Monday, 14 July 2014

emperor indeed

Just a quick update and apologies to Dave there was indeed an emperor dragonfly at the new pond. It was assertively patrolling up and down as is the habit of this species.  don't think it will have been locally bred because they take couple of years to mature.
It is about time we worked out a name for this pond (morgans folly and the pathetic puddle are past their sell by dates) it also needs a serious clean up and not just from the litter.
otherwise a few small skipper on the barleyfield and single large at turners. worth looking closely at the little skippers because Essex skippers were present at poolhall.
Finally the amount of Japanese knotweed and himalayan balsam is a worry anyone any ideas on eradication?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

return of the halcyon

notes from weekend walks around the barleyfield and down to pool hall

Still some singing birds with about 6 each of blackcap, whitethroat and chiffchaff and single willow warbler at pool hall.  2 singing song thrush competing with each other in the paddock and 2 more south of meccano.

evidence of breeding success for whitethroat, blackcap, dunnock, bullfinch, greenfinch, goldfinch and 2 almost fully grown gt crested grebe at pool hall.
plenty of feeding house martin and swift with a single swallow over the barleyfield.

Sighting of kingfisher near smestow school which prompts us to now reveal that after a ten year gap this little jewel has returned as a nesting species.  In order not to compromise the nest no attempt was made to confirm breeding, This was very pleasing though given the number of april sightings not surprising; indeed single birds have been seen in other parts of the valley suggesting perhaps a summering bird or even a second pair.  In contrast apart from angus's bird on the racecourse no sightings apparently of grey wagtail which has bred intermittently.

Picking up on Dave's post plenty of butterfly activity and very noticeable how many ringlets are around this seems to be a species doing especially well and far outnumbering meadow browns. didn't pick up any skippers and expect gatekeepers soon. Plenty of small tortoiseshell and on sunday lots of newly emerged comma.  I saw both common hawker and brown hawker perhaps the former was the possible emperor as it was a blue male

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Summer insects: damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies

Wetland Pool is attracting an increasing population of insects despite the growing accumulation of plastic bottles left by lads after their lunch breaks from the nearby school. Whirlygig Beetles whiz around the surface with their peculiar spinning movements. There are smaller numbers of Water Boatmen.

The most visibly abundant insects have been damselflies, especially the Common Blue Damselfly. On June 18th there were over 300 of these crowding over the water, probably newly emerged. Numbers had dropped below 100 by the next day, and gradually declined ever since. The sky blue and black banding of the abdomens of the males was clearly visible when they rested in the sun on the decking, the pond vegetation or even the surface of the water.

In among the common blue damselflies were smaller numbers of Blue-tailed Damselflies. The males of this species are a similar shade of sky-blue, but only on the head and the far end of the abdomen. Females of both species are a lot less conspicuous than the males and look, to my eyes at least, very similar to each other.

A few Common Blues have  been flying at the Turner's Field pond.

There have also been two species of dragonfly in residence at Wetland Pool in the last couple of weeks. There have been as many as half a dozen Broad-bodied Darters at any one time. The males - blue abdomen again, this time with yellow spots - stake out territories on one cove of the pond. They they spend their time patrolling or resting on a preferred perch, ready to see off any competing male, very aggressively. The females are again harder to spot. Their abdomens are yellowish brown, somewhat paler than the head and thorax. They too have preferred perches: the ones I noticed seemed to be a bit further from the water.

A second dragonfly species was represented by one individual which was around for a few days. Yet again blue, it flew fast with frequent, random-seeming changes of direction without ever pausing to land for rest. So I couldn't get a good enough look for identification.

There have also been plenty of butterflies around, though not (yet at least) the huge numbers there were last summer. Some of the nettles have had groups of Peacock caterpillars, their bodies covered in black hairs and spikes to deter would-be predators.

What has surpised me is the number of Ringlets. I don't remember ever noticing them in the Smestow Valley before. That might be because of the way they look. Unless there is a chance to inspect closely, they seem to be a dull greyish brown all over. They rarely give a chance for an inspection, settling on a perch a lot more rarely than allied species like meadow browns and gatekeepers.

But the last few days they seem to have been present in some numbers in all the open meadows in the middle section of the reserve: from Barley Field and Compton Rough, through Sandfields/Dell Field, and the more open areas of Turner's Field.

UPDATE: 6th July. I was back at the pond earlier today, and managed to get a slightly better look at the second dragonfly, just enough to see that the head and perhaps thorax were greenish, the abdomen blue. Tentative identification: Emperor Dragonfly.