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Completing the Variable picture..

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Earlier this month Jim Almond sent in photos of the female Variable Damselfly blue form and to complete the picture we now have a female dark form (left and below left). These striking pictures not only show the absence of any noticeable blue coloration, but also highlight the deeply lobed trailing edge of the pronotum. Below right is pictured a teneral male. As he matures the blue coloration will develop, but we can clearly see the black spur on the side of the thorax and some beautiful exclamation marks on top of the thorax- both important diagnostic features.

Hairy things to bear in mind…

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Just a reminder that last spring in the Wyre Forest we saw the first Hairy Dragonflies in Shropshire for a while. The most recent previous confirmed record was a one-off sighting at Whixall Moss in 2013. This small Hawker is the only Hawker on the wing so early in the year so should be noticeable. In neighbouring Worcestershire last year they had 17 sightings -just as unusual for them, so please keep an eye out and we’ll see what happens this year…

Taking a closer look…

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Another glorious photo of a recently emerged Four-spotted Chaser has been sent in by Stephen Barlow. I’ve zoomed in on a couple of areas just to enjoy the finer detail. Below left you can see the black patches of pigment at the base of the hind wings…a diagnostic feature shared by all chasers in the UK. Also noticeable is just how hairy these insects are, presumably equipping them well to be an early spring species (especially in a spring like this)! Below right we get a lovely view of the yellow cross veins on the wings and the darker longitudinal veins. If you look carefully the reflected light also enables you to see the wing is not a flat structure, but is more ‘pleated’ rather like a paper fan.

Beautiful spring weather?!

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Well fleeting glimpses of sunshine and thunderous downpours of hail aren’t your classic recipe for successful dragonfly emergence. Stephen Barlow took this beautiful photo of a Four-spotted Chaser at Whixall Moss that had somehow completed the process unscathed, but days earlier he encountered a couple of White-faced Darters with their wings stuck together having been buffeted about in the breeze. One of these is shown below left and very carefully Stephen was able to free up their wings using a grass blade which proved successful as shown below right. Let’s hope the weather sorts itself out soon!

Variable Damselfly and the joys of identification…

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Jim Almond has spotted this fabulous female Variable Damselfly at a private site near Shrewsbury. The photographs illustrate the challenges of identification. Variables (as the name suggests) can be very Variable and the females are challenging as they look very like the female blue form of the common and widespread Azure damselfly. Things to look for (below right) are a pale bar between the eye spots and a more deeply lobed pronotum than that seen in the Azure. Also (below left) there is a greater percentage of blue coloration on abdominal segments 4 and 5 than seen in Azure. If blue reaches more than a third of the way along the segment this indicates a Variable. Jim and I have both had the rulers out and agree it’s 42-43%….so there we have it!

If you’re new to ID please don’t be put off as most identifications are far easier than this!

Blue-tailed Damselfly on the wing…

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Maria Justamond has sent in this lovely photo of  Blue-tailed Damselfly seen at Upton Magna on 26th April. The females of this species have a number of different colour forms…5 to be precise! This is form rufescens which is an immature coloration with an orange/pink thorax which often gets pinker than seen here. The other stunning immature colour form is violacea which as it’s name suggests is a beautiful purple colour…do send in photos if you see one.

Large Reds spread their wings…

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Stephen Barlow has sent in this photo of a male Large Red Damselfly at Whixall Moss which shows the beautiful deep red coloration once this species matures. Whixall Moss always seems to be the earliest site of activity each flight season and literally just today (26th April) my Shrewsbury based Large Reds have begun to emerge. Jan Shields in Hanwood has sent in some great pics of a Large Red exuvia and the emergent female seen on 23rd April. We can see the marked contrast in colour of an immature specimen and the milky wings.

White-faced Darter on the wing at Whixall

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Sian Mercer has sent in the first 2021 photo of White-faced Darter seen during a morning stroll on 25th April. The photo shows an immature male with glassy wings typical of recently emerged individuals and immature coloration…the yellow patches eventually maturing to red in males. The photo also clearly shows the white frons area giving this species it’s common name.

Four-spotted Chaser on the wing…

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More fabulous sunshine and Stephen Barlow reported the first Four-spotted Chaser from Whixall Moss on 22nd April pictured left. He also is seeing good numbers of Large Red Damselflies on the moss. Having scoured my pond in Shrewsbury I was expecting to be a good few days even weeks behind Whixall Moss as is usually the case…I still have seen nothing, but Jim Almond (also in Shrewsbury) has sent in these lovely photos of a Large Red emerging from his pond yesterday (22nd)…so it’s all happening!

First photos for 2021…

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Stephen Barlow has sent in 2 great photos of Large Red Damselfly taken at Whixall Moss where ‘multiple individuals’ are now emerging. Above left is a female (form typica) with a stouter body than the male shown below. A bulge is also just about visible under abdominal segment 2 of the male which helps identify the sex.