Sunday 14th August 2011

Last day in UK!!

Keeled Skimmer, Orthetrum coerulescens

Had a great day at Thursley Common, Surrey, one of Britain’s premier dragonfly sites, accompanied by my friends, the Smiths. It is strange how sometimes one searches for a long time for a particular species, and after finally finding it, it reappears soon afterwards, sometimes in large numbers. This was the case today with the Keeled Skimmer, which I had first seen in Scotland this July, and today it was numerous along the boardwalks of this wonderful heath/bog habitat. The photos here were taken by Kemuel Smith, aged 9.5 years.

Keeled Skimmer

Tomorrow….Guatemala!!!

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Monday 8th August 2011

One week to go!!

When I travelled to India in 2006, one of the most visually interesting aspects of my journey was locating the precise spots where my grandfather F W Champion had taken photographs, and then taking the same scene 70 years or so later.

Sadly, during my forthcoming expedition to Guatemala and Panama, I shall not be able to do exactly the same because my great grandfather, laden down as he was with insect-collecting equipment, did not document his journeys photographically.

However, there is a slightly tenuous link with the world-renowned pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who travelled extensively in both countries in 1875 (having recently murdered his wife’s lover – it is a fascinating story!). As there were few hotels available, North American and European travellers tended to stay with hospitable coffee planters and other settlers.

Muybridge stayed with many of the very same people whom my grandfather lodged with only four years later, and he documented his time in both Guatemala and Panama with a wonderful series of photographs, which allow me to see exactly how these places looked at almost the same time that my great grandfather was there.

Finca San Isidro

Finca San Isidro, Muybridge, 1875

As well as documenting more general scenes, Muybridge was specifically engaged to provide a photographic record of the coffee-manufacturing process, and two of the coffee plantations in which he stayed, the Finca Las Nubes and the Finca San Isidro, both belonging to American coffee planter William Nelson, were visited five years later by my great grandfather G C Champion, who was also a guest of William Nelson. And perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that it was at the Finca Las Nubes that my great grandfather was staying when he found the butterfly Drucina championi.

Muybridge’s photographs will therefore allow me to gain a remarkable insight into the Guatemala my great grandfather travelled so extensively in, and I shall be trying to find some of the views he took in 1875, and taking comparative shots of these as well.

Finca Las Nubes & Cerro Zunil, Muybridge, 1875

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Saturday 23rd July 2011

New dragonfly for me (well, almost new!)

Having returned from my journeys in footsteps of my great grandfather, entomologist G C Champion, after a few days of frantic packing up in the Netherlands, I have now made it back to Scotland, where the real countdown to my departure for Guatemala begins! Since I arrived, I have been busy with administrative tasks, and the weather has not been conducive to either butterfly- or dragonfly-watching, but today has been a glorious day, and I have notched up a few reasonable sightings.

The most exciting event of the day has been a morning visit to a known breeding site for the locally rare Keeled Skimmer dragonfly, which I was told about last year but I only managed to obtain a very fleeting glimpse of one individual before its flight season was over. Today, however, I was much luckier. I managed to locate two individuals, including one dipping in a boggy ditch along the side of a forest track and another which perched cooperatively for a few minutes, allowing me to finally obtain a few not very brilliant record shots of this species, which I had not photographed before. An almost-new dragonfly species for me – last year’s glimpse can hardly be counted!

Keeled Skimmer

Keeled Skimmer

Other species in the same location were Common Hawker, which I managed to photograph quite well (this species does not normally perch for long!), Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Common Darter (but surprisingly no Black Darters), and butterflies seen included Purple Hairstreak, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. An afternoon visit to the shore added Common Blue, Painted Lady and Green-veined and Large Whites, plus Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. Not bad for SW Scotland after a prolonged dull and cloudy period!

Common Hawker, Aeschna juncea

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