Blue damselfly, Agrion splendens (Harris), on bankside vegetation of the River Cerne, Dorset, UK.

Nothing to do with the seashore but something too beautiful to be ignored. There were dozens of metallic blue damselflies flying above the water surface of the River Cerne in Dorset the other day. They were feasting on the thousands of mayflies rising up from the water’s surface; and coupling in flight to produce the next generation. They were moving very quickly up and down their territories – only settling for a few seconds at a time. Their delicately veined wings were iridescent in the sunshine. The pattern and colouring on the wings is unique to each species of dragonfly or damselfly.

I waded out into the flow and the water weed to get closer to these elusive creatures but it was extraordinarily difficult to approach without disturbing them. So I was especially lucky to capture a few focused shots from a distance of several metres.

Green repeating patterns of Water-Crowfoot weed in the River Cerne, Dorset, UK.I also liked the colour and the texture of the mats of Water Crowfoot weed. The way the stems branched, and the arrangement of the leaves, formed regular repeating patterns that pleased the eye. I particularly liked the effect of viewing the weed through the distorting screen of fast flowing water with glistening and reflecting ripples.

Water-Crowfoot viewed through fast-flowing rippling water.

A Post from the Past [2009]

17 Replies to “A beautiful blue damselfly”

  1. The damselfly looks like the male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) – there were a lot of these in flight over the River Yar a week or so ago. Very eye-catching.

  2. Thanks, Rob. I did not know the common name of this insect. The genus name Agrion is the original name from 1776 and is synonymous with Calopteryx but superceded by it. My textbook is out of date.

  3. It’s very pretty indeed whatever it’s name is; I suspect it probably doesn’t care what it’s called.
    A few years back I found the set of wings belonging to some damselfly or other, just laid on the ground next to the river. It looked ever so much like a faery had taken her wings off for a swim, but it was probably the detritus from some small winged raptor(such as a dragonfly)’s lunch. I did pick them up and took them home and framed them in a little frame; I have them still.
    I do hope that if they did belong to a faery that she found some more….

  4. I’m sure that if they did belong to a fairy, then she was just moulting them in order to grow an even more beautiful and magnificent pair of wings.

  5. Most of the new movies which feature faeries have them appearing quite insect like.

    A dear friend, who very sadly passed away last year, refused to learn the names of birds and insects and trees as she said it would spoil her experience of them.

  6. When I worked on the nature reserve (back in the neolithic it feels like) we used some stuff by the Earth Education people (Steve thingummy) which discouraged the naming of trees and so on. They felt that once a child had learned the name, they stopped having any curiosity about it. So we sometimes got the children to think of a name for a plant or snail or whatever; some were actually more descriptive and apt than the real one.
    For me, knowing the name is part of learning who and what a plant etc actually is, just as knowing the names of new friends is.

  7. Hello, Viv.
    What a strange idea to think that naming a plant or animal may dampen a child’s curiosity about it. Proper names are really important. They open the door to understanding the organism, they describe it, and they indicate its relationship with other organisms. By referring to the scientific name, and sometimes the common name, you have a common point of reference so that everyone can understand what you are talking about.
    Of course, there is nothing to stop people using their own special or personal name for types of organism or individual organisms if they want to but it’s use and meaning is restricted.
    The Latin of a scientific name is a good descriptor but it is not immutable. It is subject to change. As scientists make new discoveries about organisms, taxonomists can revise names and reconsider the relationship of the organism with other similar ones. It is absoloutely fascinating how the evolution of our understanding about the natural world around us is reflected in the history of names. Checklists of species show many, many synonyms that have arisen from this important process.

  8. I agree entirely. I met the founder of earth Education once, Steve Van Matre and found him one of the most unpleasant characters I’ve ever met. Utterly arrogant and self absorbed in the extreme. I did express my doubts about the whole thing and to my relief my colleague at the time shared them so we avoided getting bogged down in it. But to use any of the activities in the book you are expected to follow them TO THE LETTER and can be prosecuted for deviation at they are copywrighted…
    If you’ve ever read herbals like Culpeper’s and Gerard’s you see how impossible botany and medical herbalism were before the proper classifications came into play; given that some common herbs have a hundred and more regional names that are shared by many others, the potential for disaster is huge..
    I think it came out of a very specific educational fad from some time in the late sixties and early seventies and then got fossilised along with the founder.

