Friday, 28 June 2013


  On Wednesday Terry and I went to Hothfield Common near Ashford in search of dragons. We chose Wednesday because our friends at the Met Office assured us that this would be the day of the dragons, weather wise at least. They were wrong. 
We arrived under grey, uninspiring cloud and for about an hour and a half or so, that's how it stayed. And not a single dragonfly, or even a damselfly was seen. Yellowhammers, resplendent even in the dullest light took the edge off our disappointment, aided by adult and juvenile Gt Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers, a Mistle Thrush, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and a pair of very smart Grey Wagtails.

 Other small diversions found as we traversed the common included my old favourite the Green Tiger Beetle above, a sun loving beetle who must have been as disappointed with the weather as us.

 This handsome stripy beast is a Wasp Beetle, which unlike its namesake is completely harmless. Don't think i've seen one of these before.

 At last, for a brief few minutes, the cloud thinned just enough for a few weak, but warming rays to penetrate and the change was almost instantaneous. Terry immediately spotted this golden beauty of a Keeled Skimmer, a female I think, awakened by the short burst of energy giving sun. Only my second of this species and my first in Kent. 

I thought I saw a Hornet whizz past me, but when it settled I saw its true identity. This is a Broad-bodied Chaser. I find gender ID a bit tricky on some dragonflies, i'm guessing this may be immature female but i'm not confident, so be gentle with me! Either way, it's a very handsome creature. I always though that the Four Spotted Chaser was my favourite, but I think Chasers, characterised by their dark wing bases are all very impressive.

Two other dragonfly species were seen during this small window of opportunity. The first was an Emperor who whizzed by and wasn't seen again and the second was this Hairy Dragonfly. A male I think. The close up below shows the hairy thorax which gives it its name. Left click will show it better.

Then the sun went back in. Time for a quick bite of lunch during which a  Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, a Hobby and a very distant Little Egret all made an appearance.

We decided to cut our losses at Hothfield Common and move on to Dungeness RSPB in the hope of a bit of coastal sun and maybe a few more dragons. Silly us. Unsurprisingly really, Dungeness was colder, windier and greyer than Ashford. We weren't the only optimists though. We found Ken Browne/Focusing on Wildlife (you can reach his super blog from my sidebar) and his better half Pam in the visitor centre recovering from a fish and chip lunch in the infamous 'Pilot' close by. Our somewhat meagre highlights here were a Bittern in flight which appeared to come down in the area of the viewing mound. A trio of Marsh Harriers. Three Small Heath butterflies and a couple of very brave Common Lizards who squashed themselves down like flat tyres to try and wring as much warmth as possible from the air and maybe slightly warmer shingle. 

After having our fill of Common Terns and their chicks on the nesting rafts, viewable from Denge Marsh hide we made our way back to the visitor centre. Stopping only to check the refugia just off the pathway where we found four Grass Snakes and one Common Lizard.

A couple of bits of garden news now. Firstly, I was pleased to watch this female Gt. Spotted Woodpecker feeding her youngster from one of my feeders this week. This is more than just a feed, it's a lesson for junior. I expect to see it feeding itself in the not too distant.

Secondly, our Hedgehog was out and about again late afternoon during the week. She is still in residence under a dense shrub close to the house. There have been various squeaks and snuffles coming from within and we're cautiously hopeful that we may have hoglets under there.

And finally a mystery. The peanuts in one of my feeders have been going down very fast lately. I can't work out where they can be going!


Warren Baker said...

Well you certainly packed that day out Phil :-) How the hell did that Squirrel get in there?

Marc Heath said...

Like you, I went today and saw 15+ and they were also my first ever in Kent or anywhere. Great little creatures and a lovely little area.

Marianne said...

That's a good day out, despite those pesky lying weather forecasters - gorgeous dragons :) That Wasp Beetle is a proper stunner too. Good to see the new garden is producing the goods, and hope you have some garden hoglets, how lovely that would be.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Phil, It seems you had a good day and took some great photos despite the lack of sun. I think it has got to the coin tossing stage with the weather forecasters!

Quite a lot here that I don't think I've ever seen such as the smart looking Wasp Beetle and I've definitely never seen a Keeled Skimmer, what a beauty it is! I don't think I've ever seen a Hairy Dragonfly either. I find damsel and dragon ID quite a nightmare altogether even with the aid of good books.

Lovely to see your garden visitors too. Hope the peanut pincher got out okay :-)

Lou Mary said...

Great selection of photos, how wonderful to have hedgehogs and potentially hoglets in your garden! Very envious of this!

Recently I have found beetles and bugs much more intriguing than in the past and I love that green tiger beetle!

Mike Attwood said...

Hi Phil,
Good luck with the hoglets. I'm busy making winter quarters for mine.

Julie Hargreaves said...

Great photos love the last one