How to Identify Dragonflies + Damselflies

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park is a wonderful place to spot many individuals of the Odonata order. You’ll see many of them flying around the park, resting on the warm boardwalks or hovering over the lakes.

Here is a quick guide of what to look out for when you’re trying to identify damselflies and dragonflies, courtesy of the wardens at the Ecology Park.

 

DAMSELFLIES

These tend to emerge earlier than dragonflies, from May onwards.  Good areas to look include the alder carr in the glade and along the shingle beach.  They tend not to be so brightly coloured when first emerging and there may be differences with females/males etc – see guides.

Common Blue to tell C.Blue and Azure apart, look at markings at end of body – see guide books
Azure  See above
Small Red red legs, delicate
Large Red black legs, robust
Red eyed eyes stand out, they like to sit on lily pads
Banded Demoiselle rarely seen but bright and obvious

 

DRAGONFLIES

Names are helpful as they describe their flight/behaviour.  Hawkers hover like helicopters, darters stay still for longer and then dart around (so are easier to watch close up), skimmers fly at lower levels.  Chasers, skimmer and darters perch in the open and then speed off suddenly.  Good places to spot – over any water especially from pier into outer lake, walk along shingle beach shore, around pond dipping platform

Four Spotted Chaser Earlier – from May but not commonly seen in recent few years in park. Medium sized, brown colour with wing spots (stand out when at rest), restless and fast
Broad Bodied Chaser Earlier – from May but not commonly seen in recent few years in park. Very chunky (see name!), male light blue with yellow side spots, female brown/yellow, crash around noisily
Emperor June onwards. Commonly seen, distinctively large and bright blue with thick black line down centre, female greener. Males often fighting over water.
Black tailed Skimmer June onwards. Chunky, powder blue male with black end, female yellow brown. Bask on mud/shingle, low level fliers.
Migrant Hawker July onwards. Blue but not as bright or big as Emperor. In flight – bright blue spot on side at base of abdomen.
Southern Hawker July onwards. Green and blue, boldly patterned. Look for headlights. (see Dan Powell guide)
Brown Hawker Late June onwards. Very distinctive – brown with orange/brown wings.
Common Darter Smaller and later than other dragonflies, from July but goes later into October. Orange-red, females yellow.
Ruddy Darter As above but brighter blood red. Abdomen club shaped and males have pinched waist