Hunting Ground


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) – I saw two of these around the garden pond today … and they were on the hunt. Although not power fliers like the larger dragonflies, they were quick and nimble, and I watched one of them snatch a fly out of mid-air. I was quite amazed how they soon got used to my presence and allowed me to get fairly close up to them with my macro lens. Double-click on images to enlarge.


Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

© Peter Hillman ♦ 26th April 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Large Red Damselfly


Pyrrhosoma nymphula – I saw three of these around the garden pond fluttering lazily in the sunshine before settling down again. I know they breed in the pond, as I have seen their larvae under the water.


Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

© Peter Hillman ♦ 25th April 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Banded Demoiselle


Calopteryx splendens – I always enjoy seeing these down by the river in summer. This is the rather handsome male. Feel free to click to enlarge and click again to get even closer.



Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 16th July 2019
Place: Local river, Staffordshire


Down By The River

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) male

Feel free to click to enlarge and click again to get even closer.


July 2019, near local river, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Love By The Lake

Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum mating

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), July 2018 Derwentwater, Cumbria, England. © Pete Hillman.

Love On The River Bank

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens mating

The air above the local river was alive with these Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens as they courted on the banks. I found this happy couple making a love heart. The male is the shiny blue one on the right, the golden-green female on the left.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens female

After a few minutes the male flew off leaving the female behind in the sun.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens female

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


June 2018, local river, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


May 2018, the pond, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England. © Pete Hillman

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans female typica form

This is the mature female typica form, which has the same colours as the male. I don’t think my eyes will ever tire of seeing such a beautiful, rich and vibrant combination of blues.

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans female typica form

May 2018, pond edge, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm.

An Evening Visitor

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula, this evening May 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm.

Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo

Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo male

If I really had to pick one, this would be my very favourite damselfly. I believe this is a very fine and handsome male. I felt privileged to capture his picture, for they never usually allow you to get too close to them, or stay still for so long.

Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo male

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


Playing with my new lens … May 2018, woodland path, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

The Large Red Damselflies Are Here

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

These are the first of the Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula I have seen around my garden pond this season.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula


Double click on images to enlarge.


May 2018, rear garden pond Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Ischnura elegans II

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans


Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans), rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. July 2017

Hunting With The Damselflies

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

I have been watching these beautiful damselflies for quite  sometime as they flitter about my garden pond. The are on the hunt. They will find a favourite perch and then when a small fly comes into their airspace they make a go of catching it. They are not always succesful, but this one was. I think it may have caught a plant louse of some kind, and it didn’t waste any of it.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Quite messy eaters though. You got a bit stuck there … yes just there … above your top lip …


Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.

Azure Damselfly II

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

A few more images I manged to take as this Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella), revisted my garden. With the top down view you can see more of its markings, especially the flat-bottomed U-shape mark on segment 2.

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Ischnura elegans female infuscans form

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans female infuscans form

I caught this damsel damselfly basking in sun which was just making it through a cloud covered sky.

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans female infuscans form

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans female infuscans form


Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Azure Damselfly

Coenagrion puella

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

A new damselfly sighting for me, and in my own backyard. This one was competing for perches around my pond with half a dozen or so Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), and stood his (yes, it is male) ground pretty well. Length 33mm (1in). Similar to other blue damselflies, so care has to be taken in identification. In males look for a characteristic black flat-bottomed U-shape mark on S2,  and S8 is completely blue, S9 having some black markings towards the rear. The female is green but a pale blue form occurs.

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

It can be seen May to August near small ponds and streams. Very common throughout Britain except in northern parts of Scotland.


Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Making Hearts

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

There is still a lot of activity around the garden pond, as can be seen in the above image.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) mating, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Gone Full Cycle

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

From the female I observed last June laying eggs in my garden pond, to the hatched larvae which lived beneath the still water, to their emergence in spring as adults, and now they have gone a full cycle. Here we have a mating pair of  the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), ensuring the perpetuation of the species.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula mating

 


Garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Down By The River With The Demoiselles

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

With a break in the weather today, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the last day of my short holiday but down by the river. The bank is quite deeply cut so after scrambling down I sat down and just listened to the sounds of the river flowing by and the bird song from the wooded slopes.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

There was three or four of these bright blue male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) damselflies fluttering over the river and the bank. Occasionally they would alight on nearby vegetation. Yes, these are slow-moving compared to the larger dragonflies.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

I was fortunate enough to observe a green and golden female laying eggs amongst the river flora.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens female

River

Down by the river with demoiselles, and another year older, what a beautiful day indeed.


