around the county now with Gareth Harris finding one emerging and two exuviae, in the rain, at Oakfrith Wood pond by Urchfont on the 10th.On the 13th, Colin Pinchen found 6 BBC's at Stanton Park pond complex just north of Swindon. On the 14th I found my first BBC's - at Lower Moor Farm; the male was very skittish but the female allowed close approach for a full frame shot! On the same day Phil Smith discovered 3 Scarce Chasers [plus a dead one in a spider's web!] at the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Devizes. This species hasn't been seen there since their initial discovery in 2008! No exuviae have been found so it's still uncertain as to whether they breed there or are using the lock turning ponds as maturation sites [the River Avon being not too far away....]Here is one of Phil's super shots; more can be seen on his Flickr photostream. In the south, Lorraine Blakey watched an emerging Large Red Damselfly in her new garden pond. She got shots of it broaching the surface but then had to go to work... Then later she visited Langford Lakes where she recorded Red-eyed, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Banded Demoiselles; plus a fairly mature Broad-bodied Chaser. On the same day Gareth saw a patrolling male Hairy Dragonfly and an ovipositing female at Swillbrook...and I still haven't seen an adult in Wilts! On the 17th Alison Maddock watched a male Beautiful Demoiselle in her Bratton garden which had obviously traveled there from the nearby Stradbrook. Also garden watching another male in their garden was Damian Pinguey in his Chippenham garden! I visited the Caen Hill locks also on the 17th to see if I could find any of the Scarce Chasers. I managed to see one but never got a shot before it disappeared over the trees lining the canal! Also there were hundreds of Red-eyed Damselflies and a smattering of Blue-tailed and Azures. But the surprise was a freshly emerged Black-tailed Skimmer in a patch of nettles! Joint first for the year, as Colin also saw a teneral at Lower Moor on the same day! Finally, and right up to date, Colin emailed me while I was compiling this post, to inform me he has just seen a male Emperor dragonfly at Somerford Common near Minety - the first reported to me for the year!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Another Hairy exuvia and some 4-Spots!

As there was a brief fine spell yesterday afternoon I decided to visit Swillbrook myself. I was shown the location by the original recorder - and within minutes I'd found my first ever Wiltshire Hairy Dragonfly exuvia! So at least 2 now have successfully completed their life-cycle at this spot. It too had used the sword like leaf of a Yellow Flag plant to emerge on.
As well as previously recorded Large Red, Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Red-eyed Damselflies in various stages of development, there were also several Four-spotted Chasers; from larvae to pre-flight emergents. Another new one for the year!
I had just been given an iPhone 4s from my daughter [she'd just upgraded to the 5c] and thought I'd try out the camera on it. Not a bad result I think you'll agree! Finally, we went across to the Southern end of Mallard Lake where, after some searching, we found a Downy Emerald exuvia. So nice to know they are still using both ends of this lake.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Hairy Wiltshire!

At last, one observer has finally proved breeding of Hairy Dragonfly in Wiltshire! After several years of the odd sighting of flying adults an exuvia was found yesterday on Yellow Flag emerging from the northern margin of Swillbrook Lake, close to the footpath. Although in administrative Gloucestershire this site is in North Wilts VC7. Maybe over the next few days more will emerge or adults will be seen on the wing...or both! This is also the first breeding record for the Cotswold Water Park.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Another new dragon for the year.

Paul Ritchie visited one of the sites in the New Forest bit of VC8 yesterday and found 6 Broad-bodied Chasers, the first reported for the year. The bright sun is deceptive as the wind is quite cool. I think it may be another week yet before more general activity is discovered. Here's one of the great images he got. Many thanks for the loan Paul :o)

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Lower Moor comes up trumps!

After the initial Large Red Damselfly sighting there have now been several more spread across the county - but no other species. Until, that is, a last minute decision sent me out to the CWP on Wednesday 30th April when it became apparent the fog had burned off and turned into a lovely sunny day. On arriving at the boardwalk adjacent to Cottage Lake, which is a regular emergence site for Downy Emerald what should I find...a single Downy Emerald larva climbing up the edging board. I then proceeded to watch and photograph it's emergence - which took 4 hours!! It wasn't until I reviewd my shots that I realised it had emerged with it's front left had leg missing! Not sure if it lost it during emergence or it never developed in the first place?? I also had a walk along the track by Mallard Lake and it became apparent that a mass emergence of Common Blue Damselflies was happening. I counted at least 50 with new individuals flying up out of the lake margin all the time! In [administrative Gloucestershire but Wilts VC7] lakes nearby others reported at least 14 Downys emerging and other species seen too were Large Red, Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and Azure damsels. So it's all starting to happen; just need the sunny weather to continue....

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

CWP draws a blank

I visited the Lower Moor Farm complex today in the hopes of finding emerging Large Reds and maybe even an early Downy Emerald...but it was not to be :o( But it shouldn't be too long if it stays warm and sunny. I thought I ought to mention here that there was an unusual sighting of a hawker type dragonfly on the 7th March. No positive ID could be made as it was viewed from a car travelling along the M4 near Swindon where it flew across the motorway in front of the observer, Geoff Cox! Logic would dictate that it could only have been a Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger) but we shall never know for sure...frustratingly as this would be a new Wiltshire species!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Dragonfly Season starts early in Wiltshire!

On Tuesday 8th April, Damian Pinguey discovered several immature and teneral Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) at his local pond behind the Volvo garage in Chippenham. These are the first reported odonata sightings in the county this year! Well done Damian :o) They were very skittish however and the only shot he got was of a poor unfortunate who got trapped in a spider's web and most of it's abdomen had been devoured! This site regularly produces the first sightings of the year [in VC7 at least]and I still await any sightings from the south.... 13th April 2014 Today I was passing the same pond on a visit to Castle Combe with my wife so couldn't resist a quick look-see! There were at least 7 individuals ranging from fresh emergents to almost mature. Yaay...my first odo's of the year :o)) Although I made a promise last year to keep the blog going right throughout the season I'm afraid I failed miserably again although mostly due to events outside my control - life can sometimes throw an unwanted spanner in the works!! However, I will endeavour to do better this year....but don't hold me to it ;o)