a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

My dragonfly pond project


I follow The Dragonfly Woman’s blog ( http://thedragonflywoman.com/).  On the 2nd July she posted about a dragonfly pond watch in the USA: enthusiasts register a pond and keep watch for two dragonfly species and by visiting their pond regularly they collect data on the dragonflies.  They hope to amass more information on the dragonflies by this citizen science project.   As I am in France this leaves me out in the cold but then I thought I could do my own personal pond watch and learn about dragonflies.  As my knowledge about dragonflies was zero there could only be an improvement on my personal information base.

There is a pond about 20 minutes brisk walk from the house, if you take the short-cut through the woods it takes a lot longer than that as there is usually so much to see and photo opportunities slow you down.  The pond is on one of our more winter routes or rather autumn walks as there is a very abundant walnut tree close by.  I had not given the pond more than an admiring look from the path so it seemed an idea choice for my project.

Madion pond

Our neighbour who is in her eighties has told us the pond used to be larger and she remembers being taken  out on the pond in a small rowing boat when she was young.

I was sure if they got swarms of dragonflies in the States I  should see one or two over the pond.

Pond in sunshine

I chose a sunny afternoon for my first visit hoping the warmth would tempt them out into the open.

Lotus flowers

The lotus flowers were open.  The lotus flowers are not native Charentais flowers but they have been in the pond for at least ten years, whether planted on purpose or arrived accidently, I do not know.

However, no dragonflies.

There were, however, two species of damsel flies.

Blue damselfly

In fact I think it is a Blue tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans).

Blue tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

The leaf has got in the way here but the fine part in the middle of the tail can be seen better.

Brown damselfly

The second damselfly is brown and awaiting further research by me (or recognition by a reader?) before it finds a name.

I must admit I was somewhat disappointed.  The damselflies were lovely but I did want a dragonfly.

Pond in rain

Dragonfly woman said to check out the pond in different weather conditions and at different times of day.  Equipped with an umbrella this time, but still no dragonflies.

Today I decided to take the short cut and go through the woods along the side of the little stream.  It had rained overnight but it had been a beautiful day and it was still warm at 5 p.m.

Golden ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii)

At last I got my dragonfly!  It is a Golden Ringed dragonfly ( Cordulegaster boltonii).  Not at the pond, perhaps, but better here than never.

Common Blue damsel fly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

In addition, there were lovely Common Blue damsel flies along the edges of the little stream.  Things were definitely looking up.

Lotus flowers

Success at last!  When I arrived at the pond I could see that flying back and forth over the mass of lotus flowers were several very large green-blue dragonflies.  They seemed to be patrolling back and forth over the lotus flowers.  I willed them to take a break, put their feet down and chill out but they seemed on a dragonfly mission.  I’ve got no photos as yet but at least I know my pond does have dragonflies, it would have been tough trying to do a solo dragonfly pond watch on a pond with no dragonflies.  I feel I am off to a good start.

I do not intend to confine myself to dragonflies.  I have heard a frog but not seen it and there is also a very shy waterfowl that hides among the lotus flowers.

However, just before I headed home, something walked out of the pond!


It appeared to be a crayfish.  He had a walk around for a couple of minutes and then walked back in.

Crayfish – no claws?

It seemed odd to come out for a walk on the edge of the pond but the other oddity is that it appears to be lacking a pair of front claws.  Perhaps he had been in a fight.

Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)

Then almost back home, a Stag beetle was walking along the road in the opposite direction.  Definitely a photo opportunity.

The stag  beetle may not be as stunning photographically as dragonflies or damselflies but has a life history just as fascinating.  Since I have started the blog and have been reading other people’s blog it has made me notice much more around me and fanned my curiosity for the natural world that surrounds me.  The pond has added another dimension to our walks.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

19 thoughts on “My dragonfly pond project

  1. Hello crayfish! What impressive creatures you found on your walk, thank you for sharing them with us.


  2. What a really terrific idea, I wish you lots of luck in your dragonfly search and photographing. I agree with your comment about other people’s blogs making you more aware, I find that I am a lot more interested in discovering the Bulgarian flora and fauna than before. The crayfish is interesting, I’ve never seen one before!


