A Southern Hawker dragonfly

I found this Southern Hawker dragonfly basking in my garden yesterday. It is a common species in Devon and on Dartmoor.

Southern Hawker 1
This is an immature male – mature individuals have blue markings at the base of the abdomen. You can tell it is a male because of the configuration of the anal appendages.

Southern Hawker 3Note the yellow triangle at the base of the abdomen beside the two anal appendages – females lack this

Southern Hawker 2
Here is a close up of the wing venation

The Southern Hawker mystery

Over the past few weeks a number of Southern Hawker dragonflies have been found dead at the entrance to the Devon and Exeter Squash and Racketball Club in Exeter.

Southern hawker 1
Here is one I photographed over a week ago – I didn’t think much of it at the time until I heard another half a dozen had also been found in the same place.

Southern hawker 2
Here is another one – much fresher – the colours haven’t faded yet.

Here is the entrance to the Squash Club – the dragonflies were found near the DE/SR sign at the entrance
A bit of a mystery ….

My theory is that the dragonflies were drawn into the corridor as the lights had attracted various small flies and midges – their prey. Once they had fed on the flies they tried to leave by flying up to the glass window above the lights – they couldn’t get through and eventually ran out of puff and fell to the ground and died.

Never come across this before and fortunately seems to have stopped now.




Finch Foundry’s dragonfly mystery

At the end of June Ben our Foundry Manager at Finch Foundry photographed the following picture.

finch golden ringed
You need to get your eye in – there is a large dragonfly and it looks like it has just caught a brown smaller insect. Well – what has happened is the dragonfly has just emerged from the ‘brown insect’ after having lived in the stream for around 3 years as a larvae! The dragonfly isn’t very brightly coloured yet as it has only just emerged and is ‘blowing’ itself up.

exuviae 1
Ben collected the ‘brown insect’ for me. It is called an exuviae – the vacated exoskeleton on the dragonfly larvae

exuviae 2
It is now entirely hollow as the dragonfly has emerged but as you can see it bears all the features if the larvae – look at the jaws – dragonfly larvae are very active predators

exuviae 3
The close us detail even shows the hairs on the legs

Golden ringed dragonfly 1Once the dragonfly has had a chance to ‘blow itself’ up its wings become extended and the colours develop. This is another dragonfly of the same species – this one taken last year at Lydford Gorge. It is a golden ringed dragonfly which is one of Dartmoor’s classic species.

Finch Foundry is in Sticklepath on the northern edge of the moor – it is the last working water powered forge in England and is the doorway to Dartmoor’s industrial past. Visit Finch Foundry to experience the sights, sounds and smells of three thundering water wheels powering massive hammers, shears and sharpening stone. These fuelled one of the South West’s most successful edge tool factories which, at its peak, produced around 400 edge tools a day. You can get an insight into the life of workers in the 19th century and learn about the enterprising Finch family. More details here – well worth a visit and of course there is interesting wildlife to see and a lovely little garden – see here.

A couple more dragonflies

I live very close to Bystock Ponds (A Devon Wildlife Trust  reserve) on Woodbury Common so I popped in there after work – amazingly I haven’t been to this particular bit of Woodbury Common for over 30 years but I do remember working there in the early 1980s when I worked for Devon Wildlife Trust!

The reserve is a mix of heathland, grasslands, acid pools, streams and a small reservoir – it is in good condition and is very important for a wide range of acid loving species including some dragonflies. Here are a couple of pictures.

ReservoirThe little reservoir near the Pools- covered in water lilies.

Keeled skimmerKeeled skimmer on the heathland

Common darterCommon Darter

PonyDartmoor ponies grazing the heathland


Migrant hawkers

There are still quite a few species of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing – enjoying the warm dry weather – here are a few photos of some I photographed at Little Bradley Ponds near Bovey Tracey a few days ago.

Migrant hawker 1This is a migrant hawker – a medium sized dragonfly – they live in lakes, gravel pits, canals and slow flowing rivers – they don’t like acidic water.

Migrant hawker 2During the 1940s this was a rare migrant species i.e. it came over from the continent during the summer. Since then it has colonised southern Britain and is now common.

Migrant hawker 3Here is a mating pair – the animal directly facing us is the male – note the yellow inverted triangle on the second segment of the abdomen – this is the characteristic ID feature.

Azure damselflies

Here are a couple of mating azure damselflies – one of our commonest species – the animal on the left is the male – note the thick broad black line with a thinner black line beneath it – this is one of the features that separates the species from the Common Blue Damselfly

Blue tailed damselflyHere is a blue tailed damselfly – again a common Devon species – blue on segment 9 and no others

There are still a few other species on the wing such as common darter, ruddy darter, black darter, southern hawker and the common hawker – this weekend could be a good chance to tack them down as it looks like the good weather will continue.

Golden ringed

Whilst I was at the Safety on Dartmoor day at Lydford I came across a wildlife ‘moment’. Sat on one of the tables outside the cafe was a perfectly still golden ringed dragonfly. It is one of my favourites – it is a classic Datmoor species. Golden ringed dragonflies are quite common in the UK and are rather spectacular but are only found in those areas with acid rivers and streams. It is one of the first species of dragonflies I managed to identify back in 1983 when I worked for the Devon Wildlife Trust. In ‘those days’ dragonflies only had Latin names-  Cordulegaster boltonii – a name that has struck with me ever since! Here is some more information on the species. 

Golden ringed dragonfly 1Side view of the Lydford specimen

Golden ringed dragonfly 2This view shows the ‘waisted’ abdomen towards the tip of the tail – this is therefore a male.

BookDragonflies and damselflies are a nice group to get into – there are not too many species
and this brilliant book with help you identify them