Category Archives: Dragonflies

Winter

Why do they call you Long John Silver?

It’s because of my pirate ancestry, innit?

So, it’s not the underpants then?

Everybody wears long johns in the winter, it’s cold!

That’s not what you told Andrew.

I may have embellished things a little bit.

Ah well, it will soon be spring.

I can’t do much today, I can’t get lovely photographs it is too dark. So let’s look at some insects instead. Dragons and Damsels Okay?

This is the female of one species, Common Blue Damselfly, lovely?

Common Blue DamselflyThis is the male. He is a bit shy.

Common Blue DamselflyI am sure that if you just go over and say hello then she will be pleased to say hello back.

Common Blue Damselfly I forgot, the odonata are a bit carnivorous.

I think she liked you.

Common blue DamselflyBurp!

It is great that they are carnivorous 😀 The things they eat need eating.

MosquitoesCome into my world little Dragonflies.

Southern HawkerThis one is a Southern Hawker.

Southern HawkerThis next one is a Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant HawkerThis is a Hairy Dragonfly, sometimes known as a Spring Hawker it is the earliest of the big blue dragonflies to appear but it is not that early, it arrives in May.

Hairy Dragonfly

Hairy DragonflyThe Hawkers above all belong to the same family (Aeshnidae) They are the largest and fastest of our Dragonflies. They hunt by patrolling the skies and swooping down on their prey like Hawks.

We also get a lot of Darters, Skimmers and Chasers, these belong to the family Libellulidae, the largest family of Dragonflies. These Dragonflies tend to be ambush predators rather than Hawks.

Common Darter.

Common Darter

Common DarterBlack-tailed Skimmer.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed SkimmerBroad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied ChaserWell that’s enough Dragonflies. I know that you would rather have news from the farm and pictures of Fizz but it is just horrible outside. (I would stay in HK if I were you 🙂 )

Horrible FizzI was talking to a friend in Vancouver recently about lime green flowers and I got inspired to add Wood Spurge to EW. Thank you David.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeEuphorbia is a genus of plants commonly known as Spurge. There are about 2000 species in this genus including the familiar Christmas Poinsettias and the Rubber Tree. In South Africa some Euphorbia have developed characteristics very similar to Cacti and are often incorrectly referred to as such. All Euphorbia species contain a milky white, toxic sap in the stem and leaves which can severely irritate the skin on contact.

The Wood Spurge is a species native to Europe and to Southern England. It grows in woodland and shaded hedgerow. It is an evergreen perennial and the small plants are a common sight in winter.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Wood Spurge spreads by underground rhizomes so you will often find plants growing close together in a group.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeSpring growth.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe Wood Spurge has a complex and very unusual flower. The green buds that you see in these pictures are not really flower buds, they are a pair of modified leaves that contain an unusual flower head.

The “Bud” is called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) sometimes referred to as a “false flower” and it contains the inflorescence of the Spurge.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThere is quite a lot going on inside each cyathium. There are four small “horse shoe” shaped glands, called “Involucral glands”, these glands are not part of the flowers themselves but part of the cyathium, they produce nectar.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe flowers themselves are the small two lobed yellow anthers in the centre of the horse shoes. There is nothing more to the flowers than a single stamen with two yellow anthers at the top. The anthers produce pollen.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe two large bud like objects beside the flowers are in fact further cyathia. So there are flower heads growing out of each flower head as well as flowers and nectar producing glands.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe cyathium also produces a female flower. It consists of nothing more than a three lobed stigma (pollen receiving organ) leading down to an ovary. The female flower is produced before the male flowers that I have shown you and drops down out of the way when the male flowers arrive to avoid self pollination. I don’t have photographs of the stigma at this time.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeIt sounds complex but it is not that difficult to understand. The horse shoes are producing nectar, the flowers are just the stamens in the middle and the buds are new flower heads with all the same stuff inside them.

It is a lime green flower and it is beautiful.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeTaxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Genus: Euphorbia

Species: Euphorbia amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeWildflowers in winter.

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The Broad-bodied Chaser

This is a male Broad-bodied Chaser, sadly I didn’t see a female today.

Broad-bodied ChaserTorn wings too, well the flight time for this animal is late May to Early August so we have only just caught this one. It will be an old Dragonfly.

Broad-bodied ChaserKey identification features: The male has a powder blue abdomen with yellow spots along the side (a bit faded in this specimen) The female has a yellow/brown abdomen but she still has the yellow spots.

