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Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Small Ponderings - May, 2022

I feel I should start by apologising to all for my late responses to comments and tardy visits to your blogs. Lindsay and I have been away for eleven days, visiting the Outer Hebrides. Unfortunately Lindsay started showing Covid symtoms on the way home and tested positive. It might, therefore, mean that output and visits from me might be further interrupted, particularly as the odds are that I'll catch it too!


Since becoming greatly interested in dragonflies, I had yearned for a garden pond. There was, however, one major problem to overcome, and that was Lindsay's phobia of frogs. Even without a pond, frogs and toads were occasionally turning up in the garden and causing problems for Lindsay.

Three years ago, I stumbled across a possible  solution, and that was a UK company ( that were offering self-assembly wooden-sided rectangular ponds that could either be sunk into the ground or placed on a flat surface, so that the height of  the walls would even be beyond the ability of an olympic high-jump champion frog. And just to add to the impenetrability, there was an overhanging lip to the the wooden capping.

Lindsay, very generously, agreed to me having a small one of these for a birthday present. There was quite a long lead time, but it just arrived in time for my birthday in June, 2020. It was quickly erected and filled with water. Four pond plants were ordered - three ornamental and one oxygenating - and installed at the appropriate height with regard to water level.

Although the pond was described as 1m x 1m x 429mm the actual water volume is about 0.8m x 0.8m x 0.38m. It is, therefore, rather small, and I had no confidence that it would attract wildlife.

In its first year, it did seem to attract a number of water beetles. More notable, however, was finding the Rat-tailed Maggot larva of a Helophilus pendulus hoverfly, and the first visit by a damselfly - a male Large Red Damselfly - in mid July.

Rat-tailed Maggot (Helophilus pendulus) (hoverfly larva) - garden pond on 21st July, 2020
hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) (female) - garden pond on 17th July, 2020

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (male) - garden pond on 17th July, 2020
In 2021 there seemed to be little activity at the pond and no damsels or dragons were noted visiting the pond. However, we did return from holiday at the end of May to frustratingly find three exuviae in the 'fibre optic plant' in the pond . In spite of having a field guide which covers damselfly exuviae, I am not sufficiently skilled to positively ID these. They all looked to be similar and I suspect that, given the timing of the emergence, they were Large Red Damselfly, but the caudal lamellae do not look quite right to my mind. I didn't manage very good photos.

damselfly exuvia - from pond on 31st May, 2021
caudal lamellae from exuvia from pond on 31st May, 2021
Saturday, 7th May
We now come to 2022, and I had regularly been peering into the pond and thinking that other than the plants, which this year were not behaving as vigorously as they had in the previous year, there was no sign of life whatsoever. I was, therefore, surprised when, during breakfast on this day, Lindsay exclaimed "there's something climbing out of the pond". 

Given that I'd been making frequent visits to local ponds, hoping to find my first damsel or dragon of the year, it was doubly exciting that my first was from my own pond!

Sure enough, there was a Large Red Damselfly nymph. Sadly, this one was doomed to be a failure. It had emerged on the side of the pond, rather than on a plant stem and failed to disentangle its wings from its abdomen. You may be able to see in the image below that there seems to be a blob of liquid holding the wings wrapped round the abdomen.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (emergent female) - garden pond on 7th May, 2022
When the second one, another female, emerged that morning it was more successful.

Large Red Damselfly #2 (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (female) - garden pond on 7th May, 2022
The third one, again a female, emerged, and flew quite some time before the second one did.

Large Red Damselfly #3 (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (teneral female) - garden pond on 7th May, 2022
I observed two more Large Red Damselflies emerge that day and there may have been more that I missed. All but that first one emerged successfully. Three were female, one male, and the gender of the fifth one was not determined.
Sunday, 8th May
I observed five more Large Red Damselflies emerge this day and again we had one of them fail. The problem seemed to be that the nymphs were tending to emerge onto the sides of the pond for which the capping overhangs the inside and outside of the pond. This means that it is difficult for the nymphs to place themselves into a vertical position, split backwards out of their casing, and then straighten up and grasp above the exuvia in order to get themselves into a suitable position to dry out and pump up their wings and abdomen. This next one was lucky.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (female) - garden pond on 8th May, 2022
Monday, 9th May
Just four damselflies (yes, all Large Red!) were seen to emerge this day. 
Tuesday, 10th May
Another four emerged this day. We were now wondering where and what the food source had been to sustain this number of damselfly nymphs, which are known for their voracious appetites! 
Wednesday, 11th May
This was a cold wet day, and if there were any emergences, we didn't see them.
Thursday, 12th May
As if to make up for the previous day, we had an astounding ten damselflies emerge, two of which failed. This nymph was working its way round the outside edge of the pond, trying to find a suitable place to emerge. It has a Rowan petal attached to its caudal lamellae
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (nymph) - garden pond on 12th May, 2022
Friday, 13th May
Lindsay and I were out for a chunk of the day, but we still witnessed the emergence of five damselflies, one of which failed.
Saturday, 14th May
I was out for the day from 09.30, but still managed to check five emergences, two of which failed, before I departed.
Sunday, 15th May
This day we had just four emergences, two of which failed.

Monday, 16th May

Numbers were up again this day, with seven emergences, three of which failed. In this shot, one of the nymphs is seen working its way around the top of the pond, trying to find somewhere to emerge - note, it has lost its caudal lamellae. It later moved to the side of the top and emerged successfully.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) (nymph) - garden pond on 16th May, 2022
Tuesday, 17th May
Just when we thought that all this must be drawing to a close, things got really silly with a tally for the day of twelve emergences, two of which failed.
Wednesday, 18th May
It was a little quieter this day with just six emergences, all of which were successful.

