3 Jul 2014

3 July 14 - Kentish Hawkers (nee Norfolk Hawkers)

In recent weeks I've discovered Marc Heath's excellent blog focusing mainly on Dragonflies in Kent. As well as the excellent photos (don't look too hard as you might stop following my blog), there had been a number of posts about Norfolk Hawkers at Westbere. These look to have recently been found in Kent & as it was considerably closer than a trip to the Norfolk Broads, it was a better option. I was all set to give Westbere a go, when the news of local Swallowtails broke. Having finally seen my first local Swallowtail, the weather was still looking good for a trip to Kent. Having been born & brought up on the Kent/London border, my early days of birding was dominated by trips down to Dungeness, the North Kent coast & Stodmarsh (as well as plenty of local birding). Westbere is part of the same collection of lakes as Stodmarsh, but surprisingly I had only visited the site once before. So armed with directions from my mate Ewan Urquhart who had just visited & seen the Norfolk Hawkers, I was ready for my first visit. It was a straight-forward drive to Kent & I was there for lunchtime (having decided against an early start to avoid the commuters). I arrived at Westbere & after crossing the railway was straight into some cool woodland shade for the first few hundred metres, before emerging back into the sun. There was a good patch of reedbed on my left with reed fringed ditches on both sides of the path.
Westbere: The path passes through this cool woodland, much appreciated on a hot sunny day
The path then emerged into the reedbeds
With some great reed fringed ditches either side of the path
Another more open ditch
Walking through the wood & the early part of the reedbed area, there were plenty of Banded Demoiselles and small blue Danselflies: The few I looked at were all Azure Damselflies. I quickly saw a Hawker, but it quickly disappeared from view before I could clinch it. Carrying on, I found a plank across a ditch to a lake & there was a perched Norfolk Hawker on the ditch's reeds. It's great to travel to see something new & to connect soon after arriving.
Norfolk Hawker: The confusing species are Brown Hawker (which flies later in July with blue patches on the brown body & golden brown wings), vagrant Lesser Emperor (which has blue at the base of the abdomen & green eyes) or even rarer Vagrant Emperor (which has blue at the base of the abdomen & brown eyes)
In total, I saw at least 6 Norfolk Hawkers patrolling different ditches. However, I was pleased to see they were happy to land for photos as some of the other Hawker species seem to constantly fly around.
Norfolk Hawker: The distinctive features are the brown body, green eyes, pale yellow base to the hind wing, clear wings & a yellow triangle on the second segment of the abdomen
Norfolk Hawker: The yellow triangle on segment 2 (at the base of the abdomen) was more orange than the books show
There was also a good selection of other interesting insects to photograph.
Black-tailed Skimmer: Male
Green-veined White
Whirligig Beetles: These were very common in all the ditches
Harlequin Ladybird larva

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