The Weird and Wonderful World of Dragonflies - an Introduction

Hi, I am David Pritchard and I've been visiting Old Moor since I moved here ten years ago. I don't own a pair of binoculars. I don't have a scope. I've only recently acquired a telephoto lens. Only in the last year have I started to build an interest and understanding of birds. This tends to confuse a lot of people as I walk around. 
"Seen anything today?"
"I'm here for the Dragonflies" I'll reply.
But for me, these underrated creatures are every bit as fascinating as their avian counterparts.
A twenty minute walk on a sunny day can reveal all of life's dramas in miniature: life; death; love and war.
You'll see spectacular dogfights and tandem displays; hear the chatter of silver wings as pairs clash in mid-air.
Welcome to this series of blogs that will captivate you as you enter the Weird and Wonderful World of Dragon Flies. I will take you through the drama of their short lives and the seasonality of these amazing creatures.

There's little to rival the grandeur of a recently emerged male Broad Bodied Chaser, which have had a bumper year at Old Moor already. It's possible to identify individuals from their war wounds, and we have at least half a dozen around the discovery trail, flying from pond to pond as they try to compete for the attention of the females. Some of these have emerged from the two newest ponds, closest to the visitor centre, showing that you don't need a huge amount of space to provide nature with somewhere to get a foothold. 

Broad Bodied Chaser  - D Pritchard

Learning to ID Dragonflies has a lot in common with birding. There's a lot of "Spot The Difference" and a fair bit of getting it wrong. But it's a great introduction to the skills needed to identify birds. You'll learn behaviour patterns and see personality traits across family groups. You'll learn that some have different "plumage", which can change over a few days, not weeks. And unlike birds, there are just over 40 resident species to learn. They're very accessible. 

They also lead a double life. Nymphs can live for several years underwater. Some hide in plain sight, ambushing their prey from below, while others are active hunters, chasing down prey like downsized sharks. Next time you're at Old Moor, try a pond dipping kit and you'll see that they're every bit as varied and specialised under the water as they are when flying over it. 

Common Darter Nymph - D Pritchard

Dragonflies are amazing predators, with a successful kill rate of up to 95% as winged adults in the last few weeks of their lives. However, their large size also makes them an important food source for other wildlife, most notably the Hobby, which can be seen removing the wings of Dragonflies mid-flight to get a high protein meal. 
Emperor Dragonflies are just starting to take to the wing at Old Moor, and Hobbies are always waiting for them when they do. 
Emperor Dragonfly - D Pritchard
So Dragonflies are a great example of the importance of even small Wetlands or pounds. By making habitats suitable for pond creatures and insects, Old Moor is providing the foundation for a complex, stable ecosystem. When we say "Giving nature a home" we really do mean it. 
I'll be starting to post regularly on this fascinating group of insects, giving updates of what can be seen at Old Moor and where to look. So keep an eye out for these regular posts on the Weird and Wonderful World of Dragonflies.

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