Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Hull Dragons: June summary

This month we've had mostly cool, breezy and unstable weather with plenty of rain, which perked up in the last few days, when it was very hot. Sunny days (better: spells!) were few, short and far between, not ideal for planning dragonfly surveys. Despite this, sightings have slowly built up and overall, eleven species have been recorded from 17 km2 in the city and surroundings. To the five species seen in May (Broad-bodied Chaser, Azure Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Red-eyed Damselfly) we have added six more: Banded Demoiselle, Four-spotted Chaser, Emperor Dragonfly, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy Darter and Emerald Damselfly. These are only including the records submitted to iRecord: I'm hoping to obtain the dragonfly records submitted to the BTO through their popular Birdtrack app, later in the year. So far there are 103 records submitted to iRecord.

Banded Demoiselle
A total of 5 Banded Demoiselle individuals (top, male just by Oak Road Lake) have been sighted from four km squares in the River Hull between Clough Rd and the northern boundary of the city. This species is becoming common upstream, between Tickton and High Eske, and has been a very nice unexpected addition to Hull Dragons. The only previous record of this species in the city boundary was of Noddle Hill in 2015, submitted by Jen Woollin.
Red-eyed Damselfly
The Red-eyed Damselfly has been recorded from three sites this year: Oak Road Lake, Noddle Hill and East Park. I believe the East Park is a new site for the species, although there is no evidence of breeding there as yet.
Black-tailed Skimmer
Thank you to Andrew Chadwick for submitting this record from his garden, the first recorded Black-tailed skimmer of the year for Hull Dragons.

Emerging Broad-bodied chasers
It was worth keeping a close eye on the Pearson Park wildlife Garden.
Freshly emerged Broad-bodied chaser, 23/6/2019, 9:47am.

In the wider area...
There has been an influx of Vagrant Emperors, Anax ephippiger on the east coast, with records at Spurn, Flamborough and Donna Nook, so well worth keeping our eyes open for what may come our way!

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Dragonflies to watch for in July

In this third instalment of the series on dragonflies to watch out in and around Hull, I present four species that have their peak season in July.
9. Black-tailed Skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum
A very distinctive dragonfly, with long narrow tapering abdomen (unlike Broad-bodied Chasers) and lacking dark marks on wing bases. Males (top shot) have a blue abdomen with black tip, females and immature are yellowish, with a ladder-like pattern (above) and green eyes. Flies from mid May to mid September, peaking in July. Likes open aspect ponds, where it likes to perch on bare ground. Fishing lake pontoons are a favoured perch (top shot). Existing records are from Oak Road Lake and Noddle Hill Lake.

10. Emperor Dragonfly, Anax imperator
This large green and blue dragonfly is spectacular. Males have a powerful patrolling flight over their territory, which includes large ponds, lakes and ditches. It flies from late May to late September, peaking mid-June to mid-August. Although a relatively recent colonist of the area records from the Hull area are widespread.
11. Emerald Damselfly, Lestes sponsa
This jewel of a damselfly perches with its wings open, unlike other damselflies. Males are green and blue (above), while females are all emerald green. Early June to end of September, peaking in July. Records in the Hull area are scarce: one each from Pearson Park Wildlife Garden, Noddle Hill, Oak Road and two from a private pond in the Avenues.

12. Brown Hawker, Aeshna grandis
A large dragonfly which can easily be identified in flight by its bronze-tinged wings. Very active, hawking high amongst trees or alongside ditches. It rarely settles. Early June to late September, peaking early July to late August. Records in the Hull area are from Oak Road Lake.

Happy dragonfly watching!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Hull Dragons: May summary

The Hull dragons survey is well under way, and this post summarises the records from the month of May as returned from iRecord. The survey kickstarted with the first damselfly record on the 13th May, two Common Blue damselflies recorded by Richard Shillaker at St Andrews Quay. As of today, 17 records of 5 species from 6 km2 during the month of May in the Hull area. Blue-tailed and Azure (top shot) damselflies have been the most common and widespread, followed by a few Common Blue, and a single Red-eyed damselfly at Oak Road Lake spotted by Richard Shillaker. The mass emergence of Broad-Bodied Chasers at Pearson Park wildlife garden from May 22nd appears to continue. The following are a selection of photos illustrating the species found and evidence of breeding, which so far have been for Azure damselfly (pairs in copula at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden), Common Blue Damselfly (pair in tandem at Oak Road Lake) and Broad-bodied Chaser (several exuviae and a teneral maiden fly at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden).
Pearson Park Wildlife Garden has been a great place to stop by on my way back from work to check on damselflies and dragonflies. The following have all been taken there in the last week.
A just emerged likely Azure damselfly.

