Friday, 4 June 2010

Watching Damsels.

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 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.


  1. I love the reds. I love the blues. I love them all. Have a good weekend Frank. Carol

  2. I find it harder to shoot damsels than dragons. What I'm saying is that you've done a great job here.

  3. Carol. Me too, but I just wish they would sit still a little longer!

    Lois. Thank you very much.

    Steve B. At breeding time both are pretty tricky so I'm accepting your kind comment with grace.

  4. Frank, these are awesome photos!! Love all the info. I think it's fun to try and identify them, esp. the blue ones! It's like being an (odanata) detective. ~karen

  5. KaHolly. Unlike most of my contemporaries I've not paid as much notice to odanata over the years but with more time to just sit and watch it has definitely sparked another aspect. Have a good weekend Karen.

  6. Great shots of the damsels and dragons Frank. Especially with the damsels which seem so much more restless than the dragons.

  7. Thanks John. For me they have all been fairly restless this week!!

  8. Exquisite photos, as usual! I am learning so much by reading your blog. But most of all, I love to study the pictures--they hold still much longer than the actual damsels and dragons do!

  9. I have just spent a most enjoyable hour or more!!! catching up with your posts, I do find it very difficult to keep up with all the great bloggers especially the very prolific ones :)

    Anyway as I said it has been very enjoyable and you have seen and recorded so many great things in the last few weeks. It was lovely to take another peek into your garden, I suspect it is immaculate (unlike mine at the moment!) I too have Escallonia and it is beautiful every year, (and hides the shed) the bees adore it and one year we had a swarm on it which was removed by a local beekeeper who later rewarded us with a delicious jar of honey!

    I have also enjoyed the butterflies, I would love to see a Green Hairstreak...a stunning colour.

    I was trying to get damsel and dragon photos at a small local lake earlier in the week and received a very nasty bite on the leg for my trouble! I didn't notice anything at the time but it seems to have been the notorious Blandford Fly which we have here in Oxfordshire too :( it has given me a very troublesome few days and looks horrendous! So for the moment I shall enjoy the lovely photos of your damsels :)

    Apologies for the length of this comment, sometimes I don't know when to stop!

  10. Kay. Thanks...I also see something new every day I watch wildlife.

    ShySongbird. Not sure I deserve the title 'great blogger'...just try to share a little of what I find interesting the best way I can. Thanks for always keeping in touch.

  11. Some excellent images Frank, Dragons and damsels can be difficult to photograph.

    PS; re- the owl question you left on my blog. I dont often hear them in the day, but this one individual does make a habit of daytime hooting!

    I must admit I thought it was a Jay mimicking at first, until I tracked the Owl down!

  12. Those details in the wings are stunning. The blue is so cool, what wonderful photos. It's so difficult to capture these on camera. You did a great job

  13. Really great photos of the damselflies, I have yet to get any good shots of the blue ones I see here. Or dragonflies for that matter...I wasn't aware of the 'heart' formation so I learned something new from you today; cool!

  14. Damsels are beautiful creatures :). I've only seen one blue so far this year.

  15. Warren. I know they see every movement but I also think they hear the autofocus...Lol.

    Poetic Shutterbug. Many thanks.

    Jann. Unlike you, our birds are hiding so I have to work hard to capture the blue damsels.

  16. Gaina. They certainly are just that. Keep looking there are plenty around at the moment.

  17. Yay, I now know what one of my dragonflies was - it was a common blue - thanks to your great photos! Love the red-garnet looking one too. I'm starting to find the damsel / dragon flies more interesting, You got some wonderful shots there!

  18. Shelley. They are facinating and can be addictive....have fun hunting them down.

    NW Nature Nut. You are very kind.

  19. Thanks Kerri. Been out again this am but the fragile flyers were not quite so co-operative. Ther may be the odd shot worth posting sometime.

  20. You've really gotten my joices roiling with those Damsel and Dragon shots. I love photographing them and have done so over and over. I never tire of them or the pursuit of their photographic capture. Great job! Love 'em!

  21. Great captures and detail. I love photographing Damsels and Dragonflies also.
    Dianne :)

  22. Hi Dianne. Thanks. They are delightful creatures to watch and often offer good opportunities for a few pics.


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