Dragonflies

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.

Damselflies

The photographs below show the damselflies most likely to be seen within the park.

Beautiful Demoiselle (m)
Beautiful Demoiselle – male

With their large colourful wings the Demoiselles resemble butterflies in flight.

Beautiful Demoiselle (f)
Beautiful Demoiselle – female

The female Beautiful Demoiselle has translucent brownish wings.

Banded Demoiselle (m)
Banded Demoiselle – male

The male Banded Demoiselle has clear wings with a dark band part way along each.

Banded Demoiselle (f)
Banded Demoiselle – female

The female Banded Demoiselle has translucent greenish wings.

Large Red Damselfly (m)
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 (m)
Azure Damselfly – male

The Azure is the commonest ‘blue’ in the park.

Azure Damselfly (f)
Azure Damselfly – female

The female Azure is generally black on the top of the abdomen with only narrow blue stripes.

Common Blue Damselfly (m)
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 (m)
Blue-tailed Damselfly – female

Fairly common in the Park and identified by its blue tail and two-tone wing spots. The female has several different colour forms.

Red-eyed Damselfly (m)
Red-eyed Damselfly – male

The male is easily confused with the Blue-tailed Damselfly but has distinctly red eyes and is less common. The female lacks the blue tail and has duller eyes.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (m)
Small Red-eyed Damselfly – male

This recent colonist from Europe is now breeding in the Park. Smaller than the Red-eyed Damselfly and it appears later in the summer.

Willow Emerald Damselfly
Willow Emerald Damselfly

Only recently seen in the Park but they are extending their range along the South Coast. At least seven were present in 2020.

White Legged Damselfly
White Legged Damselfly

Not often seen in the park although a few breed here, 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.

Dragonflies

These photographs show some of the dragonflies most likely to be seen around the park.

Hairy Dragonfly (m)
Hairy Dragonfly – male

Often first of the dragonflies to appear, usually in May, this hawker is the only one that has a hairy thorax.

Migrant Hawker (m)
Migrant Hawker – male

The resident population is added to by continental migrants. You are most likely to see them from August to October.

Migrant Hawker (f)
Migrant Hawker – female

The female usually has brown and yellow markings instead of blue and yellow.

Southern Hawker (m)
Southern Hawker – male

A colourful hawker with both green and blue markings. Mostly seen from July to September. Females are brown with green markings.

Brown Hawker
Brown Hawker - male

The only predominantly brown dragonfly, it has amber-tinted wings and is mostly seen during July and August. The sexes are similar.

Emperor Dragonfly (m)
Emperor Dragonfly – male

Our largest dragonfly, the male Emperor is distinctly blue in flight, and rarely seems to settle.

Emperor Dragonfly (f)
Emperor Dragonfly – female

The female usually has green markings and is generally seen from June until August.

Four-spotted Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser

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 (m)
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 (f)
Broad-bodied Chaser – female

Simila to the male but with a yellow abdomen. Both sexes pose nicely for photographs!

Black-tailed Skimmer (m)
Black-tailed Skimmer – male

A narrower abdomen than the Broad-bodied Chaser and lacks the markings at the wing base. Fairly common around the Park.

Black-tailed Skimmer (f)
Black-tailed Skimmer – female

The female Black-tailed Skimmer has a black and yellow ladder pattern on her abdomen.

Common Darter (m)
Common Darter – male

Probably the most numerous dragonfly in the Park, Common Darters always have a light stripe on their black legs. Seen from July until at least October.

Common Darter (f)
Common Darter – female

The female is mostly yellow-ochre becoming darker and sometimes reddish with age. The female Ruddy Darter is very similar.

Ruddy Darter (m)
Ruddy Darter – male

Slightly smaller than the Common Darter, they have all black legs and a distinct 'waist' to their abdomen.

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.

More Information

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” by Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash from the “Wild Guides” series.

Photos on this page by Peter Hunnisett

Footpaths - 1 July

All paths are dry now, but some are getting overgrown in places.

Report overgrown rights of way to East Sussex and other paths to the Friends of Combe Valley.

Latest News

Rare Spider Found

The rare Fen Raft Spider, has recently been found in the Park; a very important discovery

New on this website

April 2022 - A new section, "Nature's Calendar", has been added giving details of what to look out for around the Countryside Park at different times of the year.