Category Archives: Dragonflies

Beautiful Demoiselles

Vic Savery sent me these excellent photos of Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo), which he took at Three Brooks Nature Reserve in Bradley Stoke yesterday. Demoiselles are our largest damselflies, and one of our most noticable and easily-recognised, and like the Common Clubtail I featured in an earlier post, mainly river-dwelling species.

 female demoiselle1  beautiful demoiselle1
Beautiful Demoiselle, 14 June 2013, Bradley Stoke, Bristol, Vic Savery (naturenutz.net)

There are two species of demoiselle in Britain; Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens), the other species, has a narrow dark patch across the wings in males, with extensive clear areas at both the base and tip, and has a blue rather then blue-green abdomen. Female Bandeds are more similar in appearance to female Beautiful Demoiselle, but with green-tinged rather than brown wings. There are other species of demoiselle in continental Europe, including the Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) with a copper-red abdomen.

Beautiful Demoiselle prefers faster-flowing streams with stony riverbeds, whereas Banded likes slower-flowing muddier-bottomed rivers; however the two are often found together, indicating some overlap in the types of river they prefer. Ther British distributions differ: Beautiful Demoiselle is mainly found in Wales, southern and western England, with an outpost in western Scotland, whereas Banded Demoiselle is found throughout England and Wales but only just makes it into southern Scotland.

Around Bristol, both species are found on many of our rivers and streams, including the Avon, Chew, Cam, Wellow, Yeo, and both the Bristol and Bath River Fromes. They are also often found away from rivers (e.g. around ditches on the North Somerset levels, or at ponds and lakes throughout the region).

Common Clubtail on the River Wye

I haven’t featured a dragonfly on this blog yet, so I’m going to remedy that now with a rather good one. This is a female Common Clubtail (Gomphus vulgatissimus), photographed by Martyn Hall next to the River Wye at Monmouth yesterday.

Club-tailed Dragonfly
Common Clubtail, 9 June 2013, River Wye, Monmouthshire, Martyn Hall (www.martynhallphotography.com)

The river here is a well-known site for this species, and with the good weather today, Martyn & I thought we’d give it a try. We walked north-east up the west bank from the Wye Bridge, and eventually found this individual on a stretch of the river to the north of St Peter’s church, at this location:

Older books just call this species the “Club-tailed Dragonfly” but there are several other closely-related species in Europe that this name could apply to, and this is the one with the widest range, hence the newly-coined name. In Britain, however, it’s not common at all, being confined to just eight river-systems. As well as the Wye, it’s found on the Severn, reaching downstream as far as Tewkesbury, on the Thames in Oxfordshire, the Lugg in Herefordshire, the Dee in Cheshire, the Arun in Sussex and two rivers in west Wales, the Teifi and Tywi. A slow water flow, lack of pollution, a silty river bottom, plenty of bankside vegetation and nearby woodlands are all essential habitat requirements, which explains the restricted British range.

Common Clubtail has quite a short flight period, but should be on the wing here for a few more weeks. After emerging in May, they leave the river to feed in surrounding woodlands and then return to set up territories, so numbers on the river may not yet be at their peak given the late spring. There were also around 20 Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens), but no other dragonflies on this visit, although this site does also have White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) later in the season.