4 spotted darterHawkers, Chasers and Skimmers

Sunday, 10th July 2005, South Yorkshire


Spearwort is a large-flowered buttercup with long, pointed leaves, growing here in water a foot deep on the dragonfly pond at the RSPB Old Moor reserve. I'm sheltering from the fierce morning sun under a fishing umbrella.

I guess this is greater spearwort from the size of the flower.

Brown Hawker

aeshnaA large brown aeshna, Aeshna grandis, hawks around by the reeds while nearby common blue damselflies, Enallagma cyathigera, and some even bluer azure damselflies, Coneagrion puella, are flying about near the boardwalk, some of the males clasping females as they dip to lay their eggs on water plants.

blue damselfly

Four-spotted Chaser

4 spot
4 spot

trr - rtr tr - rtr rr. . . 4 spot

A four-spotted chaser, Libellula quadrimaculata, keeps returning to a perch on a water plant near me, then sallies off after a passing insect. It is probably also guarding a territory and on the look out for a female.

This dragonfly, which was chasing blue damselflies, rattled as it went past me.

4 spot
Four-spotted chaser taking a break


In tandem

female laying

Laying eggs

In Tandem

This pair of 4-spots were mating, the male chasing the female, then clasping her as they flew around low over the water. 'In tandem' is the term for this aerial embrace.

They separated and the female deposited her eggs, one by one, dipping her tail-end just beneath the surface of the water (not on vegetation). A drop or two of water fell from the tip of her abdomen as she moved on a foot or so then dipped her ovipositor in the water again to deposit the next egg.

The male followed her around and they were soon in tandem again before the female separated and resumed egg-laying.

4 spot
4 spot
4 spot

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed SkimmeremperorThe black-tailed skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum, has a completely different flight pattern to the 'rest-and-chase' of the four-spotted chaser; it zips around just above the surface of the water.

King of the pond, our largest dragonfly, is another hawker, the Emperor Dragonfly, Anax imperator. I might have difficulty picking out the precise colour of skimmer and chaser as they zip about but even I have no difficulty picking out the lapis lazuli abdomen of the Emperor as he hawks about over the pond (his thorax is in fact greenish, not as I've sketched it here, but the overall impression is turquoise-blue).


skipperA small skipper flutters over red clover, birdsfoot trefoil and rather undernourished-looking meadow buttercup on the dry clay bank beside me. There are large skippers around too, but they have more dark marks on their wings than the predominantly orange small skippers.

fly or mothThere's a soft clatter and what appears to be a brown-winged fly, about the size of a flesh fly, lands on my umbrella. It could be a micro-moth or the adult of some aquatic insect that I'm not familiar with. Next Page


RSPB Old Moor Wetlands

Dragonflies at West Bretton (includes video clip)

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk