• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

2019 Dragonfly Season (1 Viewer)

Farnboro John

Well-known member
This is an account of the whole season to this point - not least because I seem to be stalled now, but more of that later. I'll break the text up with photos, which will likely seem out of order because I didn't always photograph the one I year-ticked, or even manage it on the same day.

The 2019 dragonfly season seemed to me to start very late, with a cold damp spring extending till I began to worry as to whether the early dragonflies would give me any opportunity at all to see them. This was particularly worrying as I had a certain ambition niggling at the back of my mind to do a dragonfly year list. I’d never done one, and it’s a group I enjoy watching and photographing, so it seemed a reasonable thing to try: additionally almost all of them are available in the South and East of the country with just a few (some of which I’d never photographed digitally) requiring journeys further afield – like to Scotland! So, then, a dragonfly year list and photo-year list simultaneously.

Two that I was particularly worried about were Hairy Dragonfly, which I had contrived to miss altogether in 2018 despite them being very much a local offering, and Common Clubtail, for which I had a site that had turned up trumps last year but with the weather continuing difficult….

I was off the mark on 18 April with Large Red Damselfly at Moor Green Lakes along the River Blackwater on the Hants/Berks border, and I clocked Banded Demoiselle at the same time.

I picked up Azure Damselfly at Stodmarsh in Kent during a recce with Steve Davis for Bearded Tits to help a foreign friend of his who is chasing world bird families, and after that the weather failed big time until nearly the end of May. Whenever it seemed OK I dropped into Thursley Common and the Basingstoke Canal at both Eelmoor and Claycart (between Aldershot and Fleet) but had no luck at either until 21 May when to my relief I found Hairy Dragonflies on the Claycart stretch and a couple of bonus Downy Emeralds as well as some Blue-tailed Damselflies.

John

Photos:

Large Red Damselfly female (the actual first Odonate of the year for me!)

Four-spotted Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser female

Red-eyed Damselfly pair

Variable Damselfly male
 

Attachments

  • 20190418 (5)_Large_Red_Damselfly.JPG
    20190418 (5)_Large_Red_Damselfly.JPG
    183.5 KB · Views: 25
  • 20190523 (7)_Four-spotted_Chaser.JPG
    20190523 (7)_Four-spotted_Chaser.JPG
    159.6 KB · Views: 25
  • 20190523 (12)_Broad-bodied_Chaser.JPG
    20190523 (12)_Broad-bodied_Chaser.JPG
    260.8 KB · Views: 31
  • 20190530 (9)_Red-eyed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190530 (9)_Red-eyed_Damselfly.JPG
    305.9 KB · Views: 20
  • 20190530 (12)_Variable_Damselfly.JPG
    20190530 (12)_Variable_Damselfly.JPG
    186 KB · Views: 20
Last edited:

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Back at Claycart the next day trying to photograph Hairies I found the first of the season’s Red-eyed Damselflies along the canal, thereby adding another dependable animal to the list. Another local site that often turns up trumps is Bramshill and that received attention on 23rd, yielding Four-spotted Chasers, Broad-bodied Chaser in the shape of an unusually reticent female and Black-tailed Skimmers. Into double figures! Maybe this won’t be too difficult after all….

One of my first deliberate dragonfly trips out of area was to Billingshurst Bridge in Sussex, where Scarce Chasers were eventually on view after nothing but Hairy Dragonflies for the first hour or so (how quickly year listers become dissatisfied with the ones they’ve already nailed!) Having seen Scarce Chaser I was straight off to Fittleworth and the River Rother in search of Common Clubtails: one Beautiful Demoiselle among legions of Banded was appreciated, but of Clubtails there was no sign.

Caught out by better than forecast weather, on 30 May I popped over to Crookham Wharf on the stretch of Basingstoke Canal beyond Fleet for White-legged Damselfly, and scored without much trouble (later in the season I discovered they too inhabit the Eelmoor to Claycart stretch, closer to home). With the sun out and heat building I drove quickly down to Burton Mill Pond in Sussex, locked onto a bunch of Variable Damselflies and then observed a curious spectacle from a youngish mother and her six to eight year old son, who came past me, sat sunbathing with the boy’s hands crawling all over his mother’s bikini’d torso before she suddenly climbed up on a metal pump and dived into the pond only to immediately get out, resume her clothes over wet bathing gear and the pair return to their car and leave: you see all sorts out wildlife watching…. I then hit Fittleworth a second time. Still nothing.

