Sunday, 1 August 2010

Hanging out together

Autumn migration was beginning to get into full action today, with lots of Willow Warblers and Whitethroats at Bockhill, St Margaret's.

At this time of year the majority of Willow Warblers seen are immature birds of the year. Their bright yellow plumage is a trap for the inexperienced birder who expects the cleaner, less gaudy birds of spring.

I did see a couple of adult birds and among the bright youngsters these can be confusing. The occasional quiet song could be heard, and I have noticed before that quite a few sing while on migration.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

There were also quite a few dragonflies around, and I saw both Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta) and Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea). By Farm Wood I was watching one, that nosily seemed to be watching me, by flying very close, before continuing on it's hunting circuit. It seemed to follow an insect up to a Hawthorn bush before it landed there, about 2 metres (or yards for the traditionalists), in front of me. I took a couple of pictures from distance, before changing cameras and moving closer.

Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta)

As I was doing this a second Dragonfly landed about six inches above and left of the original one.
Both were males and neither was in full mature colours. Unusually for large dragonflies they allowed me to approach very closely and had I had a macro lens I could probably have got frame fillers of the head.

This is the second one. I think it was just a little bit more colourful than the first.

Neither budged when I went to the side to get a better angle to photograph the side-on pattern.

Enlarging the head it is possible to see the very small, almost vestigial antehumeral stripes on the head, just behind the eyes. On a Southern Hawker these stripes are very prominent. On both of these the diagnostic yellow "nail mark" on segment 2 was almost white. I don't know what was so attractive about this area, but I suddenly realised that a couple of foot to the right a Southern Hawker was perched up. I forgot how wary these normally are, having got used to the two very docile insects I'd been photographing. As I turned my camera towards it, it took off and continued to patrol the area.


Ursula said...

Wonderful photos - well done on getting these. We visited the area recently and saw lots and lots of very small, pale blue butterflies - that we don't seem to see any of here in the Midlands. Do you happen to know what they are?

Tony Morris said...

Hi Ursula,
there are 5 species of blues in the area. If they were pale and on the chalky grassland they'd probably be Chalkhill Blues. Common Blues are brighter and I think still flying. Holly Blues are common around trees, Adonis Blues are very bright and chalk grassland specialists, I'm not sure if any are out at the moment, Small Blues are very small, and not very blue, agian I hven't seen any around for a while.