Ruddy Darter

Sympetrum sanguineum

This enigmatic dragonfly can be difficult to locate, being quite similar to the common darter with which it is usually found. As with all dragonflies, decent views should prove no problem with identification but they aren't always as approachable as common darters, at least until they get used to your presence.
In Gateshead I have found them at Kibblesworth, Gibside and along the banks of the river Derwent, but Far Pasture has been the most reliable site over the last few years, small numbers usually along the access road in August and September, but they need to be identified from among the many common darters there.

Ruddy Darter (mature male)
Superficially similar to common darter but is a smaller insect and mature
male has a deeper red abdomen, uniformly brown thorax, red face and
all black legs.  

Viewed from top the abdomen appears obviously club-ended

This front-on view shows the all black legs, red face and the
black line over the frons droops around the sides also.
The Ruddy is the only darter not to have a pale stripe on the legs.  

Immature male
Yellowish all over but still differs from immature common with
abdomen length and shape, black legs and frons. 

Another maturing male, this colouration could easily be
mistaken for a common darter.
They take around 10 days to become fully mature.
Ruddy Darter (mature female)
Again very similar to the common darter but is a neater insect and
look for the black legs and more extensive frons

From the side, the female also differs from the common as it
lacks extensive black lines along the upper flanks of the abdomen.
The abdomen of the female will start to redden as it gets to an
advanced age. 
Ruddy Darters prefer shallow overgrown ponds where they perch
prominently. Females also perch openly away from water. 
The flight of the Ruddy Darter is bouncy with a swinging movement and will hover much more and longer than the common darter.
After the maiden flight, both sexes feed around long grass, bushes and marshy areas, perching on vegetation facing an open space. A good perch in an area of abundant food will be defended (by both sexes) and used repeatedly. Look for the threat position when wings are moved upward and the abdomen raised.

When males return to the water, they perch low but prominently. They don't
hold a territory and will move around, but like a bit of personal space
and will maintain a small exclusion zone around themselves.
Passing females will be pursued, seized and taken into vegetation for copulation, which lasts several minutes. The pair oviposit in tandem, but with a flicking motion rather than the dipping of the common darter.
Eggs either hatch after a few days or those laid in late summer will lie dormant over the winter. Larvae prefer to live among horsetails or bulrushes and have a one-year cycle, adults emerging from late June to September and can be seen well into the autumn if conditions are right.

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