Chaser Dragonflies

September 19, 2016 | Categories:

Chasers are part of a large family of dragonflies - Libellulidae, which also include skimmer and darter species. There are ten species of Libellulidae in Britain, all three of it's chaser species can be found in Dorset.

Broad-bodied Chaser

My first ever picture of a chaser dragonfly was this female broad-bodied chaser on the 11th May 2006, it's colours were quite vivid because it had probably emerged recently from it's larval skin, after pre-existence underwater.

Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly freshly emerged, Dorset

Females later fade in colour, over-mature females can develop some blue in the mid-sides of the abdomen.

The males start off similar to the females but soon gain a waxy bloom which a bright blue. In both sexes the abdomen looks flattened from the side and very broad from the top. Females are slightly broader bodied then the males. Both male and female have spots on the wing tips and very dark wing bases.

 Broad-bodied chaser female in Dorset 2015

Above: a mature female on the 1st August 2015. Below: mature male on the 8th July 2016.

Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly, male, Dorset 2016

Broad-bodied chasers prefer smaller ponds and ditches. They will colonize new ponds very quickly and can sometimes be found in garden ponds. It is a very quick colonizer. Flight period is between April to September, peaking between May and July.

Four-spotted chaser

Four-spotted chasers are the most commonly seen chaser in Dorset, they inhabit heathland water bodies of any size and can tolerate brackish waters and can also inhabit garden ponds. Will colonize new areas quickly.

Distinctive features are the double wing spots on each wing and yellow wing bases that extend and fade out toward the wing tip. They have a black base to the abdomen. Males and females are very similar, males as in the picture below have anal appendages shaped in an up-turned V, the female's appendages are wider and protrude directly downwards.

Four-spotted chaser resting on post, Dorset

Just like the broad-bodied chaser are very active and are very territorial often returning to the same perches. There flight period is between April and September, peaking between June and July.

Scarce chaser

Dorset's specialty is the scarce chaser, hence it is the emblem of the Dorset Dragonfly Group. The females in this species have the nicer markings. They can be found on Stour and Avon rivers in Dorset.

When I noticed the one pictured below the reddish colours at distance made me think of common darter, although it was much too early in the year. I was pleased it was a scarce chaser which I had been hoping to find.

female scarce chaser dragonfly, Libellula fulva, Dorset, close side view

Flight period is the earliest of the three, between April and July with it's peek in June. Habitat requirements are high water quality with floating and submerged vegetation plus plenty of tall bankside plants. In addition to winding slow moving rivers they can also inhabit large freshwater dykes or gravel pits.

Other counties that have the species are Norfolk/Suffolk, Sussex, Wiltshire/Somerset, Cambridge, Kent and Hampshire.

female scarce chaser dragonfly, Libellula fulva, Dorset, front view

Male scarce chasers are blue, to me they look a bit like black-tailed skimmers. Both have black on the last three segments of the abdomen, but the scarce chaser does not have feint yellow spots on the side of the abdomen.

Male scarce chaser dragonfly, Libellula fulva, Dorset

Another distinguishing feature is the dark bases to the wings that black-tailed skimmers lack. The scarce chaser sometimes shows black scuffing on the upper sides of the abdomen.

Black-tailed skimmer male?, Dorset 2016

 

Flight images

Because chasers hover at regular spots over the water I have tried hard to get flying photos of them. Getting them in frame with enough shutter speed is difficult. Below I managed to get a female broad-bodied chaser hovering then laying eggs onto the water surface.

Broad-bodied chaser, Dorset 2016, female hovering

Broad-bodied chaser, Dorset 2016, female laying eggs

Below: Broad-bodied chaser showing they swiveling of the wings. 

Broad-bodied chaser, Dorset 2016, female in flight from behind

Using a slower shutter speed produced this spiral pattern as I panned with it flying in front of me. It is like the dragonfly is cork screwing it's body through the air!

Dragonfly wing spiral

Below a four-spotted chaser in flight.

Four-spotted chaser in flight, Dorset

And four-spotted chasers in copulation.

Four-spotted in flight male and female, Dorset

See all images of chaser dragonflies in the gallery here.

 

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