© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Damsels...no distress!


I shifted uncomfortably. The sun had found its way through the leaves shading me and was hitting one spot on my shoulder and burning it; the log I was crouched down on was starting to get deeply uncomfortable; a nettle was brushing against the back of my leg in the occasional, gentle breeze; and Scamp had just shaken water all over me. So why did I have a big smile on my face?

Over a week earlier local wildlife expert, Paul Anthony, had recommended I visit Sarehole Mill, which is famous as a place dear to J.R.R. Tolkein. It is a ten minute drive or forty minute walk away from Highbury Park, and Paul had told me of a very special damselfly there, something I would really love to see. So when today had arrived so bright, still and hot (perfect Damsel and Dragon weather) I had decided it was the perfect time to explore somewhere new.

I had been there for quite a while and seen Small Skippers, Small Tortoiseshell, and a fair few Large Whites – more than I have seen elsewhere this year, and can only assume it isn’t a bumper year for them. A couple of Commas flitted here and there, and among the Speckled WoodsI saw were a pair of males twirling round and round one another at such a pace they were almost a blur as they fought over territory. There were lots of flies too, and gnats dancing over the River Cole, which is more like a large stream at Sarehole. But what I wasn’t seeing were any Dragon or Damsels…

Finally ready to give up, I plonked myself down on a low fallen tree trunk while Scamp jumped about in the water. Then a wonderful flash of brilliant blue shimmered across the other side of the river. Was it a blue butterfly? I peered forward, already reaching for my camera. There it was again! A cobalt blue flash as the sunlight hit something that was flying quickly. This time I followed the movement and was able to zoom in on the area with my camera…

‘Beautiful!’ I found myself breathing aloud, as I click, click, clicked away.

It was indeed – the aptly-named Beautiful Demoiselle. The male version of this magnificent damselfly boasts an iridescent blue body, with deeper blue iridescent wings (the female is a bottle green). Every time it flew, the sunlight caught it and made it positively dazzle.

For at least twenty minutes I sat mesmerised as it danced in the light of the opposite bank, throwing shards of colour this way and that. Occasionally it rested on leaves or the odd piece of branch in the shallow, moderately fast-flowing stream. Each time, I took that opportunity to snap away, holding my breath and hoping that the pictures would turn out well given that I was zoomed so far in without a tripod to steady me. It was simply a case of breath in, then oh so gently breathe out as I pressed the button down…

If you want to see the end result, just go to the Damselfly Fact File by clicking here. Don’t forget that every time you read my blog and see a word that is underlined, that means there are photos and more information about it available simply by clicking on the word. The Fact File and Gallery are being added to all the time!

#beautifuldemoiselle #sareholemill

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