  3. Awesome! Congrats on the dragon. Can I just tell ya…that beetle scares the ‘be-jesus’ outta me! yikes. love the photos and best of luck with the pond and all the wonders it holds.. truly inspiring!


    • The Stag beetle can look pretty scary, it was a large male. They can fly too, so I was lucky it was walking down the road and hadn’t decided to fly towards me! Good news is that they are completely harmless. They are a protected species in Europe as they are considered an endangered species.


      • My guess they are endangered because they are so scary looking they are probably killed more often than necessary. Glad they are harmless, that would stop me from wanting to step on one…besides the obvious horrific looking pinchers…but would not stop me from getting outta dodge. Thanks.


  4. This sounds a really good project. The flowers in the pond look lovely; could they be water lilies? It is too hot to take a 20 minute brisk walk here, I think I’d die! Christina


    • I thought water lilies myself at first but the leaves are raised more off the water and the flowers are on stalks above the water surface. I believe water lilies lie flat on the water surface. I imagine they were put there by someone some time in the past. We are getting lower than average temperatures here but loads of sunny periods and even a bit of rain for the garden so I am satisfied.


      • My vote is water lilies, despite their apparent differences.


        • I think I might cede here, due to ignorance. I was told they have their flowers on stalks out of the water if they are lotuses. To get a definitive answer it would involve putting on my waders and retrieving a flower and I am not sure what the pond bottom is like. I would imagine not too welcoming. It is tempting though…


  5. As you might expect, this post appealed to me! There is a very similar dragonfly project in the Uk so you might find one in France too. The crayfish are a real nuisance here, causing a lot of damage to habitats. I have never seen one of them though. What a bizarre looking thing it is. Lovely find with the stag beetle too.


  6. Stunning photos. The clawless crawfish is quite odd. I wish I could see a stag beetle, they are so interesting but unfortunately they don’t live in Ontario.


    • I am so glad to here you don’t have something we have here :). The wildlife in the USA always seems so much bigger and more exotic than what we usually see in France or the U.K.


  7. Gosh, you lucky thing. I haven’t seen a stag beetle for years and years. If I did he’d get a whole post to himself, no question. For what its worth I’d say water lilies too but lotus flowers sound altogether more exotic and romantic, so I hope that I’m wrong! Good for you with the dragonfly hunt. Since I started work at the Priory (with its two ponds) I’ve become very enamoured with them and am trying to identify them as I meet them. Hasn’t been great for them this year. I’m hoping it will get better. Dave p.s. I couldn’t find your name anywhere. Is it a secret? Or is it obviously shown somewhere and I just can’t see it? Probably the latter.


    • I am trying to visit the pond at various times of day and weather conditions. It is still early days but I think they like the warmer weather, could explain you have not had a good year for them. Amelia


  8. I think because it has been so cold and so wet. Like you say they like warmer weather which has been preciously rare this year in southern England. I generally find a very hot and still day is the best time to see them. Dave


  9. Have a look at http://www.nick-ransdale.com/ it has some good dragonfly pics


  10. The ‘lotuses’ are White Waterlilies Nymphaea alba, a native plant. I grew up where there were both lotus and waterlilies, and lotuses rise a long way above the water. The brown damselfly is a teneral (juvenile) male Common Bluetail Ischnura elegans. The ‘Common Blue damselfly’ is a male Blue Featherleg Platycnemis pennipes.

    Stag beetles are endangered because they have a long lifecycle, much of it as a larva in dead wood, which is often removed before the larva has matured into a beetle.

    That crayfish is an interesting observation.


  11. That crayfish does look very interesting… the colouring seems to indicate that it is the non-native Red-Clawed… but no claws? Strange… what it certainly isn’t is the native White-clawed… too green on the body and too red on the legs.
    My wife and I are like you… we daren’t go on these randonées the French love… we’d lose touch with the column and get lost in the wild French countryside… just because we were looking at it and not trampling it to death!


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