Our normal Thursday trip to Cardiff was cancelled today, partly because R and I are now sad old people who can’t go out and about enjoying ourselves for more than a few hours together without needing a week lying down in a darkened room to recover, and partly because Baby B is bringing his parents over here for a visit this weekend, and seeing us twice within that time-frame is more than he can contemplate. So instead R went to Stratford this morning for a dental appointment, and I hitched a lift with him and used the time to go looking for Odonata.
There’s a stretch of overgrown river bank close to Lucy’s Mill Bridge which is favoured by Banded Demoiselles, and every year it’s one of my go-to places when I want to photograph these gorgeous damselflies. This is a species that favours slow-flowing rivers, with the females ovipositing into submerged or emergent vegetation, and the larvae (which take two years to mature) live among the roots of those plants and don’t wander far, so once a population has established itself in an area like this it’s unlikely to abandon it unless the water becomes polluted or otherwise unsuitable. The population on this stretch of the Avon does vary in size from year to year, and along with other species their season has been late getting under way this year, but today I found about half a dozen competing males patrolling a small bed of nettles and convolvulus, plus this one very fresh female.
The books state that immature Banded Demoiselle females are never seen near water, which is clearly not true in this case, but coupled with the fact that she was extremely passive it makes me wonder if she’d only just emerged, and was still hardening off before heading for the trees to undergo maturation. She was only a few metres from the river, and it’s said that emergent Banded Demoiselles can travel up to 100m from water before breaking out of their larval cases; their small exuviae aren’t at all easy to find though (for an amateur, at any rate), and I couldn’t see any benefit in trampling around in the nettles and disturbing my subject, in search of the answer to an idle speculation.
During the twenty minutes or so I was working at the edge of the river, several people stopped on their way down the steps from the bridge, to watch me taking photos and to ask me about the Banded Demoiselles. I’m normally somewhere between reticent and terse in these circumstances, but today I was more than happy to share my passion and see these jewel-like creatures gaining new fans.