John

Photos:

Norfolk Hawker pair

Azure Damselfly pair

Hairy Dragonfly male

Blue-tailed Damselfly male

Norfolk Hawker
 

Attachments

  • 20190601 (12)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    20190601 (12)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    232.6 KB · Views: 32
  • 20190601 (13)_Azure_Damselfly.JPG
    20190601 (13)_Azure_Damselfly.JPG
    220.5 KB · Views: 32
  • 20190601 (21)_Hairy_Dragonfly.JPG
    20190601 (21)_Hairy_Dragonfly.JPG
    206.2 KB · Views: 24
  • 20190606 (6)_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190606 (6)_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    164.6 KB · Views: 19
  • 20190609 (12)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    20190609 (12)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    226.7 KB · Views: 21

Farnboro John

Well-known member
First of June and a trip up to Paxton Pits, perhaps one of the closest sites to me for Norfolk Hawker and therefore worth it for a species that might otherwise occasion a trip to East Norfolk. I saw a couple quite easily but photos were elusive until I had a chat with a couple of locals who kindly identified two different places that they reckoned would give me a good chance of flight or even hung up shots. Even they might have been surprised when two Norfolk Hawkers tangled in mid-air, sorted themselves into wheel position and then hung up a matter of a few feet from me! Practicing my flight photography I also found a male Scarce Chaser and some very accommodating emergent Four-spots, helping with the photo-ticking aspect of the project. Leaving there I spent the afternoon at Woodwalton Fen where more Scarce Chasers were compliant and a male Hairy Dragonfly posed nicely provided I could thread my lens through the reeds to get a clear line to it. Job done and a cheerful drive home….

Next day I was down in the New Forest with Clare Dell, exploring familiar haunts along the Latchmore Brook. We picked up Keeled Skimmer and an early Common Darter, but the only Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly was an immature female that hadn’t yet developed the full orange colours we hope for, so photographically it was a bit disappointing. Still, it’s not far away so I resolved to have another go.

John

Photos:

Scarce Chaser male

Norfolk Hawker

Common Blue Damselfly

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly X 2
 

Attachments

  • 20190609 (35)_Scarce_Chaser.JPG
    20190609 (35)_Scarce_Chaser.JPG
    160.9 KB · Views: 18
  • 20190622 (21)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    20190622 (21)_Norfolk_Hawker.JPG
    317.1 KB · Views: 26
  • 20190626 (3)_Common_Blue_Damselfly.JPG
    20190626 (3)_Common_Blue_Damselfly.JPG
    184.5 KB · Views: 16
  • 20190627 (11)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190627 (11)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    256 KB · Views: 21
  • 20190627 (12)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190627 (12)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    171.4 KB · Views: 28

Farnboro John

Well-known member
6 June and I was back, but the persistent wind took the heat away and suppressed damselfly action considerably! I did find a Small Red Damselfly sheltering on the lee side of a gorse bush, but no Scarce Bluetails at all. Walking back along the brook towards the car park I fell over a Nightjar that sat up for photos, a real treat and a bit of a day-saver.

The following weekend, in one of those ironies birding delivers now and then, I went with a full team (Marion, Steve and Clare) to East Norfolk! The target was a cracking male Lesser Grey Shrike but even at the twitch near Horsey we saw a bunch of Norfolk Hawkers and at Strumpshaw, where we stopped for Swallowtails, there were loads all over the place, showing well and occasionally stopping. An Emperor at Horsey was my first one of 2019. Scarce Chaser also featured at the RSPB reserve and a good time was had by all.

It all went a bit quiet as the weather went off for a while but on 17 June I revisited Fittleworth and failed on Clubtails again. Three strikes…. Not looking good.

John

Photos:

Black-tailed Skimmer female

Small Red Damselfly male

Common Clubtail female

Emperor male

Banded Demoiselle male
 

Attachments

  • 20190627 (19)_Black-tailed_Skimmer.JPG
    20190627 (19)_Black-tailed_Skimmer.JPG
    267.8 KB · Views: 19
  • 20190627 (22)_Small_Red_Damselfly.JPG
    20190627 (22)_Small_Red_Damselfly.JPG
    153.1 KB · Views: 16
  • 20190628 (8)_Common_Clubtail.JPG
    20190628 (8)_Common_Clubtail.JPG
    139.7 KB · Views: 34
  • 20190628 (16)_Emperor.JPG
    20190628 (16)_Emperor.JPG
    83.6 KB · Views: 19
  • 20190628 (21)_Banded_Demoiselle.JPG
    20190628 (21)_Banded_Demoiselle.JPG
    116.2 KB · Views: 24

Farnboro John

Well-known member
22 June and a butterfly expedition to East Blean Woods with Steve and Barry for Heath Fritillary – another species not yet digitally photographed – to find the reserve had numerous Norfolk Hawkers patrolling and hanging up for photos! What is this? I thought they were range restricted in Britain but they seem to be everywhere now. Very nice too, I’m not complaining.

