Fortunately the majority of specimens you will observe will be mature specimens feeding, copulating or ovipositing at the water body. Such individuals in their prime are easiest to identify, but in early and late adult life potential issues abound!

Newly emerged damselfly
Photograph ©  G.Hiatt

Confusion with identification starts when the adult is newly emerged-just like the damselfly shown here. Described as tenerals, specimens at this stage are pale coloured with dull eyes (often brown) and have reflective wings with pale pterostigma. The wings have yet to harden and are extremely vulnerable meaning teneral specimens should never be netted or handled. Identification at this stage is difficult and best avoided- far better to see if the recently shed exuvia is nearby and have a go at identifying that!

Dragonflies are only described as tenerals whilst the wings are still hardening, after which time they are immature adults. During this stage immature males frequently look like females until over a period of days or weeks they mature and their respective colours develop. Unfortunately the age related colour issues continue as specimens become overmature. Females in particular lose the vibrancy of colour and may appear dull. Sometimes they also develop pruinescence (a bloom on the body surface caused by pigments) giving the appearance at first glance of a male. This can also be accompanied by a change in the the abdomen that assumes a shape more characteristic of the male. An old and battle weary Four-spotted Chaser is pictured here.

Four-spotted Chaser
Photograph ©  R. Knisely-Marpole