A wedding with a difference

I went to a very romantic wedding in Ireland last week. It was held in a tiny chapel by a lake at a place called Gougane Barra, in County Cork.

 The chapel at Gougane Barra, County Cork

A lake in May is, of course, the perfect place to see dragonflies and damselflies. And see them I did! More species than I’ve ever seen before. Here are some of the damselflies.

Damselfly at Gougane Barra, County Cork, May 2007

Damselfly at Gougane Barra, County Cork, May 2007

Common Blue Damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum) mating:

Mating damselflies, Gougane Barra, County Cork, May 2007

The day before the wedding, to my great excitement, I found some tenerals, i.e. dragonflies just emerged from their larval skins (their exuviae). They were waiting for their wings to harden so they could make their maiden flight.

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata):

Newly emerged dragonfly, Gougane Barra, Ireland, May 2007

I watched one take to the air – chased immediately by a pied wagtail that had been perched on a nearby rock. On this occasion, the dragonfly got away.

On the day of the wedding iself, just a couple of hours before the ceremony was to begin, I came upon a dragonfly actually emerging from its exuvia. I was captivated! The process takes a few hours to complete, and it was touch and go whether I stayed to watch the dragonfly emerge or dragged myself away to go the wedding! (I’m pleased to report that the wedding won – and an unforgettable experience that was too!)

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum):

Emerging dragonfly, Gougane Barra, Ireland, May 2007

 When I looked carefully I found there were discarded exuviae all over this area of grass, so I collected some up to bring back and show to children when I visit schools.

Discarded dragonfly larval skin, Gougane Barra, Ireland, May 2007

I am grateful to Robert Thompson of DragonflyIreland for his help in identifying the species I saw.

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