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Odonata and us (still in Poland, but not for long) (1 Viewer)

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Recently, we got - to a large extent thanks to iNaturalist - into "everythingwatching". We became especially keen of all kinds of insects, but after the obviously great butterflies and daytime moths, dragonflies and damselflies are probably the second most attractive group to watch.

We have obviously first went through our pre-existing photos and IDed them or let iNat help us, so currently we have 58 Odonata species worldwide, which is clearly pathetic, but everyone has to start somewhere. Using the marvelous website dragonflypix.com I have made a table of species to be seen in Poland, which has some 74 species, some of which are however extremely rare our outright extinct. From those, we currently have 24 (not all necessarily in Poland) so there is clearly room for improvement!

Aimed with all this knowledge, we started looking out for Odonata this spring, somewhat surprised to realize that they do not appear very early and can in fact only be observed during a few months. The greater was our excitement when we found the first Damselfly in the second week of May in Mazury - somewhat unsurprisingly Common Winter Damselfly, which was however a lifer. Surely, we have seen Odonata before, but any observation is much more exciting if it's something you are looking for and now something about!

Then last weekend we went a bit south, around Krakow, when the spring is more advanced, for a birding excursion with our local friend - and we got a Red-eyed Damselfly, which we already had, and a Common Clubtail, a lifer, and a truly stunning one (with all the respect to Winter Damselflies, they are not very eye-catching). Around Warsaw, I didn't notice any Odonata until today, when we made a small trip to two promising sites, which were actually quite lively. Despite the large number of individuals, it turned out that there were only four species - Azure Damselfly, Common Winter, Downy Emerald and Four-spotted Skimmer - and none of them lifers, but still, this was the first real "Odonatawatching" we ever did and it was great.

It's definitely not easy - they are surprisingly hard to find, even the super-bright colored once and then if found in flight, they are really difficult to take pictures of, if they decide to never land, but even flight pictures are eventually possible. For sure it's a good pastime for the warmer months, where birding is a bit dead and there isn't much dark time for mammals, the only drawback is that they are inevitably drawn to areas that are also popular with mosquitoes :)
 

Sandy73

Well-known member
Morning.

Good luck, it sounds an interesting challenge. I am looking forward to reading how you progress.

Regards
 

pdwinter

Paul Winter
Glad you're enjoying dragonflies - stunning insects. I was about to book a tour to Poland for butterflies / dragonflies last year when the world ground to a halt! (I do like to find my own but I can only drive for about 45 minutes before the knee in my braking leg seizes up so I'm happy for someone else to show me). I think spring Common Winter Damselflies with the blue tops to the eyes are OK! 600D_12371.jpg
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I think that's more a testament to the skills of the photographers than the looks of the animal :) A properly drab individual, in proper shadow, mildly unfocused, that's how you do winter damsels!

original.jpeg
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
A trip to the Baltic coast, which is much colder than the rest of Poland and usually windy did not seem very promising for any kind of insects on paper, but we were quite surprised by all kinds of things we saw - and yes, even Odonata.

Yesterday morning we visited the Beka reserve, where we have seen some Banded Demoiselles last year around a slow stream surrounded by some trees and high Nettles and other such vegetation. They did not disappoint - Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - and were there this year as well - making us realize this time how mighty large they are compared to all other damselflies of the region. With them there were a few Large Red Damselflies - Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) - a lifer for us and a very pleasant one to get because you see it at first sight, without studying any minute details, as it's the only red-coloured species in Poland. The only other species were these little blue things - Northern Bluets (Genus Coenagrion) Northern Bluets (Genus Coenagrion) - that quite confuse me, as they look quite a lot as Bluetails, but what is going on with their thoraxes? Not good for males neither for females ....

Today, we first found a lone damselfly at a clear lake in the forest - Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) - which I absolutely couldn't ID at all, but iNaturalist people tell me it's Common Blue, a lifer?! It's clearly a female, but still doesn't look much like on dragonflypix ... Then a garden pond next to a viewing tower at the upper reservoir of a hydroelectric pumping station had the obligatory Four-spotted Chaser - Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), a well-known species, which is conveniently easily IDed.

Finally, we visited a rather random site, where a ditch leads into the huge lower reservoir of the hydro station among small reeds and that was finally the Odonata haven with Bluetails - Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) - Common Winter - Common Winter Damselfly (Sympecma fusca) - Azure - Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - and Red-eyed Damselflies - Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas). There were also some dragonflies, but these things are far trickier - sure, bigger and easier to spot, but far less willing to sit down and pose!
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
I have made a table of species to be seen in Poland, which has some 74 species, some of which are however extremely rare our outright extinct
I had imagined Poland would have more species than that - only six more than in Lithuania and Poland covers a far greater geographic area with greater diversity of habitats north to south.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
We started looking out for Odonata this spring, somewhat surprised to realize that they do not appear very early and can in fact only be observed during a few months. The greater was our excitement when we found the first Damselfly in the second week of May in Mazury - somewhat unsurprisingly Common Winter Damselfly
Probably worth noting that spring 2021 is the coldest, wettest and latest for many many years - can't speak for Poland, but many insects in Lithuania are 3-4 weeks later this year than typically. Not this year, but often see the first Siberian Winter Damselflies here in March, even seen at the end of February in a mild year. Usually many dragonflies of various species from the beginning of May, but almost none this year till middle and end of the month. Massive number now though 👍
 

Swindon Addick

Registered User
Supporter
Wales
Your Common Blue is a freshly-emerged male. Imagine all the straw-coloured bits once they've turned blue and you'll see the pattern.

