Greenwich Wildlife (11)
There I was, early-morning cuppa in hand, sitting outside in the one square minute of sunshine we got over the bank holiday, when a cat hurtled by, not at all interested in me or the cuppa but with that dazed skyward look that only cats get when they’re concentrating on chasing something really good.
Of course the dragonfly was far too high and far too skittish for a mere pussycat to dream of catching, but that didn’t stop said feline from hunkering down under the bush the fly ended up in and preparing for what turned out to be a long wait.
The dragonfly (which was enormous as such things go, a good seven or eight centimetres) settled on a leaf and just hung there. Long enough for me to put the tea down, nip inside, find the camera (not always an easy feat) take several photos ( quite close-up, I could have easily picked it up if its boggle-eyes hadn’t made me feel slightly queasy) drink the rest of my tea, go indoors, go out for the day. For all I know she’s still there though the cat must have lost interest by now.
Now I have to say that I am surprised at this. I have never seen a dragonfly round these parts and certainly not chez Phantom as I am not a pond-owner. Guess there must be some kind of water feature big enough to support dragonflies in a neighbour’s garden.
I looked it up on the utterly fascinating British Dragonflies site and I think it is a female Golden-Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) as it has parallel sides and a very long ovipositer, a pub-quiz-worthy word whose meaning I guessed at but in trying to look it up caused me to discover the similarities between dragonflies, Alien and something H.P. Lovecraft would have been proud to invent (scroll down the link’s page if you haven’t already had breakfast this morning.)
I’ve been checking in A.D. Webster’s 1902 gem Greenwich Park, Its History and Associations, which lists the flora and fauna of the park a hundred-odd years ago, but despite several pages on trees, birds, animals and flowers, and a good couple of pages of three columns of listed butterflies and moths, he doesn’t mention dragonflies at all. In London’s Natural History, written just post-war, they are spoken of only fleetingly.
In fact they seem to be a bit also-ran in many ways – the poor relation of butterflies and moths in the public imagination – which makes me all the more grateful for the British Dragonfly Society. Thank God not everyone finds them as shuddery (but in a very strange way exceptionally beautiful too) as me. After all, who isn’t enchanted when they catch a fleeting glimpse of one darting over a stream in the countryside of a summer’s day? It’s just when they settle in a bush inches away from my head and just hang there, that I start to twitch…
Anyone else seen any dragonflies round here?
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