Local river, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Over Still Waters

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

After emerging from my garden pond the damselflies appeared to have gone off to greener pastures. But they appear to be returning back home, and here is one waiting for small flies to come by to snap out of the air to eat as food, resting on an iris leaf stretched across still waters.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

A New Visitor To The Pond

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans form rufescens female immature

Identifying dragonflies and damselflies can be quite challenge at times, especially as they go through their stages and can have many forms. This is a first for me, and for the garden pond. It is a Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans form rufescens) female immature. The females of this particular species actually come in five colour forms, and this is one of the five.

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans form rufescens female immature

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans form rufescens female immature


Garden pond, Staffordshire. England. May 2017.

Just Emerged

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula newly emerged

Out in the garden this morning, and as always I go to see what’s happening around the pond. I switch on my pump, which has no filter and is open, and helps oxygenate the pond, although I think the oxygenating plants are doing a good job, but the sound and movement of water is always relaxing. And what do I notice? A freshly emerged Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). drying out in the early morning sun. It’s larval skin which can be seen on the other side of the tube in partial shade, discarded like an old suit. It was lucky it hadn’t gone up in a jet of water when I initially switched the pump on!

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula newly emerged

It must be the main season for emergence as I discovered lots of these freshly emerged damselflies clinging to pond plants with their old larval skins nearby.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula newly emerged

Below, here is one that was made earlier, and is still reluctant to fly until it gets used to its new life out of the water and living in the air.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Please click on the images for a larger, more detailed view.


Edit: Walter, who runs an excellent blog with some astoundingly detailed photographs of dragonflies has observed that this is a female, as indicated by the prominent ovipositor visible on the ventral side of the tip of her abdomen. You can visit his blog via Walter Sandford’s Photoblog.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) newly emerged, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

 

Before Emergence

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula final moult

Today has been another exceptionally hot May day, and this afternoon I noticed quite a few recently emerged Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) on plants around my garden pond. And I was delighted to find one which had left it’s larval skin behind.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula final moult

Dragonflies and damselflies don’t go through a pupation stage similar to other insects like butterflies and moths. Final-stage larvae may sit for several days in shallow water getting ready for their final moult, breathing air. The larvae climb up vegetation near the water’s edge and secure a perch for emergence. In the above images one individual has done just this, and climbed  a fair distance to find a good spot for the final transformation. Amazingly, in this state they redistribute their body fluids and push out first their thorax, head, legs and wings. These are allowed to harden before the abdomen is finally withdrawn, which in turn needs time to harden. Transformation is complete, and an adult is born.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

In the images directly above and below, things may have not gone quite to plan for this newly emerged damselfly. Note how the exuvia (the cast skin), is still attached. The wings have not fully retracted and are trapped within. It may eventually free itself, but until then it will not be able to fly and is at the mercy of predation.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

In a future post I will combine some of the images to show the life cycle which has, to my great surprise, taken 11 months from egg to adult.


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Emergence II

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

The teneral damselflies are still coming and appearing around the pond. This one could hardly fly at all.  It was clinging to a stem of my Water Mint. I like the way the light catches the wings and brings out the colour spectrum.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Please click on the images for larger, mored detailed views.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) teneral, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Say Cheese Please!

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) tenerals, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Emergence

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Out in the garden today, and with blue skies and wall to wall sunshine is was time take the first photos of May. I sat by my pond, and within a couple of minutes I noticed a small damselfly resting on my Yellow Iris growing in the pond. It was in an awkward position to photo, so I thought I might risk coaxing it with my finger into a new position. It actually gripped the end of my finger and allowed me to place it elsewhere. It was very small, and when it flew it flew weakly and didn’t fly very far.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Then as I took a few snaps of it, I noticed a few others on bushes and plants near the pond. They were all the same species, the Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), and appeared to be tenerals, newly emerged. Most of them seemed quite happy to just hang around in the sun as can be seen from this series of images.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Knowing I had Large Red Damselfly nymphs in my garden pond I did wonder whether these had developed from here, but they had only been there for a year, which might just be long enough, I guess.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula teneral

Please click on the images for larger, mored detailed views.


Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) tenerals, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

How They Have Grown

Large Red Damselfly – Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Please click on the image for a larger view.

The light was not so good late yesterday afternoon, but I was determined to try and get a photograph of one of the many Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) larvae which inhabit my garden pond in its natural setting. This one was on a stone in the shallows near the pond’s edge. I cannot believe how quickly they are growing since I first saw them last August.

Nighttime Pond Activities

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) early nymph

I have just popped out to the garden pond to see if there was any nightlife there, maybe a frog or a newt. No, not tonight. But to my utter surprise there was 30 to 40 or more of these Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) larvae on rocks beneath the water apparently feeding on algae. I have seen one or two during the day, but now realise these are very much nocturnal feeders, and didn’t realise how many there were in there. The image of the nymph above was taken last year, so they have grown since then.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) female laying eggs

I think it all goes back to last year  when I spotted this female Large Red Damselfly laying eggs at the bottom of my Water Mint. Apparently they can lay up to 350 eggs at a time!

Large Red Damselfy Nymph

This morning when I went to have a look at my garden pond under an overcast sky, peering close at the submerged rocks and stones I noticed a few of these early stage damselfy nymps.

My mind went back to June when I saw a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) female laying eggs at the base of my Water Mint. I consulted one of my many books to see if it was the larva of this damselfly, and I believe it is.

These are just a little smaller than a common garden ant, and can be quite a challenge to photo, especially on an overcast day and submerged in pond water, so I removed one specimen and placed it in a crock dish to have more control over the conditions. It was released back into the water unharmed after it had completed its photo shoot.

I could have to wait for up to 3 years for the larvae to develop into mature flying adult damselflies.

Photographs  taken of Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) early stage nymph in August 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

On His Pedestal

He stuck something out at me below in the image below …

Photographs of male Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), taken July 2016, local pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Stalking The Black-tailed Skimmer

On my countryside walk this morning I stopped at the local pond. It is but a stone’s throw from the river, and in the centre of a farmer’s field. The farmer hasn’t been too pleased with it being there, and for some years he has tried his hardest to drain it but to no avail, and thankfully so. That’s how the land lies, and that’s a low point, hence the pond, but he still has plenty of ground to plant crops around it, and he makes good use of it. It has become a well-established pond, and I wanted to see if I could see this somewhat elusive dragonfly, the Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) again.

Thankfully I was treated to an amazing acrobatic aerial display as one, at first, zoomed around this pond filled with Bulrushes and Flowering Rushes. It was soon joined by another. They were both the blue-bodied males. The yellow-bodied females were nowhere to be seen.

The one male had his favourite perch, a smooth stone half buried near the water’s edge, and it kept coming back to it to bask in the sun.

It took a while for him to settle properly, as he was so aware of my presence, but he did so, and he kindly obliged me this photo shoot. I had to get belly flat low for some of these, like the one above. If I can I like to try to meet them eye to eye, at their microcosmic level.

I was startled and distracted a couple of times by the noisy call of a Green Woodpecker as it flew between oak trees in the woods nearby, but by being patient and vigilant the pond rewarded me, and the Black-tailed Skimmer flew over the sun-spangled water. His domain. His world.

Photographs of Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum), taken July 2016, local pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Common Darter

Sympetrum striolatum

Females are ochre bodied, whilst males are reddish with a dark patch on the side of the thorax. Both sexes usually have yellow-striped brown legs. Body length 40mm. Forewing 30mm.

Eggs are laid in flight with the abdomen being dipped into shallow water. The eggs hatch within a few weeks, or the following spring if they are laid late in the year. The larvae live amongst mud and weed and emerge after a year.

Flies June to December. It is seen in a wide range of situations, including ponds, lakes, ditches and canals, and also seen away from water. Often found perched on the ground or vegetation, basking in the warmth of the sun. Common and widespread throughout, except where it is largely absent in Scotland and northern England.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Calopteryx virgo

The wings of the mature male are a very dark blue, almost black, where the female’s wings are an iridescent green-brown with a false white spot near the tips. The male’s body is a metallic blue-green, and the female’s metallic green with a bronze-tipped abdomen. Body length up to 50mm. Forewing 40mm.

