Clawford Nature Trail.

Dragonflies, Damselflies, Demoiselles, Chasers, Darters & Skimmers.

There are 23 species of Dragonfly currently breeding residents in the UK.

This group of colourful insects is always associated with water although individuals can be found some considerable distance away from water. Only adults with two pairs of wings can be seen flying around, the larval stages are spent under water. Some groups need to spend as many as four years as larvae before turning into the flying adults.

The insect order is split into two distinct suborders.

The Zygoptera, have fore and hind wings of a similar shape and size which are generally folded back over the body. Damselflies & Demoiselles belong to this suborder.

The second suborder, the Anisoptera, have generally have fore and hind wings of a different shape which they hold out, flat at right angles to their body when at rest. This group includes Dragonflies, Darters, Chasers and Skimmers.

 

COMMON & WIDE SPREAD.
SCARCE.
RARE.

 

Azure Damselfly.

Grows between 20 to 30mm long. Common & widespread. Probably the most common damselfly at Clawford.

Males are black with blue patterning. There's a pair of blue bands on the thorax behind the eyes. The abdomen is blue with individual segments having a black band across their posterior margin although the seventh segment is almost entirely black and the eighth segment entirely blue. The second abdominal segment is patterned with a black U shape.

Females have the same patterning as the males but their abdomens are predominantly black with a very thin blue line down both flanks. It lacks the inverted U of the male.

Spends most of it's time sunning itself on waterside vegetation.

Can be seen from March to  October. Most common in May, June and July.

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Beautiful Demoiselle.

Grows between 30 to 40mm long. Common. Demoiselles prefer moderate to fast moving streams.

Males are a metallic blue/green. Their wings are tinted deep blue and lack a stigma.

Females are a metallic greenish Bronze with brown tinted wing, each with a conspicuous white stigma.

Demoiselles flutter rather than fly. Males take up prominent perches along their breeding territory to display and only ;eave them to make short forays to ward off intruders.  If the intruder is a smaller damselfly or even a butterfly, they will simply flash their wings to deter the intruder rather than fly after them.

Best seen in May, June, July and August but is still around in September.

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Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Grows to 20-30mm long.  Very common and widespread.

Males are mainly black with a pair of blue stripes on the thorax behind the eyes. The eighth abdominal segment is also coloured a conspicuous blue.

Females are very variable in colouration, so much so that there are number of forms which attract their own identities and names. However, all the different forms have one common character and that is that the eighth abdominal segment is differentially coloured to the rest of the abdomen, which is black. Typical females have the same blue and black colour patterning as the males. Variations in colour include a range of shades of brown through to rose-pink and violet. In some cases, the thoracic stripes can be replaced by the entire thorax being light or orange-brown with a broad black band down the centre.

Blue-tailed damselflies are not strong fliers and tend to remain in, or close to, marginal or emergent vegetation where they spend much of their time at rest or sunning themselves.

Can be seen from May to September. Best months are June & July.

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Broad-bodied Chaser.

Grows between 20 to 25 mm long. Common and Widespread in South West England.

Males have a grey-brown colouration with a pair of yellowish bands on the thorax behind the eyes and a striking powder blue abdomen. The tip of the abdomen is black and there are a series of four or five yellow markings along either side of abdomen at mid-body. Both sets of wings have dark brown patches at their bases with those of the hind wings being larger and triangular in shape. Females are similarly patterned to the males but the males blue colouration is replaced with a duller yellow-brown colouration.

Males are very territorial and aggressive as they fly over their ponds and chase off not only rival males but also any other larger dragonflies that intrude into their territory. They adopt lookout perches to which they return consistently day after day in between territorial flights.

Can be seen between May and October. Best seen in May, June and July.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

Grows between 25 to 30mm long. Abundant throughout the UK.

Males share a very similar colour-patterning with the Azure Damselfly, but, overall, appear slightly bluer. The blue stripes on the thorax behind the eyes are better developed and are separated from the blue sides of the thorax by a black bar which is narrower that the stripe itself opposite to the case in the Azure Damselfly. The second abdominal segment is characterised by a stalked ball (like a button mushroom) pattern. The eighth and ninth abdominal segments are blue. Females have black abdomens with narrow dull greenish-blue bands and the stripes on the thorax behind the eyes are greenish-blue.

