by David Chandler
I’m assuming you can tell a damselfly from a true dragonfly. The true dragons can then be split into ‘fliers’ and ‘perchers’. The ‘perchers’ are more obliging – they spend more time settled, darting out and returning to the same perch or nearby, or settling on the ground or a fence. The ‘fliers’ are trickier – often they seem to never stop flying. I wrote about them last summer. This article looks at six perchers that you could see at Foxearth Meadows. Hopefully, it will help you identify them with confidence.
|– Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata|
A chunky, feisty, brownish dragonfly that can be very obvious zipping out and back from a waterside perch. Look for four additional dark spots on the wings – making it look like eight spots. These extra spots are roughly half way along the leading edge of each wing – one per wing. It has black pigment at the base of the hindwings, yellow on the abdomen sides and a black ‘tail’. Those four extra spots are enough to clinch the ID. Four-spots will even take on Emperors – our biggest species!
2 Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
These are not so scarce anymore. The male has a powder-blue abdomen with a black tip, and dark pigment at the wing bases, especially the hindwings, though this isn’t always easy to see. The thorax is dark with no pale shoulder stripes and the eyes are bluish. Females and immature males have a striking orange-yellow abdomen with a dark central line on top. Males and females may have ‘smoky’ wing tips. Males are similar to Black-tailed Skimmers but are typically seen perched then flying out and back at the water’s edge – not on the ground.
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
These are not common at Foxearth Meadows but have been recorded. The male has a broad, blue abdomen with yellow flashes on the sides, obvious dark pigment at the wing bases and pale shoulder stripes on the thorax. Females and immature males are browny-yellow but still have shoulder stripes and dark pigment at the wing bases.
4 Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum
You will see these flying up from the path in front of you, then settling on the ground again. The males are similar to Scarce Chasers – both have a powder-blue abdomen with a black tip. Unlike the chasers, skimmers have no pigment at the wing bases. Females and immature males have a black ‘ladder’ on a yellow abdomen.
Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
The males of Foxearth’s two darter species are red or orangey-red. This one has an orangey-red abdomen, a dark panel on its otherwise pale-sided thorax, and, if you get a good look, pale stripes along the legs. Females and immature males are yellowy-brown but still have those pale leg-stripes. You’ll see Common Darters on plants, on the ground, and on the boardwalk. They fly later in the year than any other species – sometimes even in December.
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum
Male Ruddy Darters are a richer, bloodier red than Common Darters and the abdomen has a ‘waist’ just behind the wings. Their legs are black and unstriped and the sides of the thorax are plain and dark. They are red-faced too! Females and immature males are similar to Common Darters but have black, unstriped legs, and a black ‘T’ on top of the thorax.