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Sunday 16 September 2018

Hicks Lodge Revisited - Almost!! - on 5th September, 2018

I was starting to think that I ought to do a bit of local birding, as birds (apart from those in my garden) seem to have been somewhat off the agenda lately, with my main focus having been on dragonflies and damselflies. Hicks Lodge, with its trees, lakes, and grassland seemed to be the place to go, so off I went.

I parked by the south entrance to the site and started to take the track northwards. I'd got part way when I was reminded that a new public footpath had been opened which headed off to the west of the south access track. It passes a lake which I'd often thought might be worth visiting, so I diverted from my original plan.

Reaching the lake, there was no indication of the direction of the onward public right-of-way, so I took an anti-clockwise route starting out onto the northern side of the lake. I soon saw a large collection of geese, which included a small flock of domestic geese, and somewhat larger flocks of  Canada Geese and Greylag Geese. 

mixed geese - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
There were a several patches of wild flowers adding some colour to otherwise relatively barren land immediately surrounding the lake. I found the occasional patch of Fox and Cubs particularly attractive.

Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
Inevitably, I was drawn towards the water's edge. Here I found a pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies mating.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male + female in cop) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
Driven by my original intention to seek out some birds, I left the edge of the lake but, other than Magpie, and the geese, little was seen. I did, however, photograph a Small Copper butterfly.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
Seeing so little away from the water, I returned to the water's edge and immediately spotted a female Southern Hawker dragonfly. I watched as she disappeared into some waterside vegetation and didn't emerge again, so off I set to try and find her. Sadly she saw me before I saw her - or so it seems - as she flew off as I approached. I must have spent nearly an hour trying to photograph her as the process repeated itself over and over again. Eventually I gave up without having taken a single shot - disappointed as female Southern Hawkers are not the easiest of dragonflies to find and photograph.

Whilst I was trying for shots, the flock of Greylag Geese flew off to go and forage on another area of the Hicks Lodge site.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
Having given up with the Southern Hawker, I continued my circumnavigation, stopping to photograph more Small Coppers. I think the plant might be Common Fleabane.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
Shortly after this, the Canada Geese took to the air and followed the Greylags.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
As I was at the water's edge, a 4x4 approached and drew up alongside me. It turned out to be the owners of the land that I was on, who had seen me on their  security cameras, and wanted to know what I was doing. Unbeknown to me, the public footpath was on the other side of the lake! I presented my credentials and they very kindly allowed me to continue my wanderings.

Little more was seen until I got to a small pond at the far end of the lake. On the far side of this, I found a solitary Emerald Damselfly. This is a species that I have seen very little of this year - I don't think that they have fared well in this exceptionally hot and dry summer.

I started to take some shots, with results that I was not entirely happy with.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
The sun had not been shining when these shots were taken, and it was only when the cloud thinned that I realised I'd been shooting into the light. I managed to get to a point 180° round from my original position without disturbing the damselfly, and got some rather better shots.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
She then started waving her abdomen up and down. I'm not sure of the significance of this action.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (female) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
It was now time to be headed homeward after a quick call to Lindsay to say I was going to be a bit late!

I suspect I'd seen more Small Copper butterflies that morning than I'd seen in the whole of the past decade. This was particularly gratifying as the decline of this species has been causing great concern. I could not, therefore, resist taking more shots as I headed back on the southern (legitimate!) side of the lake.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
As I approached the gate that would take me away from the lake, the domestic geese came in from the field where they had been foraging and took to the water. OK, so these are not a birdwatcher's bird, but they do have a certain elegance.

domestic geese - Hicks Lodge, West Lake
In the event, I arrived home at the originally expected time, so salvaged some brownie points.

The morning hadn't been what I'd set out for it to be, but it was, nonetheless, very enjoyable - and a new place under my belt.

Thank you for dropping by. I have something planned which I hope might give me a few avian shots for a future post, but the weather forecast does not look favourable, so it's currently in the lap of the gods.

Sunday 9 September 2018

A Return to Heather Lake - on 30th August, 2018

This blog post brings me a little more up-to-date, having had a couple of reasonably fruitful local visits in the past week or so.

On this occasion, I decided to make a return visit to Heather Lake. This place is great for Emperor dragonflies in the middle of summer, but I'd not visited this late in the season before, and wondered if I might find Migrant Hawker here.

Having parked my car, and started out on the footpath that leads to the lake, I immediately spotted a Speckled Wood butterfly in a photographable position. 

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - near Heather Lake
Exiting the wooded section of the path, there is  a narrow watercourse running to the lake. I often see many damselflies here, but on this day I saw none. However, having reached the lake, I immediately spotted a Migrant Hawker which settled in reeds on the far (west) bank.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Heather lake
I took a slow pass up the east side of the lake and soon found another Migrant Hawker in flight, and this one settled too - but this time where I could get at it!

