Sunday 5 September 2021

SMH Action

Friday and Saturday were pretty full-on with work and grandchildren, and it wasn't until after lunch yesterday that I got a chance to chill in the garden, with bins and camera close to hand. Highlights were a distant Hobby NE at 14:07 and another (or the same) SW at 14:40, a lot closer...

Hobby. Close enough for some poorly-exposed flight shots. Interestingly this bird appears to have very similar primary damage to an individual I saw at Cogden on 21st August (here) but it's just a coincidence; the Cogden bird had a red undertail, which this one lacks.

In addition there was a Peregrine, several Buzzards and a sprinkling of hirundines in a pleasantly idle hour.

Which brings me to today...

A morning walk at Cogden was nice but uneventful, with 12 Chiffs, 4 Whinchats, 2 Sedge Warblers and 8 Wheatears. But this afternoon's effort was a different matter...

Bird-wise it was slow but steady, and the final tally looks quite decent on paper:

11 Wheatears, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, 7 Spotted Flycatchers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 8 Chiffs, Blackcap and Reed Warbler.

Spotted Flycatcher - one of seven this afternoon

Wheatear on hay bale for a change

In reality, there was one hot area, which produced the Redstart, Pied Fly and all 7 Spot Flies; and all the Wheatears bar one were in a single field of hay bales. Other than that it was a long, sticky walk for not much. However, that's true if you only count birds. Because today's big event did not involve birds at all.

Last Sunday I got all excited about discovering my first Southern Migrant Hawker, a female. Since then I've learned there are a few around, and this afternoon I fancied the idea of searching out a male if I could. The first dragonfly which posed for me was this one...

Male Migrant Hawker

Close, but no cigar. But the photo is handy to illustrate a crucial difference from Southern Migrant Hawker - that contrasty thorax with the two pale, diagonal stripes split and bordered by dark areas. On Southern Migrant Hawker it is pale and lacks the contrasty patterning.

Soon after taking that photo I began to see the odd blue-bodied hawker with striking blue eyes, and guessed these were the real thing. But I needed one to land for me. Finally...

Initial views. Note vivid blue eyes and plainer thorax pattern. Male Southern Migrant Hawker.

Best angle I managed before it flew

As you can imagine, I was chuffed with that. I'm not sure how many I saw, but definitely more than one. However, there is a bit more to tell. Prior to spotting the settled male, I had seen another Southern Migrant Hawker, a female. A busy female...

Ovipositing female Southern Migrant Hawker

Wow! I hadn't expected to see evidence of breeding - I can only assume that egg laying is evidence of breeding - but it got better still...

Pair of Southern Migrant Hawkers in tandem, the female laying eggs.

And again. They were very tricky to photograph, landing only occasionally and invariably somewhere masked by a canopy of leaves.

I felt very privileged to have witnessed that event locally. I know the species is spreading quite rapidly now, but until this year I think there had only ever been a single local record.

There was one final encounter with the common or garden variety of Migrant Hawker too...

Mating pair of Migrant Hawkers.

I spent ages watching all the dragonflies, and getting the occasional photo opportunity. It was worth the dark looks when I was late for dinner.


  1. Top observations Gav and I know just how difficult photographing dragonflies can be. You must have great patience and a sore back.

    1. Thanks Dave. I think dragonflies spend approximately 90% of their time whizzing about very rapidly, 9.9% of it slowing down, hovering and pretending they're about to land, and 0.1 % actually doing so. Impossible! 😄