Apart from the shadow of Corvid-19, it has been a beautiful month weather wise if you like the sun. I admit I could do with some rain, but this weather has brought out the dragonflies and damselflies locally.
The first sign of this eruption in dragons occurred in my own garden with the arrival of a Large-red damselfly sunning on a bush.
If you’d read my blog on learning your local patch you will know I’m lucky enough to live near some dykes not far away and I regularly walk past them with the dog. This dyke is a source of many of my sightings in May.
In early May the presence of damselflies became more apparent. Their ephemeral bodies blowing in the reeds as they take on colour after they have emerged from the bottom of the creeks or ponds. The next two species I saw were in these reeds. The Azure and blue-tailed damselflies respectively below.
Locally at this time of year the Azure has some very similar species such as the common blue damselfly, variable damselfly and if you go north the Northern damselfly. So, it is important one gets a good view particularly of the first sections of the abdomen where distinct differences can help you identify which of these blue damselflies your seeing.
When one refers to abdomens in dragonflies and damselflies, it means the long section of body after the thorax. They are often diagnostic in patterns and colours.
The thorax is the section of the insect where the legs and wings are attached. Again, they can be very important in identifying the species you’re looking at.
To aid identification I, as you can see take pictures, use your phone if you do not have a camera. This allows an opportunity for you to look at the image against books or internet examples, to aid identification.
Another aid to identifying various species is to consider how mature the individual is, this can cause a lot of colour variation. After they emerge from their aquatic part of their lifecycle (I have added some more about this nymph to dragonfly transition at the end of the blog) they are nothing like as colourful as their adult forms. The colour gradually appears as the animal matures after it has left the nymph.
There are some similar species to the blue-tailed damselfly on the left as well, but I would say the variation of the colour on the male and females in this species need to be considered when you have an unidentified individual in front of you.
The thorax and the abdomen of a female for example can range in colour from purple, pinks, blue and green. The male also has some variation in thorax colour. So be aware.
Now let us turn our mind to some of the dragonflies I have seen this last month. As if following the same plan as the red-eyed damselfly, the first dragonfly I saw was on the bushes in the same part of the garden, a male Hairy hawker.
These two individuals are an immature male, not as fully blue yet on the abdomen, and a female. There is a real difference between the two thorax’s and will have an even more colour difference as the male matures into its blues. This is one of the early flying hawkers in the country.
Following these garden visitors, I saw these down Buss creak again and saw several other dragonflies busy hunting on the wing in the morning sun.The most obvious of these was the four-spotted chaser, but I also saw a male emperor and several dragonflies that were not being helpful and landing out of site.
This is a common dragonfly over the pond at Minsmere. I hear you say it’s got 8 dark spots, your right, but where they differ from similar species there are dark patches at the nodes of each wing making 4, see black-tailed skimmer below. The nodes of the wing are halfway along the front edge of the wing.
If you look carefully at the dragonfly below you will see the four spots, but they are near the ends of the wing not at the nodes.
The photographs of the two species above and the one below, were all taken in sunny west facing clearings in a woodland nearby. They were hunting insects but also resting in the warmth of the morning sun, energising themselves for further hunting.
The male and females are very different in appearance. The male is where the name comes from.Male to the right from a different year, taken at Minsmere.
The last species of dragonfly I have images from last month is a Norfolk Hawker (also known as green-eyed hawker in Europe). Left.
For those us living in Norfolk or Suffolk we have the pleasure of having this dragonfly present.
We have another brown dragonfly as well, the brown hawker but this does not have the distinctive green eyes and its wings have a bronze metallic hue which means they are one of our easiest dragonflies to identify while on the wing. I did see 1 individual this month but failed to get an image.
Even though you don’t think you are near water, there is usually some around in the form of a stream, pond, mere or broad and so Dragonflies and damselflies are likely to be seen where you don’t expect as they travel to hunt.
If you get a chance to sit in bitten hide or overlook the reed beds in the are you may be fortunate to see a hobby chasing dragonflies.
All these species have a three-stage life cycle, egg, nymph, flying adult. Eggs laid by either a solitary female or a conjoined pair of male and female depending on species, are laid in wet environments. These eggs hatch out to produce nymphs. These nymphs can spend several years in the water growing and feeding. They are voracious predators and can eat a up to small fish. Below damselfly nymph on the left, dragonfly nymph on the right having crawled out of the pond.
The dragonfly nymph has climbed up the reed and plant life. The front nymph is empty (grey eyes) and the one behind you can see still has a lifeform waiting to breakout.
These are all images of a southern hawker.
Its amazing when you look at the size of the final dragonfly escaping the nymph. The wings are like a blow-up mattress. Once its out of the nymph they spend the first part of their new existence pumping up the wings, then waiting for them to dry out before they can fly.
The final appearance of this dragonfly.
Hope this helps your enjoyment of damselflies and dragonflies.
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