With the fine warm weather continuing I took the chance to get out to the local patch on Thursday and Friday 6th and 7th September 2012. Sooner than write two separate accounts I have combined both visits into one blog post.
A reasonably early start on Thursday as I had other commitments after lunch and needed to be home by 13:00. Arriving at Messingham at 08:00 it was bright, if a little on the cool side. The Canon 100mm lens and speedlite flash hand held was the choice of equipment today. With the cool conditions I wasn't surprised to find things very slow on the insect front. There was very little flight activity apart from the odd Common darter in the more sheltered spots. Thought I might find a Migrant hawker or two perched up warming themselves in the sun before taking the first flight of the day. The Migrant hawkers can be seen practically anywhere on the reserve but I do know they like to perch up on the outer edges of the heather meadow on the gorse bushes.
I have mentioned previously that I don't like gorse as a background as it generally looks unsightly and it's a job to get the background out of focus but sometimes it can work if a hawker is perched just right and my look was in today. I found one in a near perfect spot just hanging on to the end of a clump of dead gorse flowers where I could isolate him from the background.
Male Migrant Hawker
On the butterfly front, Brimstone and Peacock were the most common. I did see a couple of small Copper, a Comma and a Red admiral as well. The Brimstone's were busy nectaring on the yellow flowers in the heather meadow. I really must look up what this flower is called!.
Male Brimstone butterfly
As the morning warmed up the hawkers were seen in good numbers and despite the warm conditions they were fairly cooperative with many of them allowing good photographic opportunities as they perched up. I have been after a photograph of a female Southern hawker all season. For some reason the male Southern seems to outnumber the females by a long way and I can only recall having seen a couple of female southern's this season so far. Today I got my chance as a female Southern landed just in front of me as I was searching the heather meadow. It wasn't in the best position as she was low down in the grasses making it virtually impossible to isolate her from the background. What a beauty she was though in near perfect condition. The female Southern I think is much more attractive than the male.
Female Southern Hawker
I completed a circuit of the reserve seeing good numbers of Common and Ruddy darter. Despite many efforts I didn't get a shot of a male Ruddy darter that I was happy with. These little darters tend to like perching low down and as with the Southern hawker I photographed earlier it is always difficult to get a clean background with them. I also saw a few pairs of mating Common and Ruddy darter's but again no photographs were possible. The heather meadow seemed to be the best spot today as during my second search of the meadow I spotted a couple of Robber flies mating, can't be sure of the exact name of these but definitely Robber flies with a lovely clean background as well.
Mating Robber flies
All too soon it was lunch time and time to make my way home. A fantastic four and a half hours on my local patch.
Friday 7th September 2012. Not such an early start today arriving at Messingham at 09:00. Once again another bright warm day was expected. The Canon 100mm lens with the speedlite flash hand held was once again my choice of kit for today. Instead of walking through the first meadow as I normally do I took what I call the top path that skirts the right hand side of the first meadow eventually leading back into the meadow but at the bottom end. I knew there was a rather large area of devils-bit scabious flowers at the side of this path near the electricity pylon. I figured there may be a few butterflies on it, I was right, Red Admiral and Small tortoiseshell were seen. However, it was very breezy here and getting a shot of any of them was nigh on impossible as the flower heads were swinging wildly in the wind. I did manage a passable shot of a Small tortoiseshell but not as good as I would have liked.
It was noticeable how few damselflies I was seeing. There were Common blue around but in very small numbers. The heather meadow provided me with my first subject of the day. A male Emerald damselfly. Although he was slightly past his best, still worth a photograph. I can never resist photographing these little guys. Just love the eye colour of the males especially when they are fully mature as this one most definitely was.
Close up of a male Emerald damselfly
Good numbers of hawkers were seen but unlike yesterday they were far from cooperative taking flight as soon as I approached to within photography range. Brimstone butterflies were once again plentiful on the yellow flowers in the heather meadow. Common and Ruddy darters were about in good numbers and the common's were fairly obliging. At first glance this mature male could be mistaken for a Ruddy darter, but note the pale cream stripe on the leg, the Ruddy has all black legs
Male Common Darter
The Ruddy darter's were having none of it, and try as I might I could not get one to sit still long enough for a photograph. A different approach was needed. The Ruddy darter's were flying very low to the ground, often landing on the ground where once again it's impossible to isolate them from the background. I found a few short dead reed stems and strategically placed them in the grass at the side of the path, making sure they were angled out over the path so if any darter landed on them I would have a nice clean background. I then took up position laid down on the path on my belly resting on my elbows, camera at ready for a shot.
Whilst waiting for a darter to land on one of these stems a couple of people came past and I'm sure they thought I had lost the plot when they saw me laid on the path. I think I managed to convince them otherwise when I explained what I was doing Lol. Within about ten minutes a Ruddy darter landed on one of my makeshift perches but not on the one I was laid closest to. A belly shuffle along the grass path got me within camera range for a quick distant shot before it flew off. Patience is the key, and a few minutes later it returned to the same perch which I was now much nearer to. End result a great photo of a Ruddy darter with clean background and grass stained trousers and shirt Lol. Worth it though.
Because of the effort put in to get these Ruddy darter shots here are a couple of the best ones I got.
Male Ruddy darter
Male Ruddy darter
I just don't know where the time goes because I looked at my watch and it was 14:30, couldn't believe it had got to be that time already. I was well satisfied with my efforts for today so made my way back to the car. Another excellent five and a half hours on my local patch.