Dragonflies and Damselflies

Diary (in reverse date order)

2009 Observations

June 16th

On a warm afternoon (30 deg C) I paid a visit to the River Orb at Hérépian. The most numerous species seen were Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens xanthostoma) and Orange White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis acutipennis). In both cases these numbered about 100. The Orange White-legged Damselflies were seen in tandem and ovipositing in submerged plants at the water's edge. I watched some unusual behaviour in the Banded Demoiselles. Four females circled repeatedly over the same small area of the river, occasionally dropping onto the surface for a few seconds. I have seen males do this before but never females. I did see courtship behaviour from one of the males. He hovered with very rapid wingbeats in front of the female, then dropped to the water surface turning up his abdomen to expose the yellowish "tail-light" before linking up with the female and forming a wheel.

Other species present included 10-30 Ivory White-legged Damselflies (P. latipes), and 30+ Goblet-marked Damselflies (Cercion lindenii). Both these species were seen flying in tandem. There were a few male Orange-spotted Emeralds (Oxygastra cutisii) and Green-eyed Hooktails (Onychogomphus forcipatus) and a single male Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum). At a nearby pond I found more Orange White-legged and Goblet-marked Damselflies together with a couple of male Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans). A male Emperor (Anax imperator) was hawking over some water weed.

June 9th

I made a lunchtime visit to the Barrage des Olivettes and saw several species of damselflies and dragonflies. Goblet-marked Damselflies (Cercion lindenii) were present in large numbers (hundreds) including pairs in tandem and ovipositing. There were a few Blue-tailed Damselflies (Ischnura elegans) and several Orange White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis acutipennis) and Ivory White-legged Damselflies (P. latipes). 2 or 3 Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum Cancellatum) and a solitary male Orange-spotted Emerald (Oxygastra cutisii) were also seen.

I stopped at the nearby La Peyne stream on the way home where I saw several dozen Copper Demoiselles (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) and a lesser number of Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens xanthostoma). There were also a few Southern Skimmer males (Orthetrum brunneum) and a solitary Emperor (Anax imperator).

May 16th

After a poor start to the spring with only one or two fleeting glimpses of dragonflies and damselflies, I took advantage of a warm sunny day to visit the Plan d'Eau at Lunas. I saw a solitary male Large Red Damselfly and a male Beautiful Demoiselle in the wet ditch near the car park. There were plenty of Red-veined Darters over the boating lake, many perching obligingly on twigs at the bankside. I saw a few pairs of Goblet-marked Damselflies ovipositing and a solitary male Lesser Emperor patrolling the lake. At the town side of the lake, in the stream, there were several male and female Beautiful Demoiselles.

2008 Observations

July 14th

I went to the Lac des Olivettes near Roujan as I had been told that there were "lots of dragonflies" there. It was fairly warm but perhaps a little early (10 a.m.) and there were few specimens around. I did see a couple of Violet-marked Darters and some Black-tailed Skimmers. Near the outflow stream there were many female Copper Demoiselles and a few males. I stopped further downstream where I found more Copper Demoiselles, Southern Skimmers and Goblet-marked Damselflies.

July 10th

Apologies for the long gap in diary entries!

I took advantage of a hot sunny day to pay a visit to the Plan d'eau at Lunas. There weren't many individuals in evidence but I did see 14 species. Blue and black damselflies were fairly abundant with fair numbers of Common Blues and Azures. I was surprised to find two pairs of Southern Damselflies in tandem by the lake. This isn't their typical habitat though there is a small stream flowing into the lake nearby. Keeled Skimmer, Black-tailed Skimmer and Southern Skimmer were all present as were three species of Demoiselle, Copper, Banded and Beautiful. Emperors were patrolling the lake borders.

I continued on the river Gravezon nearby and saw several male Beautiful Demoiselles. A male Golden-ringed Dragonfly was patrolling the banks and a female of the species ovipositing in the river. It seemed that every boulder in the stream had its own specimen of Green-eyed Hooktail.

