Friday, July 29, 2011

the last Lestes

The first week of our holiday was a wash-out, poor weather and a car crash put paid to that. Once we were mobile again we finally got down to Île de Ré for our 'week on the beach' with friends. This worked well and had the added wildlife bonus of a crack at the small Atlantic population of Lestes macrostigma. These enigmatic brackish-tolerant damselflies are found here in dense stands of sedges in old salt pans and were only recently discovered on the Atlantic coast of France. With such narrow habitat preferences and a naturally low density I was not exactly filled with confidence.

I need not have worried though because on our first bike ride, I stopped at the first suitable looking 'pool' and waded in to the vegetation, quickly finding that Lestes barbarus were abundant and turning up a fine male Lestes macrostigma. The 'pool' was as dry as a bone but the barbarus were busy ovipositing all the same. Nothing like optimism. This patch of habitat was in fact unusual and we only found one other like it during the week and this did not produce macrostigma despite extensive searching. A return to the original site produced a pair of macrostigma the next day and I left the island feeling rather pleased with myself.

My last European Lestes species - a female Lestes macrostigma - a splendid animal and hard to find on the Île de Ré.

and the male.

Huge numbers of Lestes barbarus were present in the ephemeral wetlands of Île de Ré.

Odd to see Aeshna affinis, another ephemeral wetland specialist, holding territory over dry ponds on the landward edge of the saltmarsh.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Le fin?

Team Benstead's Tour de France came to an abrupt halt yesterday, when a white van man (L'homme de van blanc) jumped a light in the rain and we skidded inexorably into a T-bone that left Bobby (our faithful Ford Focus estate) a write-off in Orleans. No-one hurt though luckily. The next 8 hours reflected rather badly on our Swedish insurers and we still await new transportation along with our huge pile of camping gear...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Elephant hawk

Sympetrum danae are on the wing in BK.

Nipped out for two hours today and spent time at both Bränneslätt and Sinarpsdalen looking for dragonflies. The mire pool at Bränneslätt produced ten species with recently emerged Sympetrum danae being a BK year-tick.

Emerging Aeshna juncea were also evident today. Still no definite subarctica but they are always commoner in August, so maybe I will just have to be patient.

Another stomp about in the Sinarpsdalen eutrophic mire before lunch produced a single male Ischnura pumilio, Somatochlora metallica and Libellula depressa but no Odonates on the stream.

This male pumilio was a surprise in Sinarpsdalen today.

This huge elephant hawk-moth caterpillar was a nice find too at Sinarpsdalen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Map time

Busy this week bit not so busy as to fail to notice that second brood map butterflies are now on the menu in southern Sweden. The best sighting this week though came on Monday when a superb male purple emperor materialised at my feet.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

rOdotrip 2 - the Nehalennia gamble

With the window slowly closing on the Nehalennia season, I cracked and decided to try and find them on a warm but overcast day. A gamble that just paid off. It's a 3.5-4 hour drive up to Asby in Östergötland from my house, ie a lot further than I normally drive for a day out. But Nehalennia is a special species and a must-see beast. Believed extinct in Sweden until re-discovered in 2006, it is currently known from just five sites.

Arriving at 0930 I quickly located the site, a fantastic mire, quite an open 'sward' in places and a submerged aquatic macrophyte species (hornwort?) growing in amongst the sedge, bogbean and horsetail. I was surprised by it's heterogeneity and also it's accessibility. Sadly I do not think we have any habitat quite like this in BK but I live in hope of turning up a site nearer home. [That said, there is a site in Denmark which is nearer and I hope to visit it soon.] As I cleared the trees around the mire margin a Coenagrion flew up and was swiftly netted, as I expected it was a male johanssoni - a bonus species present here at the southern margin of it's range and only my second encounter in Sweden.

My first male Coenagrion johanssoni for at least five years, S2 in profile is just splendid.

All boded well, but it was some time before I coaxed out a single mature female Nehalennia. Tiny, short-winged, with a short, pale pterostigma, she fluttered up into the net like a teneral, it was sublime! Looking up for a change I noticed a goshawk flying by with what looked awfully like a red squirrel in it's talons.

If Odonata are your thing then it does not get much better than ticking Nehalennia. Nothing wrong with mature females either.


Also here my first Aeshna juncea of the year, as well as Lestes sponsa, Coenagrion pulchellum (1), Erythomma najas, Leucorrhinia dubia and Libellula quadrimaculata. With no sign of any sun on the horizon I headed home at 1130.

A 'blue' female juncea, my first of the year.

Female johanssoni are as distinctive as the males.

No time for stopping on the way home and mostly grey and overcast anyway. Did stop at the Smedje near Skottorp hoping for a burst of river warbler, but no luck. Did get the Blyth's reed warbler again though at Dömestorp, which had added green sandpiper to it's repertoire since I last listened. By way of explanation the nearby eastern pools of Skottorps våtmark were crammed with waders. 'Management' is spot on here with a nice draw-down from bankful over the last week that has pulled in migrants. Totals included: wigeon (1), teal (25), shoveler (6), ruff (4), green sandpiper (10) , spotted redshank (4), greenshank (15) and massive 85 wood sandpipers. Along the river were at least four Sympetrum sanguineum, my first of the year. Had to check Klarningen after that just to compare; ruff (1), wood sandpiper (5) and redshank (2). Oh well!

My fourth Odo year-tick today was Sympetrum sanguineum, closer to home at Skottorps våtmark.