Emperors

Another very hot day and a good one for insects, hot conditions allow them to be especially active as they do not need to spend time sitting in the sun to warm up as they would on a more normal English summer’s day. I saw my first Blashford silver-washed fritillary of the year, they are regular in small numbers, but never common on the reserve.

silver-washed fritillary

silver-washed fritillary

Later I came across a pair of brown argus, these are the start of the second generation for this species this year.

brown argus pair

brown argus pair

Brown argus are one of the “Blues” but one that forgot this and so is not blue. The same area of grass was also hiding several stridulating Roesel’s bush-cricket, I am quite pleased that I can still hear these as they are quiet high frequency and so one of the species that slip away as we get older. If you do get to see one the pale line around the lower edge of the pronotum is an identifying character.

Roesel's bush-cricket

Roesel’s bush-cricket

However the highlight of the day was none of these fine insects. After lunch I went over to Ellingham Pound to check how the common tern chicks were doing, the answer was just fine and it looks as though all seven will be flown off very soon. It is a good place to see dragon and damselflies and one of the only regular places on the reserve for small red-eyed damselfly and a quick check found one floating on some algae. I then started to look at the dragonflies in the hope of finding a lesser emperor, as there have been quite  few in the country recently and one was reported from Ibsey Water a couple of days ago. After seeing a couple of emperor dragonfly, a distinctive male lesser emperor shot past, after many attempts I got a couple of shots, not great, but I only had a 60mm lens with me!

lesser emperor male

lesser emperor male

The mainly dark abdomen with pale blue “saddle” is what identifies it. As I waited for it to skim past again I inevitably snapped other dragonflies too, when I looked at these pictures later I think one of them shows a female lesser emperor.

lesser emperor female

female

The lesser emperor is a migrant from the south, it used to be regarded as very rare but is getting more common, especially in warm summers and certainly tries to breed here now. It seems it is another species that is trying to colonise thanks to warming temperatures. The Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) seem to be especially responsive to these changes with many species spreading across Europe dramatically in the last couple of decades.

Elsewhere on the reserve there were at least three common sandpiper on Ibsley Water where there was also a juvenile little egret and, at the end of the day, 3 adult yellow-legged gull. I also found that the pair of Mediterranean gull on Long Spit had managed to fledge a single chick, or at least I could only find one. Although they have nested with us before I cannot be completely certain they have raised a chick to flying on Ibsley Water previously.

Hopefully it will cool down a bit next week and I can get some of the paths trimmed, they certainly need it! I had intended to try today but it was just too hot.

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30 Days Wild – Day 21: More Dragons than Game of Thrones

Although thankfully less death and destruction and all the dragons are dragonflies, they are really enjoying the hot weather. From a photography point of view the heat makes it very difficult to get close to them as they are extremely active. I saw lots of emperor dragonfly today, there have been a number of reports of  the migrant lesser emperor in recent days, although none from Blashford as yet. I did manage to get a picture of a male black-tailed skimmer today though, perched along the path to Ivy South hide as I went to lock up.

black-tailed skimmer

black-tailed skimmer male

The butterflies are also liking the conditions although avoiding the very hottest part of the day. I did see my first ringlet of the year, again on the path to Ivy South hide, they are usually most frequent on the northern side of the reserve, it was too active for me to get a picture this time.

In recent days I have noticed that there almost always seem to be stock dove on the lichen heath, yesterday there were at least eight there. They seem to be picking at the vegetation, or possibly seeds, often they don’t immediately notice me on the path allowing some good views until they suddenly realise I am there and race off with a clatter of wings. Otherwise it was generally quiet, from Tern hide it was good to see two little ringed plover chicks as I opened up along with the single oystercatcher chick.

A few visitor sightings…

Nothing of particular note to report on the bird front from the last few days other than reports from Matt Hyam of Ellingham Waterski Club of a blackwinged stilt flying overhead above Ellingham Lake at the weekend. We have had some lovely photo’s sent in to us over the last few days though:

Grey heron always descend upon the lakes in large numbers at this time of the year – not sure if it is just a post breeding dispersal, lower water levels that makes fishing easier, combination of both or something entirely different! Either way there has been one particular individual who has been a bit of a regular by Tern Hide, and who posed quite nicely for David on this occasion – joined by an obliging little egret.

Grey heron by David Stanley Ward

Grey heron by David Stanley Ward

Little egret by David Stanley Ward

Little egret by David Stanley Ward

Little ringed plover by Geoff May

Little ringed plover by Geoff May

Freshly fledged cuckoo by Russ Tofts

(Very!) freshly fledged cuckoo (between Goosander and Lapwing Hides by Russ Tofts

Kingfisher by Russ Tofts

Kingfisher by Russ Tofts

On the invertebrate front there is more noteworthy news from Paul Ritchie who sent in this record and photograph of a lesser emperor dragonfly from Ellingham Pound (the small lake behind the water ski club house). Seen on Sunday afternoon and again briefly on Monday morning I think I am right in thinking that this is the third year on the trot that this rare “vagrant” dragonfly has been recorded at Blashford Lakes, with sightings last year of a female actually egg laying outside Ivy South Hide. You can read more about Paul’s excitement at spotting his first lesser emperor dragonfly on his blog (http://hampshiredragonflies.co.uk/wordpress/?p=3617), but here is his picture as a taster!

Lesser Emperor (over Ellingham Pound) by Paul Ritchie

Lesser Emperor (over Ellingham Pound) by Paul Ritchie

Thank you to everyone for their records and photo’s!

As for me, I’m still hoping to see Steve’s common lizard by the pond (see Sundays blog)!