Sunday, 19 August 2012

Last ditch damsel

I was looking at Howard Vaughan's blog on the RSPB website the other day. For those who don't know, he's the warden at RSPB Rainham Marshes, and he is a very prolific blogger. One recent post showed Small Red-eyed Damselflies, which are on my 'haven't seen yet' Odonata list. I hadn't realised the species occurred at Rainham, and decided I would go ASAP to see them. I emailed Shane and Graham to see if they fancied coming too, and they both did - we agreed to have a day there on Thursday 16th.

So we met at the visitor centre at opening time and headed out onto the main trail, going anticlockwise for a change. It was pretty warm but there was rain in the air, and it was breezy. I was concerned that this would keep the damselflies tucked away out of sight but held out hope that things would improve later on.

Rainham is replete with luscious flora at the moment. This first bit of trail is lined with beautiful Chicory - my photo doesn't do its lovely blue colour justice.

From the start we were accompanied around the trails by darters, both Common and Ruddy. The top pic shows a male Common, the bottom a female Ruddy. They frequently rested on the boardwalks and handrails, drawing warmth from the wood.

We were near the Peregrine pylon when a raptor came fast and low over the marsh. It wasn't the Peregrine though but a Sparrowhawk. I was willing it to turn around and head back our way, and happily it did, wheeling directly overhead and causing three cricked necks.

On we went, noting little birdlife (the pick of it a Black-tailed Godwit on the edge of one of the shallow pools). The constant racket of Reed Warbler song that followed us around on our last visit was silenced, though we did see the occasional Reed Warbler scooting across a gap in the reeds. The Ragwort clumps held a few well-grown Cinnabar caterpillars. This one had left the Ragwort and looked ready to pupate.

At the far end of the reserve, we found a big stand of Buddleia, which had attracted several 'aristocrat' butterflies - a Peacock, a few Red Admirals and some Small Tortoiseshells, including this one. The bush and its blooms were being buffeted quite violently by the wind, which didn't seem to annoy the butterflies nearly as much as it annoyed the photographers.

Can't remember where we were when I took this pic of a blue-form female Common Blue Damselfly. Pretty girl, isn't she? From above, not so attractive as the abdomen is black along the top.

I also can't remember where it was that we saw this Common Lizard, except that it was definitely on the return stretch of boardwalk. There were two of them, and with care and patience we got close enough for photos without freaking them out.

Aw. This was one of four Little Grebe chicks we found swimming about (and squeaking noisily) in a reed-lined channel alongside the main trail.

We hadn't had much luck with any of the hides until we reached the last one, which is also my favourite (though its huge windows probably discourage the wildlife from getting too near). Graham found this Whimbrel pottering about by itself a long way from the hide, hence heavy crop.

Crossing the last bridge, I clocked a damselfly skimming the water, and after a bit of staring we found several, many coupled up and egg-laying. We could see they were some kind of red-eyed but I had to check the photos to confirm that we'd found our target - the black X at the abdomen tip makes this a male Small Red-eyed Damselfly. Happy days!

We went into the centre and had tea and cake, then took a short extra walk along the trail clockwise as far as the one-way crossing to the riverside path, and made our way back alongside the Thames. On the way we were entertained by this Kestrel, which at one point very excitingly swept right over our heads at more than frame-filling range. Sadly my extreme close-ups are blurry, so this is all I can offer.


Warren Baker said...

Well done on finding your quarry Marianne :-)

I see you made a better job of photographing them than i did of the ones on my patch!

Rohrerbot said...

Love the shots. Looks like a great hike with a rewarding catch:)

ShySongbird said...

An interesting post again Marianne. Well done on finding your target species. You're right about trying to photograph insects when it's windy, very frustrating and we seem to have had so much of it this year. I never manage to find lizards...I keep looking!

Lovely photos here and on the previous post too.

Phil said...

Welcome back Marianne!
Sounds and looks like a great visit, a long time since I was there.
Well done with the Small Red-eyed, found some myself at New Hythe last week but they were too distant for a decent shot as usual.