With all this heat, you've a good chance of seeing birds splashing around in your birdbath. It might whet your appetite for spotting some other wetland wildlife that might be visiting your gardens or outside spaces right now.

Of course, if you have a pond of some sort, you have probably already spent many a moment gazing in wonder through the glassy surface into the curious world beneath. However, there are many pond creatures that need to spend some of their time away from water, and so can come wandering into many more outside spaces.

For example, dragonflies and damselflies, which spend a year or even two underwater in their nymph form, then crawl up to the surface in summer and emerge for their few weeks of airborne glory.

However, the area around their birth pond is a sparring place for mature adults, not a safe place for those that have only just ventured into the open air. So, the immatures quickly head off to hunt flies and other insects in sunny, leafy places, which can include around trees and shrubs in other gardens and greenspaces.

It means you might be lucky enough to see some of these aerial masters wherever you are. If you do, their body colours can be quite stunning, although it is perhaps their aerial mastery that will most catch the eye.

If you are unsure of the difference between dragonflies and damselflies, there are three key things to tell these two families apart:

  1. Size – dragonflies are typically larger, more robust insects with a dashing flight, whereas damselflies are rather dainty with a more fluttery flight
  2. Body thickness - the long part of the body behind the wings (the abdomen) is pencil thickness or more in a dragonfly, but more the width of a biro insert in a damselfly (only much shorter)
  3. Wing position at rest – dragonflies hold their wings out flat, like a plane; damselflies close them together over their backs like a sail, or in a couple of species like the half-open pages of a book.

So, go on, test yourself with this photo - dragonfly or damselfly?

The open wings are the instant giveaway that this is a dragonfly (one called the Four-spot Chaser, which is odd as it has eight wing spots!), and it also has a really chunky abdomen.

Common damselflies to look for include

  • the Large Red Damselfly, which indeed has a red abdomen (this is a mating pair in the 'wheel' position), but despite the name is still small compared to a dragonfly

  • the blue-tailed damselfly, which has a dark abdomen with a blue bar towards the tip

  • and the very similar Azure and Common Blue Damselflies, which have largely blue abdomens (this next photo is the Azure).

But it is the dragonflies that are the stars of the show. Look out for the following:

  • Broad-bodied Chaser – they have broad, rather flattened abdomens, powder blue in the males, amber in the females (late spring to midsummer)

  • Emperor, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker (the one below) – big dragonflies with long bodies, all with variations of blue and green spots on a dark background. Emperors are seen late spring to end July; the other two tend to be rather later, from high summer through until autumn).

  • Common Darter – very common in late summer and autumn, a smaller dragonfly with a red abdomen in the male (below), dull yellow in the females.

It is also easy to think of frogs, newts and toads as being entirely aquatic creatures, but actually they spend only a relatively short period in ponds, mainly heading there to mate in spring. After that, the adults leave the water and find shady, sheltered places in dark corners, compost heaps and log piles where they are safe from the desiccating sun.

They then venture out at night to catch creepy crawlies such as worms and slugs, so their night-time wanderings can bring them into gardens without ponds. An after-dark foray with a torch, particularly after rain, can be a good way to find them, such as this rather cheeky Common Toad.

What this all shows is that if you have yet to create a pond in your garden, take a deep breath and dive in (so to speak!), because there is all sorts of wonderful wetland wildlife which would be only too pleased to quickly set up home. Once they do, they'll thoroughly entertain you with much more than catching flies and slugs!

And with so many ponds having been lost from the UK countryside, you will be playing a valuable role in bring back some of it back.

Do check out the new RSPB pond liner kits that are now available. They're back in stock in July, giving you chance to plan out your pond now..

Anonymous
Parents
  • Have not long back created a mini pond, have had tadpoles in it which did make it to froglets, but they have just disappeared. Hoping they have just left the pond and not either died(though can't see any bodies) or been eaten by birds etc.

Comment
  • Have not long back created a mini pond, have had tadpoles in it which did make it to froglets, but they have just disappeared. Hoping they have just left the pond and not either died(though can't see any bodies) or been eaten by birds etc.

Children