Written by Lucy Brzoska
The beginning of September is dry and dusty in Collserola, after weeks of cloudless skies and hardly a drop of water since early July. Only the Umbrella Pines look fresh and green. One of the few flowers to be seen is the Sacred Herb (Verbena officinalis), tiny specks of blue on the tip of long stems. Thistles are brown and petrified. A few Corymbose carline thistles still show yellow flower-heads among the blonde grass, where flocks of young dragonflies cling. They’re this year’s second generation of Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii), out to graze on flies and build up their strength.
They have plasticine-bright colours – yellow abdomens, pale green segments in the thorax and sky-blue eyes. This young male has just a touch of the deep red of his adult colouring.
The males turn scarlet as they grow, while the females stay yellow. Females are distinguished by their double black lines, like this one who munches on a fly while clinging to a broom seed pod.
The darters anchor themselves to twigs and stalks, immobile except when the breeze ruffles their wings. Sometimes they turn their heads in quick, deft movements. This male’s golden wing veins will soon turn red.
For all things dragon and damsel, it’s well worth visiting Steve Jones’ Cornish Nature web site, where you’ll find a wealth of information and superb photos of species found in Cornwall and Iberia. Steve loves dragonflies and they’re quite partial to him too.