Category Archives: Damselflies

Rainforest Xmas Jewels!

Dear All

I have been very lucky to spend the xmas holidays in the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya. After a busy year of looking at bugs, studying bees, writing and research in many remote places, what better way to spend the holidays than sitting quietly by a stream deep in the heart of the forest…

As I waited by the stream, watching the coming and going of countless marvelous insects, two exceptionally beautiful damselflies made a special appearance. The first was a Red Jewel. This rare creature is found along forested streams in Western Kenya and Uganda. It lays its eggs in the clear, flowing waters where oxygen levels are high and the water pure and sweet. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of Africa’s insects.

 

The gorgeous Red Jewel deep in the heart of Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya.

 

The Red Jewel spent most of its time chasing off other damselflies and even the much larger dragonflies from its special vantage point in the sun along the stream. Occasionally it swept out and grabbed a snack in form of a passing mosquito or hapless flies that became trapped on the waters’ surface.

I watched the Red Jewel flashing about and perched, carefully recording when it captured prey. As I followed its behaviour keenly, a leaf rustled beside me and I looked up to find myself eye-to-eye with another beauty. This one was watching as much as I was watching it. It was draped in the dappled light gazing out at the world, its tongue flicking in and out.

Yes, I flinched when I first spotted it, and it responded with the same and a warning hiss. Then, as I realised that it was not the least bit interested in my, but merely enjoying the warm, liquid golden sunshine that flowed down through the canopy far overhead, we both relaxed and shared the view of the stream and its myriad inhabitants. (Yes, you might have guessed already that this creature was a snake – a lovely little Green Bush Viper)…

 

The elegant Green Bush Viper

 

As the Green Bush Viper and I both relaxed again, my attention wandered back to the flashes of colour moving around the stream. And then on a leaf right in front of me appeared another of the forests’ jewels – The incredible Sapphire, another of East Africa’s loveliest damselflies…

 

The elegant, exquisite Sapphire Damselfly, Kakamega Forest

 

When one is honored, inspired and awed by beauty such as this – I can’t help but think of how special and precious all our forests and all our biodiversity is on this planet. I feel that in witnessing and exploring the wonders of nature, I also have to point out that we need to conserve it for its beauty and interest as much as its utility and practical contributions to our daily lives. What a joy to be able to find spaces wherever they may be, that are filled with species who have come about through millions of years of evolution and share with us their home and our home on this lonely little planet.

 

Stream in rainforest, Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya

Please keep the ‘little creatures that run the world’ in your thoughts during the holidays…

More from the world of bugs soon!

Dino

The Damselfly with the brilliant red eyes!

Was walking by the Uaso Narok river a few days ago in the evening. As the sun sank below the horizon, there were flocks of Dusk Hawker dragonflies and tiny damselflies feeding on mosquitoes over the water.

I was lucky to find one damselfly perching on some reeds and snuck in for a closer look. They really are the most exquisite creatures…

A damselfly silhouetted against the gathering dusk

A damselfly silhouetted against the gathering dusk

This one was very obliging and allowed me to get closer. You can do this with most insects if you are calm and patient. It turned out to be the aptly-named ‘Maasai Damselfly’, as you can see from the brilliant colours…

Maasai Damselfly with amazing eyes!

Maasai Damselfly with amazing eyes!

More from the world of bugs soon!

The Ruby and the Sapphire…

Dear All, 

Hello – greetings from the rainforest. I was very lucky to spend the xmas holidays in the Kakamega forest in Western Kenya. After a dry spell, the rains arrived with a vengeance and it rained and rained and rained. This was simply wonderful and I truly hope that it heralds a good year ahead.

 

Thanks to the rain the bugs in the rainforest were incredible. Day before yesterday I took a long hike through the forest towards the Yala river.

 

In one section of primary forest by a stream I noticed a flash of pure angry red zipping by. A few seconds later it returned and settled on a leaf. To my utter amazement and joy it was a Ruby Jewel (aka the Uganda Red Jewel)!

 

 red-jewel-kakamegalr1.jpg

 

This is one of our less-common damselflies and has only been spotted a handful of times in Western Kenya. It was cooperative enough to let me take a few pictures, including of its flicking its abdomen in a sun-spot to woo females.

