Bluet

Today was the worst kind of summer day – searingly hot, with a desiccating wind, which neither the inverts not I could tolerate for long. And yes, I know I shouldn’t complain, but it felt like a wasted day, and summer is short enough as it is. The stormy wind will apparently bring in rain overnight, which may well mean that tomorrow is wasted too; I’m hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

This Azure Damselfly was floating around the secret garden this morning, along with a Beautiful Demoiselle. The demoiselle wouldn’t allow me anywhere near (and, annoyingly, I didn’t have a long lens to hand), but the damselfly came down in the laurel hedge and I managed to get within macro distance of him. He was really too high for comfort, so I had to stretch to get this, but I was glad afterwards that I’d taken the time to rattle off a few frames at him, because having trailed down the wild garden to fetch my hop-up step, when I arrived stickily back at the laurel I found that he’d seized the moment and departed.

We’re having a strange Odonata season here, with very few damselfly emergences from either of our ponds, and thus far no sign of any oviposition into them either. This is in stark contrast to the past two summers – the first two seasons for these little ponds – when they were crazily popular with the local Odonata. In 2020 we’d barely installed them when the damsels turned up en masse to use them, followed later in the summer by several Southern Hawkers, and last year we lost count in the end of the number of damselflies that emerged.

While I’ve been gently worrying about this, I don’t think we’re alone in having a problem: our neighbours along the lane currently have more blue damsels than we do in their long-established pond, but many fewer than I generally see there, and the village pond is almost deserted as well. Further afield, some sites that I’ve visited this season, such as Lower Moor in Wiltshire, have been teeming with Odonata, but others, such as Croome and Grove Hill, have been very quiet indeed.

The BDS report State of Dragonflies 2021 suggests that overall our dragons and damsels are doing well, with most resident species increasing in numbers, but my sense is that – in this little bit of the Shire at any rate – 2022 is not going to be a bumper year. On the plus side, we had a very unexpected Four-spotted Chaser out of our patio pond last month, and we do at least have Beautiful Demoiselles, which I didn’t see here at all last summer. I was also very pleased to spot the first Southern Hawker of the year hunting around the garden a couple of days ago – though whether she emerged from our wildlife pond is impossible to say.

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