SUFFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST: Masters of the air take to the wing at reserve

Four spotted chaser dragnofly. Picture: Mike Taylor ANL-141107-102402001
Four spotted chaser dragnofly. Picture: Mike Taylor ANL-141107-102402001
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It’s a hot summer’s morning, I’m on a pond-dipping platform at Redgrave and Lopham Fen and I’ve been spotted.

Large eyes watch me and I’m circled, before this airborne master comes in for a closer inspection. Then it stops to rest on a reed and I can identify my stalker. It’s a four-spotted chaser, a dragonfly defending its territory.

I watch as it sees off another male and then a female appears and a brief mating takes place in mid-air. She’ll be off to lay her eggs now by flicking her abdomen in the water. The male circles me again and repeatedly comes to rest on the same reed – his chosen perch.

There are no hobbies above the pool at this moment but I often see them here taking advantage of the abundance of dragonflies on which they feed greedily.

A stunning blue emperor dragonfly passes higher overhead and common blue damselflies flit lower down amongst the reeds. A pair skim just above the water in the tandem position with the male clasping the female behind her head as she dips her abdomen into the pool to lay her eggs.

I think these creatures lead fascinating lives. By the time you see a dragonfly on the wing its concentrated lifespan will be almost over. The eggs of dragonflies and damselflies hatch into nymphs, voracious predators of the underwater world where they live for between one and five years. Nymphs become adults after climbing out of the water and moulting their larval skin and these adults often don’t live longer than two weeks here.

Finding a nymph during a pond dipping session is always special for me and is usually accompanied by a shriek of excitement from children who have one wriggling in their net. Recently we were even lucky enough to see a dragonfly emerging from its larval skin and another that had already emerged and was waiting for its wings to dry off and harden.

If you fancy entering the magical world of these elegant creatures why not visit Redgrave and Lopham Fen where an incredible 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly have been recorded. Darsham marshes with its network of dykes and ponds, can be productive too.

To find out more, visit or call 01473 890089.