Posted by: Ross Gardner | July 27, 2013

A lesson in complacency

I have, over the years, acquired what many might describe as an extensive knowledge of British natural history.  Even though I could describe myself as a ‘jack of many trades’ without necessarily quite being ‘a master’ at any, I guess I have learnt a lot over my decades as a naturalist, ever since I was a wee lad.  I am a self-confessed generalist; there is just too much out there to restrict myself too closely to any one area of study.  For this reason I doff my cap to those experts who provide the texts and field guides for the likes of me to fuel my passion for the natural world.

Knowing a fair bit as I might well do, there are those time however, that teach us those odd lessons in complacency to aid the focus of eye and mind.  In this instance it was back to Suffolk, nearby the wonderful oak woods of Staverton Park and The Thicks, extolled in a previous post.  Of the various things I photographed was an Emerald Damselfly, which I assumed to be the common species – Lestes sponsa – as opposed to the rarer Scarce Emerald Damselfly – Lestes dryas.

Back at work a couple of days later a colleague reported a possible Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus).  These are rare, recent arrivals in the UK, which he had previously recorded at work in Wat Tyler Country Park.  On inspecting his hastily snapped photograph at home it turned out to be a Scarce Emerald – a very good damselfly to have around the place, but something of a disappointment that it wasn’t a Southern.

The possibility, at the time, of a rarer damselfly encouraged me to check the photos that I had taken the weekend before, just on the off-chance of something more unusual.  What I had passed off as a regular Emerald turn out in fact to be a Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes viridis).  The pale pterostigma (the ‘filled in’ area towards the tip of the leading edge of the wings)  and pale, dark-tipped genitalia (at the tip of the abdomen) confirmed the ID.  Formally a rare vagrant it has become a recent colonised having first been found breeding in Suffolk a few years ago.  It was my first encounter with species and indeed a reminder not to take things too much for granted.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes viridis).  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.

Willow Emerald Damselfly (Lestes viridis). Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner.


  1. Very nice photo Ross

  2. Why, thank you very much! Praise indeed from a purveyor of such fine Odonata pics himself.

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