Thursday, 31 May 2012

Damselfly emergence, a risky business.

Emergence is the most dangerous step for a Damselfly or Dragonfly. The fully formed adult is inside the cuticle of this final larval stage and will force its way out of a split at the rear. The larva will climb up plant stems over the water or climb the bank and walk sometimes metres to emerge on another support.
Most emerge vertically but a few species emerge horizontally on rocks protruding from the water or on aquatic plants. Once the support has been chosen it makes sure it has a secure grip by flexing its legs then violently flicking the abdomen. This helps make sure there are no obstructions that may stop the wings from expanding.
The ghostly shapes of exoskeletons. The empty larval cases of already emerged damselflies.
Some species emerge overnight but the majority prefer early morning as warmer temperatures allow faster completion of the process, lessening the chance of predation by birds, ants, slugs and spiders. So when i found the specimen in the third image below at 5.10p.m. i knew there had been some sort of problem.
No hope for this individual i'm afraid.
This poor soul had somehow ended up the wrong way around and was unfortunately severely deformed with no chance of the wings expanding. Quite a few apparently end up with deformed bodies due to the cuticle not splitting fully or end up with damaged wings because of obstructions while opening them. The newly emerged adults head immediately away from the water and during the immature stage actively avoid it. The area over water is a place for sexually active and aggressive males so the soft bodied tenerals, as they are called, prefer treetops or long grasses where they can feed until they become mature.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Alternative blog, macro images.

I've decided to start a second blog concentrating mainly on images captured on my macro lens. During the summer months the birding can get quiet so when i'm out i like to chase about after Dragons, Damsels, Butterflies and other insects that i can catch up with. Any flowers i manage to capture in detail will also be included especially wild Orchids.
I have put my first post up today and here is the link. UP CLOSE
I was at Weetslade this morning with Mr. Cheviot who wardens there and we found the hoped for Dragonflies. Only the one species, that being Four-spot Chaser but i had around a dozen sightings. I also managed to view some Common-blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies but no images of these species were managed.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Teesmouth Friday........continued.

Having left the big lens brigade at Hartlepool i called off at Seaton Common with thoughts of a wander around the site. The skies blackened however and i thought better of it. Driving away the heavens did indeed open.
Meadow Pipit watching the rain edge closer.  WHERE'S Y BROLLY !!
An intended visit to the Saline Lagoon was aborted and i continued on to Dormans Pool. Driving through clouds of Swifts criss crossing the road between the pools just outside Saltholme the rain had stopped as i arrived at Dormans.A slow drive along the track to the top car park brought me song of Willow Warbler, Chiff chaff, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and Black cap but not the hoped for Cettis. Dropped back to park at Saltholme, not to visit the reserve, but to have a look at the 2 male Garganey on the Fire Station Floods which i did, if distantly. Leaving the screen and joining the main path a Fox trotted towards me. It stopped in its tracks as did i, we made eye contact and it happily trotted past no more than a metre away with the evening meal in its mouth.
Keep your eyes off me tea.
I'm away off for it now.
Called into the Phil Stead hide for 15 minutes as another heavy shower passed overhead and had views of nesting Little Grebe and a Little Egret which had been getting grief from a Grey Heron i was informed.
Cowpen Bewley was the obvious stop off on the return journey although time was limited. The Nightingale chose not to sing in the short time i was there but a Cuckoo did make its presence known but the calls came from 2 different locations then stopped so it seemed like it was passing through.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Red-spotted Bluethroat, Hartlepool Headland.

How many images can you take of a bird? No matter how stonking it is.
I don't know how many i took but there were guys shooting away as i arrived and some were still at it when i left and i had spent some time with a pair of Linnets and Wheatears down by the Battery and had me bait during one of the numerous heavy showers.
I've just picked one out as it'll take me 'till next week to scrutinise them.
It went missing a few times but always returned to it's favourite spot at number 15.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Large Red Damselfly exoskeleton

I went back to the western ponds at the Rising Sun late this afternoon in what was probably the worst light of the day to try to see if the exuvia that i had found was still intact after the heavy downpour yesterday. It was but could not get a better angled image but i did find 2 more on the same pond. These were better positioned to confirm that they were indeed Large Red. I checked through the vegetation rising from the larger second pond but nothing was found there. This pond is around 3 times the size of the other and in slightly more shade so the other pond will warm up more when the sun shines. The water quality in these ponds isn't the best and not helped by imbeciles throwing discarded drinks cans and litter in from time to time. I couldn't reach any of the specimens so as to take home to get some macro shots.
Record shots of the other two exuvia.

I want to do a bit of pond dipping photography soon and hope to find some Dragon and Damsel nymphs but these ponds will be left alone due to that poor water quality. I'm also hoping to capture an emerging Damselfly this year. Need the weather to improve tho'.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Rising Sun Large Red Exuvia ???

An e mail this afternoon from Killy Birder sparked me into action and i had to get up to the Rising Sun. Nothing too exciting on the way up but on arrival i scoured the western ponds for a Large Red Damselfly.....NOWT, until.

