Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Carol had to be in Ipswich Suffolk at 9am on monday for a business meeting. Being the gentleman that I am, I offered to drive her up on sunday morning to avoid a crack of dawn gamble on the M25 on monday. By sheer chance, Minsmere RSPB reserve isn't too much further on, so not paying a visit would have been rude in the extreme.

We didn't have a great deal of time but we had long enough to realise that it was a great place, a more comprehensive visit is on the cards soon I hope. One of the highlights of the visit was the sighting of my first ever Norfolk Hawker, above and below which thankfully decided to rest, not too high up, on a nearby tree, enabling a positive ID.

Other highlights included no less than four Spoonbills on one of the scrapes on the reserve, we have seen this species before but not for some time. Pity they were a bit too distant for a photo. From the Bittern hide we saw not a Bittern but surprisingly a Red Deer complete with her fawn making their way through the vast reedbed in front of the hide. On the butterfly front, Purple Hairstreaks were in evidence as were Ringlets, Brown Argus, Skippers, Meadow Browns, Small Heath and most of all Red Admirals. The one pictured below took a shine to Carol, first landing on her tee shirt and then quite happily hopping on to her finger for some posing. I think you may have some competition Greenie!
We left Minsmere reluctantly, but our short visit had been enough to wet our appetites for a longer visit later.

While we were in Suffolk on sunday I received a text from Terry Laws to say he'd just found no less than three Lesser Emperor dragonflies at Abbey Mead lake, New Hythe. I believe at one stage the female was ovipositing in tandem with the male, as is common with this species and there was also another male nearby. What a great find, but what a bummer that I couldn't get down straight away. Needless to say, I went straight to Abbey Mead after dropping Carol off at home on monday afternoon. I didn't find them, neither did Adam Whitehouse from East Malling, Ditton and Barming blog, (see the side bar) who was also there, good to see you again Adam. I also had the good fortune to meet John and Gill Brook, who are the county recorders for dragonflies and damselflies in Kent and are themselves authors of an excellent book on the subject. They too drew a blank, but I'm sure they are still about and today (tuesday) I returned for another look.

The first thing I found was this juvenile Whitethroat, not long fledged I think and still losing his fluffy down by the look of it.

He was one of two or three in the vicinity, the others made themselves scarce, but this one didn't seem to know whether I was friend or foe, lucky for him it was the former.

I left him alone and hurried along to the corner of Abbey Mead, convinced that I would find a Lesser Emperor or two waiting for me in the sunshine. But of course it's never as easy as that, there were dragons about, mostly male Black-tailed Skimmers and one Emperor species who patrolled the margins relentlessly, trouble is it turned out to be Anax imperator instead of the hoped for Anax parthenope (Lesser). Never mind, I decided I would try again later after checking out the east and west scrub to see what else could be found. Which wasn't much i'm afraid, by now it was very hot and once again the birds were conspicuous by their apparent absence.

So it was back to dragons and what better than this stunning Black-tailed Skimmer. It could be a female or an immature but I think it's probably the latter as it's very bright.

Here's a head on view, left click any of the photos for a bigger view.

I returned later to Abbey Mead for another attempt at tracking down the Lesser Emperor but again without success. But I did find this almost pristine dragonfly exuviae on a reed stem by the water's edge. If you look closely or left click you can see three other damselfly cases on it as well, not to mention a live fly of some sort. I think this will be an Emperor exuviae judging by the size and when I showed it to Carol this evening she remarked that this would make it 'the Emperor's old clothes', get it? I think she's been around me too long, or the other way round.

As compensation for not finding the Lesser Emperor, this female Emperor gave me an up close and personal view of her egg laying process. She seemed to be laying them on the underside of the reed stems in the pictures.

Sometimes she received the unwanted attention of damselflies as in the picture above showing her being buzzed by a Red-eyed and a Common Blue damsel. At one point they actually landed on her and she flew off and then returned to exactly the same spot and carried on regardless.

Bear with me because i'm nearly finished, it's been a long one I know but I needed to catch up. I couldn't leave it without a couple of butterfly pictures could I?

I believe the Skipper above and below is a female and I also believe that she could be from Essex, well in name anyway. The underneath of the tips of her antennae look black to me and I think that makes her an Essex Skipper...................unless of course somebody tells me otherwise!


Rob said...

Some great observations there Phil. Intresting how those damselflies hassle the dragon. But my fave is the fluffy Whitethroat. In hairdressing circles I think they call that the 'bed hair' look.

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, I'm glad you liked Minsmere, there is so much to see and lots of great walks nearby! Well done with the Norfolk Hawker and I hope the Lessers turn up for you soon. Really like the Skipper photos.

Marianne said...

Nice post, Phil. That photo of the damsels mobbing Mrs Emperor is particularly fabulous :) Love the Norfolk Hawker, that's one species we've missed this year and hope to find next year instead. Skipper looks good for Essex in my opinion.

Warren Baker said...

Fantastic Whithroat photo's Phil, and a great series of odenata shots, I have to hunt around for ages to find any, yours turn up in groups!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Glad to see the old 'I'll drop you off routine' went well .
Brilliant juv.Whitethroat shots .
Shame about the Lesser Emperor .
Unless it's the angle , that exuvia looks too squat for Emperor . The large labium would suggest perhaps Brown Hawker .
Great shots all round .

ShySongbird said...

What an enthralling post Phil. Really beautiful photos of the juvenile Whitethroat and the Emperor but then there are the Skipper photos too...let's just say they are all beautiful.

'Emperor's old clothes'!! You are both as bad as each other but like I said to Warren yesterday you really do have the most fitting surname ;)

Graham James said...

Super Minsmere visit, Phil and what a good find with the Norfolk Hawker, I'm very jealous.
That skipper looks spot-on to me for an Essex.

Paul said...

As usual Phil, a great mix of photos there mate, and very nice shots of the Juv. Whitethroats.

Ken. said...

Hi Phil
So glad you had a good time at Minsmere.
I have been there many times and it is well worth a days nature watching.
Also love the photo's, have you got a new zoom lens, or are you using the Canon EF70-300?

Phil said...

Still using the same stuff, EOS 500 and cannon EF70-300mm lens although I still keep thinking about going for a 400mm.

JRandSue said...

Love the Juv Whitethroats phil,superb images.
Once again stunning photography.