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Hidden Jewels at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

Before I inadvertently start the equivalent of a Gold Rush I should point out that the jewels at Pamuzinda in question are, in fact, Damselflies, of the Genus Platycypha. Dancing Jewels or Platycypha caligata to be precise.

I am trying to put together species lists, with accompanying photographic images. The list has several genera of relatively under-recorded groups of wildlife found at Chengeta and Pamuzinda. And, Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies), is one of them. Hopefully, all these groups will be incorporated into our future blog entries.

Unfortunately, I know no one locally I can tie in with on these subjects so I am bumbling through alone. I have a library of reference books which I managed to obtain in the UK. These books, however, are normally specific to South Africa, although many species covered occur in Zimbabwe as well. And it is, of course, easy to make mistakes. I therefore ask that if there is any misidentification in any of my blogs, please point it out to me so that I can correct the error.

Finding Hidden Jewels at Pamuzinda

However, in the case of the Dancing Jewel, I don’t think there is any question about its identification. It is far too distinctive for that. I search for dragonflies along the banks of Serui and Chimbo Rivers at Pamuzinda and Chengeta and associated waterholes. Of the 30/40 species I have observed, some are common throughout but others occur only at specific sites. Fortunately, my memory is still functional enough to remember which species I have photographed before. This means I don’t have to waste time taking the same thing over and over again.

I must confess to still getting a little excited at seeing something new. I was delighted one evening on the Serui to see a damselfly I had never seen before. It looked like a neon light and, of course, flew away just as I levelled the camera for what would have been a somewhat distant shot. Most Odonata are territorial to a degree so I hung around hoping it would return. Fortunately, it did, but to a boulder in the middle of a pool. I headed for the middle of the pool hoping I was not sharing it with one of our resident crocodiles. The accompanying shot was the result.

Dancing Jewels at Pamuzinda can be seen by Serui River
Dancing Jewel perched above Serui River

Dancing Damselfly Jewels in Zimbabwe

These delightful insects are officially listed as of “least concern” leading one to suppose they would be plentiful. Certainly, I could not claim that to be the case here although I have since seen one at Chengeta as well. It may well be a seasonal thing whereby there are times of plenty and this is not one of them. Until I have been conducting my surveys for a full 12-month period I cannot say.

It may also be a regional thing and there are places where they are abundant. Watch this space – as they say!

In the meantime, I am thankful to have seen the ones I have discovered to date. And I am even more thankful to have obtained some very satisfactory images. The species occurs in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (which, of course, takes in Zimbabwe). Wikipedia lists 10 species in the Genus (5 of them with English names). How many of those occur in this area I have no idea. But, rest assured, having seen one I am anxious to see more, so my vigilance has been turned up to Red Alert.

Features of the Dancing Jewel

Seen in closeup I am sure you will agree that it is a stunning creature. The electric blue of its upper abdomen is distinctive, even from some distance. This is accompanied by a striking red underside in places, and legs that are shockingly red on the outside and white on the inside.

I have realised over the years that every feature of living things has developed over the millennia for a purpose. Where those features have a visual impact, they are almost invariably integral to the courtship and mate selection part of the life cycle. This is certainly the case with this Dancing Jewel which derives its name from a courtship dance by the males where they hover in front of the female with their gaudily coloured legs hanging down whilst they wiggle, presumably provocatively, their electric blue abdomens in the air.

The Search Continues

The hunt is now on for female dancing jewels at Pamuzinda. One would suppose that males and females would co-exist side by side, but with most of the Odonata, this does not seem to be the case. The males of most species tend to be distinctively coloured and territorial to some degree or other. They can usually be seen close to their chosen water sources where they parade about ostentatiously to attract females and perch out in the open where they can be seen from some distance.

The females on the other hand are fairly shy and retiring, demurely coloured, and only visit the waterside area to check out the posturing males or to lay eggs. If you are looking to photograph females as well as males you have to check the vegetation often some way (up to 100 metres or so) from the water. Due to their inconspicuous colouring, they are difficult to spot and I have found the best way is to plough through the vegetation hoping to “put one up” and then freezing and watching where it lands as they often do not travel far.

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Hidden Jewels at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

Hidden Jewels at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge
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