Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dragonflies 2013

Ireland, has a rather low biodiversity when it comes to dragonfly species with only 6 hawkers, 2 emeralds, 1 chaser, 2 skimmers and 4 darters (excluding a couple of random rarities). This is quite unusual amongst insect groups, and indeed the odonate family is very small compared to other invertebrate groups worldwide (odonates 6,000 species, beetles 350-400,000). Of the 15 regular dragonflies, I have so far managed to see 5 this year, which might seem a little low, but the majority of the hawkers and darters aren’t around yet or are only starting to emerge.

Emperor hawker/dragonfly (Anax imperator)
The emperor is the largest and most impressive of the Irish dragonflies dwarfing the much smaller damselflies. I was lucky enough to get a shot with both an adult emperor and several azure damselflies landing on its back in one shot. I’m uncertain if the azures saw a potential mate in their giant cousin or if they where daring enough to try and chase it off. Either way it made for a great photo op. The site in Blarney where I watch these dragonflies yearly seems to have less this year. Not sure if this because like many insects they are late this year or if it’s because their favourite patch of wild grassland has been cut short.

Hairy hawker/dragonfly (Brachytron pratense)
On a walk where I was hoping to photograph meadow brown butterflies I randomly spotted a dragonfly landing nearby. I assumed this to be a very early common hawker but soon discovered that it was a hairy! It is a minor miracle that I got as good a shot as I did from 3 meter distance with a 55mm lens without tripod. After a bit of research I discovered that this is in fact the first Cork city sighting on record with only one nearby record from Midleton dated to 1969.

Downy emerald (Cordulia aenea)
This is one I very much wanted to see this year. With only a few suitable sites around the country I took a trip out with Floss to Glengarrif to try and find them. We did indeed find one individual but never managed to photograph it at rest. The shot below is unfortunately my only one.

Four spot chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
One of Ireland’s most common and also most approachable dragonflies. Four spots have quite a stunning pattern to their wings with the four spots being unique amongst the Irish species.

Common darter (Sympetrum striolatum)
I have glimpsed several darters over the past month but have only been able to confirm one as common darter a few days ago because it had yellow lines on its legs, a diagnostic feature. As this species is not yet emerged in most of its sites I will wait until later in the season to post pictures.

The list so far 
Hairy hawker (seen) 
Common hawker
Brown hawker
Migrant hawker
Southern hawker
Emperor hawker (seen) 
Downy emerald (seen) 
Northern emerald
Four spot chaser (seen) 
Keeled skimmer
Black tailed skimmer
Common darter (seen) 
Red veined darter
Ruddy darter
Black darter