Nature spectacle to look out for in Spalding and district

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A regular column from the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Rachel Shaw.

Take a front row seat at the water’s edge for a colourful show of aerodynamics.

The height of the summer sees the emergence of a multitude of dragonflies and damselflies, together known as odonata.

Dragonflies are usually large, strong insects that can be seen flying well away from water.

When at rest, they hold their wings out at right angles to their bodies.

There are small blood-red darters, powder blue skimmers and chasers, and large powerful hawkers.

They all do exactly what their names suggest, darting and skimming, chasing and hawking for their insect prey.

Damselflies are smaller and more delicate; usually staying close to water.

When at rest, they hold their wings closed back against the length of their bodies.

Electric blue damselflies, the size of a darning needle, flutter through reeds. Demoiselles, with beautiful coppery patches in their wings, flap out from overhanging willow branches along the river bank, the males battle low over the water to secure the best territories.

The biggest dragonfly found in Lincolnshire is the emperor dragonfly. The long abdomen of the male is a bright sky blue and the thorax is an apple green, the female is all green.

They patrol back and forth over the water of ponds and lakes.

They may seem big, but they are mere whipper-snappers when compared with the fossil dragonflies: the largest fossil found had a quite mind-boggling wingspan that measured 75cm across!

Dragonflies have been around at least 325million years. They were around for 100 million years before the dinosaurs turned up, and have outlived them by another 66million years. That makes them pretty successful survivors.

There are more than 50 species of dragonfly and damselfly in the UK, found in almost every habitat.

The earliest damselflies are on the wing by early May, while the last common darter of the year might still be flying on a warm day in late October.

The highest number of species can be found during the months of July and August.

Like most insects, dragonflies are at their most active in warm sunny conditions, so pick your day wisely.

Binoculars will come in handy, as most species of odonata will fly off if you get too close.

And of course, take care at the water’s edge.