Tuesday 2 August 2016

Wat Tyler CP, Essex: 30 & 31 July 2016

As most keen Odonata hunters will know, Wat Tyler CP is the place for the very rare (in the UK) Southern Migrant Hawkers which are generally seen in a very narrow 2-3 week time window running from the 3rd week in July until early August. Last year we visited in mid August and were too late for anything other than an unusual female that had taken on some of the male's blue colouration.

This year I was keen not to miss out, and following news that they were again being seen, this weekend seemed the best time to go. However, with a marginal forecast it seemed touch & go as to whether it would be worthwhile or not. In the event, quite late on Saturday morning we decided to give it a try and set off on the relatively long trek via M4 & M25. Arriving at around 13:15 we parked in the marina car park, as last year, and headed round the back of the adjacent pond to the concrete ramp. Here we were told we had just missed a most obliging male by no more than 10mins! But surely it would re-appear shortly they said. However the brief slightly brighter spell came to an abrupt end and by around 15:00 there had been no further sign. With the weather not looking good, we decided to head off to the nearby RSPB West Canvey Island Marshes reserve where c. 12 had been seen earlier in the week. Of course we saw none!

Returning to Wat Tyler, it was the same story - overcast conditions and not a hint of any rare blue hawkers. At around 17:30 it was getting cooler by the minute and it was clearly a waste of time staying any longer. So we headed off to our pre-booked room at a rather grotty and very warm Premier Inn in Basildon - right by a major dual carriageway. These places are not designed for summer temperatures it seems with almost no ventilation and no A/C.

Fortunately, it was a completely different story the next morning when we were amazed to see blue skies - much better than forecast, unlike the previous day that had been worse than forecast. Arriving back at the ramp mid morning, it was great to find immediately a settled male being photographed from all angles by an appreciative small crowd. Thereafter there were regular sightings all morning, of up to 2 males and 1 female. According to others they were settling more often than last year but flight shots were more difficult as they seldom hovered for more than a second or two at a time.

For a larger version of this image, click here 

Southern Migrant Hawkers