Beautiful demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) : simply stunning!
Beautiful by name, beautiful in appearance, and really quite magical in their delicate fluttering around the bushes along the rides in my favourite local woodland. The Beautiful demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo) seem to have emerged en masse during last week’s warmer weather.
I chose Forest Farm Nature Reserve for my wander on day 28 of #30DaysWild, to take advantage of the large shady trees, and I’m very glad I did because it was another scorcher. As well as the thrill of seeing my very first White-letter hairstreak butterfly (along with many other butterfly species), I was particularly delighted by the Beautiful demoiselle damselflies (Calopteryx virgo). Their iridescent colours sparkled in the dappled sunlight as they flitted back and forth along the old Glamorgan Canal. Fairies!
Back at the end of April I wrote about my first dragonfly sighting of the year – only it turned out to be a damselfly, not a dragonfly, and I blogged about my first lesson in telling the two families apart. That gorgeous creature was a female of the very aptly named Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx Virgo) species. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to see many more Beautiful Demoiselles, including the equally handsome metallic blue-green male of the species. I’ve also seen many other types of damselflies and some, though not as many, dragonflies (the 4-spotted chaser featured in one blog, and the Broad-bodied chaser in another).
You may not know it but today is the first day of National Dragonfly Week 2016, which this year runs from Saturday 23rd to Sunday 31st July. It’s the brainchild of the British Dragonfly Society, which exists to record dragonfly numbers and to educate people about dragonflies and their habitats in order to aid with their conservation. The society and other wildlife groups will be holding events throughout the week to raise awareness of damsel and dragonflies – you can see more on the BDS website – and I will be highlighting a different species each day this week as my own way of celebrating these heavenly creatures.
One of the best things about writing this blog is that I’m constantly learning new things. When this gorgeous creature flitted across my path in Bute Park on Wednesday, I thought ‘Ooooo, my first dragonfly of the year!’ Wrong! This is a damselfly, a female of the very aptly named species Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx Virgo).
So, I asked myself, ‘how do I tell the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly?’ It seems there are four basic differences that even I should be able to spot:
1) Body shape: dragonflies are bulkier, shorter and thicker, whereas damselflies are slender and delicate.
2) Eyes: a dragonfly’s eyes are much larger, wrapping around from the side to the front of the head, often touching. The eyes of the damselfly are also big, but tend to be more to the side of the head, with a definite gap between.
3) Wing shape: the hind wings of the dragonfly are larger than the fore wings and broaden at the base, but the damselfly’s wings are both the same size and shape, and narrow markedly where they connect to the body.
4) Wing position: when resting, the dragonfly always spreads its wings, whereas the damselfly rests with its wings together above its body.
Above is a photo of a female Brown Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna grandis), taken last year, so you can see the differences. And, hopefully, my rather early Beautiful Demoiselle will just be the first of many of these heavenly creatures.