Wildlife Column: Damsels but not in any distress

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The mix of heavy rain but also of prolonged hot, sunny weather has really help wildlife kick on. A good range of butterflies are emerging and numbers will rise as the summer enters its key phase.

In ponds and streams wildlife is active and Christine Handley reported that the banded demoiselle damselflies are now out and about along River Rother.

If you have never seen these then do get along to Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve and just walk the riverside embankment.

On a sunny day you are bound to see them. I had my first ‘odonata’ species (which covers dragonflies and damselflies) since my garden pond revamp during the winter.

Anyway, the wait was worthwhile as I had a gorgeous large red damselfly sunning itself on a leaf of emergent bog bean and pursuing hoverflies and the like when they got too close.

This has black and red stripes on its thorax (the middle bit), and black legs.

They are maybe two inches long and frequent slow water such as ponds and sluggish streams, but also peat bogs.

They are denizens of garden ponds and at a good site can emerge in some abundance. I was just happy to get the one.

Hot sunny days are ideal for simply enjoying wildlife in the back garden. Not only is this your own special place but also you just never know what might turn up. I had splendid views of parakeets flying over my garden and calling noisily, both looking and sounding incredibly exotic. The previous day as the evening drew in but still with daylight, I had what I am pretty sure was a barn owl soaring over south Norton before drifting off towards rural Moss Valley.

The bird was quite high up and gliding on stiffly-pointed wings before turning into a soaring or hovering motion with wings rounded and open, and the owl-like facial discs clearly visible. The pale plumage was highlighted by the setting sun and the bird slowly moved away towards Jordanthorpe House.

We do get barn owls locally and they have increased but I do wonder if anyone else has seen one. Please let me know, particularly if it is around Moss Valley or Coal Aston.