An after work trip to Thursley on 26 June was mostly hard work (the wind again) but at last gasp I found my first Brown Hawkers of the year basking after emergence, in heather not far from The Moat, and an Emerald Damselfly on rushes by a trackside ditch. 20 species to the good and realistically, half way.

John

Photos:

Downy Emerald male

Red-veined Darter male

Lesser Emperor

Brilliant Emerald

Golden-ringed Dragonfly
 

Attachments

  • 20190628 (24)_Downy_Emerald.JPG
    20190628 (24)_Downy_Emerald.JPG
    87 KB · Views: 27
  • 20190629 (6)_Red-veined_Darter.JPG
    20190629 (6)_Red-veined_Darter.JPG
    163.1 KB · Views: 36
  • 20190629 (9)_Lesser_Emperor.JPG
    20190629 (9)_Lesser_Emperor.JPG
    107.3 KB · Views: 31
  • 20190705 (4)_Brilliant_Emerald.JPG
    20190705 (4)_Brilliant_Emerald.JPG
    91 KB · Views: 37
  • 20190706 (34)_Golden-ringed_Dragonfly.JPG
    20190706 (34)_Golden-ringed_Dragonfly.JPG
    193.6 KB · Views: 24

Farnboro John

Well-known member
On 27 June I was back at Latchmore Brook and filled in some gaps in the photo-list, but the top Odonate of the day was a brief view of a Southern Damselfly – it flew off before I could photograph it. Another work in progress….

Once more unto the breach (or as we say, Fittleworth) and hurrah! I found a female Common Clubtail basking in nettles and photographed it without getting stung. Fourth time lucky. Job done on another species. Phew. I had really thought they must have gone over and I’d managed to miss them. Not so!

I was starting to watch the weather nationally, looking for a window to do Scotland – and then the car’s clutch cylinder blew up. Getting it fixed took nearly a week and a lot of morale disappeared as after work trips became impossible. While it was in dock a Scarlet Darter turned up at Longham Lakes and although the team turned out, we missed it. On the bright side we nailed a whole bunch of Red-veined Darters and a Lesser Emperor and got photos of both, the Darters being more accommodating on this occasion: I also added Ruddy Darter to the year list but failed to photograph it, more carelessness and sloth than anything else.

John

Photos:

Beautiful Demoiselle male

Common Darter male

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly pair

Keeled Skimmer

Southern Damselfly
 

Attachments

  • 20190706 (37)_Beautiful_Demoiselle.JPG
    20190706 (37)_Beautiful_Demoiselle.JPG
    236.9 KB · Views: 16
  • 20190706 (40)_Common_Darter.JPG
    20190706 (40)_Common_Darter.JPG
    196.7 KB · Views: 18
  • 20190706 (43)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190706 (43)_Scarce_Blue-tailed_Damselfly.JPG
    154.1 KB · Views: 17
  • 20190706 (47)_Keeled_Skimmer.JPG
    20190706 (47)_Keeled_Skimmer.JPG
    135 KB · Views: 21
  • 20190706 (48)_Southern_Damselfly.JPG
    20190706 (48)_Southern_Damselfly.JPG
    124.4 KB · Views: 22

Farnboro John

Well-known member
American Independence Day and I had the car back, so a trip to nearby Thursley Common was a bit of a test drive and happily got me both Black Darter and Brilliant Emerald, which I had to be careful about identifying given that Downies were also still patrolling The Moat.

6 July I took Steve, after a morning butterflying on Portland, to Latchmore Brook where we found a bunch of Scarce Bluetails – males, pairs and orange immature females (form aurantiaca) as well as Golden-ringed Dragonflies, one of which sat for me while Steve was nattering with his brother Tony, whom we happened to run into there. Acting on information received we finished the afternoon at Crockford Bridge where there were loads of Southern Damselflies and I got the photos I’d missed earlier in the season. In total we had 14 species of Odonata during the afternoon. A really excellent day out!

15 July and after work I was off to Tundry Pond where I found a female Emperor basking in the sun and allowing crisp point-blank photos, a female Brown Hawker ovipositing at the pond’s edge where again I could wield the camera point-blank, and a couple of pairs of Small Red-eyed Damselflies in tandem on scummy weed mats where the zoom lens was quite handy!