2007 Observations

April 29th

We paid a visit to Lac du Salagou and saw 10-30 Black-tailed Skimmers, a few Red-veined Darters and a couple of Lesser Emperors. The weather was warm and sunny with only a light breeze. Both the Black-tailed Skimmers and The Red-veined Darters were seen paired and ovipositing. Later, I saw a couple of Blue-tailed Damselflies in reeds at the lake side.

2006 Observations

August 23rd

On the way back from shopping in Béziers, I took a look at a slow-flowing section of the River Orb near Cazoules-les-Béziers. Despite it looking like a very suitable habitat, there were only a few damselflies and almost no dragonflies. The most numerous species were Pale White-legged Damselflies Platycnemis latipes. There were a few dozen of these including one pair in the mating wheel. There were also a few Blue-tailed Damselflies and Goblet-marked Damselflies Cercion (Erythromma) lindeni. The most surprising find were two male Small Red Damselflies Ceriagrion tenellum. The site certainly didn't look at all typical habitat for this species. I also saw a solitary Violet-marked Darter Trithemis annulata and a Willow Emerald Damselfly Lestes (Chalcolestes) viridis.

July 20th

Three separate sites were visited today, all on the Somail plateau. The weather was warm and sunny (about 25 deg C).

The first site was the picnic area at St Pierre d'Espinouse. The young River Agout runs through the site and the river supports a good population of Golden-ringed Dragonflies and Beautiful Demoiselles. Several female Golden-ringed were seen patrolling the banks a looking for sites to lay eggs. Some egg-laying was also observed. I didn't see any males. The were a hundred or more Beautiful Demoiselles, mostly males but a few females were also seen. I didn't see any sign of mating activity. There were also a few male Large Red Damselflies.

The second site was a drainage ditch crossing acid pasture on the Somail plateau. The ditch was only about a foot wide, muddy and shallow. Keeled Skimmers and Broad-bodied Chasers were obvious, as were several Azure Damselflies (only males seen) and Large Red Damselflies including pairs in tandem and egg-laying. I was particularly pleased to find a few male Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies. This is the first time I have seen this species. It was obviously different to the Blue-tailed in appearance, being smaller and with apparently shorter wings. The position of the blue tail-light confirmed its identity.

The third site was a small reservoir on the plateau, Lac de Bourdelet. This attractive lake and picnic area in surrounded by woodland and much used by fishermen. There was much dragonfly activity with 4-spot Chasers, Emperors and Black-tailed Skimmers very obvious. There were also several hundred Common Blue Damselflies including pairs in tandem and in wheel and ovipositing. Amongst these I noticed a few male Azure Damselflies together with a few Large Red and Orange White-legged Damselflies. I watched a male Gomphus pulchellus take a male Orange White-legged Damselfly in flight. It landed on the leg of my shorts and proceeded to eat the damselfly, head end first. It took less than a minute to completely devour the insect. I walked right round the lake including crossing the very boggy end away from the dam. In this boggy area I saw a male Broad-bodied Chaser and several male Keeled Skimmers. I also saw an unidentified Darter.

July 15th

I took my dog for a walk along by the River Orb in the morning. It was warm and sunny with almost no breeze. There were several Orange-spotted Emeralds patrolling over the river with frequent territorial disputes between males. I saw some females but no mating activity or egg-laying. There were also two species of Demoiselles present, 2 males and 1 female Copper Demoiselles Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis and several male and female Yellow-tailed Demoiselles C. xanthostoma. Many Pale White-legged Damselflies Platycnemis latipes were present including several pairs in tandem and in the wheel position. I didn't see any egg-laying though. There were also a few male Orange White-legged Damselflies P. acutipennis. As I got back to my starting point at St. Raphael I saw a solitary Peaceful Hawker Boyeria irene.

June 22nd

The continuing hot, sunny weather tempted me out to look for dragonflies at two reasonably reliable sites nearby.

