With the flying season all but over this year unless we have a mild sunny spell soon, many dragonfly enthusiasts will pack away the cameras for the winter and go into hibernation until next April when the season starts again. I decided a few years ago that I couldn't do this and as most of the dragonfly and damselflies life is in the nymph stage, I decided to spend some time over the winter visiting ponds and lakes in the local area where the plan was to catch some nymphs of various species and learn how to identify them. Armed with the basics of a net and white tray, I was soon catching quite a few species and soon started to learn the features of some of the species, although some of the damselfly nymphs still remain very tricky to tell apart. I soon got the dipping bug and decided to take this further and purchased 'A Field Guide to the Larvae and Exuviae of British Dragonflies' by Steve Cham. This has to be one of the best books on the market and is full of excellent photos and id tips on how to tell apart the different species of larvae and exuviae. This book can still be bought from the British Dragonfly Society shop for £10. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone trying to improve their skills in this area and it has proved most valuable in improving my depth of knowledge.
A Field Guide to the Larvae and Exuviae of British Dragonflies
With the long nights of winter setting in, I decided to take this a stage further and after viewing a few sites on the internet, I purchased a couple of small glass tanks where the aim was to study and photograph the nymphs through the glass acting in a natural manner. I also at this point made a small pond in my garden whereby I could keep some nymphs prior to photography and watch them hopefully emerge in the spring time. With a bit of experimenting with camera settings and the set up, I started to get a number of pleasing images and looking back through the photos, highlighted areas where I could improve the shots.
Emperor Dragonfly Nymph
I suppose the best bit about this is that I could do all the photography at home in the warmth of the conservatory with a cup of tea whilst still improving my knowledge of the nymphs. Sometimes in a shallow tray or pot, it is hard to see all the features on the nymph but I slowly started to see many features when they were studied under the water and acted more naturally. I have learnt so much throughout the winter months about the nymphs and my advise would be that the season is never over. Purchase a net and tray and visit your local water and learn about the different species that are there. You may have seen the adults but have you seen the nymphs and learnt about them? There is a lot to learn about this secret side of the dragonflies and damselflies that we often don't see or take for granted so make some time to venture out during the winter months. Hopefully, I will be out and about too looking for species to photograph, some new but many photos of species to improve upon from last years attempts. I will try and post in due coarse throughout the winter the set up in detail that I use, settings, background, lenses and any tips I can pass on to anyone else that wishes to pursue and try this excellent project. So remember, the season is far from over. Its just under the water waiting to be discovered.
Brown Hawker Nymph