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 red-jewel-kakamegalr3.jpg

 

 

Unlike me, they seemed to be totally unimpressed by his efforts as none showed up during the entire time I spent watching him.

 

Later in the day yesterday, walking by myself along another stream I noticed a blur of incandescent neon blue-green. It floated by, darting in and out of the shadows. I followed it, hoping that it would settle. After several minutes of searching, it seemed to have vanished and I gave up. I returned to look at the bees on some flowers, soon losing myself in a daydream… then looking up I saw that the apparition was sitting right in front of me on a leaf, watching me with its beady black eyes!

 

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This was another of the most beautiful of damselflies – called the Sapphire. It is simply one of the most amazing sights to see – a smouldering neon flame flashing in the dappled sunlight. Again, this fellow cooperated and I managed to get some pictures.

 

This rainforest, Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya, was once mined for gold and searched for precious stones. However, I think that you will agree with me that the forest and her damselfly children are the true jewels of the this beautiful place.

 

More from the wonderful world of bugs soon! Thanks to everyone for the kinds comments…

The Dancing Jewel

On a blazing hot day in the Kerio Valley, in north-western Kenya, I
took respite from the midday sun by a stream shaded by gigantic
ancient fig trees. The Kerio valley is an extension of the Great Rift
Valley. It is a stunning geographical feature with waterfalls plunging
from cloud forests down 3,000 – 4,000 ft escarpments with acacia
woodlands on the valley floor. It can get very hot in the valley, and
the streams fed by the forests in the highlands above support precious
strands of riverine trees…

Promise cavorts, hovering above the moving waters. Life erupts with
enthusiasm, fed by distant, rumbling thunderstorms. A stream cuts
through soft, dark rock. Cold and sweet in a place of heat, thorns and
dust, it offers a soothing illusion.

I seek its softness as a respite from the harsh, bitter heat.

Midday is cruel.

Light slams down with vertical, biting vigour. Hornbills and Turacos
pant listless in the shade. Even the eternal raucous optimist, a
vociferous Tropical Boubou, struggles to chortle with emphatic joy.
Only the ants, a kind that thrive in heat, move in dizzying swirls,
maddened by hunger for others, less fortunate, who have succumbed.

The water is in shadow.

Stoic giants guard the precious embryo beneath. Its silvery blood
nourishes their feet. In jest, they throw down confetti of
multi-coloured leaves. Damp and brittle. Crisp and smooth. They cover
the naked eroded edges of this sudden gutter with a pointillist
tapestry.

A rock smoothed by time beckons.

Here one could rest and dream. Leaves above, green and gold. Leaves
below, copper and saffron. And the quiet song of flowing peace.

Then all is shattered by beauty.

Imagine a vision so intense it burns straight into one’s soul. Rising
before me an incandescence darts and dives. A price must be paid for
entering this sacred grove. One must witness to absolute beauty in
return for a crumb of the sacrament. A ‘Dancing Jewel’ flits before me
– this is a damselfly, perhaps one of the loveliest creatures in the
world. The colours are unbelievable…

Turquoise! Cobalt! Rose-Madder Crimson! Orange! Black! White! Sepia! Bronze!

Smouldering colours unite haphazard in one being.

As if to say, ‘I was waiting for you here!’ He dances with unfettered
joy. Red legs waving with white within fuse into pink opalescence. His
richly blue back, turquoise shot with cobalt-ultramarine, wiggles,
etching scratches of brightness in the air.

dancingjewel-LR1.JPG

All else is still, distant, irrelevant. The world is shrunk to this
singular infinity being acted out in a sunspot.

A thing of beauty…

I forget to breathe.

The dance goes on!

My heart is clasped forever. No moment hither nor since exists. All
blurs into a kaleidoscope of frenzied timeless adulation.

Sublime. Rapture. Illusion.

This incredible damselfly, darting among the rocks on a sun-spotted
stream, is but one of millions of different kinds of insects each one
of them interesting, beautiful and intrinsically linked to the world
that they, and we, inhabit.