The bluet is puzzling me. My copy of Dave Smallshire's "Europe's Dragonflies", which I recommend to all and sundry as it has some very helpful comparison pictures, doesn't have anything that matches particularly well. However the best fit is a female Dark Bluet, Coenagrion armatum, which is known as Norfolk Damselfly in the UK because we used to have one small population, which we lost. The book says that blue on the front half of S2 on a female is distinctive for this species. But if it is, it's clearly more variable in patterning than the book suggests. And it's a species I've never seen. So overall I'm not confident and I'm willing to be over-ruled by someone who can point out something obvious that I've missed.

The grey colour on the thorax is normal in Coenagrion for the first few days, before they mature fully. Often it lasts until slightly after sexual maturity, and it's very common to see one which has turned blue on the abdomen but not yet on the thorax. When comparing it with a book, imagine the thorax markings are green or blue.
 

pdwinter

Paul Winter
Thanks for the advice! For example this Dark Bluet - http://www.dragonflypix.com/photos/coenagrion_armatum_06.jpg - looks quite similar to what we have, so it look promising.
Antoine van der Heijden has a female armatum with reduced markings on S8 at

Attached is a composite picture of the pronotums of female Coenagrions (taken from a facebook group). The pronotum of your 'Northern Bluet' seems to best match armatum and ornatum but the abdomen pattern seems (to me) to match armatum.

The key to female Coenagrions in Askew (The Dragonflies of Europe - page 76) takes you to armatum based on "S8 bluish with a bilobed black mark in the posterior half only"

As is the case for Swindon Addick it's a species I've not seen either so you might want to ignore my views!

coenagrion_pronotum_coenpuel.jpg
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
The Dark Bluet, to which you have so kindly provided multiple clues, is the first record on iNaturalist in Poland - so I checked its range and was surprised to see that travelling north is actually sensible even for Odonata, as it ranges more northerly than Poland. Who would have thought?

The rest of the trip was marred a little by my need to some actual work, but we still managed to do some outings. Whilst looking through the dunes of Hel for some birds, we found some Downy Emeralds - Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) - flying around between the scattered pine trees. The "Ptasi raj" (Bird Paradise) reserve in Gdansk turned out to be more of a mosquito paradise, but it also have beautiful Black-tailed Skimmers - Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) - while the nearby mouth of Wisla showed just a Variable Bluet - Variable Bluet (Coenagrion pulchellum) . By far the best site was a rather random place in the Wisla "delta" - an alluvial area long ago converted into fields and meadows using a network of ditches and dykes. We stopped at a site where we saw a Black-shouldered Kite last year, as we remembered it to be particularly nice, and one of the ditches is an absolute damselfly paradise, to a large extent thanks to a wooden platform overlooking it giving great views of Azure Damselfies - Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) - Red-eyed Damselfiles - Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) - and Variable Bluets - Variable Bluet (Coenagrion pulchellum) . Some dragonflies were present, but did not agree to being photographed.

Overall we have seen 12 Odonata species in a few walks during the week, a pretty nice tally.
 

pdwinter

Paul Winter
A trip to the Baltic coast, which is much colder than the rest of Poland and usually windy did not seem very promising for any kind of insects on paper, but we were quite surprised by all kinds of things we saw - and yes, even Odonata.

Yesterday morning we visited the Beka reserve, where we have seen some Banded Demoiselles last year around a slow stream surrounded by some trees and high Nettles and other such vegetation. They did not disappoint - Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) - and were there this year as well - making us realize this time how mighty large they are compared to all other damselflies of the region.
I am surprised at how large the band is in your Demoiselle. I have a lot of books and only expected Banded Demoiselles like that from SE Europe! Attached a typical one from the UK (or rather typical from the county of Hampshire!)
 

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opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
A couple of those look like Beautiful Demoiselles.

If you feel so, there is nothing easier than setting up an iNat account (you can make a fresh one or use FB or Google or some other login options if you wish) and setting them straight with a few clicks :) Frankly I don't know enough about Odonata to be disputing IDs (I did it only a few times for birds when I came across something funny) but just judging from your nickname, you might!
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
If you feel so, there is nothing easier than setting up an iNat account (you can make a fresh one or use FB or Google or some other login options if you wish) and setting them straight with a few clicks :) Frankly I don't know enough about Odonata to be disputing IDs (I did it only a few times for birds when I came across something funny) but just judging from your nickname, you might!
I don't have time for that I'm afraid. but looking at the first few lines of photos I can see a female & male that here would be obvious C. virgo.
 

Swindon Addick

Registered User
Supporter
Wales
iNaturalist IDs are often based on effectively 1 person giving a view and the photographer then agreeing with them despite not actually knowing. So the ID can easily end up as just 1 opinion, which may or may not be reliable. I do sometimes correct UK ones, but would be reluctant to express a view about other countries without having seen what the local fauna actually look like.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
My best iNat ID kill was when I noticed Common Mynas in Prague, looked at the photo and there was a big windshield with a reflection of a clearly middle eastern city :) I also searched all observations of Scottish Crossbill without recordings and downgraded them to Crossbill sp., as a matter of principle :) But that's a digression from the topic at hand. In general, people are encouraged to give their opinion - I am pretty sure any of you are better even for Polish Odonata than the average ID is.
 

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