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.
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.
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.
Above: a mature female on the 1st August 2015. Below: mature male on the 8th July 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below: Broad-bodied chaser showing they swiveling of the wings.
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!
Below a four-spotted chaser in flight.
And four-spotted chasers in copulation.
See all images of chaser dragonflies in the gallery here.
- broad-bodied chaser dragonfly,
- chaser dragonfly,
- four-spotted chaser dragonfly,
- laying eggs,
- scarce chaser dragonfly