Simply Red

red-letter day
/ˌredˈlet.ə ˌdeɪ/US
a specialhappy, and important day that you will always remember:
Well I have certainly had a few of these in June.  Having managed to photograph three new species of dragon/damselflies so far I was greedy for more.  For my next target I had to visit a site forty miles away.  I’d had one trip with no luck but was only wearing my hiking boots.  This fen was very wet so I returned with my wellies (rubber boots), now I could really get amongst it!
Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) male.  Scarning Fen, Norfolk

And there we have it, the Small Red Damselfly, I hope you are impressed.  Put into context this is probably East Anglia’s rarest odonata.  It only occurs at the one site, the nearest colonies are in the most south, south/west counties or west Wales!  In these areas it is at it’s most northern range in Europe.  The Small Red is typically found in acidic pools on heath and bog, hence the need for the rubber boots!

The lady of the species comes in three colour forms, this is intermedia with a red and black abdomen

I carefully and slowly squelched my way through the bog keeping my eyes peeled for any movement, the smell not the most pleasant.  In recent years these damselflies have been in very low numbers and fears are that the colony may die out.  Suddenly a weak fluttering ahead, careful approach, not this time, it was a Large Red one of our commonest damsels.  Then another, a quick record shot, zoom in on the back of camera and YES!  Red legs, all red body this was my target.  It moved around low in the luxuriant plant growth, teasing me, and then it alighted on a lone reed stem as if to say “I give up, go on take your photos and leave me alone”.  And that’s what I did and I couldn’t ask for a nicer set of shots.  In all I found at least four Small Reds including a female.  Another red-letter day.

Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) gave several false alarms. They are not that much bigger than the Small Red but have all black legs and the males have black on the abdomen. When dealing with creatures only just over an inch (30mm) long not easy to see with my dodgy eyesight!  This is a mating pair (the male above) forming a wheel, or heart for the romantics

Keeping to the red theme.  Butterflies have been very thin on the ground recently. The changeable weather has not helped but when the sun has shone good numbers of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) have been in the garden and their flower of choice?  Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).

41 thoughts on “Simply Red

  1. Great photos and description of the difference between the two reds. (I’ll note that in case I see any). We’ve had one or two Admirals and Tortoiseshells around the garden here in Derbyshire. And I saw a Small Heath or two while out walking the hills on Sunday. I’ll soon be back en Suisse to see if I can find something more interesting, though the weather has been awful while we’ve been away – with hailstones bigger than golf balls in places.

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      1. It’s under the control of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. There is nothing wrong or changed with the habitat it’s the damsel population has crashed but may recover, remember they are at their range limit up here with none nearby to ‘top it up’. Plant life is great, lots of orchids, and everything else is ok.

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  2. I remember seeing the occasional Large Red Damsel Fly by our stream last year, and thinking at the time if that’s a large one how tiny would a Small Red be. Can see their rarity makes it challenging, when it comes to finding them, but the tiny size must make it pretty difficult too. Respect! As ever, great pics.

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    1. Many thanks for viewing Wally.
      My ‘local’ targets are just about done now. There is one more dragon to see but it will be tricky to photograph if I find it as it rarely settles.


  3. CONGRATULATIONS! Nothing better than having to work hard for a target and come away with the prize in the tin – and wall hanger quality as the cherry on top. Can’t imagine what it takes to traverse through a bog, something tells me it is not pleasant – do you have to worry about any dangers below the muck? Don’t think you have gators there, but I do know your deer have fangs so I can only assume your frogs have laser eyes. Job well done B. After the crap the pandemic brought this is turning out to be a good year for your quests.

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    1. The only real danger is stepping in the wrong spot and going in over the top of my boots! The thought of having to drive home smelling like the bog is a good deterrent to watch my step!
      My retirement has certainly helped with the quests. Now if conditions are just right I can go somewhere at the drop of a hat (not 1700 miles though!).
      Take care on this run B, no more hospital trips.

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  4. Proper attire certainly makes the pursuit of our subjects much easier…and drier. Forty miles to photograph a single species is dedication. It paid off with some fine images of this splendid damselfly, Brian. And Vanessa is lovely as well. We had one as a neighbor for years but she just moved to be with her grandchildren in Colorado. LOL

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