John

Photos:

White-legged Damselfly male

Emerald Damselfly male

Small Red-eyed Damselfly pair

Brown Hawker female X 2
 

Attachments

  • 20190711 (8)_White-legged_Damselfly.JPG
    20190711 (8)_White-legged_Damselfly.JPG
    157.8 KB · Views: 23
  • 20190712 (6)_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    20190712 (6)_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    259.1 KB · Views: 17
  • 20190715 (4)_Small_Red-eyed_Damselfly.JPG
    20190715 (4)_Small_Red-eyed_Damselfly.JPG
    304.4 KB · Views: 15
  • 20190715 (9)_Brown_Hawker.JPG
    20190715 (9)_Brown_Hawker.JPG
    171.7 KB · Views: 17
  • 20190715 (13)_Brown_Hawker.JPG
    20190715 (13)_Brown_Hawker.JPG
    403.1 KB · Views: 16

Farnboro John

Well-known member
On the 16th I took a day’s leave and travelled to Canvey Island to try and get the out-of-area trips back on track. I parked at RSPB West Canvey Marsh and walked miles along footpaths, sea wall and then lost across fields intersected with unjumpable ditches and filled with herds of fortunately passive cows. On the bright side, despite being punctured by barbed wire, mosquitos and clegs, I had a whole bunch of Southern Migrant Hawkers (none of which stopped, so flight shots only), hundreds or even thousands of Ruddy Darters that enabled me to get the photos I’d missed at Longham, and a fine male Southern Hawker hanging up along a hedgerow-bounded footpath which also made a decent photographic subject. The ditches also held Scarce Emerald Damselflies, which I photographed at poor angles mainly due to not wanting to fall in the mud and water: along the seawall I had a wildlife moment of pure joy when a Harvest Mouse ran across the path right by my feet, briefly but entirely in the open.

John

Photos:

Emperor female (Empress?)

Ruddy Darter

Southern Hawker

Scarce Emerald Damselfly

Migrant Hawker
 

Attachments

  • 20190715 (14)_Emperor.JPG
    20190715 (14)_Emperor.JPG
    310.4 KB · Views: 25
  • 20190716 (3)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    20190716 (3)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    484.9 KB · Views: 18
  • 20190716 (4)_Southern_Hawker.JPG
    20190716 (4)_Southern_Hawker.JPG
    273.2 KB · Views: 22
  • 20190716 (10)_Scarce_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    20190716 (10)_Scarce_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    174.4 KB · Views: 27
  • 20190723 (1)_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    20190723 (1)_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    294.1 KB · Views: 29

Farnboro John

Well-known member
A half day the following week, on 23 July, took me to Cliffe after Southern Emerald Damselfly, unsuccessfully. That seems to have become my real miss of the year. I did see a female Southern Migrant Hawker, more Ruddy Darters, and my first Migrant Hawker of the year, an emergent that I got a couple of pictures of while it was basking in the very hot sun.

Then the car blew up again – same thing – has to be a symptom of a deeper illness, new parts shouldn’t be misaligned to the point of giving up in a month and I’m not turning the car into a money-pit. So I was crippled for travel again until I could get a new one. Meantime on 28 July I visited Thursley with Steve, sorting him out Black Darter and Brilliant Emerald.

John

Photos:

Ruddy Darter female

Black Darter female

Southern Migrant Hawker male

Southern Migrant Hawker pair in wheel

Ruddy Darter male
 

Attachments

  • 20190723 (12)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    20190723 (12)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    133.5 KB · Views: 16
  • 20190728 (5)_Black_Darter.JPG
    20190728 (5)_Black_Darter.JPG
    218.9 KB · Views: 21
  • 20190803 (13)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    20190803 (13)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    126.6 KB · Views: 34
  • 20190803 (19)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    20190803 (19)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    197 KB · Views: 36
  • 20190803 (21)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    20190803 (21)_Ruddy_Darter.JPG
    207.7 KB · Views: 17

Farnboro John

Well-known member
3 August Steve, Clare and I went to Kent in the hope of photographing Scarce Migrant Hawkers at Oare Marshes (tick for Steve) as well as knocking off the returning Bonaparte’s Gull. The SMH were fantastic, we saw loads and not only got good flight shots but had a male hanging up and a pair in wheel position that also hung up! For the afternoon session I had a site for Willow Emerald just East of Canterbury and fortunately it came up trumps, with several emergent in long grass by a stream just North of Nethergong campsite.

