Watch for dragonflies

PUBLISHED: 14:10 15 June 2007 | UPDATED: 22:51 28 May 2010

I took a walk along the River Ouse from home on a very hot, sunny day at the start of the month - perfect weather for dragonfly and damselfly watching. I was not disappointed as I found all of the scarcer species I was hoping to see and generally high nu

I took a walk along the River Ouse from home on a very hot, sunny day at the start of the month - perfect weather for dragonfly and damselfly watching.

I was not disappointed as I found all of the scarcer species I was hoping to see and generally high numbers of both types of insect.

Scarce chasers are a speciality of some parts of the river and they have been increasing and spreading in recent summers. I saw double figures of this chunky dragonfly perched motionless on reeds before darting off on hunting sorties.

Hairy hawkers are my favourite-named dragonflies. You need a very close view to see the hairs, but they are certainly hairier than most dragonflies when they do stay still long enough to enable you to scrutinise them. I saw a few of these, another scarce species, which has important populations locally.

The third species I particular sought out was a damselfly - the white-legged damselfly. When mature, they have rather hairy, white legs and are very smart looking. I always seem to find them on nettle beds when a few usually gather and on this occasion, I found a loose party of half a dozen.

Of the commoner species, it was the banded demoiselle ruled the roost. I have never seen such numbers of this stunning damselfly with its dark banded wings. I estimated that I saw 300. You can find this striking species along many of our rivers and wet places, but this really was an impressive concentration and a fantastic sight.

I also took a visit (next day actually) to Lakenheath Fen in the Suffolk Fens. This wonderful place is famous for hosting most of the very few pairs of golden oriole that nest in Britain in the ex Bryant and May poplar plantations, but the RSPB has bought and turned carrot fields to reedbed and wetland in the last few years.

I have visited for several years to enjoy the stunning orioles, but this year's trip gave me the chance to also see the new wetland and its wildlife and what an amazing site it is already.

Young bearded tits 'pinged' all around, a couple of garganey ducks showed themselves, marsh harriers were never out of sight and to top it all, I was lucky enough to catch sight of two pairs of cranes flying into the reedbed. Cranes are one of the rarest, and most sensitive, British birds (a handful of pairs attempts to nest each year), but they have discovered this wetland gem in incredible time.


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