Broad-bodied ChaserBoth sexes have these dark patches at the base of the wings, the female’s are lighter than this.

Broad-bodied Chaserand it has dark brown eyes giving it the appearance of having a Blackberry for a head.

Broad-bodied ChaserThis one appears to be making out with a female Blackberry and that is how they get torn wings.

Broad-bodied ChaserLibellula depressa.

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Sympetrum striolatum, The Common Darter.

No, I haven’t just seen a Common Darter.

I have been at it again. Identifying animals on other peoples blogs and so…

This is how I know that it is a Common Darter.

Here is a beautiful Common Darter.

Common DarterA fairly small to medium sized Dragonfly they are easy to confuse with Ruddy Darters.

This next picture is a Ruddy Darter. Notice that it has black legs.

Ruddy DarterThe Common Darter has a pale yellow stripe on the outside of it’s black legs. Like this 🙂

Common Darter

Common DarterColour isn’t a very good indicator of species. The Ruddy Darter is, as you would expect, quite red but a male Common Darter is also red and this next Common Darter is ruddier than the Ruddy Darter above but it does have a yellow stripe on the outside of it’s leg and I know what it is.

Common DarterThe Common Darter is an ambush predator. Unlike the Hawkers that patrol the skies Darters find a nice perch and wait for something to fly past.

They are quite an easy animal to approach for a photograph. (as animals go) They look a bit brownish and dull as they cruise around you but if you can get up close they are absolutely beautiful.

Common Darter

 

Migrant Hawker, Aeshna mixta

I haven’t just seen a Migrant Hawker. Well, I have sort of..

I just identified a Migrant Hawker on somebodies blog and I thought that I better do a Migrant Hawker post in case he comes round to check me out. (hi Stephen) Fodrambler does not lie 🙂 🙂 🙂

Migrant HawkerThe easiest identifying feature is the “Golf Tee” mark on the second segment of the abdomen. and that is diagnostic.

Migrant HawkerIt has a brown costa (the leading edge of the wing) and almost non existent antehumeral stripes.

Migrant HawkerThis next picture is not a Migrant Hawker this is a Southern Hawker. I am just using it to explain “antehumeral stripes” The Southern Hawker has very bold antehumerals (the two yellow stripes just behind it’s head.

Southern HawkerBack to the migrant Hawker and here is a quick tour.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Migrant HawkerSo that is my quick guide to identifying a Migrant Hawker.

Top.

Migrant HawkerMiddle…

Migrant Hawkerand this is the end of it.

Migrant HawkerExcept for a couple of my very own drawings explaining Dragonfly anatomy for reference purposes only.

Dragonfly anatomy 1Dragonfly anatomy 2

 

Irrational Fear (Odonata)

Odonata? Dragonflies and Damselflies.

They are nice.

2If you don’t know them then a big flying insect like this might seem quite alarming but these animals don’t bite people and they don’t have a sting.

(and the one above is a female Common Blue Damselfly, here is the male)

3The Odonata are among our most beautiful insects and the best thing to do if you see one is to take it’s photograph and treasure it.

(This one is a Common Darter Dragonfly)4Dragonflies (and Damselflies for that matter) are finely tuned killing machines. They are predators, meat eaters and hunters but they don’t hunt us, mostly they hunt our enemies, midges and mosquitoes and all the little things that do bite and sting us.

(Black-tailed Skimmer Dragonfly)5

Dragonflies are masters of the air. They are the fastest flying insects in the world. All four wings can move independently and they can stand still in the air by flying forwards with two of them and backwards with the other two, they can also fly backwards. A dragonfly can do anything that it wants to do in the air and they never get tangled in your hair.

6Plus they eat Mosquitoes.

7Now I am fairly tolerant of Mosquitoes. I know that it is only the females that drink our blood (the males drink nectar from flowers) and that they only take blood because they need the protein to make their eggs. But I am Nature Boy and I know these things and love life, I don’t expect everyone to hold my views.

In fact the Mosquito is far and away the most dangerous animal in the world. Mosquitoes kill more people than all of the Tigers and Crocodiles and Great White Sharks and all of the other animals that you might think of as dangerous put together.

I just can’t bring myself to eat them. Thank heavens for the Odonata.

(Southern Hawker Dragonfly)8

9So if you are lucky enough to find yourself sitting in a sunny beer garden with your family when an enormous, colourful and dangerous looking insect flies by, don’t be alarmed, it’s on our side.

(Hairy Dragonfly)

10You have just seen something very beautiful.