Jewels in the River Crown

May was an exciting month for me. It is the month when my favorite damselfly appears. The Banded Demoiselle – Calopteryx splendens.

I am lucky enough to live near a river which is perfect for the Banded Demoiselles. A slow moving, mud bottomed river with lots of vegetation along its open banks and meadows either side for the most part. Perfect for any damselfly to lay its eggs along the vegetation.

Once these eggs hatch the larvae will remain in the river for 2 years before emerging. They climb up a reed or plant and leave their former sub-aqua life behind.

Out emerges a most beautiful creature indeed. A damselfly which sparkles iridescent blue-green in the sunlight. The males have even more distinctive dark bands on the wings giving the creature its name – Banded Demoiselle.

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) perched on a reed.

The females are not quite colourful, being more green in colour and lack the dark wing markings (which are probably for display purposes) but they still shine like green gemstones in the sun.

Female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

The freshly emerged damsels’ first job is to travel away from water, to the safety of a shrub or tree to dry out and fully form and mature. This ‘teneral’ period lasts about a week before the damsel becomes a full adult, and it is then that they venture out over the river to breed once again.

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) patrolling the reeds.

The river, in fact, plays host to many species of damsel, such as White-legged, Large Red, Azure, Common Blue, along with some dragonflies but it’s the Banded that really draws me down there. The edges are teaming with males, each trying to usurp the other from a prominent, apparently valuable, perch. If you listen carefully you can hear the buzz and clatter of their wings crashing into each other. The current perched male usually seems to prevail,fending off the young pretenders one after the other. As the Banded Demoiselles battle on, their iridescent blue-green bodies glint in the sunlight like little emerald jewels decorating the edges of the river.

Male Banded Demoiselles(Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) battling it out for the dominant perch.

Male Banded Demoiselles(Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselles(Calopteryx splendens) battling it out for the dominant perch.

This spectacle goes on for most of the Summer into August so there is plenty of time to grab some photographs of them perched among the riverside reeds. If you have the patience you may even be able to capture one in flight which really does show off how the males probably catch the females’ eye with their striking wing patterns.

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)patrolling the reeds.

Once a male has seen off all others it is time to cash in on his prize. The mating of course.

Male and female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) mating

Male and female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) in the wheel formation, mating.

Then it’s time to chill on his favourite perch and put his feet (and wings) up and kick back at the end of the day.

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) perched on a nettle at sunset.

 

I’ve ticked off this enchanting spectacle for another year and I hope you do too.

———————

I use the Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland as my ‘bible’ for all of my odonata identifications. It’s a concise guide with clear information and no waffle. I especially like the ‘similar species’ section in each entry which helps eliminate other species that may look and act the same. You can buy it at Amazon below.

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~ by shaftinactionn on June 15, 2016.

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