Just now I’m stuck, Maz now has a working car but I can’t reasonably thrash it all over the country (local is all right). I’ve seen 37 species of Odonata and photographed all of them, so I can’t complain: however, without going to Scotland, only Common Hawker seems a likely prospect for the rest of the year. We shall see, I suppose.

Thanks for reading if you've got this far!

Cheers

John

Photos:

Southern Migrant Hawker male

Willow Emerald Damselfly male

Willow Emerald Damselfly emergent female

Emerald Damselfly female
 

Attachments

  • 20190803 (27)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    20190803 (27)_Southern_Migrant_Hawker.JPG
    209.5 KB · Views: 22
  • 20190803 (34)_Willow_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    20190803 (34)_Willow_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    148.4 KB · Views: 23
  • 20190803 (40)_Willow_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    20190803 (40)_Willow_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    158 KB · Views: 18
  • 20190803 (42)_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    20190803 (42)_Emerald_Damselfly.JPG
    150.9 KB · Views: 19

Britseye

Well-known member
Yes, John. managed to get 'this far' all in one read and was very happy I did. As a tyro living in the south-west who has never opened a Dragonfly book, there were a couple of things in there I'd never heard of. but I do so like personal blow by blow accounts that make it very accessible and enjoyable to read. And some of your pics make me quite gripped. I successfully twitched a Lesser Emperor in Devon this year, but somehow Red-veined Darter continues to elude me.
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
Great account John.Some pretty fine photos. Keep hoping to get to Canvey but the weather always seems less than ideal when I pencil it again. Enjoyed it when I visited last year.

I know at least 1 Southern Emerald has been photographed there this year, but compared to last year, there seems to be a real dearth of records, so assume there wasn't much successful breeding. As well as quite a few at Canvey there were quite a lot at a private site off the A40 to the west of London, but heard nothing this year.

I was hoping they would do a Small Red-eyed or Willow Emerald + spread quite quickly.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
There have been some Southern Emeralds at the Beaconsfield site - https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/record-details?occurrence_id=11103217 as well as the Canvey ditch. They have also been at Little Belhus CP in Essex. It would be a lot easier for me to go to the IOW site - http://isleofwightdragons.blogspot.com/2019/08/southern-emerald-numbers-rise-as-august.html !

Thanks Paul!

Now, if I can get Southern Emerald Damselfly at Beaconsfield and the Vagrant Emperors in Suffolk, that leaves Common Hawker to make a round 40 without going all the way to Scotland.... Watson, the game is afoot!

Graham: next year you must try to get up to Longham Lakes at the right time in summer, the numbers of Red-veined Darters (and the views) are excellent and there's a good chance of more Lesser Emperor sightings for you too.

Thanks all for looking and for comments.

John
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
There have been some Southern Emeralds at the Beaconsfield site - https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/record-details?occurrence_id=11103217 as well as the Canvey ditch. They have also been at Little Belhus CP in Essex. It would be a lot easier for me to go to the IOW site - http://isleofwightdragons.blogspot.com/2019/08/southern-emerald-numbers-rise-as-august.html !

Thanks for that. I assume more wasn't said about the Beaconsfield sightings as people were discouraged from going there last year.
 

Lightthiscandle

David Bryant
Red Veined Darters

There were literally dozens of these on the path north of Kelling Quags pool yesterday (6 / 07 / 19) This included at least three couples copulating.
 

Attachments

  • RD cop.jpg
    RD cop.jpg
    238.7 KB · Views: 109
  • rvd 2.jpg
    rvd 2.jpg
    185.8 KB · Views: 120

GYRob

Well-known member
Dragon fly type

Sorry I don't normally shoot this sort of thing but decided to give it a go

EM-1X 300f4 Pro 1/5000 sec f4 iso500
Rob.
 

Attachments

  • P1010071 small drag.jpg
    P1010071 small drag.jpg
    874.3 KB · Views: 144
  • P1010053 small.jpg
    P1010053 small.jpg
    424 KB · Views: 122

Timbirder3

Well-known member
A gripping account with some great photos. Especially interesting to me as I have attempted the same thing this year on a more casual basis. (I'm on 33 species)
If you don't mind me asking John, is there anywhere near you that is good for Golden-ringed Dragonfly? I've tried Thursley twice with no luck and won't get the chance to visit the New Forest this summer, but I have family near Farnham and can usually sneak out for an hour or so when I'm down there.
Tim
 
Warning! This thread is more than 3 years ago old.
It's likely that no further discussion is required, in which case we recommend starting a new thread. If however you feel your response is required you can still do so.

Users who are viewing this thread

Top