Tuesday, 26 April 2011


While doing a bit of idle websurfing on Sunday night, I found that there had been three Vagrant Emperor dragonflies at Dungeness that day. I hadn't really expected our 2011 dragonfly quest to begin with a species I'd never even heard of, but it seemed silly not to plan a trip there for Monday. We didn't make a very early start, but got to the spot at Dengemarsh at 11.30ish. A despondent crowd of would-be dragon-twitchers was present - the dragons were not.

A pair of Marsh Harriers provided light relief as we waited on the stone bridge overlooking the creek where the dragons had been yesterday. There was much calling and aerial interaction by the pair, but they were very distant - this pic of the male was taken when he floated a little closer.

More distraction - a biggish Pike in the river, too close for me to fit him all in so here is his shovel-shaped head. I used manual focus for this shot - don't know what kit is best for fish photography but I don't think that what I have is it.

After maybe half an hour of waiting, we had seen a few dragons but they were all Hairy Hawkers. I never thought I'd be disappointed to see a Hairy Hawker - it's not a very common species, after all. I was certainly not disappointed when I wandered downriver and a kind couple pointed out this Hairy which was resting in the reeds. Its muted colours and doziness suggest it could have emerged very recently.

Back on the bridge, I photographed my first Sedge Warbler of 2011. He was in fine voice, and quite showy too.

Many of the dragon-twitchers had drifted away by this point. Rob was sitting on the riverbank. I was just setting off to join him when we noticed a group of people further down the river break into a sprint, away from us. Looking back, we saw that the remaining people on the bridge were also starting to hurry towards us.

A hot and breathless run later, we were all enjoying views of a male Vagrant Emperor, chasing away down the river. We'd stop at a bend, watch him disappear, then run round the bend for another quick view of his retreating behind. Finally he turned back towards us.

We sat down on the bank, and waited. Sure enough, the dragon came back and forth several times, giving great views. At some point in the melee Rob had asked for my lens, and I'd given it to him. He got several sharp pics of the flying dragon, including this one. Note the greeny-brown eyes, and striking solid blue 'saddle' at the abdomen base, just behind the wings. Against the light, the wings shone golden, and the dragon had a more powerful and purposeful flight than the Hairies.

Blurry, heavily cropped rear view. This was the best I managed with the 180mm macro.

After the third or fourth flypast, we waited a while longer but it became clear that the show was over, for now. Some of the people who'd left were now back, but not all of them had managed to see the dragon - I heard later that it did put in another brief appearance later. While we waited, we photographed the bumbling Alderflies that were settling on and around us. I have a great fondness for these dozy insects, even though I have embarrasingly misidentified one as a Stonefly in my most recent book - d'oh!

Rob noticed a parked car with a very flat tyre on our way back to our car, and when he saw the owner get into the car and set off towards us, he waylaid her and ended up changing her wheel, for which she was most grateful. Then we went on to the nature reserve proper.

In the car park, I spent a couple of minutes trying to photograph a song-flighting Whitethroat.

These two Common Gulls were chilling out on the visitor centre roof, until a Carrion Crow came along and would have landed on top of one of them had it not hastily tumbled off the roof.

We went straight to the ARC viewpoint where we failed to hear the Grasshopper Warbler reported there earlier. We did get quite a close view of this passing female Marsh Harrier, though.

Can you see what it is yet? I saw this damsel coming down to land on the sandy stuff by the footpath - would never have spotted it otherwise. I am pretty sure it is a fresh male Common Blue which hasn't coloured up yet.

We had a celebratory late lunch at the Pilot, and a desultory look around for the Glaucous Gull which is apparently still on the beach (this is the same bird that we dipped on the bird race back in January). No sign, so we opted to spend the last hour of good light down the road at Rye Harbour. Not very much there that I didn't show you last time we went, but I'll end with this plunge-diving Sandwich Tern, making the most of the end of a beautiful day.


dennisthemennis.co.uk said...

love the photo of the Marsh harrier, I was near Camber on Good Friday and caught an image of a Hen Harrier ... lovely blog.

Phil said...

Some great shots there Marianne and well done getting the sighting and picture of the dragon in flight.
Pike are one of my favourite fish, i've caught a few over the years and they always amaze me.
Lovely Sedge Warbler too. I usually go down to Dungeness to take some pics of them myself but haven't made it yet this year.