Wind & Wuthering

Sunday 24th July

Almost up to date! Here’s a round up of our morning in the Kent Marshes.

Sunny spells with light winds, what could be the problem? Well, the problem was those light winds. At around 12-15 mph they were well within the boundaries for dragonflies, but I’d forgotten how the flat, unsheltered Kent marshes amplify the slightest of gusts.

And they were relentless! After a precarious and long journey around the M25 I was eager to get started, but there was still the most uncomfortable part of the journey to complete. That long, rutted track. I’m pretty sure all the aches & pains I’m suffering two days later is a result of being thrown around so violently at 3 miles per hour.

It’s two years since we’ve made the pilgrimage for the rare Emerald species, the Southern and Scarce, which are usually found locally in this environment. Alas despite careful fingertip searching we didn’t locate the Southern today, but were at least rewarded with a few Scarce.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) - male
Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) – male

Perhaps our best encounter arrived first thing with a tandem pair who thankfully alighted along the ditch margin and after a few hops decided upon a comfortable perch.

All I needed to do was remain calm and retain stealth while negotiating the steep bank and tricky angle to show them as best I could. Thinking about it, twisting the body in such ways probably contributed to the aches as much as that track did.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) - pair in-cop
Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) – pair in-cop

I caught up with Sue at the previously key area, but that little clump of scrub, so productive in 2014, was long gone. Obviously dug up or plowed over and a great loss in my opinion as this is where the Southern Emerald was previously found.. Our only options then were the ditches.

Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) - female
Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) – female

Unsurprisingly the most noticeable species here today were Ruddy Darter, several tenerals and a good showing of adults which proved hard to pin down. Maybe if it hadn’t have been for the wind they’d have chosen a few more open areas but on this occasion every time you thought they’d perched delightfully your view was obscured by waving grasses.

However prolific Ruddy are at this location they weren’t the main focus of our visit, so I carried on scouring the ditch desperately trying to stay out of the breeze.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) - male
Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) – male

I did another circuit and chanced upon a pleasingly perched female, albeit bouncing around in the breeze. The challenge was finding a gap in the grasses which would continuously blow across my subject.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) - female
Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) – female

That’ll do nicely! Two hours of ditch-digging was enough for this visit. We took a short stroll along the main path enjoying the flight show so generously put on by the Ruddy before heading further east in search of the Willow, but that’s another story.