Ol’ Blue Eyes. The Southern Migrant Hawker

Can not hide the fact I was disappointed to return from Cumbria without having seen the two dragonflies I had targeted.  I should not be greedy, after all I have seen and photographed five new species this year.  Yet I am greedy!  A plan was hatched sometime ago where John from Hertfordshire would take me to a special site to see a special dragonfly (or two!).  The site is called the ‘Canvey Ditch’ so let me set the scene.

Canvey Island is in south Essex.  It is in the Thames estuary east of London and is not noted for being a beauty spot.  On the north side of the busy A130 that leads to the town centre is a cattle field, not very wide, that is split down the middle by a very narrow ditch at the most only a few feet across.  For the most part of it’s 1.5 miles the ditch is dry or at least muddy and has an abundance of reed and true bullrush growing from it.  The banks were dotted by hawthorn bushes.

A super start to the day. A pair of mating Southern Migrant Hawkers

We met mid-morning in the leisure centre car park and the temperatures were already in the mid 80’s and the sky cloudless.  Only a few minutes after entering the field and saying hello to the resident cattle I spotted our target a Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna affinis) and then a mating pair.  This beautiful dragon was a very rare visitor to our shores.  Then in 2010 there was a small influx to south east England.  In later years it was found to have bred successfully in a few areas like the Canvey ditch.

On patrol

The males held territory along the ditch, each had a stretch of about ten yards between bushes.  When they met on their boundaries a quick tussle ensued.  They were searching for newly hatched females.  The day was very hot and the dragonflies were not going to settle so I had to resort to trying for in-flight images as they hovered for a few seconds whilst on patrol.

Searching for a mate

Also in this area resides a very rare damselfly the Southern Emerald (Lestes barbarus).  Carefully I checked the rushes.  There were dozens of Scarce Emeralds, a species I saw for the first time on the pingo trail ( see post ‘A day with the damsels’).  Then by chance I spotted one without any blue, a couple of quick shots for conformation, this was a Southern Emerald.  First recorded in 2002 it is limited to only a couple of sites in the country.

A rare damsel the Southern Emerald

A very successful day.  The field also held a good number of butterflies including Marbled Whites which we do not have in Norfolk.  The only downside to the day (apart from the travelling on over congested roads) was I forgot to check my camera batteries after the drag racing, yes they went/were flat!

Up close with a Scarce Emerald


62 thoughts on “Ol’ Blue Eyes. The Southern Migrant Hawker

  1. Brilliant. I am suitably impressed ,not only by the shots but also your dedication that you will drive to a ditch!

    Do you alert the relevant bodies of your find so they can keep track of increasing numbers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes wonder about my sanity doing a 240 mile round trip to a ditch in Essex in a heat wave! To see these rare creatures that’s what it takes. Mrs H thinks I’m bonkers anyway so I like to keep her happy in confirming the fact. 😜
      I don’t do records outside of Norfolk. There are locals keeping score down there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. All of your shots are spectacular, but I am particularly impressed by the in-flight shots, as someone who tries to take that kind of shot. You did such a marvelous job in capturing the beautiful details of these stunning species. I know all to well the challenges of visiting a location with a target species in mind–sometimes it works out, but often it does not. That, alas, is the fate of all nature photographers. Enjoy these photos for a little while and then I suspect that you will focus your attention and your camera on getting more photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very flattered Mike, you take superb in-flights!
      Finding new species and getting them in the can is great fun, yes we have disappointments when things don’t go to plan but days like this make up for it.


      1. I must be considered the same, one way or other, especially when dog walkers come across me kneeling in mud on a pond’s edge photographing critters you can barely see lol! You are very welcome Brain!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Stunning shots, Brian! You’ve inspired me in the past months to take on the challenge of dragonflies, and they are not easy!! I spent a little over an hour yesterday morning shooting dragonflies around our marina; I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I think I may have a couple I’ll be able to share soon. Not as good as yours though! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Only an hour? These were taken over 4 hours. You really must put in more effort! Only kidding Donna it’s great to hear you are having a go. They are so much harder than butterflies (or Ospreys).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hee hee I will, promise! I’m really intrigued with them.

        So, I had said to hubby, I’ll just do a quick drive-over to our marina for a few minutes to check out the dragonflies. Of course, he does know how long my few minutes can be, lol. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve spent hours trying to get Dragons in flight (when my target spot ends up being devoid of birds of course) and came away with a digital card full of abstract art. You, my friend, have an incredible ability to get these nimble and unpredictable creatures stopped dead in their tracks. Nicely done B!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Er don’t ask what the hit rate is B. This species is a touch easier than most as it will hover for a couple of seconds. I was using the macro as they were close but having to manual focus, the slightest movement and it’s a blur.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Tanja, I was relieved also! I don’t like travelling any distance and not seeing what I went for, I know in nature nothing is guaranteed but it feels like a waste of a day when I could be elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I sometimes struggle with the same sensation when I search for a particular bird, but I always remind myself, that I need to enjoy the birds I am looking at, rather than long for the one not present. I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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