The Trout Stream, Hemingford Grey, 2 June 2020

Just to prove the point that practically anything goes in Sights and Sounds, and that if you sit still long enough something will happen, try this!

Up the Trout Stream (again) after a fairly long row on a wonderfully warm day, I sat back with my feet on the thwart and felt my eyes closing. I had noticed some lovely damsel and dragonflies on the way. Every summer I vow to try to identify more but they are usually too quick for me. Darting past and amazingly manoeuvrable as they chase their aerial prey it is difficult to see one pausing long enough to examine.

But then I felt the faintest of faint touches on my foot. I opened one eye and froze. Where was my camera? Just out of reach. I tried to drink in every detail for later reference. Like a sloth I stretched out my arm, inch by slow inch, but my visitor flew off. Damn. But it circled round and to my joy alighted again on my toe. This time I got the shot. Then things got better and better. Using my digit as a hunting platform, sorties after prey and return were launched at regular intervals, and sometimes the other toe used.

 Photograph © Ian Jackson

 Back home I consulted the book. The adult male Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva fitted the description but the best bit was this: ‘males spend up to two thirds of their time surveying their territories from vantage points overhanging slow flowing rivers, making short forays over the water’. So, in his territory on that day my big toe was his vantage point. In fact, he made my day.

True to say we are blessed with a wide variety of damsel and dragonflies along the Great Ouse valley. Our river is perfect for them - slow, shallow and with much lush marginal vegetation. These are are fascinating and impressive insects and as you can see they reward the ‘sitting and waiting approach’. Please let us have your own sightings.

[Reference Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland Steve Brooks, British Wildlife Publishing 1997]

Trustee: Ian Jackson