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  • Writer's pictureHarris Brooker

Dragonflies of Speyside

Dragonflies and damselflies are an ancient group of insects that have been around on Earth since the Carboniferous Era 358 - 298 million years ago. Back then in the lush, oxygen rich climate they could grow to the size of cartwheels. Dragonflies of that size have since disappeared. Here’s an account of some their smaller descendants that now roam the wetlands of Speyside today.



Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - This is one of the earliest damselflies to appear and is easily identified by its red and black abdomen and has black legs, which tells it apart from a similar species not found in Speyside called the Small Red Damselfly. The male has thin black stripes on the abdominal sections which end in a section of three black bands, the top third one having the biggest section of black. Females are similar but have larger black sections on the abdomen with yellow markings underneath. Can be easily found in wetland areas like ponds, lakes, rivers and canals. They are around from mid-April to the end of August.


In this image there is a damselfly called a Large Red Damselfly that is perched on a blade of grass and has a thin red and black body. This is the male.
Large Red Damselfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


In this image there is a Large Red Damselfly male sat on some Bogbean leaves facing toward the camera.
Large Red Damselfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Common Blue Damselfly - One of the commonest damselfly species in Speyside. Males are blue and black, females are black with either a blue or dull green colouration and has a thistle shaped mark just below the wing base with rocket shaped markings down the rest of the abdomen. At the top of the abdomen the males have a black mushroom shaped marking that tells it apart from the similar Northern Damselfly which has a spade shaped marking. Found from May to September.




In this image there is a damselfly called a Common Blue Damselfly which is sat on a blade of grass. It has a blue and black abdomen with a mushroom shaped mark below the wing base.
Common Blue Damselfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Northern Damselfly - A localised damselfly species that looks outwardly like a Common Blue Damselfly but is much thinner, more delicate looking and has a spade shaped marking at the top of the abdomen. Has more black on the thorax and thinner blue stripes there too. The male is blue and the female looks green side on, though is mostly black above. Found in June and July.


In this image there is a male Northern Damselfly which has a blue and black abdomen and has a spade shaped mark below the wing base. It is sat on a blade of grass.
Northern Damselfly (Photo Credit: Roy Atkins)


Emerald Damselfly (Lestes Sponsa)- A widespread damselfly and the commonest of the three Emerald Damselfly species that occur in the UK. Males are more bluish with a shiny green thorax. The female is greener overall. It can be abundant in places, especially in still waters with tall vegetation like rushes and sedges. They appear from June to August.


In this image there is a damselfly called an Emerald Damselfly. This is a male because of its blue and emerald colouration. It is sat on a horsetail stem.
Male Emerald Damselfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


In this image there is a female Emerald Damselfly which is sat on a rush and has a mostly green colouration with some brown on the abdomen and tail.
Female Emerald Damselfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Common Darter (Sympetrum Striolatum) - Males have red abdomens, with yellow patches on the side and females have yellow abdomens, though they become duller and more reddish with age. Can be at home in virtually any wetland area including ponds, ditches, rivers and lakes. Darters are named for their habit of hunting which involves sitting and waiting for prey to come past it, then ‘darting’ forwards to catch it where they then return to a perch to eat it. Found from June to November, though the autumn months may not necessarily apply to Speyside.


In this image there is a dragonfly called a Common Darter. This one is a male because of its red abdomen. It is sat on some wood.
Male Common Darter (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image there is a female Common Darter which has a yellow abdomen and it is sat on some grass.
Female Common Darter (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Four Spotted Chaser - (Libellula Quadrimaculata) - A medium sized dragonfly that is fairly broad bodied, with a brown abdomen and yellowish colouration down the side of its body. It’s named for its four spots on the wings, four per wing and only on the frontal edge. Males and females look alike. Has an erratic flight interspersed with hovering and often likes to return to the same perch which makes photographing them comparatively easy. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Flying Cigar’. Found from May to August.


In this image there is a dragonfly called a Four Spotted Chaser which has a thick brownish yellow body with wings with four spots on each wing and only on the frontal edge. It is sat amongst some grass.
Four Spotted Chaser (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster Boltonii) - One of the largest dragonflies. The adults have black abdomens with thick black stripes. Like other dragonfly species, it can be seen dipping its abdomen in the water to lay its eggs, a behaviour known as ovipositing. Likes to breed in acidic rivers and stagnant water and may be found in heathland. Found from June to August.


In this image there is a large dragonfly called a Golden Ringed Dragonfly which has black and yellow stripes along its body. It's dipping its abdomen into some water so it can lay eggs.
Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Common Hawker (Aeshna Juncea) - A large dragonfly. Males have black abdomens with one row of blue spots. They have two yellow stripes on the abdomen that are known as ante-humeral stripes. Females have greenish blue spots and either have very small ante-humeral stripes or they are absent. Likes wetland areas, including bog lands. Found from June to September.


In this image there is a large dragonfly called a Common Hawker. This is a male because of its black and blue markings along the abdomen. It is sat on some wood.
Common Hawker (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


In this image there is a female Common Hawker sat on some Blaeberry. It has mostly green and black markings along the abdomen with some blue ones at the tail.
Female Common Hawker (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


White Faced Darter (Leucorrhinia Dubia) - One of the most localised dragonflies in Speyside. Males are coloured red and black on the thorax and abdomens and females have yellow and black ones. Each has its namesake white face. Likes acidic bog pools with plenty of sphagnum moss in which to lay eggs and have their larvae hatch. Found from May to July.


In this image there is a male White Faced Darter which is a kind of small dragonfly. This one is a male because of its black and red colouration along the body. It is sat on a twig of Heather with some Sphagnum moss blurred in the background.
Male White Faced Darter (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image there is a male White Faced Darter sat on a rush looking toward the camera with its namesake white face visible.
Male White Faced Darter (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)



Northern Emerald (Somatochlora Arctica)- One of the most localised dragonflies in Speyside. They have black abdomens with a greenish sheen that is only seen when the light catches them right. Males have a pinched appearance to their waists whereas on females it’s more parallel sided. Very difficult to approach and will fly away at any modest attempt. They breed in bog land pools with plenty of Sphagnum moss and the adults will hunt in wet meadows, open areas within pine forests or on moorland with scattered trees. Found from June to July.


In this image there is a male Northern Emerald. A kind of medium sized dragonfly perched on some heather. It has a dark glossy green abdomen which is pinched at the top in the male and a brighter green thorax and eyes.
Male Northern Emerald (Photo Credit: Roy Atkins)


In this image there is a female Northern Emerald sat on some heather. It has a glossy dark green abdomen that has a consistent thickness all the way down.
Female Northern Emerald (Photo Credit: Roy Atkins)



Azure Hawker - One of the rarest dragonflies in Britain. This one is relatively unlikely to be seen in Speyside but is included here because of its similarity with the Common Hawker. Has a mostly blue abdomen with black spots. Female looks darker. In females a brown form also exists as well as the usual blue one. Likes boggy moorland where it can happily perch on tree trunks and rocks. Found from June to July.


In this image there is a dragonfly called an Azure Hawker. This one is a male because of its black and blue markings.
Male Azure Hawker (Photo Credit: Roy Atkins)

If you fancy a chance to see dragonflies on a day out go to: http://bit.ly/sw_DG


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