Damsel in distress

Flanders Moss NNR

Jane Petrie, our blog editor, took a walk at Flanders recently:

A bright sunny day is not to be missed, especially when we’ve had as dark and cold a spring as this year.  So, still trying to get to grips with my fangled camera, off I set to see what I could see on Flanders Moss.  I think it’s fair to say you never quite know what you’re going to see on Flanders and today was no exception…

With today’s warm sunshine the damsel flies and dragonflies were shimmering around here and there, their wings catching the light as they darted round, pausing, changing direction, dashing off again…  Dragonflies and damselflies start their life in the water as an egg, then live as larvae or ‘nymphs’ who are voracious predators to other water dwellers.  This stage of their life can last 1-2 years depending on water temperature and food availability.  Once ready to emerge they climb up a stem and force their way through the tough membrane of water tension, before their skin splits and they can begin to struggle from their larval case.  Over a few hours the adult will emerge, releasing their amazing wings and all being well, will take to the air.

I met the damsel fly below sunning itself on one of the walkway handrails, still attached to its larval case.  It looked to me like it was almost free of its case and as I watched, the case was finally detached, only for a puff of wind to send the damselfly skittering to the edge of the handrail and back down to the water below.  As Burns well noted, ‘the best laid plans…aft gang agley’ (go wrong) and sadly this ’emergence’ was one of them.  I didn’t see where the damselfly fell to but fear that this fluke gust of breeze may have robbed this particular creature of his or her few weeks of glorious winged life.  We can but hope it survived.

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Large red damselfly.

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Other watery dwellers on view today – whirlie gig beetles, which zoom around in manic circles on the surface water tension, appearing like silvery dots on the surface.  Others who exploit the water tension  – pond skaters  who skate about on the surface and back swimmers who hang upside down (to our way of thinking) attached to the underside of the water tension, and ‘row’ their way around with two long legs like a pair of oars.

And of course, the frog spawn spotted just a few weeks ago has now hatched and many of the shallow pools were a-wriggle with maturing tadpoles, basking in the warm shallows.

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Tadpoles basking in the shallows



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