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.
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.
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.
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 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!