What does it feel like to walk through a cloud of glittering damselflies? or to watch them delicately laying eggs on a sunken leaf?
Large Red Damselfly – courtesy of Wikipedia
To be honest I’ve never really been a huge fan of damselflies. I’ve always favoured the butch colourful dragonflies that patrol the riverbanks, fearlessly fighting off any intruder who dares to enter their territory. So to admit that damselflies come pretty high on my “best wildlife moments” list, is a bit strange to say the least.
My first “best moment” happened earlier this year on the River Stour. I had decided to go for a walk, and it was one of those perfect summer days (did we really have any this year?), the sky was pale blue, the birds were singing and the breeze was light and warm.
Starting at White Mill in the village of Sturminster Marshall (home also to the 300 year old Walnut Tree featured in an earlier entry) I decided to walk the three miles to the neighbouring village of Shapwick, taking a windy path along the river bank. Jumping a stile and walking through tall meadow flowers and grasses, I suddenly realised that I was surrounded by hundreds of large red damselflies.
But I wasn’t just surrounded by them, I was totally enveloped by them. As I walked hundreds more took flight and glittered up into the sky, touching my bare arms and face with their delicate wings. Maybe they had emerged as larva from the water that morning, shed their final molting skins and were sitting on the reeds and grasses drying their wings in the sun. Or had they gathered on mass for breeding? I’m not quite sure.
As I stood still and held out my hands they landed momentarily and then flew off to find a safer vantage point. For a hundred metres all around there was nothing but ruby red damselflies – a spectacle I will never forget.
So did I have my camera handy…. did I hell!
I guess that taught me a BIG lesson because when a week later Andrew and I went to France my video camera was practically glued to my hand. Happily when I spotted three pairs of common blue damselflies (I’m pretty sure that’s what they are – please let me know if I’m wrong) laying eggs on a sunken leaf my camera was recording in record time! So damselfly “best moment” number two includes a lot of abdomen dipping, uncomfortable looking joined-flying and a brief guest appearance from a nosey pond skater!