This is our most aggressive damselfly defending it's territory from it's own kind and others.

Best seen in May and June but is still around in July, August and September.

 

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Common Darter.

Grows between 25 to 35mm long.  Very common at Clawford.

Males have a brown thorax with broad, yellow, oblique bands on the sides and a pair of weak, dirty yellow stripes immediately behind the eyes. The abdomen is weakly constricted one third of the way down and is brick to blood red with a black marking down the midline on the two penultimate segments. The wings are pigmented pink to red at their extreme bases and become tinted amber in older specimens.

Females are similar to the males but their abdomens are a yellow to mid brown colour.

Males are aggressively territorial, taking up perches over their selected patch and, between seeing off intruding males, will spend time foraging for food often at some distance from water. It likes to return frequently to its adopted perches overlooking its territory but also likes to bask in the sun.

Can be seen from May to November. Best monts are August and September.

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Emerald Damselfly.

Grows between 50 to 60mm long. Uncommon but can be seen occasionally at Clawford.

Males are a metallic green, often with a bronze lustre particularly over the thorax. The area immediately behind the head, below the thorax, on the first two and last segments of the abdomen are powder blue in mature specimens.

Females are an uniform metallic greenish over their upper surfaces.

This damselfly is a weak flier that spends most of its time fluttering in and around marginal vegetation, rarely venturing out over open water. Unlike other damselflies, the Emerald Damselfly commonly rests with its wings half open rather than closed vertically above the abdomen. 

Can be seen between May and August. Best months are June, July and August.

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Emperor Dragonfly.

Grows between 50 to 60mm long. Can be seen regularly at Clawford.

Males have a green thorax with a pair of blue transverse, oblique, blue bands on each side immediately in front of the forewings. There are a pair of blue longitudinal bands running down the length of the abdomen on either side of a black central band.

Females are very similarly patterned but are green throughout although their green abdominal bands may become blue with age.

Of all the large dragonflies, this species is most closely associated with still water and spends most of its time patrolling its territory, settling periodically on marginal vegetation. It is shy and easily disturbed at rest. It often takes its prey, caught in flight, onto adjacent grasslands or shrubs to eat. This species is usually immediately identifiable by the way its abdomen is slightly down-curved in flight.

Can be seen between June and October. Best months are June and July.

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Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Grows between 55 to 65mm long. Common at Clawford.

Both sexes have an almost black ground colour with a conspicuous pair of yellow bands on the thorax behind the eyes and narrow, broken, yellow bands across the abdomen.

This dragonfly is an extremely strong flier, patrolling not only along the edges of streams and rivers but also over surrounding fields and along woodland rides. It frequently takes prolonged rests between flights, hanging from tree branches or other tall vegetation.

Can be seen between June and September. Best months are July and August.

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Large Red Damselfly.

Grows between 25 to 30mm long. Very common and widespread.

Males have a black thorax with a pair of red and stripes immediately behind the eyes. The abdomen is predominantly red with each segment being narrowly bordered black although this colour pattern is reversed on the last four segments which are black with red posterior margins. In young specimens the red colouration is replaced by yellow.

Females are similar to the males but, in addition, have a narrow, patterned black line running down the centre of the abdomen.

The Large Red Damselfly is not a very active species, preferring to spend most of its time flying around its territory and settling periodically on marginal and emergent vegetation around ponds and slow moving water.

Can be seen between March and August. Best months are May and June.

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Southern Hawker.

Grows between 50 to 80mm long. Common at Clawford.

Males have a pair of broad green bands on the thorax behind the eyes and pairs of green spots on each of the abdominal segments. The green spots become blue over the last three abdominal segments and fuse together to form transverse bands. The abdominal patterning becomes entirely blue in old specimens. There is a narrow, yellow, inverted triangle on the second abdominal segment.

Females are very similarly patterned but the spots on the abdomen are green throughout.

The males are very territorial and chase off any other males that stray onto, or challenge, their territory. They are strong fliers and patrol their territory for long periods during which they frequently chase after insect prey into the canopy of trees. They will settle in the sun for extended periods on shrubs and trees. It is an inquisitive species that will closely approach you if you stand still.  Can be seen between June and October. Best month is August.

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