An afternoon visit to Messingham today as the weather in the morning was what we have become accustomed to this summer, dull and overcast. I arrived at Messingham around 12:30. It was warm around twenty one degrees c with brief sunny spells. At least there was very little wind. The Sigma 150 mm was once again my choice of lens for today.
Entering the first meadow I soon spotted a Brown Hawker Dragonfly on the wing. I watched it for a while and a couple of times it briefly landed before taking flight again. About the only chance of photographing the Brown Hawker is if you get lucky and they catch a largish prey item and perch up to eat it. The Brown Hawker holds it's front legs in the form of a basket as it hunts it's prey of other insects. The insects are caught in this basket and often eaten on the wing, unless it's a large insect they catch, then they will land to devour it, and if lucky you can creep up on them and get a photograph whilst they are busy eating. No luck today though.
I was surprised to see a female Hairy dragonfly. It was perched up and although I got good views of it, it flew off before I could get a photograph. I thought the hairy's would have finished by now but I guess with it being a rather late start to the season there are still a few individuals hanging on. Grasshoppers were about in good numbers today and it seemed everywhere you walked a Grasshopper would be seen taking flight. These are extremely difficult to photograph. They are usually low down in the grass and getting a clean shot can be very frustrating at times. I did manage a very nice one today though of a Common Green Grasshopper.
Common Green Grasshopper
Good numbers of Common and Blue-tailed damselflies were evident in the first meadow as were Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies. I also disturbed a Black-tailed Skimmer and another Brown Hawker dragonfly. I continued along the path between the lake and the wood side and here I observed a Southern Hawker dragonfly. After watching this lovely insect hawking up and down the path for a few minutes it landed on a reed at the edge of the path. Southern Hawkers are one of the most accommodating of the dragonflies when it comes to photographing them and this male was no exception to the rule, allowing me ample photo opportunities.
Male Southern Hawker
As I stood and watched this male go about his business after I had photographed him something took my eye in the grass. When you are used to looking for insects you seem to get a feeling or a sense. It's difficult to explain but my eyes sensed there was something in the grass that warranted further investigation. I was right, on investigating further I found a female Emerald damselfly and then another. In all I counted at least eight individuals, all females. This was a great find as far as I was concerned. The Emerald is my favourite damselfly. They are not a scarce species by any means but to find eight individuals in one go is very good for Messingham. Normally I would be lucky to see eight in a full season at Messingham. Time to fill my boots as the saying goes. Emeralds are usually quite accommodating when it comes to photographing them and I managed some very nice images. These were all fairly newly emerged insects and I'm guessing the males are just that bit later emerging so I'm hoping to see some males on my next visit to Messingham.
Female Emerald damselfly
As the Emerald is my favourite damselfly I could not resit putting a couple of them in this post. Here is a close up head shot of a female.
Female Emerald damselfly.
A very pleasant half hour was spent observing and photographing these beautiful insects. All emeralds share the characteristic habit of holding the wings well out from the body when at rest, unlike all other damselflies, which fold their wings above the body.
I carried on into the heather meadow. I had been that engrossed in the Emeralds that I had barely noticed the skies had darkened and storm clouds were above. All of a sudden there was a loud clap of thunder and the rain started, and did it rain. I had been well and truly caught out. The duck hide was the nearest place to shelter from the down pour but I knew by the time I got there I would be soaked. The camera rig was quickly covered up with the large waterproof bag I always carry with me. I sheltered as best I could under some over hanging hawthorn trees at the end of the meadow. I had quickly taken my coat out of my rucksack and put it on but it's only shower proof and this was more of a deluge than a shower. Needless to say I got soaked to the skin. As quickly as it started the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was extremely warm. It's surprising just how quickly the insects reappear when the sun comes out. I saw a Southern Hawker, two Brown Hawkers and a tatty looking Four-spotted Chaser in the heather meadow. Robber flies were also in good numbers and I managed a photograph of a Robber fly with prey. I believe it's prey is a Lacewing. When these flies have caught prey they are very obliging and don't seem to mind how close you get to them.
Robber fly with prey.
Meadow Brown and Ringlet butterflies were also seen in the meadow as were Large Skipper butterflies. I continued as far as the duck hide before once again the skies darkened. Not wishing to get a second soaking in less than an hour I quickly made my way back to the car. Although our summer so far has been a wash out I'm determined it's not going to stop me getting out and about with the camera. My visits to various places may no be quite as frequent and a bit shorter lived than in a normal summer but I am still managing to get out there. I do fear that some of our insects will have very poor breeding success this year due to the awful conditions. What impact this will have on future years remains to be seen. The Emerald damselflies were my highlight of the day and well worth the soaking I got.