Friday, 11 May 2012


The sun was shining and the air was full of the scent of May blossom as I made my way, ankle deep in mud, around the sunken marsh this morning. A Hobby arrived from nowhere and circled overhead, one of three seen today. Some of the Hirundines and Swifts who were feeding over Brooklands lake saw it too and appeared to escort it as it circled higher and drifted away. Further in the distance a Buzzard also took advantage of the welcome thermals and accompanied by its own escort, a local Crow, drifted slowly northwards.  

I was hoping to find a damselfly or two today, and I did later on, but before that I was pleased to see this beautiful dragonfly fly past. With brand new, soft and ineffective wings, it soon stopped and hung itself out to dry in the morning sun.  

I thought this was a newly emerged Hairy dragonfly judging by its hairy thorax, a hawker who is usually the first on the wing in Spring. Confusingly, this one adopted a damselfly type pose and looks nothing like a mature adult.
Many thanks to Marianne and Greenie for rescuing me from my confusion and pointing out that this is in fact a Downy Emerald dragonfly. I've never seen one before, and they're certainly not common at New Hythe, but if I see another I'll definitely recognise it!! 

Common Whitethroats, Cetti's Warblers, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches and Nightingales were all seen and heard singing. While the Blue Tits above and Great Tits below were busy collecting food for their new broods.

A Lesser whitethroat rattled away in a Hawthorn bush alongside Abbey Mead lakes. I didn't manage to see it today, as the leaf cover gets fuller and fuller the chance of seeing some of these shyer species gets even more difficult.

Now here's an odd pair. A Cormorant and a Red Eared Terrapin sunbathing together on an old tree stump protruding from the lake. It took me about fifteen minutes to creep close enough for a decent picture but I think it was worth it. I had a feeling that the Terrapin was a bit miffed at having to share its favourite spot though.
In and around the east and west scrub I saw Green Woodpecker, Willow Warbler, Jay, Reed Bunting and Goldfinch, and in the distance at the far end of Millstream lake a Cuckoo was calling, one of two heard today.

Along the railway path on the way back to Brooklands I stopped to watch a troupe of adult and juvenile Long-tailed Tits as they made their way through the insect rich hawthorns. It was difficult to tell how many birds there were in this group but it was quite a few and at times they seemed to be all around me, calling continuously and flocking to an adult every time they appeared with a beak full of juicy bugs.

Considering the decent conditions today I didn't see very many butterflies. A couple of unidentified white species, one Speckled Wood and a fleeting glimpse of a Peacock all evaded the camera.

More obliging though was this Orange Tip who flew by alongside the mound just as the sun went in. This prompted a landing and at last I got my first decent shot of the Spring of this smart little butterfly.

The nettles here were at last full of bugs of all shapes and sizes. The handsome hoverfly above is Leucozona lucorum (I think).
I spent the last half hour sipping coffee while sitting on the bucket in the wood, watching the river and the sky. The river only produced a couple of Shelducks and a few Mallards while the sky did a bit better with Kestrel, Hobby, Oystercatcher and a Kingfisher to give me a very nice 47 species of birds and many more unidentified species of insects.  


Marianne said...

Oooh, loads of good stuff today! I think your dragonfly is a Downy Emerald rather than a Hairy Hawker - what do you reckon? Got a pic of a fresh Hairy Hawker here for comparison: Love the shot of Cormorant + terrapin, and the baby Long-tailed with its scarlet eyeliner :)

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Firstly , about time too .
I certainly wouldn't argue with your hoverfly ID .
The dragonfly I would . If you remember , the male Hairy Dragonfly is blue and green in colour , not unlike a smaller Southern Hawker . What you have there is one of the Emeralds .
Most probably a Downy / Cordulia aenea , too early for a Brilliant .
The two look very similar apart from the front view of the head , where the Brilliant has extra yellow .
A most enjoyable read . Strangely , the new post didn't show up on my side bar , I saw it on Warren's .

Phil said...


First dragonfly of the year and I got it wrong. I must admit I wasn't sure, but I thought being New Hythe it could only be a Hairy. I knew what the adult looked like but couldn't find a picture of a very fresh specimen. Downy Emerald is a brand new species for me. Anyway, enough waffle and thanks for putting me right!

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Hola!!! Bellas y variadas imágenes.. Muy bonitas las libélulas .. Enhorabuena Phill..

Warren Baker said...

Well done on that New Dragonfly Phil. Great read as always mate. 47 species for me today as well, not quite as exciting as your list though :-)

Noushka said...

Truly great shots!
Your dragonfly is Cordulia aenea, the downy emerald, if it may help!
I enjoy discovering your blog and will be looking forward for more dragons!!