On the penultimate day of May in 2006, Keith Balmer came across a Downy Emerald dragonfly at Sandhouse Lane Local Nature Reserve in Heath & Reach. The only previous Bedfordshire record had come from Heath and Reach in July 1951! Since then local dragonfly enthusiasts have made an annual pilgrimage to the area hoping for sightings during its relatively short flying period.
David, one of our Dragonfly Recorders, asked yesterday if anyone had seen them yet…which inspired me to visit a private lake in the area this morning. There I met up with Lol Carmen and we made our way to the water’s edge on the eastern shore. Having pursued a damselfly through the undergrowth, we were making our way back to the path when I suddenly noticed an empty dragonfly exuviae at the base of a clump of Soft Rush. I called to Lol that there was at least one large dragonfly species on the wing, when I suddenly noticed what was above it….
…an adult Downy Emerald! This photo was taken just after the dragonfly had opened its wings which had been closed together initially…my excuse for not seeing it straightaway! It was great to be able to confirm breeding here – soon after, the dragonfly flew into the top of a neighbouring Willow tree.
Encouraged, we made our way around the lake margin where I soon found an exuviae half-way up some emergent sedge – the Soft Rush where the first one dragonfly was seen was a good metre or more away from the lake shore!
After exploring the northern shore of the lake, we made our way back to the eastern edge, and Lol located another exuviae. As he bent down to examine it, I found another one just a metre or so away and went to pick it up….only to find it waving its legs at me!!
It had just emerged from the lake and was making its way up some Soft Rush to find a suitable location to emerge. The larvae will sometimes climb trees and emerge at the tips of twigs!
This was all happening just after midday, and we decided to stick around and watch what happened next...which didn't take long as the back of the exoskeleton split and the adult began to emerge...
Gradually, the adult squeezed himself out....an amazing transformation….
How did he fit in there??
(The first and fifth photos are mine...the rest are Lol's...you can tell by the step up in quality!!)