30 Jun 2018

30 Jun 18 - An Island Dragon

I'm sure there are plenty of early maps with Dragons on remote islands & the plan for the weekend to go Dragon hunting on an island. The sun was shining & it was baking hot. I left early to ensure I didn't get held up with traffic & arrived just after 9:15 for the 10:00 pelagic. I was due to meet mate Gav MacLean just before the start of the pelagic, but I had a last minute text that South West trains had chosen not to do joined up thinking & hold his Brockenhurst connection for a minute to allow him to join me. Better to leave 30 passengers on the platform than wait a minute for them. After handing over a small fortune I was off Dragon hunting on my own. But first there was a pelagic.
The start of the Hampshire pelagic goes past a Tern & Gull colony: Unfortunately, no golden-billed Royal Terns with them today
Hurst Castle: Given it's Hampshire it is not up to the standard of Florida's Dry Tortugas for Birding. I'm surprised that the Brexit camp haven't started refortifying it again keep the Frenchies out
The Needles: The other Western gateway to the Solent
Fort Albert: Having been completed in 1856 to help protect the Solent from attack by Napoleon III, it was obsolete soon after. However, the military didn't finally leave until 1957. It has now been converted to private flats
The pelagic was over after just 40 minutes as the ferry pulled into Yarmouth: One Gannet on the IoW side was the highlight
Yarmouth Castle cannon
It was a 2 mile walk to Bouldnor Forest, the Dragon site: Fortunately, I avoided the guarding Red Squirrels
After about 45 minutes, I arrived at a clearing in Bouldnor Forest & started looking for the Dragonfly pools. There were a number of medium to large interesting looking pools surrounded by knee high vegetation. I spent an hour looking around them. However, they were far too open to be the pools I was interested in. My target for the day was the recently arrived Southern Emerald Damselfly. They were first found in Norfolk in 2002 & have been recorded at a few sites on the East coast of East Anglia & Kent. I was discussing with my mate Edge about looking for them this year in Kent & Edge said they had recently been discovered at a site on the Western end of the Isle of Wight. He was planning to go over with Gav this summer. Unfortunately, Edge wasn't available this particular weekend. Gav was still up for going & with two of us heading over, our chances of seeing them would be increased by having more eyes looking. Pity South West Trains had other ideas. We didn't have a lot to go on other than local Dragonfly photographer Peter Hunt's excellent Blog http://isleofwightdragons.blogspot.com. This is a great blog with lots of good photos of the Island's Dragonflies & other wildlife. The blog showed photos of the two heavily overgrown breeding pools that Peter had seen the Southern Emerald Damselflies around. It was Peter's photographs of the Southern Emerald Damselflies that allowed a sharp-eyed Dragonfly records officer at the British Dragonfly Society to identify them as a new species for the Isle of Wight in 2017. Subsequent checks through Peter's photographs confirmed that they had been present since 2015. Unlike the Kent & Norfolk populations of Southern Emerald Damseflies which are best looked for during the school holidays, the IoW ones are on the wing in June. So it was getting towards the end of their season, especially given how hot & dry the last few weeks have been.
Emperor Dragonfly: Female egg laying
Broad-bodied Chaser: Male
Blue-tailed Damselfly: Female. Thanks to Peter Hunt for correcting me on the identification of this as a female Blue-tailed Damselfly & probably the rufescens form (which I misidentified as a teneral Emerald Damselfly)
Water Strider: This is the largest UK Pond Skater & favours still water
Water Strider: Their large size & the presence of two upturned spurs at the end of the abdomen makes this easier to identify than most of the other Pond Skaters. Only the left hand spur is visible in this photo
Interesting as the pools were with many Dragonflies, I knew I still had to keep looking to find the right pools.
The smaller of the two pools: Virtually dried up so I assume that Southern Emerald Damselflies are able to lay eggs which can survive for a number of months without water
Finally, I stumbled on the smaller of the two pools, just as Gav was arriving after catching the ferry an hour after my ferry. Gav headed off to check the other pools. I carried on looking & soon after found the other pool with somebody else there. Not surprisingly it was Peter Hunt who had arrived between Gav & myself, but he had gone straight to the breeding pools. I called Gav over as Peter had seen one individual, but when we looked it had moved on.
The larger of the two pools: Even more dried up. I guess being able to survive until the next rains fill the pools up helps to cut down the competition for food & being eaten by other Dragonfly larva
Southern Emerald Damselfly: My initial view
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Getting better. The two-tone pterostigma are one of the features for Southern Emerald Damselflies
Southern Emerald Damselfly: The wings are typically held at 45 degrees to the body. Note, the reddish colouration in the wings is purely the way the light is catching the wings
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Close up showing the pale sides to the thorax & the pale patch at the back of the head which are also important features
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Close up of the two-tone pterostigma (Emerald Damselflies have uniform dark pterostigma)
Southern Emerald Damselfly: The second individual
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Close up of the head & thorax
Southern Emerald Damselfly: The second individual
Southern Emerald Damselfly: All Dragonflies & Damselflies are amazing close up. You wouldn't want to meet them if you were a small Insect
Southern Emerald Damselfly: At last a better photo
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Close up of the head & shoulders markings
Southern Emerald Damselfly: Close up of the two-tone pterostigma
It had been a good day trip seeing my last regularly breeding English Dragonfly. I have just got to see Dainty Damselfly if they get pinned down again, all the the Scottish Dragonflies & a few more vagrants.
Southern Hawker: Male perched up along the track back to the road
I had expected the pelagic back was going to be pretty quiet, so the lure of a coffee & cake got the better of me after several hours in the strong sun. However, as the final photo showed it threw up a surprise find.
I didn't expect to see a Jackass type Penguin as we left Yarmouth

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