Friday, 26 September 2008

Migrant Hawker

I came across a Migrant Hawker yesterday (25th September) hawking along the woodland edge near the eastern end of Auchenharvie wood in Stevenston (NS 262 420). There’s only one previous record for Ayrshire, but it is a species extending its range northwards. Whether my sighting is indicative of a greater presence by the species in the NW this year I don’t know. However, it’s worth keeping an extra eye open for them over the coming weeks (their flight season extends into November).

It was feeding 8-16 feet in the air and was intermediate in size between Common Hawker and Common Darter. I found the dragonfly to be very obviously smaller than Common Hawker – a size difference I wouldn’t have expected from reading the field guides. Because of its small size, it didn’t give the impression of being a ‘miniature aeroplane’ like the Common Hawker does. The individual I saw hawked with the end of its tail curved slightly.

This size difference was accompanied by a feeding behaviour noticeably different from that of Common Hawker.

It fed far more frantically than Common Hawker, taking detours off its flight path far more frequently to flycatch – dipping down one second then jumping up the next. Similarly, it also changed direction far more often when hunting. Changing direction frequently and randomly, it covered a smaller area than Common Hawker when feeding.

To those familiar with the jizz and behaviour of Common Hawker and Common Darter, Migrant Hawker should stick out like a sore thumb – the difference in size and behaviour between the two species is obvious.

It’s worth pointing out that Migrant Hawkers can turn up just about anywhere; they don’t just frequent wetland habitats. The one I saw was several hundred metres from the nearest pond, hawking along a woodland edge.

Also worth mentioning, I’ve seen a few Red Admirals powering about recently, including one today at Eglinton and two yesterday at Auchenharvie. Also a couple of Peacocks during the past week: 1 at Shewalton Wood on Sunday and one at Garnock East on Tuesday. There was also a Common Hawker at Garnock East on Tuesday, along with dozens of Common Darters.

(Photos: Common Darter at Garnock East)

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