Friday, 19 September 2014

Search for an Emerald !

My field guide 'Damselflies and Dragonflies of Britain and Ireland' 

tells me that there are four varieties of Emerald Damselfly.

 None of which I have seen.

All of which, are on my   " to see list"

The Emerald Damselfly, which appears to be fairly common and found throughout the United Kingdom.

 Then the Scarce Emerald Damselfly, which as its name suggests is much rarer, occurring at a few sites in Norfolk and North Kent.

The Southern Emerald Damselfly, a continental colonist that appears to have made a faltering attempt to expand its range across the English channel, has again been found at a few sites in Norfolk and North Kent.

The Willow Emerald Damselfly another recent colonist from Europe, seems to have become established around the East Coast of Norfolk and North Kent in recent years.

So when I read  that a Willow Emerald Damselfly had been seen at Rainham RSPB, I could not resist the urge to go and have a look for it.

It was reported as seen near the so called  "Troll Bridge",
 not sure where this name comes from, as three of the volunteer wardens were unsure themselves when I made a tentative enquiry.

There are quite a few bridges around the reserve, I narrowed it down to one of two bridges, either the bridge just past the Cordite store, but on arrival this seemed wrong, no suitable habitat,
certainly no overhanging Willow trees.

I moved on to the next Bridge just before you approach the conservation area near Ken Barratt Hide.
This looked more Promising, standing or slow running water, a few overhanging willow trees.

The initial search revealed only some Migrant Hawkers, and a few Common Darters, no sign of a Willow Emerald Damselfly.

 The field guide says that they are easily overlooked, as they hang from overhanging willow vegetation, with their wings spread  cryptically wide, this was not going to be easy.

As I searched through the overhanging willows, I could see the tell tale breeding marks on the willow branches, this action is peculiar to this species, the female lays a single egg in the willow twigs above the water, using the serrations on the underside of her ovipositor, this results in oval galls on the  twig.

Then something caught my eye, as a large Damselfly landed on the reeds in the water, in front of the bridge, a quick look through the Binoculars revealed the Willow Emerald Damselfly, a male identified by its long slender abdomen.

The beautiful metallic green colouring extended down to the tip of the tail, and the pale whitish wing spots were clearly seen.
This male seemed quite content to hold territory, this apparently is a vertical territory, no females were seen while I watched.
 I believe later that day up to three individuals were seen, including a female in tandem with a male ovipositing.

These Damselflies are around to well into October, being one of the later flying Damselflies, breeding has obviously taken place, 
so worth noting for a search next year.

On the bird front, several Whinchats and Stonechats were evident on the fence wires, although a bit distant.

A couple of Hobbies were hawking for dragonflies over the marshes, always distant, but a record shot confirms sighting.

As I neared the end of the boardwalk,  a Kingfisher zipped past along the ditch towards the dragonfly pools, too quick for a photograph.

Very enjoyable day, with good views of the Willow Emerald.

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