The Combe Valley Countryside Park is home to many dragonflies. They can be divided into two groups; the damselflies and the dragonflies. Damselflies are generally smaller and daintier and when they land they usually fold their wings back along their body. Dragonflies are larger, more robust and hold their wings at right angles to the body when at rest.
Dragons and damsels are predators and their amazing eyesight and flying skills enable them to hunt other flying insects.
The photographs below show the damselflies most likely to be seen within the park.
Beautiful Demoiselle – male
With their large colourful wings the Demoiselles resemble butterflies in flight.
Beautiful Demoiselle – female
The female Beautiful Demoiselle has translucent brownish wings.
Banded Demoiselle – male
The male Banded Demoiselle has clear wings with a dark band part way along each.
Banded Demoiselle – female
The female Banded Demoiselle has translucent greenish wings.
Large Red Damselfly – male
The only red damselfly you are likely to see in the Park. The female has more extensive black on her abdomen.
Azure Damselfly – male
The Azure is the commonest ‘blue’ in the park.
Azure Damselfly – female
The female Azure is generally black on the top of the abdomen with only narrow blue stripes.
Common Blue Damselfly – male
Despite its name this is not common in the Park and is very similar in appearance to the Azure.
Blue-tailed Damselfly – female
Fairly common in the Park and identified by its blue tail. The male has even less blue apart from the tail when seen from above.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly – male
This recent colonist from Europe is now breeding in the Park.
Willow Emerald Damselfly
Still unusual in the Park but they are extending their range along the South Coast
White Legged Damselfly
Not often seen in the park, but quite distinctive when it is spotted.
Most damselflies will be on the wing during May, June and July although some may be seen in April and some will still be around in September. Most of the photographs show the male damsel, which you are most likely to see. The females have different and often variable colouring and it can be difficult to tell some species apart.
These photographs show some of the dragonflies most likely to be seen around the park.
Migrant Hawker – male
The resident population is added to by continental migrants. You are most likely to see them from August to October.
Southern Hawker – male
A colourful hawker with both green and blue markings. Mostly seen from July to September.
Southern Hawker – female
The female is brown with green markings.
Brown Hawker – female
The only predominantly brown dragonfly, it is mostly seen during July and August.
Emperor Dragonfly – male
Our largest dragonfly, the male Emperor is distinctly blue in flight.
Emperor Dragonfly – female
The female usually has green markings and is generally seen from June until August.
Common in the Park from late May and identified be the two dark spots on each wing and the black markings at the base of the hind wings.
Broad-bodied Chaser – male
Another chaser that is common in the Park, it has the chaser markings at the base of the wings and a broad blue abdomen.
Broad-bodied Chaser – female
Simila to the male but with a yellow abdomen. Both sexes pose nicely for photographs!
Black-tailed Skimmer – male
A narrower abdomen than the Four-spotted Chaser and lacks the markings at the wing base. The female has a yellow and black abdomen.
Common Darter – male
Probably the most numerous dragonfly in the Park, it is common from July until September, although often seen later.
Common Darter – female
The female is mostly yellow-ochre but often darkens with age.
Dragonflies generally appear a little later than the damsels, some much later. The Migrant Hawker doesn’t appear in any numbers until August but can be still seen in October, and sometimes later, along with the Common Darter.
Being strong fliers dragonflies often stray some distance from the nearest water and can often be found on the edge of woodland or along hedges.
The British Dragonfly Society has an excellent website with identification guides and lots of information about ‘dragons’ and ‘damsels’.
UK Dragonflies and Damselflies is a very helpful facebook group.
A useful field guide is “Britain’s Dragonflies” (2014) by Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash.
Photos on this page by Peter Hunnisett