Autumn dragons

Common red darter

As we welcome in Autumn for another colourful season, the last of the blackberries, the sloes and elderberries are hanging heavy on thin branches. Swifts have gone, and swallows, house martins and sand martins are hawking for insects over the lakes, busily feeding-up to help put on weight and boost their fat-reserves before enduring the long flight to Africa for the winter. Here in the garden, there are still a few butterflies on the wing, including large numbers of Red-Admirals, with Comma, Peacock, and Painted Lady also present. But it's the Dragonflies that you are more than likely to encounter on a wander around the Serpentine at the top of the garden and main lakes down by the Tea Garden.

At this time of year, there are four species that are still actively hunting and looking for mates.

The most commonly seen are probably the common darter. The males have the red colouration while the females are yellow/brown. They are mainly to be found resting on walls, benches, handrails and waterside plants, and can be quite easy to approach and photograph.

Then there is the southern hawker; a large and inquisitive hawker, usually seen individually, when it may come over to investigate you. The males are apple-green, apart from the last two abdominal segments that are pale-blue. The females are brown with green markings.

Thirdly there is the magnificent emperor. The biggest of our dragons that appear into September. A brightly coloured and active dragonfly, it can be found hunting over medium to large bodies of water. The males are bright blue, and females generally green.

And lastly, the aptly named migrant hawker, who's numbers are boosted over here in the UK by many migrants crossing the channel. These are our latest and smallest of our flying dragons, and are less aggressive than the other species, tending to feed together above trees, and can be encountered anywhere, often quite far from water.

They appear dark in colour with blue-paired spots along the abdomen. They can be seen into October and occasionally as late as November, so keep an eye out for them as you wander around in the autumn sunshine in the garden.