Whilst meadows are turning golden brown, now that most wildflowers have faded and the swifts may be well on their way back to Africa, after their short stay to breed in the UK, there is still plenty of wildlife to enjoy. Swallows and martins are still flying acrobatically overhead and there are many young birds to see and enjoy, with some species rearing second or third broods. Butterflies will also continue to be on the wing for many weeks yet.
Another group of creatures that can be enjoyed during the long hot days of summer are dragonflies.
Unlike birdwatching where it’s best to be up early, or moth watching which requires late nights at this time of year, dragonflies can be enjoyed at a reasonable hour — as long as the sun is shining. Dragonflies use the sun’s rays to warm them up and some species can be seen perching in the open and positioning their bodies like expert sun bathers to catch as much heat as possible. Whilst they can be encountered almost anywhere from woods and heaths to meadows, they are most likely to be encountered close to their breeding habitat of ponds, pools and streams.
Whilst we see dragonflies in their expert flying machine phase, most species actually spend a large proportion of the lifecycle living underwater as voracious nymphs. Some species only fly for a few weeks, having spent many months or even years underwater but once airborne, dragonflies remain fearsome predators and are extremely important in controlling numbers of mosquitoes and small flies.
The first true dragonflies and damselflies emerged around 250 million years ago and there are over 5,000 species, around 30 of which can be found in the UK. British dragonflies come in a bewildering and beautiful range of colours, from the apple-green and blue of the emperor, to the bronze and chocolate of the brown hawker, so look out for them when you are out and about over the next few weeks.
A wildlife oasis on your doorstep
Why not visit the Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley this summer? With hundreds of hectares of water at Idle Valley Nature Reserve there are plenty of places for dragonflies to breed and with miles of flat, accessible pathways, a welcoming café and shop the reserve makes an ideal destination for a summer stroll or a spot of wildlife watching followed by a drink or a bite to eat.
If you would like to find out more about Idle Valley or any of our other nature reserves across the county visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Image: Migrant Hawker (John Smith)