Dragonflies and Damselflies

Site Visit Diary

The first half of 1997

River Thames, Goring
June 10, 1997

This visit was made specifically to try to see the Club-tailed Dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus. The weather wasn't perfect, it was quite cloudy and threatening rain, but the sun peeped through from time to time. I walked down river from Goring to the railway viaduct. I found a newly emerged male club tail on top of a concrete piling near a boathouse. I shot a couple of photos before it took to the wing. Further down, near the water line, I saw two more individuals emerging. I watched this fascinating spectacle for about 15 minutes.

I found another emerging dragonfly nearer the viaduct but that was the last I saw. Exuviae (cast off larval cases) showed that dozens, perhaps hundreds, had emerged over the past few days.

Four species of damselfly were on the wing too. These were beautiful demoiselle, red-eyed, white-legged and common blue. I also watched two male whitethroats contesting territory in a duel of song.

Emberton Park
June 4, 1997

This was an evening field trip with the Milton Keynes Natural History Society. A fine warm evening. Four species of damselfly were found roosting among the reeds and nettles along the bank of the River Ouse. These were blue-tailed, azure, white-legged, and red-eyed damselflies.

Emberton Park is a very good site and I expect to be making more visits through the year.

Teardrop Lakes
June 3, 1997

Another fine, sunny day with a fresh SE breeze. I was lucky enough to see seven of the eight species of damselfly found in Milton Keynes on this short, lunchtime visit. Blue-tailed damselfly, azure damselfly and large red damselfly were present, and breeding, in good numbers. I also found several white-legged damselflies Platycnemis pennipes. This is not really the typical site for this species as it consists of a string of four lakes and white-legged are associated more with muddy rivers. I have found them here regularly for the past four years so there is obviously an established population. All the females seen were the immature, white, form with one exception, a typically green coloured female in tandem with a male.

Several red-eyed damselflies Erythromma najas were seen on the water lilies on the topmost lake. Again several mating pairs were found. This species and the white-legged are quite common in Milton Keynes although their range in the UK is restricted.

To complete the set, I saw a few male common blue damselflies and a solitary male banded demoiselle Calopteryx splendens. The only missing damselfly was the emerald.

New Forest, Hampshire
May 31, 1997

My wife, Lyn, and I decided to take a short break away on a beautiful weekend. We spent the day travelling around various sites in the New Forest looking at Odonata and birds. We found good numbers of beautiful demoiselles Calopteryx virgo along the small streams and rivers. Also found were large red damselfly, including a few pairs in tandem, blue-tailed damselflies and azure damselflies, again many mating pairs. We spent a pleasant quarter of an hour watching three male broad-bodied chasers Libellula depressa contesting a small pool near Beaulieu Road Station. When we left the squabble was still going strong. We also found several four-spotted chasers.

Later in the day we travelled down to Christchurch Harbour where we found several very active emperor dragonflies Anax imperator on Hengisty Head.

The most interesting bird sighting of the day was a pair of curlews, again near Beaulieu Road Station, displaying and calling very close to the path.

Blue Lagoon
May 27, 1997

This was my first real site visit of 1997 in Milton Keynes. The weather in May has been quite wet until this week and not conducive to going out searching for Odonata. Today, the weather was fine and sunny (18 deg C) with a NE breeze. Huge numbers of damselflies were not seen! I did find small numbers of blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura elegans, large red damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula, common blue damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum and a few azure damselflies Coenagrion puella. Many specimens were teneral (immature) so I guess that these were some of the first emergences at the site. Really quite late this year.

The only dragonfly found was four-spotted chaser Libellula quadrimaculata. Three individuals were disturbed and took short flight to settle back in the reeds.

I expect much more from this site later in the year.

Emberton Park
June 4, 1997

This was an evening field trip with the Milton Keynes Natural History Society. A fine warm evening. Four species of damselfly were found roosting among the reeds and nettles along the bank of the River Ouse. These were blue-tailed, azure, white-legged, and red-eyed damselflies.

Emberton Park is a very good site and I expect to be making more visits through the year.

A Holiday in Texas!
April 1997

I spent the first two weeks of April, 1997 on holiday in Texas with members of the Milton Keynes Natural History Society. This was a mixed group representing various interests including flowers, birds, butterflies and, in my case, dragonflies.

I had high hopes of seeing many new species (to me) and of practising my identification skills. Field guides to Odonata in the USA are very hard to find. There are some pictures and descriptions in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders but that was pretty well the limit of what I could get hold of. Luckily the Internet came to the rescue! There is an excellent site, Ode News, maintained by Jackie Sones, which is dedicated to the Odonata around Cape Cod. Blair Nikula has put some excellent pictures of North American species on these pages and they have helped me considerably with verification of identification.

The weather was very strange in the USA in April! Many states suffered unseasonably cold weather, together with thunderstorms and snowstorms. We did not escape in Texas. We had many overcast days and a great deal of heavy rain at times. Some sunny days near Corpus Christi and in the Hill Country north of San Antonio made up for this, but the incidence of dragonflies and damselflies was significantly affected.

We visited several state parks and wildlife refuges and saw a wide variety of bird life. For the first time on holiday, I saw more than 120 different species. Perhaps the most entertaining was a Roadrunner at Boerne, near San Antonio. The alligatorsAlligator (picture)at Brazos Bend SP and Aransas NWR were exciting too! We also saw White-tailed deer, Turkeys, many species of butterfly, terrapins, several different species of Egret and were entertained hugely by the squirrels at Brazos Bend.

Odonata seen included scarlet bluet Enallagma pictum (Blair Nikula has pointed out that this is unlikely given the distribution of the species and has suggested that it may have been E. signatum); northern bluet (common blue damselfly in UK) E. cyathigerum (again, Blair suggests that E. civile is more likely as cyathigerum has not been confirmed from Texas); citrine forktail Ischnura hastata; Rambur's forktail I. ramburii; eastern pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis; variegated meadowhawk Sympetrum corruptum; red-veined meadowhawk S. madidum (or possibly variegated meadowhawk S. corruptum); Carolina saddlebags Tramea carolina; black saddlebags T. lacerata; common whitetail Libellula lydia; green darner Anax junius and several other unidentified species.

The most interesting of these was probably the eastern pondhawk. I saw large numbers of this attractive dragonfly at Brazos Bend SP, near Houston. The male and female are so different that I believed them to be two different species until I checked the identification with Blair Nikula's photos. The male is blue with a greenish thorax but the female is mainly green with a black abdomen with yellowish-green spots. A really attractive species.

I would appreciate confirmation (or otherwise) of species illustrated. As I mentioned before, obtaining decent reference material proved very difficult in the UK.

Dragonfly Home Page | Introduction | Dragonfly Descriptions | Dragonfly Diary | Site Descriptions | Identification Key | Picture Index | Links & Bibliography

Unless specifically stated otherwise, all photographs on this web site are copyright G H Mahoney. See the About this site page for fair usage information.
This page last updated
If you have any comments about this site please email george @ ghmahoney . org . uk