Messingham nature reserve, North Lincolnshire, Monday 10th September 2012

September 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Although the weather forecast was not particularly good, I decided to visit Messingham. It was very overcast with brief sunny spells and I mean brief. I arrived at Messingham at 09:00 and wasn't surprised that I was the only person there. I decided to use the Sigma 150mm lens with the tripod today as the shutter speeds were obviously going to be slow with the overcast conditions.

It wasn't cold, about 17 degrees c but there was a fair old breeze blowing which was going to be a nuisance more than anything else. The first meadow I entered from the car park was fairly sheltered from the breeze and I did see a couple of Migrant hawker's on the wing. Migrant hawker's are about the only dragonfly that will fly in coolish overcast conditions. I watched them a while but they showed no signs of perching. I continued my walk seeing very little at all. There were a few hover flies about and the odd Speckled Wood butterfly.

I carried on, still seeing nothing that would give a photo opportunity until I reached the heather meadow. Here I spotted a very tired looking Emerald damselfly. Can't decide if it's a male or female as it's colours have faded badly. If there had been more insects about I probably wouldn't have bothered photographing it but I was itching to get my first shot of the day, and after all nature is nature and old specimens are a natural thing to see. The Sigma 150mm and tripod served me well with this one as even at ISO 640 and an F stop of F11 the shutter speed was only 1/80 due to the dull conditions.

Emerald damselfly

Emerald damselfly Emerald damselfly - Lestes sponsa

It was now 11:00 and the only photo I had taken was of the Emerald damselfly. I must admit I was getting slightly fed up of walking around and seeing no photographic opportunities so I decided an early lunch was in order. Just after I had eaten my lunch a brief sunny spell came and the transformation on the reserve from no insects showing to many was near on instant. I was in the heather meadow at the time and within a few minutes of the sun breaking through the air was full of Migrant hawkers. I counted over thirty of them on the wing at once before I gave up as I couldn't be sure after that number that I wasn't counting the same ones twice. Brimstone butterflies appeared from nowhere as did good numbers of Speckled Wood butterflies. Common and Ruddy darters were everywhere as well. It's amazing just what a few minutes of sunshine can do. The sun was short lived however, ten minutes at the most, but I saw more in those ten minutes than I had seen all morning. Those few minutes also gave me my next photographic opportunity of a male Migrant Hawker.

Male Migrant Hawker

Male Migrant Hawker Migrant Hawker male - Aeshna mixta As soon as the sun disappeared, the insects did as well. I was getting tired of lugging the tripod about and it was fairly obvious that any photo opportunities were going to come during any bright or sunny spells so I decided to head back to the car and swap the Sigma 150mm for the Canon 100m and hand hold. 

I carried on walking around the reserve, looking up at the sky now and then and willing the clouds to lift. It was around 13:30 before the next sunny spell came and again I was in the heather meadow at the time, and as before everything came to life again. This time I spotted A common Darter that was perched on a bench at the edge of the meadow. As quick as a flash it shot off the bench to return a moment later with what I thought at first was a hover fly. I quickly started taking photographs of the darter consuming it's prey and managed a sequence of seven shots that were good enough to keep. I had to push the ISO on the camera up to 1000 though for the last four shots as the sun disappeared again and the shutter speeds dropped. It was only when I got home and processed these shots that I realised the hover fly prey was actually a Robber fly. I'm fairly reliably informed that the Robber fly is in fact a Large Hornet robber fly.

I have seen dragonflies catch much smaller insects than this but never have I seen one take on something as large as this. Robber flies are formidable predators themselves and I have seen them eat damselflies. However this dragon fly seemed to quite easily make a meal of it. I have added a photo, the first in the sequence below. Six more images in this sequence can be viewed on the main web site at

Just getting this one sequence of shots more than made up for the rather slow day I had experienced so far.

Common Darter with Robber fly prey

Common darter with prey Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum

The afternoon period was rather better in terms of sunshine with a few more brief sunny spells. I managed a few more Migrant Hawker photographs, and a Common Darter perched rather obligingly for me where I could throw the background nicely out of focus.

Common darter

Common darter Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum As I made my way back to the car to go home I checked the posts near the car park where I have seen lizards in the past. I wasn't really expecting to see one as I thought it was too dull for them to be out. They certainly wouldn't be sun bathing Lol. To my surprise there was one sat on a post and it was quite obliging as well allowing me a few shots before it scampered off.

Common Lizard

Common Lizard Common Lizard - Lacerta vivipara It was 15:30 when I left the reserve for my journey home. Six and a half hours it had taken me to get a handful of photographs. Photography can be very frustrating at times, but as with all photography very rewarding as well. Macro like any wildlife photography is often a case of patience, perseverance and being in the right place at the right time. Well it had certainly tried my patience at times today, I had also been in the right place at the right time to get the sequence of darter shots and my perseverance had paid off.


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