Friday, 25 May 2012

Dragons n damsels

Thursday 24th May 2012
Very warm (23C), calm and sunny all day.

The day started wonderfully with Large Red Damselflies emerging this morning from the garden pond. My wife arrived home from work as I was loading the car to set off for the day, when we noticed quite a few damsels fluttering away from the pond. On closer inspection, there were 20 or more exuvia on the plant stems, with some of the newly-emerged adults still waiting for the sun to warm them.

I took a trip down to Lydden to look for Adonis Butterfly, walking up from the KWT car park. There weren't huge numbers of butterflies around, and I guess that even though it felt like a mid-summer's day, it was still only just gone mid-May. Anyway, I enjoyed a lovely walk around the reserve, seeing 4 new butterfly species for the year, and a single Hobby high over. Although I failed to see Adonis, I managed a list of Wall, Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, Orange-tip, Large White and Small Heath.

Next I paid a visit to Stodmarsh. I was hoping to see a few dragonflies, and I wasn't disappointed. The intention wasn't for a long walk birding, but more a relaxing walk along the path to the marsh hide. As soon as I got out the car I saw a 'flock' of Hobbies over the nature trail, so quite excited I set off. There were a few Large Red Damsels by the stream near the car park.

I took the path to the marsh hide, and as the path openes up there are several small pools. There were several Hairy Dragonflies, and 2 immature Broad-bodied Chasers. By now I could see the growing numbers of Hobbies above me, presumably attracted to the same part of the reserve as me because of all the insects in the air. They are impossible to count, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 30 birds in the area.

Whilst watching the Hobbies, I also came across a few Variable Damselflies, which were my target for the trip.

On the return walk there was a Speckled Wood flying around, my first seen this year.
Back at the car park I had a bit of a missed oportunity with a distant raptor. Only bins at hand I saw a harrier very high against the bright clear sky, which appeared to have a white rump showing i.e a ring-tail harrier. The choice I had was to run for the scope, which was in the boot of the car, carry on following the bird with the bins and hope it came closer, or try for a 'record shot' with the long lens. I chose the latter, which was a mistake because the lens failed to locate the pale raptor against the bright sky, and I never saw the bird again. A frustrating end to my trip.

The day was extended around midnight, when my wife and I went out listening for Nightingales, as part of the BTO survey night visits. I was kind of hoping not to hear any, indicating the spring-singing birds have been successful in attracting a mate. However, the BTO wish surveyors to wait for 20 minutes in any area that a spring bird was heard singing during the day-time visits. That could have made it a long night!

As it turned out, we managed 3 and a bit tetrads, with quite a few birds singing. It was a perfect night for listening for singing because it was so calm, meaning I could listen for birds from a distance without having to walk too far into woods. Not sure what it all means yet, but it was good fun, hearing a few birds from neighbouring tetrads as well as my own.

Home by 3am and a long day complete, and what a fantastic day it was!

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