Category Archives: Blog

Now for something completely different..

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This is a sighting made by Lauren Ollie Waldron in April 2020 which has only recently come to my attention…so I’m posting it 16 moths late (!) because it’s still worth sharing. Lauren spotted a few damselflies in her flat in Shrewsbury and despite looking like very early Blue-tailed Damselflies they were in fact an exotic species called Marsh Bluetail Ischnura senegalensis. Correctly identified by Adrian Parr (the British Dragonfly Society Migrants officer) this is a species from SE Asia known to occasionally turn up in imported water weeds for fish tanks…and sure enough Lauren had recently set up her own tropical tank. Identifying features to split this species from our native Blue-tailed Damselfly are no blue coloration at all on segment 7 of the abdomen (blue ‘bleeds’ into the side/underside of segment 7 in Blue-tailed) and a striking black ‘saddle marking’ on top of segment 2 (where our Blue-tailed has a simple dark upper surface).

A fascinating find and always nice to know there’s something exotic in Shrewsbury!

Another encore from White-faced Darters!

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One more just for luck! Well 2 actually, seen by Stephen Barlow at Whixall Moss on 21st July chasing off an Emperor Dragonfly and reportedly being far more effective at this than Common Hawkers. The photo below left shows some wing damage from wear and tear but the few individuals that are left are clearly still holding territory when and where possible.

Stephen’s photo of a Common Hawker is lovely to see as this species is known to be ‘relentless on the wing’ and is therefore a tricky subject for photos. The paired blue spots extending down the abdomen do not merge on segments 9 & 10 to form a continuous band of colour as seen in Southern Hawker

Look into my eyes…

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Eyes can be a useful clue in dragonfly identification. Nearly all dragonflies in the UK have a degree of contact between the eyes however the Golden-ringed Dragonfly photographed here by Jan Shields at Carding Mill Valley really pushes this point to the limit! Here the striking green eyes literally just about make contact coming together at a single point. The only exception to this rule in the UK is the Common Clubtail which is easily identified as the eyes are clearly separated on the head with no point of contact.

And just to complete the picture, damselflies all have a very different head shape with eyes clearly separated and positioned on the sides of the head.

Keeled Skimmer on the wing

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Whilst I cower in the shade Jan Shields has been out in the midday sun at Cramer Gutter enjoying the first sightings of Keeled Skimmers. These dragonflies are fairly discreet, but well worth the effort of finding them. Jan’s photos show the blue pruinescence of the males (left and below left) and the visible keel running down the abdomen. The yellow antenodal cross veins are also visible in the photos of the male and the female (below right). Both sexes also have striking ochre pterostigma (wing spots) illustrated here beautifully in the photos of the male.

Those Ruddy Darters!

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Darters can present a challenge with respect to identification and it’s always worth taking a good look at your photos. At first glance you may well think the photo (left) is a Common Darter, but a closer look reveals solid black legs, a waisted and club- shaped abdomen, no sign of antehumeral stripes, the start of ruddy coloration developing on the frons and the presence of a frons side line – all of which tell us this is an immature Ruddy Darter seen by Andy Beech at Aston Locks on 18th July.

The following day Jim Almond photographed Ruddy Darter at Shavington Park (below left). This was a more advanced male, but still not fully mature and still requiring a careful look for the same diagnostic features.

And just to complete the picture Miles Leach braved the heat on Sunday on Brown Clee with Abdon District Community Wildlife Group and was rewarded with 9 species including Common Darter (below right). His photo illustrates a yellow stripe on the legs, no frons side line or ruddy coloration on the frons and the presence of antehumeral stripes on the thorax indicating this is an immature male Common Darter.

…well maybe one more!

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I almost knew as I typed the words ‘there’ll be no more White-faced Darters’ that I was tempting fate…and here we are with a photo from John Kirkland taken on 16th July at Whixall Moss. John saw a host of other species too including Brown Hawkers, Black-tailed Skimmer, Black Darter, Emerald Damselfly and a possible but unconfirmed fly past from a Migrant Hawker.

Elsewhere Jan Shields is happy to report at least 7 Common Darters have made it passed their ever-hungry (and presumably fat) robin and successfully emerged. Jan’s photos below show a number of useful diagnostic features for Common Darter; a yellow stripe on the legs, antehumeral stripes and the lack of a frons side line (no black lines extending down the side of the frons like a long moustache).

Last of the White-faced Darters for 2021…

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Stephen Barlow reports that White-faced Darters are now very few and far between on Whixall Moss. On July 14th he found just 1 solitary male pictured left and Stephen knows all the best places to find them! So no more White-faced Darters for 2021, but in the meantime Black Darters (below left) are in full flight along with a good number of other species. On the same day Stephen saw Black Darter, Common Darter, Brown Hawker, Common Hawker, Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmer, Four-spotted Chaser, Azure Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Emerald Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly…so still worth a visit!

Piecing the clues together…

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Miles Leach noticed this female Southern Hawker emerging from his garden pond and was surprised to find it still there the following day…and a few days after that. On closer inspection there was no sign of the exuvia, the wings were clearly damaged and what’s more covered in duckweed! The evidence suggests this individual sadly re- immersed having emerged from the water and the resultant damage meant it was unable to fly. Eventually the dragonfly disappeared, but again based on the evidence the likelihood is it flew off in a beak!

Miles also photographed this female Common Darter- a lovely photo illustrating the diagnostic yellow stripe down the black legs which helps split this species from Ruddy Darter.

White-legged Damselfly form lactea

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Julie Rogers has sent in more great photos taken near the canal at Whixall Moss. This immature female White-legged Damselfly (left) is really pale with barely any markings and referred to as form lactea. She will mature to a ‘washed-out’ green coloration as seen in the photo below where she can be directly compared with the male in this text book ‘love heart’ mating wheel.

Below right is a beautiful photo of Red-eyed Damselfly and far below is the striking male Black Darter seen on the moss itself.

The most important records…

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Yes, exuviae are rather brown and drab, but they are also the most important biological records as they are proof that a species has successfully bred at a particular waterbody. In this case Andy Warr has found and photographed a Common Hawker exuvia on Titterstone Clee Hill. His photos brilliantly illustrate the diagnostic features; a broad mask (below left), negligible/absent lateral spines on segment 6 of the abdomen and short spines on segment 9 that don’t reach the middle of segment 10 (below right). Hawker exuviae are all long and torpedo shaped with a distinctive non rounded head shape and bulging eyes. Even if you don’t fancy identifying exuviae they are worth a closer look as their detailed structure is amazing!