Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Damsels, Chasers, and a Hairy Dragon !

On a gloriously sunny day at Rainham RSBP, the undergrowth around the woodland area was alive with Damselflies.

 To watch a Damselfly or Dragonfly slowly maneuvering through the undergrowth or reed stems like a mini helicopter is a truly  amazing sight.

This was a good opportunity to delve into the world of Odonata.
these photographs were all taken handheld, frustratingly still not sharp enough, but serve well enough as a record of the day's sightings.

Heres a brief account of my encounters, with a few photographs I managed to capture.

The majority of the blue Damselflies appeared to be the
 'Azure Damselfly' .

 I find the identification quite difficult in the field and rely on the close scrutiny of a photograph to confirm the identity.

These seem to fit most of the identification pointers for the male Azure Damselfly, the U shape on segment two of the abdomen, the pale blue segment eight near the tail, the truncated U shape on segment nine, and fine antehumeral stripes on the top of the thorax, relatively slim blue and black abdomen. 

The Azure Damselfly in its mating wheel position.

I am pretty sure that the Damselfly above is a
 female 'Variable Damselfly' , the abdominal marking on segment two should resemble a wine glass with stem, which this one does.

No problem with the next one, a small dainty damselfly which I have seen before. 

Blue Tailed Damselfly (male)

The Blue tailed female damselfly comes in five colour forms, Blue, Green, Violet, brown and Rose pink.
The mating wheel above shows the blue form, the photo below shows the female in its Rose pink form.

Another example of the male Blue Tailed Damselfly shown below.

Another Damselfly I was keen to see, was the Large Red Damselfly, this one is supposed to be quite common and widespread, and one of the first Damselflies to emerge, I was still yet to see one, fortunately, I found an area where several Large Reds were seen.

Once copulation has occurred, egg laying takes place usually with the male in tandem, eggs are laid on the underside of floating vegetation.
The female is slightly larger than the male, the red segments divided with fine black and yellow bands.

While watching the Large Red Damselflies, a large  dragonfly caught my eye, the Hairy Dragonfly,

I had seen a few of these around the reserve, but none close enough to photograph, this male settled just long enough for me to grab a photograph. 

Hairy Dragonfly or Hairy Hawker ( Brachytron pratense) is one of the UK smallest Hawkers, only flies in sunshine, retreats as the sun goes into shade. Named after its Hairy thorax.

 In the background I caught sight of a female Hairy Dragonfly ovipositing, partially obscured by vegetation I managed to get a record photograph.

Back at the Cordite store, another walk around checking the undergrowth revealed a female Four spotted Chaser, the wing spots being diagnostic id pointer 

The male and female are very similar in colour, according to the field guides a close examination of the anal appendages is necessary for a positive identification, not easy in the field, but with a close view of a digital photograph all becomes clear.

If the anal appendages meet and then diverge its a male, in the female, the appendages remain parallel, so this looks like a female.

Another Chaser appeared, this time a female Broad bodied Chaser,
the abdomen being yellow in the female, and blue in the male.

This one was very obliging, staying perfectly still for several minutes.

Species of Odonata seen in a relatively short time were as follows:-
Azure Damselfly
Blue Tailed Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly
Hairy Dragonfly
Four Spotted Chaser
Broad Bodied Chaser

Another good day at Rainham RSPB

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