This is turning into something of a Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve blog at the moment. Being a relatively new member of the Odonata fan club, this is the first year when I’ve been eagerly awaiting the start of the new season. It’s also, therefore, my first chance at logging the season – noting which species emerge when for a particular site. At least it gives me something interesting to do while we’re waiting for the boat to France, though the French trip will inevitably cause a hiatus in my local observations.
Yesterday brightened up very nicely in the afternoon so I popped in for another couple of hours. I’ve been noticing what I think of as a slightly odd feature regarding Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). We’ve been fortunate enough to observe decent populations (~10) at each of three sites recently. The first was at Duck End NR, where we saw about a dozen relatively recently emerged individuals – our first of the season. I returned two days later and saw next to nothing. Similarly, a couple of days ago we spotted ~10 Large Red, including two pairs “in cop” (mating), at Sandhouse Lane NR. Yesterday, once again, there was next to no activity at the main dragonfly pond. I did spot a few individuals lurking about in trees at some distance from the water, though. I’m wondering if this species in particular pulls something of a disappearing act shortly after emergence.
I continued wandering, getting just a little bit down, wondering where all my mates had disappeared to. Then I saw a telltale glint of sunlit wings that promptly settled in a Hawthorn bush. I approached as carefully and was stunned to see a brilliant green metallic body shining in the sun. I didn’t really know what I was looking at but, having been trawling various books on the subject, the phrase “Downy Emerald” sprang to mind. It was certainly unlike anything I’d personally seen before. Suddenly the day changed and became excellent. I needn’t have worried about stealth – this character seemed content to sit for about an hour while I snapped away adjusting various settings, desperate to get at least one decent shot. I did.
I was so captivated I had difficulty dragging myself away from her perch. ‘T was a good job I did, though, because a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) decided to sunbathe very cooperatively in front of me on some waste ground. The only dragonfly I spotted in this area, on old tarmac plant, was a teneral damselfly which I’m still trying to identify [but suspect it is a female Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)]’.
Once back at home, I confirmed that my new best friend was, indeed, a female Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea). She’s not a perfect specimen, unfortunately – she has a blemish on the lower right abdomen and her right hind-wing also is blemished and seems a little malformed. That wasn’t going to dampen my delight at another first, though.
Downy Emeralds are relatively scarce in our neck of the woods so I felt very privileged.