an emerging dragonfly

Wake Valley Pond is a small lake set in the woodland of Epping Forest between Chingford and Epping. A lot of the shoreline is fringed with Reeds and Flag Irises, with a number of small breaks forming inlets and bays. This is great habitat for the Downy Emerald dragonfly (Cordulia aenea).

I visited Wake Valley Pond several times in spring 2019, hoping to find a Downy Emerald emerging. Over 4 visits, I found a handful of insects perched on the reeds with their wings still translucent as they waited for them to harden and dry before they took their first flight. I also found just as many exuviae, the larval skin left behind by a dragonfly that has emerged.

Dragonflies spend the majority of their life underwater. Their egg is laid either in, or very near to, water. The egg hatches into a larva, which spends from a few months to a few years (depending on species and water conditions), before it climbs out of the water to emerge as the flying adult dragonfly that, in summer, we love to watch hunting for food or a mate over the water.
An already-emerged Downy Emerald on a earlier visit. I didn’t find this one early enough to film it

An already-emerged Downy Emerald on a earlier visit. I didn’t find this one early enough to film it

At last, I found a larva holding on tight to a reed. It must have just climbed out of the water, made sure that it was secure, and was preparing to emerge. This was what I was there for. I had my 2 cameras already set up on their tripods, got them in place as quickly as I could, and started them off taking pictures - 1 each second for as long as it takes.

70 minutes later, I discovered my small mistake - 1 per second was too many. I ran out of room on my memory cards! Luckily, the emergence process was almost complete, so my timelapse was captured.

As you can see in the video above, it was rather windy that day. The reeds were moving around quite a bit. I still think the video I created was worthwhile.

Downy Emerald dragonfly on the British Dragonfly Society website

Wake Valley Pond on Google Maps

Wake Valley Pond scientific report