Wildlife Blog: Dragonflies and Damselflies

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20 May 2020

Sometimes known as jewels of the air, dragonflies and damselflies are a familiar site around the lakes, ponds and rivers of Milton Keynes. Late May sees the emergence of the majority of our native species and now is a great time to go and look for these stunning insects.

Dragonflies are typically larger and more thickset than damselflies. They can be told apart generally by their resting postures – dragonflies rest with their wings held at right angles to their body, whereas damselflies tend to rest with wings folded back along their body. Early flying species include the Hairy Hawker (usually the first dragonfly to emerge) and the Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers. The male Broad-bodied Chaser (pictured above) is a striking dragonfly, with a bright blue abdomen and yellow flanks. A little later in summer, look out for the Emperor (our largest species) as it patrols ponds and lake edges, as well as Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and the brilliant red Common Darter and Ruddy Darter.

The Large Red is usually the first of the damselflies to emerge and these can now be seen in good numbers in many of our parks. A number of slender blue damselfly species can be abundant at lake margins and these are difficult to identify without a good ID book or app. One to look out for, is the White-legged Damselfly (pictured below), an uncommon species whose white, hairy legs are a giveaway!

In recent years, several rare species have spread in Milton Keynes and we can now count the Scarce Chaser, Willow Emerald Damselfly and Beautiful Demoiselle among our 21 species (with hopefully more to discover). Stony Stratford Nature Reserve is one of the richest sites, with 20 species recorded down the years. Walton Lake and Tattenhoe linear park are also extremely good places to watch dragonflies but any freshwater habitats in Milton Keynes should boast a dozen or so different kinds. We'd love to hear about any species you spot - tag us on social media @theparkstrust!

Photo credit: Harry Appleyard

Discover our parks

  • Walton Lake


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    Originally built as a 'balancing lake' for the River Ouzel, Walton Lake is one of the richest spots in Milton Keynes to enjoy wildlife due to its mature reed beds.

  • Tattenhoe Valley


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    Tattenhoe Valley Park runs like a thread from Furzton Lake through Emerson Valley, Tattenhoe and Tattenhoe Park, following the meanderings of the Loughton Brook until it leaves Milton Keynes at Bottledump Roundabout.

  • Stony Stratford Nature Reserve


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    In 2008 with support from the Riverside Parks Group, work began to re-establish Stony Stratford Nature Reserve as a major local wildlife park. Parties of volunteers have cleared islands of scrub allowing Wildfowl to nest. There are also renovated and painted bird hides and the ponds have been cleared of invasive vegetation as well as the restoration of a sand martin nest bank, which has enabled Kingfishers to nest successfully.