August 2017

Dragons and damsels galore!

male common darter BP 31.07.17 low res

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise! If, like me, you are fascinated by dragonflies and damselflies, now is the perfect time to spot several different species right here at Bedgebury. I recommend coming prepared; bring binoculars and a colour Field Studies Council fold-out spotter guide – handily you can buy one from the Visitor Centre!

So where are the best places to see these amazing insects? The vegetation around our lakes and ponds is teeming with life (not just ducks!) and if you look closely at the tops of the leaves or reeds you are likely to spot damselflies such as the blue-tail, emerald, azure and common blue resting, making a perfect photo opportunity.


male ruddy darter BP low res                   female southern hawker BP low res 2

A good dragonfly hotspot is the boggy area near the Dwarf Conifer Collection and ‘The Glory Hole’ where the habitat is perfect for seeing southern and common hawkers in flight (look out for characteristic blue/green or blue/brown stripey abdomens) and on still, warm sunny days you will see groups hunting together. Peer through binoculars and you may even see them catching and eating their prey! At the same spot I saw a male common darter basking in the sunshine on the fence – these are smaller than their hawker cousins.

male emerald damselfly BP low res 3

Next, I suggest make your way to Lady Mildred’s Carriage Drive, the long straight path which goes past the Old Man of Kent tree stump. In this area you will find a small stream-fed pool darkened by the iron deposits in the water and a waterfall which feeds into a stone gulley. Even if you don’t see any dragons or damsels immediately, stand around the edge for a while and they will appear. This is a hotspot for bright red ruddy darters, brown hawkers, yellow and black striped golden-ringed dragonflies and if you’re lucky you may even see the largest dragonfly we have in the UK – the emperor – the male is a stunning vibrant apple green and blue colour. Watch the water closely just in case a female dragonfly swoops down low and dips her tail in the water to lay eggs! Damselflies are in abundance here too – I spotted large red and common blue.   

It’s a myth that dragonflies always hunt over water; you will see them flying over meadows (one of their favourite snacks are butterflies) and up in the trees too (some species like the golden-ringed eat wasps!) so keep an eye out. Happy spotting!

Sarah Harrington-James

Did you know?
  • Dragonfly larvae can spend 1-5 years underwater. When the air temperature is warm enough, it triggers their emergence.
  • Their aerial agility is amazing – they can change direction in an instant, but their head always stays level in flight.
  • Dragonflies always rest with their wings out flat. Damselflies rest with their wings together at the back.