Wednesday 2 August 2017

What are the chances of that happening?

Life is full of coincidences and Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer Derek Longe had a special and rather unusual encounter with a special insect at NWT Thorpe Marshes one evening...

Imagine a damselfly flying well after eight o'clock at night.  It lands onto a photo in a published article about the same species at the same nature reserve. Slim chance you may say? Improbable? Well this actually happened!

Here is the photographic proof - 

Willow emerald damselfly admiring a picture of itself, Derek Longe
Mating willow emerald damselflies by Tabs Taberham
The damselfly in question was a male willow emerald damselfly seen at 8.16pm on 19th July 2017 at Thorpe Marshes NWT reserve.  This is a recent coloniser being seen first in Suffolk in 2007 and is rapidly spreading across the south-east of England. The peak emergence time is in August/September and most records range from July to October. This year the first seen nationally was back in June in Essex. Some had been more recently sighted around the local Norwich area so that was not an unexpected species.

Local naturalist and NWT volunteer, Chris Durdin leads monthly walks around Thorpe Marshes NWT reserve.In July, the regular walk is moved to the evening (the June one also) to take advantage of the longer daylight hours. That afternoon was particularly warm and humid, the evening temperate remained above 20C during the duration of the walk.
Warm enough for insects like damselflies to be still active that late in the day.  

At a point where this species has been sighted in previous years, Chris stopped and explained about the willow emerald damselfly and the various tree species it oviposits into. He then mentioned that I had witnessed a pair egg-laying into bramble last September on the reserve and that I had an account of this unusual event recently published in the journal Atropos. Having the article on me, I handed it to the others to have a look at. Whilst one of the group Ann Greenizan had it in her hands to read, a male willow emerald Damselfly magically alighted onto the article photograph. He stayed there just long enough for me to get a couple of photos before flying off, disappearing into the windblown vegetation.

This species has been variously described as "this stunning damselfly","an elusive beauty","enigmatic" and "unique". In my eyes, this surreal combination of real life and printed matter reinforces that "specialness" to me of the willow emerald damselfly!

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