Month: February 2010

Meeting with an old friend

Meeting with an old friend

Since I first got hooked on to watching odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) I have been keen on seeing one particular species. My interest in odonates was created when I came across a book ‘Dragonflies of India – A Field Guide’ by K. A. Subramanian roughly about six months ago in August 2009.

This new found interest was initially limited to watching and photographing odonates. However, it become an obsession after I met David Raju or Kocchu David (Baby David..:P) during a short visit to Valparai. His passion for this group of organisms was contagious and I instantly fell victim.

Since then oding (like bird watching, watching Odonates is called oding!) has become an inherent part of my life. I must have walked the same way ‘n’ number of times without taking much notice of these buzzing creatures flying overhead. But after my brush with Kocchu David, walking my regular haunts is not the same any more. Unlike other passersby, I have begun noticing dozens of damsels and dragons flying every day and my eyes have slowly become trained to look for them. Suddenly they are omnipresent for me.

Going down memory lane, dragonflies and damselflies remind me of my childhood days. Very few among us might have grown up without noticing them. I recall the times when they entered the house at night and flew around the lights. Regretful as much as it would seem now, I even recall how I adored some of my friends at school who were ‘expert’ in catching dragonflies.

Since my school days I recognized three types of odonates. One was green or yellowish green in color, while the second one was blue in color. They are called Thattaan in Tamil. A third kind was a thin one, yellowish in color with blue tail tip. It is called Usi thattaan in Tamil. This is the one which has been favorite since childhood and I have been longing to see it since I learnt to watch odonates.

It is only now that I realized that Thattaan is a Dragonfly and Usi Thattaan is a Damselfly (Usi in Tamil is needle) and appropriately called so as damselflies have very thin abdomens compared to dragonflies. Watching wildlife photographs in books and websites happens to be one of my favorite hobbies. Needless to say the most used book in my library in recent times is ‘Dragonflies of India – A Field Guide’. After thoroughly going through this field guide I am now able to identify the three species of odonates that I knew as a boy.  The green or yellowish dragonfly, which I grew up seeing as a boy was a Ground Skimmer (female) Diplocodes trivialis and the blue one was a male of the same species.

Ground Skimmer Diplocodes trivialis Male (left) and Female (Right)
Ground Skimmer Diplocodes trivialis Male (left) and Female (Right)

The minute I saw the Golden Dartlet Ischnura aurora photo I knew that this is the Usi Thattaan that I had been looking for.  But that Usi thattaan never showed up and I was longing to see that. It was unmistakably a damselfly with green and black body (Thorax) and yellow tail (abdomen) with bright blue tip. The image of this damselfly seen during my childhood was still vivid in my memory.

Though I came across several beautiful damselflies since I first began watching these winged beauties, the Golden Dartlet, my favourite of all evaded me for long.   However, the golden moment came during today’s visit to my favourite oding haunt near my house. There it was!  My long lost friend from my childhood days was a little away from the water and tucked quietly in the grass completely camouflaged.  He was such a tiny cute thing. Total length including his eyes and thorax would be not more than 20-23 mm. A closer look revealed that he had black and green stripes on his thorax and two beautiful azure blue spots on top of his head. He didn’t stay there for long. He was busy flying around. I got a few pictures of him and smiled at him and returned home with satisfied heart. Its always good to meet old friends isn’t it?

My old friend_Golden Dartlet Ischnura aurora
My old friend_Golden Dartlet Ischnura aurora