Dragonflight: In search of Britain's dragonflies and damselflies
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This book is an account of two years spent getting to know Britain's most dazzling and enigmatic insects - the dragonflies and damselflies. The quest to find, photograph, watch and learn about dragons and damsels took the author on a tour of diverse and lovely wetlands up and down Britain, from the rugged wild peat bogs of north-west Scotland to the languid meanders of the Oxfordshire Thames. The account describes close encounters with the dragons and damsels themselves, set against backdrops of rich and vital habitats teeming with a range of other wildlife. It is also packed with background detail on dragonfly and damselfly natural history, and wetland ecology in general. The text is enlivened with line drawings and a section of colour photographs.
dragon is back at exactly the same spot, settling neatly with head upwards and its broad slab of an abdomen pointed down at me. Its wings, longer and wider than its body, are marked at their bases with a triangular suffusion of brownish-black. The differences in shape between forewings and hindwings is very obvious as I look up at the chaser – the forewing parallel-edged with a little upward kink at the ‘elbow’, the hindwing broad at its base and tapering to a narrower tip. This mismatch between
effect on our spirits, as did the constant pageant of seabirds, many of them flying past right up close. There were Kittiwakes, Eiders and Guillemots, and further out to sea Gannets were feeding. This was enthralling to watch. The Gannet circles high over a likely spot, then tilts downwards, starts to drop, and as its dive nears the water it draws back its wings to turn itself into a feathered harpoon that punctures the dark waves with a neat, round splash. Later we moved onto Troup Head, an
length of pure red body. Noticeably smaller and redder than the much commoner Large Red Damselfly, it was a beautiful little insect, but it wasn’t a Southern Damselfly. We saw plenty of Small Reds in favoured spots along the stream, but it was a while before we saw our first ‘blue’. Then suddenly there it was, unhurriedly bobbing along the stream edge, oblivious to our squawks of excitement. We tracked it for a surprisingly long time as it lazily danced around, bobbing showily up and down, but
looked every inch the fierce and fearsome predator with its lantern jaw and large, coldly gleaming eyes. We watched as it swam slowly downstream, losing itself among the thick underwater vegetation that lined the shallows of the little river. We headed back, beginning to really feel the heat now as we tramped along the level, grassy path. A Carrion Crow flew over, bill open wide as it panted out some excess body heat. When we reached the Denge Marsh hide we were both more than ready for a break,
April 2011, 1.05pm Broad-bodied Chaser, Pembury, 27 April 2011, 5.51pm Red-eyed Damselfly, Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 10 May 2011, 9.49am Beautiful Demoiselle, Hadlow College, 11 May 2011, 11am Northern Emeralds, Coire Loch, 28 June 2011, 1.27pm Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Bridge of Grudie, 1 July 2011, 1.53pm Emperor Dragonfly, Thursley Common, 14 July 2011 12noon Common Darter, Rodmell, 29 August 2011, 5.18pm Common Clubtail, Goring, 13 May 2012, 4.03pm Azure Damselfly, Sevenoaks