Emerging damselfly larvae.
Mating Azure damselflies.
Two mating Tetanocera Sciomyzid flies on a dead damselfly. Thanks to Ian Andrews for ID.
The reflecting wings of this Broad-bodied Chaser show it has just emerged. It flew from the pond into a stump and then up into the trees.
The exuvia of a Broad-bodied Chaser clinging to vegetation in the middle of the pond.
 I have visited Oak Road lake a couple of times. Blue-tailed damselflies have been plentiful.
Two blue-tailed damselflies resting in the marginal vegetation.

I have had some informal accounts of other dragonfly records, including a Four-spotted Chaser at Kingswood and a Broad-bodied Chaser at Snuff Mill Lane, but without them being entered in iRecord we can't compile them. Please send any records you get to iRecord, ideally using the taxon specific form for dragonflies. Complete lists are ideal, and if you can also add breeding details that'd be great!

Monday, 27 May 2019

Dragonflies to watch for in June

This is the second instalment of the dragonflies that are likely to be observed in Hull, with four species to look for in June.
5. Broad-bodied Chaser, Libellula depressa
Flight period from Mid May to mid August, peaking in June. Both sexes have dark markings in the base or each wing and a distinctive, flattered abdomen. Mature males have a pale blue abdomen with side yellow spots. They are very territorial and patrol their territory, chasing intruders and regularly perching in favourite spots, hanging from their perch (above). Females are brown and yellow, and when in flight they can be confused with a large wasp or hornet. Immatures look similar to females. The broad-bodied chaser prefers small, shallow, sunny ponds with bare edges. This species is still increasing in range in the area and there are few Hull records, but has been found at a private garden pond, Snuff Mill Lane and this year at Pearson Park wildlife garden.
6. Common Blue damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum
Late April to late September, peaking in June and July. Prefers larger ponds and lakes with floating vegetation, where it often perches. It is found in several parks in Hull (East Park, Pickering Park), Noddle Hill Lake and Oak Road Lake amongst others.
7. Blue-tailed damselfly, Ishnura elegans
Late April to late September, peaking in June and July. A very common and widespread species present in a range of habitats, including polluted and brackish ponds and ditches, even rapidly colonising small garden ponds. Often very abundant when present, settled in marginal vegetation, and active even in dull weather.
8. Red-eyed Damselfly, Erythromma najas
Early May to end of August, peaking in June. A species favouring large canals and lakes with floating vegetation, where it settles, often far from the shore. In the area is found in Oak Road Lake and Noddle Hill Fishing lake, but given its habits, might be under-recorded.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Broad-bodied Chasers

I popped at the YWT local wildlife garden after work. The staff alerted me to the presence of a Broad-bodied chaser on a patch of Red Campion. I popped out to find it there straight away. It sat on the flowers and repeatedly darted to catch an insect, only to return to the same perch, flycatcher style. It didn't have to fly far as it was warm and sunny and there were plenty of small insects about. This, one of the most spectacular of our dragonflies, is my first species for the Hull Dragons challenge! A quick walk around the pond revealed there were at least 5 individuals about, each sallying from their favoured perch hunting almost in succession. All of them had yellow abdomens, including two males, indicating that they had emerged recently, most likely from the pond in the garden. They mostly ignored one another, despite being in quite close proximity, another sign that their male territorial behaviour hadn't kicked in. Despite their amazing colour, they are quite cryptic and merge into the foliage as soon as they stop.
Immature male.
This species is still uncommon in the Hull area, with only a handful of records. As I covered in a previous post, it was unknown in south east Yorkshire before 1995, although it is becoming more widespread. It is a good colonist and one of the earliest dragonflies to breed in new ponds. The pond in the garden was re-dug in February 2016, and given that the larvae only emerge after 2 or three years it is likely that the species bred in the pond the first summer after it was refilled.
The pond being re-lined in February 2016. I will post some photos of the pond as it is now in a future post. 
A walk around the pond revealed one, possibly two Azure damselflies. It is not a very large pond, but always interesting and I have records of a good range of damselflies and dragonflies: Common Emerald, Azure Damselfly, Blue-tailed, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker. Broad-bodied Chaser is a great addition to the list!
Another immature male. Note the white reflections on the wing indicating that this individual has emerged very recently (teneral)
An immature female, note the wider abdomen in comparison with the males.
Immature female.