The first site visited was the recreation lake at Lunas. This shallow lake is used for pedalos during July and August but for the rest of the year is a wildlife haven. There was lots of dragonfly activity with Broad-bodied Chasers and Emperors being the most obvious species. The lake is large enough to support a considerable number of Emperor territories, with the inevitable border clashes. There were also a few Lesser Emperors Anax parthenope, conspicuous by their bright blue "saddle". Females of both Emperor species were seen ovipositing. Black-tailed Skimmers were seen, mostly males but there were a few pairs in cop and females ovipositing. The list of dragonflies was completed by a couple of male Scarlet Darters and a single male "Brown Skimmer" Orthetrum brunneum - this species is very inappropriately named as the male is pale powder blue! Damselflies were represented by hundreds of "Long-tailed Damselflies" Cercion lindeni, solitary and paired males and females. There were also a few Azure Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies and one or two Blue-tailed Damselflies. A total of 10 species were seen at this site.

The second site visited was the Lac du Salagou. This large, man-made lake is usually good for dragonflies but there were disappointingly few to be seen today. The most numerous dragonfly species was Black-tailed Skimmers, mostly males but also one or two solitary females. I found just one Red-veined Darter and a few dozen Cercion lindeni.

June 19th

I took advantage of a hot (30 deg C), still day to go for my first walk specifically to spot dragonflies this year, rather later in the year than normal! The River Orb near Hérépian was the destination. This fairly major river is quite wide at the road bridge in Hérépian and flows slowly over a mixed muddy and stony bed but with occasional shallower, more rapid flowing sections.

The first species seen was a medium sized, dark dragonfly with bright green eyes patrolling along the river bank. Several individuals were present with occasional brief dogfights between territorial males. I thought at first they might be Onychogomphus species but they didn't seem quite right. I then guessed at Orange-spotted Emerald (Oxygastra curtisii). As they never settled it was difficult to be sure so I tried to take photos of one of the specimens in flight. Eventually I got a recognisable image, in focus, and my guess at Orange-spotted Emerald proved correct. A little later I got dramatic confirmation of the identity as I found a pair in cop on some reeds. I was able to get decent photos and could clearly see the just-touching, emerald green eyes, the metallic emerald thorax and the yellowish-orange spots along the abdomen. The female clearly had the leading edges of her wings suffused with amber. I was pleased to get such a good view of the species (though I had seen it before in the area), particularly since this species has been extinct in the UK for nearly 50 years.

Other species seen were several pairs of Cercion lindeni, flying in tandem, together with several males alone. There were also the Orange White-legged Damselfly, Platycnemis acutipennis, a few flying in tandem. There were a few male Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens xanthosoma) and one female of that species. I also got a good view of a clubtail which I have identified as Gomphus pulchellus though this isn't really the typical habitat for the species which really prefers still water such as lakes.

2005 Observations

June 1st

The River Mare runs fairly near our home so I decided to see what I could find there. The first place I looked was below a weir on the river. There wasn't a lot to be seen, just a few Orange White-legged Damsels and a few Calopteryx splendens xanthostoma - "Dark-winged" Banded Demoiselles. I did find a female Broad-bodied Chaser resting on a reed near to the river and was able to get some photos.

I moved on to the picnic area at St-Etienne-d'Estréchoux. The river seems very low and pebbly banks have appeared in the water. There were several different dragonflies over the water. Broad-bodied Chasers and Black-tailed Skimmers were perhaps the most numerous. I watched 2 pairs of the latter mating and a female Broad-bodied Chaser ovipositing. There were also several Emperor Dragonflies, skirmishing whenever their flight paths crossed. A female was laying eggs in some floating vegetation. There were also a few Orthetrum brunneum with a female ovipositing and a solitary Club-tailed Dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus which seemed a little out of place on this river as it is generally quite fast flowing, not the preferred habitat for the species. The damselflies seen were male Azure Damselflies Coenagrion puella and some Orange White-legged Damselflies Platycnemis acutipennis.

