In my blog on 8th. of July, I explained that inspired by the Dragonfly Woman’s blog ( http://thedragonflywoman.com/), I had decided to initiate my solo citizen’s science project to learn more about dragonflies. I feel I have kept up my side of the bargain but I feel hugely let down by the dragonflies. As a novice I expected a bit more leeway and consideration. I don’t not want to sound paranoid but I do have a sneaky feeling that they are taunting me.
For one thing my decision to choose the pool nearby seemed eminently sensible to me. The fact that it had a raft of water lilies in the middle made it more aesthetically pleasing.
The thought never occurred to me that the dragonflies might prefer to take their well-earned R&R on the water lily pads far from my invasive lens. I watched bemused as a couple of huge dragonflies patrolled tirelessly back and forth across the pond. They were very large and I had an idea what they could be because of their size but they were much too far away to identify. However, there is plenty to look at while I keep a look out for dragonflies.
One day I noticed that the bushes had been lopped, I had never realised that the pond was being cared for, but an oak tree had been damaged in the process.
The tree was oozing sap and providing an impromptu feast for a European hornet (Vespa crabro) and a butterfly.
I was impressed by this huge hairy caterpillar that looked about 10cm. long passing by at the same time on the oak trunk. I think it must have been looking for a good place to pupate in. At least the caterpillar was playing ball being an Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) caterpillar on an oak tree.
The pond is also home to crayfish, this one is a signal crayfish, an invasive American species which has been introduced in Europe and is taking over the native species habitats. This is leading to a decline in the native crayfish species as well as upsetting the balance of other native species, such as newts and frogs. It is a voracious feeder and a far less fussy feeder than the native crayfish. This diminishes the food supply available to the native crayfish and at the same time as increasing the predation on native species at risk of being eaten.
I see a lot of nature around the pond but my only complaint is that the dragonflies are camera shy around the pond. The damselflies are much more predictable and sit delicately on the greenery at the water’s edge enjoying the sunshine. They seem creatures of habit, so I can now make a bee line to where I will see them if it is warm and sunny.
On sunny afternoons I have noticed huge dragonflies patrolling across the pond in a tireless search for their prey. I have seen them stoop like birds of prey and I was pretty sure of their identity, because of their size, but they were always too far away to be sure. Eventually I managed to get a photograph of the male Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator). It is not a good quality photograph but I think sufficient for an identification.
However, I am much more successful in dragonfly spotting on the way to the pond but I don’t expect that this counts as “pond watching”.
The biggest dragonfly that I have seen close up was in the woods on my way to the pond. It was not much short of 10 cm. long and very impressive. I think it is a Boyeria Irene or Western Spectre dragonfly. Please see Susan’s comments, it is a Southern Hawker or Blue Darner (Aeshna cyanea), I was mislead by his green eyes but they will turn blue as he matures
The same day I saw the Downy Emerald Dragonfly (Cordulia aenea) (or I thought it was, now revised to Lestes viridis, see Susan’s comments below) and
the beautiful metallic green Willow Emerald Damselfly. This demoiselle does not hold its wings folded over its back in the typical damselfly fashion. I told you they are out to confuse me!
Definitely a dragonfly day(especially if you include the damselfly)!
I am becoming familiar with the Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) and have a special fondness for him because he even comes and visits in my brussel sprouts.
I must add a “health warning” to this blog, if I could I’d like to print a large L across it. I am trying very hard to learn about dragonflies by observing and trying to identify them. I welcome comments and I would love to hear if my identifications are not on target.
One thing I have learned is that there can be a considerable difference in colour between the male and female dragonflies and also between the mature and immature forms.
I have already become more aware and spot them in the environment. The next stage will be to familiarise myself with them bit by bit. But that will take some time!