27 Nov 2014

27 Nov 14 - Insect Photospot3 - Dorset Dragonflies

Following on from the Butterfly Photospots, then now is a good time to look back on my other big Insect passion this Summer: the Dragonflies. I've really enjoyed looking at the Dragonflies & Damselflies. I have been looking at Dragonflies for the last few years now, after initially dabbling with the first Dragonflies back in my university days for a few years. However, it is only really this year that I think I've really got a good grasp on their identification features & I have been generally able to recall the features from memory, without having to dig out the field guides. I have still got a long way to go to get more knowledgeable, but it has been fun improving my knowledge significantly this year. So here is a Photospot on the Dorset Dragonflies. I will cover Dorset Damselflies & Demoiselles in another Photospot. Both Photospots are designed to give the readers an appreciation of the variety of species that can be seen, rather than focusing on the identification. There are plenty more photos of these species as well as useful identification features in earlier Posts: just click on the Label links on the right hand side of the Blog.
Emperor Dragonfly: Female egg-laying. This is one of the larger Dragonfly species & can be commonly found in Dorset over Summer
Living in Dorset is a real privilege as it is one of the best counties for seeing  Dragonflies on your doorstep. We have such a good selection of heaths, clean rivers & freshwater lakes that allows a great variety of species to be seen. They are not always straight-forward to identify, but that's part of the fun. Having a camera is one of the best ways to help identify them as it is a good idea to get some photos & then compare them against the book. The photos taken before Oct 13 were taken with an inexpensive Lumix camera, whereas the photos taken after that date were with the Canon 7D and usually a 15-85 Macro lens, although some of the more distant shots were taken with the 400mm f5.6 lens.
Banded Demoiselle: Male. The Demoiselles will be covered in the next post. An out of county photo from Goring-on-Thames (13 June 14)
There are a couple & inexpensive of excellent field guides to get you started:-
The Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Steve Brooks and Richard Lewington
Watching British Dragonflies by Steve Dudley, Caroline Dudley and Andrew Mackay
Both of these field guides provides excellent identification sections for each species as well as some cracking illustrations. A few of the vagrant species are not covered in the latter guide, but it has a lot of good site directions and species to help you find all of the regular UK species.
Common Blue Damselfly: The Damselflies will also be covered in the next post
One thing I have learnt this year, is it a good idea to get photos from as many different angles as possible. So while a top down view will provide a good in focus photo, it might not provide all the features. Often a side view of the thorax & abdomen is important to get & sometimes a face on view is also needed. The other good thing about photos taken with a good digital camera, is it allows some of the key features to be quickly zoomed up on the back of the camera to see those fine details, that might not be as easy to see in the field. Most of the Dragonflies & Damselflies are approachable with care, although some of the Hawkers can be really challenging to get a perched photo. The other good thing is like the Butterflies, you can often get some good photos with a relatively cheap digital camera, providing it can cope with close focus. Then you just need to learn how to get close without flushing your subject.
Southern Hawker: Adult with the larval case. Swanage (11 July 14). I was surprised to find this species egg-laying in moss next to my garden pond. I had assumed most species would lay their eggs in the water, but it seems this species lays eggs near to ponds & the eggs don't hatch until the following Spring. I guess the larva quickly move to the water at this point
Common Hawker: Despite its name this is not a common species in Dorset. I have seen it on the heaths around Studland, but failed to find any this year to photograph. It's always good to have a target for next year
Brown Hawker: Longham Lake (18 Aug 12)
Migrant Hawker: Male. This was one of the commoner Hawkers I saw this Autumn in Dorset and despite its name it breeds in Southern England (7 Aug 14)
Migrant Hawker: Female. South Haven, Studland (25 Aug 14)
Emperor Dragonfly: Bestwall (19 June 14)
Golden-ringed Dragonfly: East Holme Water Meadows (6 July 14)
Vagrant Emperor: I was lucky to hear this vagrant had gone to roost on a fence panel of one of the Weymouth Birders. Well worth twitching as I've not heard of any since in Dorset. Weymouth (11 May 11)
Hairy Dragonfly: This is easy to identify as it is the first of the Hawkers to fly. Soldiers Road, Hartland Heath (18 May 14)
Hairy Dragonfly: Mating pair. East Holme Water Meadows (12 July 14)
Downy Emerald: Morden Bog (26 May 13)
Downy Emerald: Studland (14 May 14)
Black-tailed Skimmer: Male. Brownsea (21 June 14)
Keeled Skimmer: Male. Greenlands Farm, Studland (3 Aug 14)
Keeled Skimmer: Female. Godlingston Heath (1 June 14)
Broad-bodied Chaser: Male. Higher Hyde (10 June 14)
Broad-bodied Chaser: Female. East Holme Water Meadows (6 July 14)
Four-spotted Chaser: Brownsea (21 June 14)
Scarce Chaser: Male. East Holme Water Meadows (12 June 14)
Scarce Chaser: Female. East Holme Water Meadows (12 June 14)
Black Darter: Rempstone Forest (3 Aug 14)
Ruddy Darter: Higher Hyde (11 July 14)
Ruddy Darter: South Haven, Studland (10 Sep 14)
Red-veined Darter: The only one I have seen was this individual at West Bexington (13 July 13)
Common Darter: As the name suggests this is a Common species which flies in the second half of the Summer & will typically carry on until the end of October or sometimes even later for the occasional individual. Arne (11 July 14)
Common Darter: I have covered the identification pitfalls between Common Darters & Red-veined Darters in this post. Rempstone Forest (3 Aug 14)
Additionally, Lesser Emperor & Yellow-winged Darter have occurred as vagrant Dragonflies in Dorset. I have been lucky enough to see Lesser Emperor at Longham Lakes in Aug 12 & Yellow-winged Darter at Holt Heath in 1994. I wasn't really into seeing Dragonflies for the latter species, but I'm glad I was persuaded to go & look for them, given how rare they are.