May 31st

I went for a walk with our dog in the hills near St-Guilhem-le-Désert, an attractive and ancient village about an hour's drive away. While walking I saw a female Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea and a male Green-eyed Hook-tail Onychogomphus forcipatus. I also found a male and a female Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltoni perched on bushes some way from the stream in the valley bottom. I was able to get nice photos of them. The walk finished down at the stream and I wandered along to see what I could find. The first species to attract my attention was Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis the "Dark-red Demoiselle". Several males were fluttering through the grasses at the side of the stream. A couple of male Golden-ringed Dragonflies were patrolling the stream as were some Orthetrum brunneum with a female Orthetrum ovipositing. The best sighting was of a few Southern Damselflies Coenagrion mercuriale. I found two pairs in mating wheels and several males.

May 28th

In warm sunny weather, I paid a visit to the stream near the Chateau de Grézan at Laurens. The stream is quite slow-flowing and has well vegetated banks so I suspected it would be a good site. There was lots of activity visible as soon as I arrived. Large numbers of Cercion lindeni were drifting in the air near the water surface. There were several pairs in tandem and a few egg-laying. Emperor Dragonflies were buzzing each other trying to claim the territory and a female was ovipositing in floating vegetation. There were good number of Orange White-legged Damselflies including some pairs ovipositing. 2 or 3 male Broad-bodied Chasers were making forays over the water from reeds at the edge and there was a solitary male Large Red Damselfly. I also had excellent views of Orthetrum brunneum. Two males were patrolling and when a female arrived one of them grabbed her and mater in flight. He then hovered over her while she laid her eggs in shallow water by dipping her abdomen.

After this, I went on to the River Orb at Hérépian. There weren't so many species here but I had good views of Cercion lindeni ovipositing. The male, flying in tandem, guided the female to some floating vegetation and landed. Then, little by little, he pushed her down through the surface film until she was completely submerged. He then stayed at the point of entry to try to guard her from several other males who had been attracted by the behaviour. Eventually, after perhaps a minute, she floated to the surface and there was a scrum between all the males to try and grab her. It wasn't clear which one succeeded. Also seen at this location were more Orange White-legged Damselflies and a male and a female Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens.

May 20th

After several previous fruitless searches of local rivers and streams I visited the plan d'eau at Lunas. This has a shallow lake (used for pedalos in the summer) very atypical for the region. The day was warm and sunny - about 25 deg C. Immediately adjacent to the car park is a stream filled ditch in which I saw 5-10 Large Red Damselflies including pairs in tandem and ovipositing. There were also several Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies. A female Demoiselle with brownish wings was also present - I guess it was C. haemorrhoidalis but can't be sure.

Walking over to the lake itself I put up many teneral damselflies and at the water edge found many exuviae and some in the process of emerging. Later examination of the exuviae show these to be Common Blues (E. cyathigerum). I estimate that there were hundreds of Common Blues, many mature and ovipositing in tandem - I watched one pair where the male submerged the female and then let her go while he hovered above the water surface. There were a few dozen Blue-tailed Damselflies, some in the wheel configuration. About 10-20 Broad-bodied Chasers were hunting over the lake, mostly males but a few females were present and I saw a pair in cop and the female ovipositing afterwards. There was also a teneral female Black-tailed Skimmer, a male Emperor and a bright red dragonfly that I can only conclude was Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea). A total of 8 species seen make this site worth visiting again.

March 28th

We decided to go to Frontignan (Les Aresquiers) to do some bird watching. We saw plenty of Flamingos, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls, a couple of Terns (Sandwich?), a few Shelduck, Swallows, Buzzards and Kestrels on the way and not really much else. Bird life seems to be very slow getting going this year. However, I did see 3 dragonflies. I am fairly sure that they were Vagrant Darters (Hemianax ephippiger). I watched them hawking around a clearing for some time but they never settled. I also found 3 Brown Emerald Damselflies (Sympecma fusca), 2 of which were in tandem. They were flying around the dead reeds in the margin of a shallow, brackish pond.

January 4th

On a small stream near the village of Rabejac I was astonished to see a male Common Darter (could have been Red-veined - I'm still having difficulty separating them) hunting over the water. January 4th is the earliest I have ever seen a Dragonfly! Took a few photos.

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