Here be Dragons: Buzzing in the Sky with Emeralds
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As it turns out, there are absolutely loads of dragonflies and damselflies out and about this time of year. And none of them are polite enough to sit still long enough for a photograph! I guess they aren’t too keen on me shoving a phone in their personal space. Fortunately I have managed to get off the mark with two quite dazzling species, including relatively rare one, let’s call it beginners luck? I was trying to start off with the Common Darter, but I am finding them less common on my walks than expected. As promised I will be using my own photos or ones from the team, so sorry in advance for the quality! At least Google exists!
Dragonfly-wise in the UK we have quite a few types including darters, hawkers, chasers and a variety of others. Today I would like to introduce the absolutely gorgeous (and I am in no way biased because I found a rare one) Emeralds.
By some miracle whilst pottering around Bramshill I had a very interesting velvet looking dragonfly buzz high around the trees around me, which decided to land at the side of the path, AND I had my camera with me. After a few photos I consulted a guide back home and identified it as a Downy Emerald dragonfly. As you can see below from my (passable) photo, they have a noticeable hairy thorax which, alongside bright apple green eyes, sets them apart from most other dragonflies. These dragons have a scattered range from Devon to Scotland and they love a deciduous woodland near water. Easiest way to identify them is the fuzzy body, slightly clubbed tail, and they never sit still
Next up is the Brilliant Emerald, with a slightly bittersweet encounter. These dragons are nationally scarce and considered endangered in the UK. So I was incredibly excited to find one whilst wardening. Sadly I found this guy (below) who wasn’t doing all that well. Hopefully he had just reached the end of his time after helping create the next generation of these gorgeous insects. Anyway, potentially a new local record for them, and next time you see me at a pitstop I might have him out on display! Silver linings!
A dark metallic emerald with a bronze sheen separates this species from others, with green eyes like the Downy Emerald (but not fuzzy thorax). Sadly this species, like many other dragonflies, is susceptible to disturbance from deforestation, pollution, and even the introduction of fish (like carp) into waterways, and as a result they have a very restricted range in the south of England. Another reason why our heathland habitat is so important!
Want to find out more about our dragonflies and damselflies (and everything else you can find on the heaths)? We have loads of events running as part of Heath Week 2019, including guided walks at Chobham Common, Englemere Pond and Thursley, where you might get the chance to see a few of the species featured in these blogs!