I found this clinging to an old log in one of the ponds. No sooner had i scrambled to the ground to take some images than the heavens opened. I rattled off a few shots before getting the camera under cover and heading off towards the hide as it looked to be in for a while. The images aren't the best but they must be of a Large Red Exuvia. For those who don't know it is the empty case left by the nymph of that species of Damselfly. I can't be sure as there isn't enough detail from the angles i got as lots of these Exuvia are very similar with only subtle differences which cannot be confirmed here. I've handled Dragonfly cases but not Damselfly ones and they are very fragile, almost like rice paper, so i don't know if it will have survived after the heavy rain. I was going to call back on the way home but got sidetracked. I might pop up in the morning if i can find time and try to look again.
One of the reasons i got side tracked was a cracking Common Sandpiper on Dukes Pond.
Distant image from opposite side of pond
Then i had views of one of the Little Owls near the Organic Farm and first sightings for me of the Common Terns having returned to Swallow Pond. All that excitement AND the fact I'm getting old was just too much to cope with.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Walking with Warblers............

.........and other birds. I had the car on Sunday for a few hours 'till the footy so headed out to bird but ended up walking 'n birding along the Bowes Railway Path. I had originally planned to visit Burdon Moor and Ravenswoth Fell but having left the car in the small car park opposite the Tanfield Railway i headed off along the path. I passed the spot of the site of Burdon Moor almost immediately but having not been to the area before decided to continue along the old rail line to see what i could come up with. I was enjoying it so much i just kept walking. Lots of Warblers could be seen and heard. Willow warblers, Chiff chaffs and Blackcaps seemed to be all along in the trees and shrubs that lined the way. Having had a conversation a couple of weeks ago regarding the lack of Yellowhammers at the Rising Sun it was great to see numbers of this species coming in from the fields and asking for that "little bit of cheese" before flying off and mainly dropping to the ground. With it being quite early i had the walk almost to myself at this stage with the odd cyclist whizzing by.
Warbler no. 1
I ended up eventually recognising Kibblesworth and decided while i was in the vicinity that i would visit the Brickwork Pools. Saddened to see on arrival that some retard in a 4 wheel drive had used the area as some sort of adventure playground and there were deep tracks all around the site, even through some of the smaller ponds. The sun had been out all morning and although there had been an overnight frost it was pleasant by now but didn't expect and didn't get a Damselfly. I had a couple of male Orange-tip Butterflies and hoards of St. Mark's Flies (the ones with the dangling legs) but no Dingy Skippers which i had been informed can be found at this site. Yet another Warbler kept me entertained as i sat for a while, thinking of the liquid refreshment i had left back in the car, before my return.
Warbler no. 2
The walk back entailed a long steady climb as these waggonways were designed for the trucks to roll down to the banks of the Tyne with the aid of gravity and pulled back by equine means. Not as many birds about now but a very vocal Blackcap allowed a fifteen minute break before i pushed on to call off at Burdon Moor.
Warbler no. 3
I was getting short on time so my visit to Burdon Moor was very brief but i got the lay of the land and sussed out the ponds there, one of which held Broad-bodied Chasers last year and talking to two of the local lads i found out which pond in particular was best. One of the others was pointed out as a spot for Common Hawkers when they appear. The guys i talked to had been there earlier and had returned to try to relocate a Whinchat that they had seen then but no show now.  I had walked just over ten km. as i found out later with an ascent of one hundred and sixty metres. I'm returning soon for the Dragonflies here and two other sites i know about and might take in Ravensworth Fell then.
Male Orange tip, Kibblesworth

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ouzing quality

As i intimated the other day Monday was to be spent at Tynemouth. I wasn't disappointed. On arrival i headed for the location of the Ring Ouzel from previous days but no show. Up to the Battery car park then down the clifftop for views of the Black Middens. A notorious collection of rocks at the mouth of the River Tyne which has claimed many a ship in days gone by. It was just about high tide and was hoping the couple of Sandwich Terns from Saturday had hung about. It was better than that as i had 26 immediately in amongst a similar number of Oystercatchers. Spent a good forty five minutes in their company. Brilliant.
This guy is bringing a Sand eel to his partner
He did present it to her (i missed the moment)
The girl from Del Monte she say "Yes"
And the next generation is on the way.
While mentioning the Middens, i bumped into Simon P. much later and he mentioned that he had an Iceland Gull there early afternoon and after i had mentioned seeing 2 Whimbrel overhead at one point he said that he had them there also and that it was him that had put them up. As we spoke, standing at the end of the North Pier, we had 5 Purple Sandpipers on the rocks below and shortly after another Whimbrel flew north as we chatted. The Kittiwakes and Fulmars were obviously present on the cliffs above us but in flight images were pointless in grey conditions at this time. Not long before i had 2 Wheatears near the end of the Pier, this added to the single earlier at another spot.
No butterflies today and although it wasn't as cold as it had been on Saturday there was little sun to raise the temperature sporadically and it was breezy.
I called back after lunch to the area behind the Coastguard Station and picked up on the female Ring Ousel (it can be spelt either with a z or an s) straight away but was then confused by the sight of what appeared to be a second female of the same species. The birds kept disappearing into the undergrowth but there was 3 male and a female Blackbird which kept coming and going which made things interesting at all times. This was a second Ring Ouzel, which was confirmed when they both appeared together. Tom Tams and another birder were in place with their BIG lenses by now and were to be exasperated when both birds came together for a split second with the chance for an image of both in frame but one of the male Blackbirds came in and one of the Ouzels flew off.
Female Ring Ousel
A rather good days birding was had, just wished there had been some decent light. The easterlies continue and I'm heading down the coast to the Hawthorn / Blast Beach area for a walk tomorrow with Mr. Cheviot so here's hoping.