Following on from my previous post 'Watching Chasers' I also witnessed the mating activity by at least two species of Damselflies at the same location.
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphila).
The Large Red is a widespread and common breeding species in Britain and much of northern Europe but in the last 30 years populations have declined due to intensive cultivation, notably in eastern England. Apparently the males don't defend oviposition sites or display any type of courtship behavior but they are territorial. Copulation takes about 15-20 minutes and oviposition occurs with the pair still in tandem.
Now I am no expert at identifying small Damselflies in flight, especially the various blue types, so I often find that I have photographed something different when images are downloaded to the laptop.
Last week was no exception when I saw a male Common Blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) basking on the boardwalk at Thursley Common. ID features are the single stripe on side of the thorax, S8 and S9 are all blue, plus the markings on S1 and S2 (not obvious the above image) which looks like a black golf ball on a tee. The image below whilst looking very similar is in fact a different species..an Azure.
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella).
The ID features (to distinguish from the Common Blue) are the much narrower antehumeral blue stripes, two black stripes on the side of the thorax but more obvious is the characteristic black U-shaped mark isolated from the black ring at S2. However you do have to bear in mind another similar species, the Variable Damselfly which I have yet to capture.
As usual at the start of the breeding season there were far more males than females and even once a pair coupled other males were quickly on the scene seeking out a chance to mate. The female Azures occur in two forms; blue and green (90% of the population).
It wasn't too long before a mating pair perched within range of the 70-300 lens. Both shots (above and below) have been cropped but clearly show completion of the 'wheel' or 'heart'. Checking my ID guide I discovered that copulation often lasts for 30 minutes and oviposition lasts for 90 minutes. This takes place in tandem except towards the end of the breeding season when there is often a female-based sex ratio.
With many bird species hiding away I think I could be searching for a few more different 'dragons' and 'damsels' over the coming weeks. Wishing everyone a good wildlife watching weekend. FAB.