Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Alan Roman and I spent a few hours searching for emeralds at Cliffe Pools today. In particular Southern Emerald Damselflies, but to be honest any emeralds are OK by me, they are all very nice. We didn't actually find any Southern Emeralds, at least I don't think we did, but maybe there's one hiding in the following pictures, or even a Scarce Emerald. If you spot one please let me know.

What about the monster above, it was clinging to a reed stem as if it had just hatched or something and certainly wasn't inclined to fly. It was big, maybe 20mm or so and I think it must be one of the horsefly family, i've seen vicious green eyed specimens at New Hythe before but this was much bigger and didn't have the mottled wings.

We spent most of our time at one particular ditch where Alan had seen the Southern last week. There were certainly plenty of Emeralds to be found, like the ones above. The habit of perching with wings half open is an obvious characteristic of Emeralds, but there the obvious stops for me. The subtle differences between the three possible varieties today are not nearly so easy to distinguish.

Of course there's always one who bucks the trend like the one above who held it's wings in more traditional damselfly fashion.

The pterostigma of the Southern Emerald is bi-coloured, with part of it often appearing white. I had to look twice at the picture above because at first glance there appears to be a piece of white on their pterostigmas, but I think it's just the sunlight catching it.

Another insect spotted on the reeds was my first cricket of the year. I think i'm going to go for Short-winged Conehead, the wings do only extend halfway down the abdomen and the ovipositor is very curved, a new species for me if i'm right.

We walked up and down the ditch for quite some time, during which time the sun came out stronger and persuaded more and more damselflies into action. I snapped as many as possible, but struggled with focusing and the breeze which was blowing straight down it.

How about the in flight, immature Ruddy Darter shot below then. The camera has captured it almost as if it was suspended in mid air. I would be very proud of the shot if it wasn't for the fact that it was actually trapped in a spiders web. This chap was one of hundreds and hundreds of immature Common and Ruddy Darters that lifted from the undergrowth in small clouds as we made our way along the bank.

Although our eyes were mostly looking down, we didn't entirely ignore the bird life, a couple of Hobbys were a welcome sight, even though they were catching and eating our quarry on the wing. Linnets were enjoying the puddles along the tracks and Reed Warblers, Dunnocks, Reed Buntings and Goldfinches all added to the mix.

We left the well trodden ditch and drove up to the sea wall to have lunch and in the lee of the wall where the sun was strong and the breeze was weak I found a good array of butterflies. Small Copper, pictured above, always a welcome find, as well as Skippers, Red Admirals, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, a couple of unidentified blues and best of all about four or five Marbled Whites, pictured below, a brand new species for me. Well, i've led a very sheltered life! Later, on the way back for a second look in the first ditch we saw no less than seven Green Sandpipers, which all flew up together from the margins of another water filled ditch, other individuals were also seen at intervals. Further along a Kestrel hunted briefly over the field and a Little Egret also departed the ditch as we returned to the car.

So, back for a final look for the Emeralds and by now the sun was in a better position for picture taking so i've added another couple for luck, sorry about that!

Our final visit was to the ramp which looks over to a couple of distant pools, not sure which ones but could be 'radar' or 'Flamingo' or something like that. Anyway, while we watched the Avocets, Lapwings, Redshanks, shelducks and superbly coloured Black-tailed Godwits, a Sedge Warbler dashed to and fro feeding it's family in the reed bed and finally a Corn Bunting, below, serenaded us as we packed our gear away in the boot of the car. How good is that!

I didn't make notes of bird species seen today so i'm bound to have forgotten quite a bit, sorry Alan.


Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Looks like you and Alan had a good day at Cliffe. Nice photo's of the Damselflies, and well done with your first Marbled White's

Rob said...

Not having seen an emerald of any sort, I'm very envious. The first beastie pictured is a fly-and-a-half!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Sounds like you were in the same area as I visited , and that 'monster' fly looks like the Clegg Fly/Tabanus bromius , the same species that I saw there .
Re. the Emeralds , the first pair in tandem after the 'monster' are Scarce Emerald , as are the pair in the 'ring' , as the one two above the Corn Bunting .
The blue pruinescence on the abdomen , just behind the thorax , extends just one and a half segments on the Scarce and two full segments on the Emerald Damselfly . Difficult to say on the others , but on balance would say most are Scarce .
Great in flight Ruddy Darter and well done with your first Marbled White .

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, you are certainly doing well with new insect species recently, your last two trips are ones I think I would like, if not this year then maybe I'll try next year! :-) Your Emerald photos are great.

Warren Baker said...

Your photo's get better all the time Phil :-) I still wouldn't be able to ID those Emeralds though !

Like the Corn Bunting, a bird I'd love on my camera.