Thursday, 19th May
We departed to go on holiday at around 10.00 in the morning. However, before we set off, three more Large Red Damselflies had successfully emerged, brining the total tally for the season to 70 emerged Large Red Damselfly including 15 failures.
Sunday, 29th May
By the time of our return there was no evidence visible to indicate if any further damselflies had emerged, but I suspect that they had

This all goes to prove that my earlier assessment that the pond was lifeless, couldn't be further from the truth. However, with that number of damselfly nymphs on the prowl, I suspect that there's not much else left in there, so the prospects of there also being enough food to support any dragonfly nymphs are slim. Time will tell!

I will now be working on processing the thousands of photos that I took whilst in the Outer Hebrides, and hope to be able to produce a blog post on this adventure in the not too distant future. However, as mentioned above, I might be hampered by events. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - - - Richard


  1. Hi Richard! How great, there are so many of them in your own pond!

    1. Hi Anne. Sorry for the late reply. Things have been a bit crazy since we returned from holiday on 29th May, and my wife and I both have Covid. Will try and make a brief visit to your blog. Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. Excellent images Richard, the Large Red Damselfly my favourite. Thanks.

    1. Thank you, Bob. As this is the only species of damselfly I have seen at our pond, I think it will have to be my favourite too! Stay safe - - - Richard

  3. First and foremost, take care of Lindsay as well as yourself. Blogging can wait. We will all be here as you do what is needed. You are both definitely in our thoughts.

    What a superb chronicle of the life cycle of the damselfly! I am, naturally, quite jealous of your outstanding photographs, but I'll try to get over it.

    So, basically, it sounds as if all one must do to successfully rear a crop of beautiful damsels is simply "add water". Who knew?

    We have been inundated with (routine) medical appointments lately. The rainy season is showing signs of starting as we have thunderstorms roll across the peninsula most afternoons. With the rains and increasing temperatures comes elevated humidity. Great conditions for chasing birds, bugs and blooms!

    1. Perhaps I should have mentioned somewhere in this post that it was drafted before we departed on holiday and all I had to do on our return was add in a bit at the beginning, change a bit at the end, and change the title as I realised that the original could have been considered a bit risqué! I was, therefore, not neglecting Lindsay. However, Lindsay and I are now in the same boat as we both have Covid!

      Our own numerous medical appointments are now on hold, one of which, concerning my eyesight, was deemed as 'urgent'. Such is life!

      Probably going to be a bit quiet for a while - but I will return.

      Best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

  4. Interesting post Richard, at the moment Lindsay is the more important. I wish her well and hope that she recovers quickly. Take care.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Mike. The Fox that had been visiting us nightly recently (as caught on my cameras) has not been seen for three nights. I hope that she is OK. Stay safe - - - Richard

  5. Lovely post Richard. Just goes to show what can be achieved in a small pond. Always a treat to see them emerge, plenty of photo opportunities... and the bonus that it's just a few steps away from the house. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Marc. Still not seen my first dragon of the year. Had another go with a very brief local visit yesterday and saw three new-for-year damsel species, but no dragons. This morning I tested positive for Covid, so it may be a while yet before my first. Stay safe - - - Richard

  6. I guess this proves, Richard, that even the smallest oasis is quickly exploited by wildlife of one form or another, and for a small pond of this nature to produce these results seems quite remarkable to me. You'll be wanting a second pond! Get well quickly, Lindsay. Best wishes from Miriam and me - David

    1. It took some persuasion for Lindsay to agree to that one pond, David, so a second is out of the question! I've tested positive for Covid this morning, so I might well be absent for a while. Stay safe - - - Richard

    2. Get well soon - and completely!

    3. Thank you. We'll do our best!

  7. Great post Richard, and with great succes to see so much demselflies. To bad to read Lindsay was infected with Covid. Hope she will recover soon and you will not be affected as well. Stay safe and good luck with all the photos you have to work on.

    1. I guess it was almost inevitable that I would catch Covid too , Roos, and I tested positive this morning. So far it's not looking serious. Thank you for your kind words - - - Richard

  8. PLEASE NOTE: This morning I tested positive for Covid and, as Lindsay has already had it for six day, it seems we might need to be focussing our efforts on mutual support. Please excuse me, therefore, if I am somewhat tardy in publishing, or responding to, your comments and visiting your blogs. Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    the smallest water surface gives such a result, next to my insect hotel I also have a small pond, which I will take a close look at first..
    Get well soon to you both and I hope it doesn't hit you too hard..
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank - it was not to bad and I am on the way to recovery now, with just a chesty cough. I'm still testing positive, however. Lindsay is fully recovered and testing negative - so all is good.

      I am really pleased to know that you have a pond next to your fabulous insect hotel.

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  10. Un reportaje fantástico y con mucho trabajo de por medio. He disfrutado mucho viendo todas las fotos y leyendo. Enhorabuena Richard, un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España.

    1. Gracias Germán. No hubo mucho trabajo para hacer ese estanque, ya que se compró como un kit completo y se construyó en menos de un día. ¡Tomó más tiempo que eso, sin embargo, llenarlo con agua y poner las plantas!

      ¡Los mejores deseos desde Inglaterra, donde se empieza a ver si el verano llegará eventualmente!

      Cuídate mucho - - - Richard


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