A Day With The Damsels(flies)

Friday promised to be a good day inland away from the cool on-shore breeze.  A bit of a dilemma what to do.  There was a hot rod drag race on an airfield in south Norfolk which sounded fun or we could go and look for dragonflies at a new site.  In the end the latter option appealed more so we headed to the Brecks and Thompson Common the start of ‘The Great Eastern Pingo Trail’.  “What on earth is a pingo?” I hear you say.  Without being too scientific a pingo was formed in the last ice age.  It is a mound in the permafrost which creates a pond.  These ponds are important habitats so there is plenty of conservation work carried out to stop them disappearing.

Male Scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas) This individual caused a bit of debate over id on a facebook group

Thompson Common is a really beautiful place.  A walk through woodland, in the cool shade, led to open flower filled areas favoured by several species of butterfly.  The pingos varied from being in deep shady woodland looking like primeval swamp to open marshy dips to the large meadow pool with reeds, lilies and lots of open water.  It was here I searched for the Scarce Emerald (Lestes dryas) a rare damselfly in the UK.  There were hundreds of damsels around the pool, lots of Emeralds (Lestes sponsa) which was confusing, my field guide said these should appear later in July.  I found my target but the differences between the two are quite slight.

Female Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa). Females of both species lack the blue pruinescence

The emerald family are also known as spreadwings.  Unlike other damselflies which hold their wings along their backs the emeralds often have theirs in this semi open position.  The pingo trail is eight miles in total.  We walked a couple before returning to the car to find a pub lunch.  After lunch and a refreshing pint at the Chequers we drove through Thompson village down a narrow and rough track to Thompson Water, a large man made lake at the western end of the trail.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)

As we approached the lake the whole area was covered with countless thousands of Common Blue and Azure Damselflies which rose up like a little blue cloud as you carefully walked among them.  What I had come to see would be found on the water.  These were the Red-eyed and Small Red-eyed Damselflies.  Two species that look very alike, these sit on floating aquatic plants.  Tina was in her element as my ‘spotter’ and was pointing them out to me.  Trouble was they were several feet from the bank.  I tried my zoom lens but the results were not sharp enough so I switched to the macro and hung out as far as I could, with my camera at arms length to get close, thankfully some shots were spot on!

What are you having for lunch? This Common Blue Damsel (Enallagma cyathigerum) has captured a species of Longhorn Moth!

A great day out and four new species of odonata photographed.  Next week we are off to the Lake District for a holiday so if the weather behaves I hope to see some more, fingers crossed.

33 thoughts on “A Day With The Damsels(flies)

  1. We came across quite a few Common Blue Damsels during the 4th day of our Inn Way walk (see post tomorrow) – along Coquetdale, near the bird hides overlooking the large ponds or lakes. (Maybe you know that spot?) Anyway my pictures were either too far away or completely out of focus, so I’ll not be posting any. (Just as well as they are not a patch on yours!) Enjoy the Lakes!

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  2. Nice shots. I especially like the color on the female emerald. Wish I had an area where I could go and see thousands of damselflies. I have a spot where I can count on seeing a couple dozen dragonflies but in the approx. 4 years I been photographing bugs and flowers I’ve only seen one damselfly and the closest water was a creek a few hundred yards away. Fortunately it was very cooperative and I got a couple of very good shots.

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  3. Just getting back on my feet and thought I’d check to see what was happening in the UK – first I get to learn what a Pingo was – thanks for broadening my education and then I get to see some new Damsels – super cool. Nice technique with the extended macro shots with great results – that will definitely give the arms a workout.

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    1. Hope the run went well B! Just back off holiday so catching up. Glad to help with your education. Leaning out over a lake with the camera was in hindsight a bit foolish just to get a shot, should have persevered with the zoom.

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