a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Dragonfly pond update


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.

Madion pond

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.

Oak tree with gash in its side

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.

Hornet and cleverly camouflaged butterfly

The tree was oozing sap and providing an impromptu feast for a European hornet (Vespa crabro) and a butterfly.

Oak Eggar caterpillar

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.

Signal crayfish

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.

Blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

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.

The Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)

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.

Southern Hawker or Blue Darner (Aeshna cyanea)

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

Lestes viridis

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

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes viridis)

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)!

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)

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.

Ruddy Darter

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!

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.

13 thoughts on “Dragonfly pond update

  1. You managed to get some great images. I know nothing of their names but I love the beautiful colours. Christina


  2. I rarely see dragonflies here but saw several on holiday. No picturs though. They are as tricky with me as with you it would appear!


  3. Your Western Spectre is a Blue Hawker Aeschna cyanea, a much more colourful species. Your Downy Emerald is a female Western Willow Spreadwing Lestes viridis, the same as the next photo which you have correctly ID’d.


  4. Your dragonfly photos are wonderful. You have such different species than I do around the pond, and they are huge!


  5. As I was looking at each dragonfly, I was thinking “I’ve got to mention to Amelia that I really liked this one.” Looked at the next one, “wow, this is a good one too.” And so on, each one as good as or better than the last. I think my favorite one is the “Southern Hawker or Blue Darner (Aeshna cyanea).” When you enlarge that one to the fullest extent, you can easily see the pattern in the wings, almost like a pen and ink sketch. A good runner-up would be “Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes viridis)”
    Now I noticed you didn’t add your water mark copyright. I would have thought you’d want to protect those images.


    • Thank you but my images are not a patch on proper nature photographers. They are only for interest and the blog. Coincidentally, we are just off on our bikes to have a look at the pond this year (22.4.14). Amelia


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