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Heather lake
A little further along there was a male Common Darter. I had started to think this had been a bad year for this species, but now I am seeing many more of them. The second image shows the eyes, and the part of the thorax 'powerhouse' which drives the wings, that give these amazing insects the ability to spot and intercept, rather than chase, their prey.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male)  - Heather Lake
There were a few damselflies at the south end of the lake, but I spent little time with them. Here, however, is one of our most common species.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Heather Lake
Round on the west side of the lake I saw a Brown Hawker looking as if it was trying to find somewhere to roost. Eventually it did but, sadly, in a place where it was impossible to get near to without being torn to ribbons by a 5-metre dense wall of brambles. This was the best that I could do.

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) (male) - Heather Lake
Arriving at the point where I'd seen my first Migrant Hawker of the day land, I spotted a Small Copper butterfly. This species is said to be in worrying decline, but I think I have seen as many of these in the past ten days as I have in the whole of the rest of my life! This one has patches of electric blue on its hind wings which, I think, makes it f. caeruleo-punctata.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas f. caeruleo-punctata) (female) - Heather Lake
I'd done a full circuit of the lake and decided to have another look in the area that I'd had the close-up views of the Migrant Hawker. This time I found one that was patrolling the area, and occasionally having an altercation with another of its kind, whereupon it would disappear for a while before returning to keep guard over its territory, and to check me out. This gave me some opportunities for flight shots.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) (male) - Heather lake
After a while, this dragonfly departed, and I turned my attention to a pair of Common Darter that were busy ovipositing out in the middle of the lake. I was hoping that they'd come closer, but they didn't.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male + female, ovipositing)  - Heather Lake
A quick look to see if I could find anything else, only yielded another perched Common Darter, and then another in flight.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male)  - Heather Lake
It was time to head homeward as there's only so much waving around of a heavy camera and 50-500 lens, trying to get flight shots, that my arms can do before giving up! It had been an enjoyable and rewarding session for me.

Thank you for dropping by. Unless something else crops up, I suspect that my next post will feature butterflies and a damselfly or two - or I might find time for a resumé of summer wildlife in our garden.

Sunday 2 September 2018

In Search of White-legged Damsels - on 20th July, 2018

As suggested in my previous post, for this post I am harking back to a visit I made earlier in the summer.

The Ashby Canal is relatively close to my home, and there are a couple of places on its length that I know to be quite good for White-legged Damselfly at the right time of year. Unfortunately, I left it a little late this year to seek them out. One of the main problems with leaving it late was that the canal-side vegetation had grown very high, making it difficult for photography - as I found out when I visited. However, the Ashby Canal is good for White-legged Damselfly precisely because the canal-side vegetation is allowed to grow undisturbed.

I parked in my usual canal-side place, and started walking the towpath. It was sunny when I set out, but rather breezy. I walked for about 500 metres, seeing virtually nothing except a brief appearance of a Brown Hawker and a male Banded Demoiselle that disappeared before I could get a shot in. I was almost on the point of giving up, and returning home without a single release of the camera shutter.

Eventually, I spotted a male Common Blue Damselfly, which I did manage to get  a shot of - from a distance.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male)  - Ashby Canal
A few minutes later, I found a pair of Common Blues mating.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male + female - in cop)  - Ashby Canal
Almost immediately after this I found a male White-legged Damselfly - and then another - and another!

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal
I don't know whether it was location, time of day, or a subtle change in the weather, but I now started seeing more dragons and damsels. At one point I had an Emperor Dragonfly patrolling the far side of the canal, but I'd only got my 150 macro lens with me, so didn't manage any images. Blue-tailed Damselfly were busy, with the only females photographed being of the blue andromorph colour form.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male) - Ashby Canal

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) (male + female - in cop) - Ashby Canal
Ruddy Darters seem to have done extremely well this year in these parts but, from my own experience, Common Darter have not fared so well.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Ashby Canal
Banded Demoiselle were now starting to show more. I found one pair preparing to mate. However they were in a very difficult position for photography, and I accidentally disturbed them while trying for shots. Here's a couple from before they disappeared.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male + female) - Ashby Canal
That was the only female Banded Demoiselle I saw. There were, however, several males around.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Ashby Canal
At one point, I spent some time watching three males interacting with each other. With the prevailing light and the lens I had, I wasn't able to get all in focus or eliminate motion blur, but it was interesting to watch.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) (male) - Ashby Canal
The main objective, however, was the White-legged Damselflies, so here are a few more from that day.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal
One individual was performing an action which I suspect was the transfer of sperm from primary to secondary genitalia.

White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) (male) - Ashby Canal
What started out as a disappointing session, had turned itself around and become a very enjoyable time beside the Ashby Canal.

Thank you for dropping by. I have no idea, at this stage, what my next blog post will feature.