What makes for a successful day out? After yesterday's trip with David round the insect hotspots of Essex, I'd say Parking.
First stop was Langdon Hills, a large area of woods and meadows with a number of recent records of butterflies of interest. I had pre-selected an excellent place for parking for this venue - or so I thought - the Essex Wildlife Trust Langdon Visitor Centre. We had excellent parking close to the centre, and then found out that the areas of interest were a forty minute walk away. We relocated a bit nearer and wandered off to investigate, but long story short we had lots of glimpses of butterflies and dragonflies in the meadows but never made it to Marks Hill for the Purple Emperors.
We cut our losses and headed to Canvey Island for the dragonflies. We had some excellent parking at West Canvey RSPB and saw what was probably a Southern Migrant Hawker, but after walking around had only Common Darters, Black-tailed Skimmers, 4 Black-Tailed Godwits and a Lesser Whitethroat. We headed off to the mecca of Douthern British odonata, a ditch opposite the domestic waste centre on the Benfleet Road.
There was a pull-in by a gate with a few cars but no spaces, so we spent a while driving round and eventually parked in the public car park behind Benfleet Station. Having navigated the administration involved in paying for three hours rather than the whole day, (short-stay bays, yellow button) we then walked back through the mediterranean heat to the ditch to find some mediterranean dragons. In the comparatively brief time we had left we managed to find a few dragons, and even managed to take photographs of them. David, our official photographer, will have better, (and anyone looking for odonata photography excellence will of course look at Marc Heath's wonderful site), but here are my efforts including some "atmospheric" (i.e. out of focus) shots. I am informed these are Southern Migrant Hawker, Scarce Emerald, and Southern Emerald. If I go to my guide book published a mere 21 years ago, it has the Scarce Emerald in it, mentions the Southern Migrant Hawker with one picture, and doesn't mention the Scarce Emerald.
|Southern Migrant Hawker in flight|
|mating Scarce Emerald. The reason I know these are Scarce Emeralds and not Emeralds is because a bloke at the top of the ditch said "there's lots of Scarce Emeralds down there mate."|
|Southern Emerald close-up|