The recent hot weather has encouraged the spring damselflies and dragonflies to emerge. One of the most noticeable of the blue damselflies loves to bask on waterlily leaves or other floating vegetation. It can be seen on several of the Exbury ponds, and can be recognised by its large red eyes, visible from quite a distance. Appropriately enough, it is called Red-eyed Damselfly; (there is a Small Red-eyed Damselfly which appears later in the summer).
The earliest dragonfly to emerge is quite a small neat-looking one (in comparison to the Emperor and other hawkers). It is known as the Hairy Dragonfly because it has hairs on its thorax. This is not a very useful characteristic for identifying it in the field, as it is impossible to see the hairs on its chest as it whizzes by, and finding one perched is also a challenge. However, its green, blue and brown colours are possible to pick out so you can be fairly confident when you see one.
One of my favourite early dragonflies is the Broad-bodied Chaser. The male is unmistakeable, with its short and broad powder-blue body and distinctive yellow spots along the sides, while the slightly larger female is a lovely dark golden colour. It tends to alight on bits of vegetation, using them as a look out, and returns repeatedly to the same perch. An eye-catching feature is the large dark triangle at the base of its wings, which in common with all dragonflies, it holds at 90º to its body, making observation quite easy.
The earliest damselfly of all is usually the Large Red Damselfly. This is easy to identify (the Small Red comes out later!), and is often very common around bodies of water. As its name suggests, it is red with black legs and has a few black markings on its abdomen. Enjoy it when you see it, as getting to grips with all the various similar-looking blue damselflies is quite a challenge, which I will go into at a future date.
Finally, a nice find on North Lake was a less common dragonfly called Downy Emerald. What you notice is a greenish thorax and a shiny bronze abdomen, which is distinctly waisted. It also has green eyes. This species is not seen every year. It favours well-vegetated ponds fringed with trees, flying and hovering quite low over the water, but seldom perching. The one I saw did not alight anywhere during the half hour I spent watching it.