  9. There were a lot of anarchic and ill-thought out ideas around in the 60’s – in all areas of life. Sounds like this guy from Earth Education was propagating one of those educational concepts which was charming but counterproductive.

  10. Undoubtedly he was and never seemed to realise that he might actually be wrong. I never subscribed to it myself but there is something to it; I’ve noticed among a lot of teenagers that there is a tendancy to only agree to learn anything if it’s “on the curriculum” and they switch off if it isn’t something they may need to pass an exam. This may be all down to the current confusion created by the system in place.
    I taught my daughter at home for four years and it was truly the most magical and exciting time for both of us- no curriculum and education was effectively freerange. When she did go back to mainstream education they found she was a long way ahead of her peers as a result.

  11. There is a lot to be said for home education. My son ( who runs a freelance education enterprise at helps out sometimes with a local home education group. I suppose the advantages of teaching your children at home have to be balanced with other wider concerns about their education.
    It is a great pity that there is so much emphasis on exam results rather than on learning in the truest sense. It seems that a young person can successfully pass through the education system these days without being able to think for themselves and without any vestige of real curiosity about the subjects they study. I read in The Times last week that a young university accountancy undergraduate was employing a private tutor because, she said, she “wasn’t very good with figures”!

  12. eeek, but that does not surprise me at all.
    I am glad we did what we did but I do wish we’d done it sooner because she still had emotional scars from her years at school. She had activities with young people like scouting and guiding and so on but she is like another species compared with the young people I meet often at the high school where I work.
    In eduational terms I think that if you can help a child find a love of learning and then support them in that, wider concerns about education just go out of the window, because the child is then able to learn regardless of where they are or what they choose to do. Its about equipping them with tools schools seem to have forgotten about but that children take to quite naturally if allowed…

  13. When you say “help a child find a love of learning and then support them in that” you hit on what should be a core concept for education, and for an individual’s potential for self fulfillment.

  14. Maybe I ought to go into “serious education” then!
    I find it very hard to equate those words with the high school I work from or the one I live next door to(and had an interview for a job that then went to an internal candidate)
    I also find most adults, even those whose education was poor, have no desire to improve either it or themselves. I am a work in progress myself and seek new learning all the time.
    One of my summer colleagues landed a nice job for September, in a middle school, despite not having a teaching qualification. The fact that she is a Cambridge graduate may have helped but it may also be the fact that an unqualified teacher costs a lot less. I’ve asked her to keep an ear out for me!

  15. I think the key word in my previous message was “what should be a core concept for education”. Sadly, I understand that teachers are very constrained by the existing system and there is not a great deal of room for this. They have to focus all their efforts on getting students through the tests by whatever means – and it is this that leads young people to see their ‘education’ as a process for which the successful test result in the only objective, with no value placed on either the subject matter itself or other outcomes. Is there a place in schools today for the kind of teacher who stimulates and encourages a love of learning for its own sake?
    I think I’m a bit out of my depth here (not being a teacher); and a long way from my own joy of learning which I hope to express in the blog for others like yourself, who feel the same way.
    All this from a beautiful blue damselfly!

  16. Ah but what a beautiful creature is was!
    I don’t actually think there is room for teachers like that in the mainstream right now, which might well be why I am finding it hard to find a fulltime job there.
    Until our new dictator arrived, there was room for it in the job I do; now we are constrained by a lot more totally unneccessary bumf and the result? people are quitting. Thoe who’ve been here a few years(or more in some cases) are having their lives made so unpleasant by all this that the consensus is getting out is better. I’m hanging on out of cussedness, but by summer season, the only staff remaining will be the new ones hired for this season who haven’t a clue what they’re doing yet and a few annoying people like me. I predict a riot.
    IT’s all down to Parkinson’s Law, I guess.

  17. Sounds like things are really tough for you right now. You are brave to continue in such a difficult situation. What helps you to cope with staying on in that job?

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