Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dainty Damselflies, Isle of Sheppey

Paul W and I made a successful trip down to Kent yesterday lunchtime for another new species of Odonata: Dainty Damselflies, which were only rediscovered in the UK last summer after going extinct here in 1953. They were located in three sites, and since one of these has public access, details have been released.

The site involves a few small pools underneath the new Isle of Sheppey high-rise bridge (the A249), surrounded by rough grassland. Turn off just before the start of the new bridge, go over the old bridge, and aim to park in a gateway on the LHS after about 150m – there’s room for about four or five cars with care. Once you drop down a short but steep bank, you’ll see the pools about 50m ahead of you. The Dainties seem to be favouring the area around the second pool from the left. This map might help…

sheppey_dainty_site

On arrival, we heard that up to four males had been seen earlier in the morning, but had disappeared with the arrival of thicker cloud and a few spots of rain. Fortunately, this soon cleared, and we could start searching through the relatively small numbers of Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies. After about 30 minutes, Paul located a smart female Dainty in grass NE of the pool, which showed well for photos – click to enlarge:

dainty2dainty1

The first image is the best one, and shows a number of distinctive features:

  • rather long, pale pterostigma (longer than they are wide)
  • thin black spur on the side of the thorax forming an inverted exclamation mark
  • relatively thin antehumeral stripes, compared to Common Blue
  • extensive black on segments 3-7 tending to a point at the top: ‘rocket-shaped’
  • very pale off-white legs – not sure if this is significant or not?
  • small size compared to Common Blue also noted

A short while later, a male was also located. My shots of this aren’t quite as good, but (hopefully!) still leave no doubt, illustrating:

  • almost entirely black segments 6 & 7
  • pattern on S2 is usually like a wine-glass – a U shape connected to a black band below (similar to Variable Damsel). On this individual, there was no connecting ‘stem’… though this feature is apparently very unreliable
  • mushroom shaped pattern of black on S3
  • black H pattern on S9, like that on an Azure (but where a Common Blue should be plain blue)

dainty3

dainty4

Finally, by way of variety, here’s an impressive cricket of some kind… waiting on an ID for this one!

cricket

5 comments:

John Hague said...

Hi Dave, how did you add the text and P parking symbols? Did you do it in Google Maps or Google Earth?

David said...

Hi John

It was all put together in five minutes with placemarks in Google Earth, then you can 'Copy as Image'.

I've done similar things for foreign trip reports - when there are loads of sites you can export a file containing many placemarks and then email it over to people for reference.

Hope this helps...

John Hague said...

How do you get the P signs on Dave? Maybe my version of Google Earth isn't up-to-date.

John Hague said...

Hi Dave, I found the hidden icons...

David said...

Good stuff - sorry for the slow reply, was away from the PC yesterday. For anyone else looking for the same answer:
- create a placemark
- just right of the box where you fill in the placemark name, there's a button with an icon on it (defaults to a yellow pushpin)
- click that, and you can select one of a multitude of different icons
- to edit the icon for an existing placemark, right click it on the 'Places' panel, and choose Properties: this brings back the same details screen.