The males are very territorial, and perch on vegetation as look-outs warding off unwelcome visitors. The females can lay up to 300 eggs at a time in emergent or floating vegetation. The larvae develop for over two years before emerging as adults.

It flies May to August, and it is found near slow-flowing streams and rivers, in farmland and woodland. Common and widespread in the south-west of England and Wales and southern Ireland, but absent or local in the rest of England, Scotland, and northern Ireland.

Southern Hawker

Aeshna cyanea

A  large colourful dragonfly, where the males are blackish with blue and apple-green markings, and where the females have dark brown and green patterning. Both sexes have broad coloured stripes on the top and sides of the thorax, and a narrow yellow triangle on the second abdominal segment. They also have coloured bands across the last two abdominal segments instead of paired dots as in other hawkers which aid in identification. Body length 70mm. Forewing up to 50mm.

The eggs are laid in decaying vegetation or rotting wood, often above water level. They hatch the following spring, and the adults emerge two to three years later. The larvae are quite aggressive predators eating other aquatic invertebrates and even tadpoles.

Flies July to September. Found in a wide range of places where there is non-acidic water, including garden ponds. The adults are often found resting on vegetation. Common and widespread in the south of Britain, scarce elsewhere.

Photograph taken August 2007, local woodland margin, Staffordshire.

Four-spotted Chaser

Libellula quadrimaculata

The four dark spots on the wings of this medium-sized dragonfly are diagnostic of the species. The wings also have yellow bases that extend along the front margins. The sexes are similar, and have brown eyes, thorax and abdomen. Body length up to 45mm. Forewing up to 40mm.

The males are very territorial, and can be quite aggressive towards intruders. Males and female mate in flight, which is a very brief affair, taking but a few seconds. Eggs are laid in flight, and they hatch about four weeks later. The larvae live in decaying plant debris for two years or longer before emerging as adults.

It flies June to July. It occupies a wide range of standing waters. Common and widespread throughout Britain, but scarcer in the north-east.

Photographs taken June 2010, country park pool, Staffordshire.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Orthetrum cancellatum

The males of this medium=sized dragonfly have a blue abdomen, except where it tapers towards the end which blackish. The eyes are greenish-blue. The female eyes are brown or olive, the abdomen is yellowish with two dark stripes.

The female dips the tip of the abdomen into the water’s surface to lay her eggs. They hatch about 5 to 6 weeks later, and the larvae will live in plant debris at the bottom for 2 to 3 years before emerging as adults.

Seen May to August, and found around most bodies of water.

Broad-bodied Chaser

Libellula depressa

I love to watch these magnificent dragonflies down by the river in the summer. They have a distinctive flat, broad body and four dark wing patches. The males have blue abdomens where the females are a golden-yellow, darkening with age. They both have distinctive yellow spots along the sides of the abdomen. Body length up to 45mm. Forewing up to 40mm.

The eggs hatch about 2-3 weeks later, and the larvae live at the bottom mainly in silt for up to 1-3 years before they emerge as adults.

It flies May to August, and they are often seen perched on reeds and bushes near water. Found in well-vegetated ponds, streams, ditches, small lakes and rivers. Common and widespread in England and Wales.

Photographs taken July 2011 and 2012, local river, Staffordshire, and June 2010, country park pond, Staffordshire.

The Rush And The Darter

I think its wonderful when nature brings together two of its most beautiful creations. Here we have the Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), and the Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus).

Common Blue Damselfly

Enallagma cyathigerum

There is nothing more calming and more beautiful than taking a pleasant stroll along the river bank on a fine summer’s morning. This striking blue damselfly from the family of dragonflies called Coenagrionidae, which are the Narrow-winged dragonflies, caught my eye. After a few minutes of playing hard to get, it finally settled down and kindly allowed me a fairly long photo session with it.

Please click on the images for a larger view.

The males are bright blue, where the females occur as blue or dull green. Both sexes have broad blue stripes on the thorax which help readily identify the species. Similar to other blue damselflies and the White-legged Damselfly. Body length 32mm. Forewing 20mm. 

The eggs are laid in surface vegetation, and after hatching, the larvae live amongst aquatic vegetation before emerging as adults one or more years later.

Flies May to September, and are found in a wide range of habitats with either sill or flowing water such as ponds, rivers and lakes. The most abundant and widespread of all the dragonflies in the UK.

Photographs taken June 2016, local river, Staffordshire.