Otmoor Downy Emerald and other early season Odonata – 21st May

A day of prolonged sunshine in late May isn’t too much to expect is it, even in Blighty? Well it’s all depended on how far south the jet streams flow in recent years and 2015 has been a familiar story. In another week of unfriendly conditions for observing insects today actually delivered some fair weather and results. And I realised an important ambition for this season of finding and photographing Downy Emerald on my local nature reserve, Otmoor.

This most beautiful of dragons, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chaser have all been recorded on the reserve on other recent sunny days when I have been away seeing to my 2015 butterfly series. Setting out this afternoon along the Roman Road footpath that runs north from the end of Otmoor Lane, I was quickly rewarded with a season’s first Four-spotted Chaser. Then on either side of the corner where this path meets the eastern end of the Otmoor bridleway at least three Hairy Dragonfly were active. I saw my first local Hairy at this same spot three days ago but as on that occasion today’s didn’t perch in the open to oblige for the camera.

Downy Emerald and friend

Downy Emerald and friend

Not so my first ever Otmoor Downy Emerald (above). Having been disturbed initially by one of the Hairys, allowing me to locate it, this Downy then basked in sunlight in the same spot for a very long time. Eventually it disappeared in a moment when I was distracted by another Hairy fly-past. This metallic green species breeds in standing water close to woodland and often hangs down from branches as this one did when at rest. Otmoor is now a reliable site though they occur only in small numbers and luck is required to see one.

There were at least three Four-spotted Chaser in the vicinity, a very widespread species that is always easy to photograph (below). The Hairys continued to come and go but not settle within range, and I saw another three when walking back up the Roman Road to the car park.

Four-spotted Chaser

Four-spotted Chaser

Numbers of blue damselflies are also building along the Roman Road. In my two visits here this week they all looked like Azure Damselfly, though as usual occasional Large Red Damselfly put in appearances (see Downy photo). This site will be teeming with common damselflies before very long, allowing comparison of several similar species in different forms. Two days ago at the Noke end of the Otmoor bridleway I came across a first Red-eyed Damselfly of the season.

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