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).