• Barbara Copperthwaite

A flash of red...

Large Red Damselfly (male), Barbara Copperthwaite, Go BE wild

Woo-hoo! Yesterday I saw my first damselfly of the year on Henbury Pond! I’ve been scanning the air over the water, and the surrounding foliage every day for the past month now, eagerly awaiting an appearance by these gorgeous insects. Then, today, I spotted a needle-like glint of red in the sunlight. It was there for a second, then gone, tantillising me. There it was again! This time I managed to follow it as it went down to rest on some leaves floating on the pond’s surface.

The Large Red Damselfly is common and widespread, and normally the first of the year to make an appearance, so it was no surprise that it should be the first I spot on Henbury Pond. I was desperate to get another first too – my first damselfly photo of the year. I zoomed in on the tiny insect, just 3.5cm long, and took some snaps but wasn’t satisfied with the clarity. Cautiously, I edged around the pond, holding my breath for fear of disturbing my prey. On the side of the pond I was slightly closer…but there was also thicker undergrowth. Leaning as far forward as I dare on my tiptoes without tumbling into the undergrowth and bumblebees busily pollinating, I found a tiny gap through which I could see the floating leaf and damselfly resting on it. Arms at full legth in front of me, I zoomed in, focused, told myself I must not tremble, even though my muscles were starting to hurt in this awkward position…and managed to get several shots. Success!

In the photograph you can clearly see the beautiful red body of this male, it’s bronzed thorax, and the distinctive yellow stripes. If you want to know more about Damselflies and Dragonflies, check out this month’s in-depth feature ‘Here Be Dragons’.

I walked on, accompanied by the deep drone of bumblebees. There are so many Buff-Tailed Bumblebees appearing in the park now, all as busy as the proverbial, buzzing from one bloom to the next. It’s great to see, as our bumbles are in big trouble (some suggestions for flowers to plant to help them can be found in Bumblebees: Live Fast Die Young).

The air was as full of birdsong as it was bees droning, particularly Blackbirds and Robins. They sound glorious now. The birds will be singing to retain their territory, trying to squeeze in another brood. Also, the females sing in order to teach the young their bird song. Birds even have local dialects, so in theory it’s possible to tell where a bird is from just from its song (the song is the same, just with tiny differences, in the same way that someone from London and someone from Glasgow say the same words, just with a different accent).

As one of the Nuthatch nests I’ve been keeping an eye on has fledged and I missed it (argh!). So I went to see the other nest. I keep hidden, and use my camera at maximum zoom when doing this, so that I don’t disturb the parents and make them suspicious. But though I waited patiently, I didn’t see any signs of movement (could this be because already there are eggs being brooded? Hopefully!) but above the hole, in the very same tree, was the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I scanned the foliage and branches, but could see nothing thanks to the dense leaf cover, but it was a lovely thing to hear, nonetheless.

As I wandered on, a tiny blue butterfly went past; whether a Common Blue or a Holly Blue I don’t know because I didn’t see it rest. I haven’t confirmed any sightings of Common Blue in the park yet, but have definitely seen a couple of Holly Blue (the underwings are the best way of telling the difference. The Holly Blue has a more silvered underwing, with fewer markings).

The heavy rain and a cold snap of a few days ago does seem to have impacted on the butterflies, as even though it’s sunny I’ve barely seen any. A lone Speckled Wood flew by, but hopefully its pals are lurking around somewhere close by.

#largereddamselfly #kingsheath #highburypark #bufftailedbumblebee #blackbird #robin #nuthatch #greatspottedwoodpecker #woodpecker #commonblue #hollyblue #speckledwood

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