Dragonflies of Kashmir

A short walk up the Zabarvan hills from the Harwan gardens leads to the ancient monuments where the Kushan emperor Kanishka held the Fourth Great Buddhist Council in the first century CE.

One summer day as I was standing amongst the ruins of the Great Hall of the Council, I heard a long drawn out Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

For the briefest of moments I imagined I was back in Ladakh with long-forgotten Buddhist chants ringing out as clear as crystal in my mind. Startled, I looked up and saw that the sound was being generated by the wing beats of a large dragonfly hovering above my head.

Even though I was not able to identify this particular dragonfly on the wing, over the years I have managed to photograph a number of dragonflies found in Kashmir.

The first ever checklist of dragonflies of Kashmir was published in 1898 by Philip Powell Calvert, an American entomologist and a leading authority on odonata at that time.

It is fascinating that most dragonflies that I have photographed can be found in this checklist which was based on specimens collected by Dr. W.L. Abbott in Kashmir well over a hundred years ago.

DRAGONFLIES

summer sky beats down

on the pretty, fragile wings

the dragonfly gleams

~dragonfly haiku by chloe

1. Aeshna mixta – The Migrant Hawker

2. Anax parthenope – The Lesser Emperor

3. Cordulegaster bidentata – The Sombre Goldenring

4. Crocothemis erythraea – The Scarlet Darter

5. Libellula quadrimaculata – The Four-Spotted Chaser

6. Ophiogomphus reductus

7. Orthetrum brunneum – The Southern Skimmer

8. Orthetrum cancellatum – The Black-Tailed Skimmer

9. Orthetrum taeniolatum/hyalinum – The Small Skimmer

10. Orthetrum triangulare – The Blue-Tailed Forest Hawk

11. Pantala flavescens – The Globe Skimmer/Wandering Glider

This species, as its name would suggest, is the most widespread dragonfly in the world. It is also the highest-flying dragonfly, recorded at 6,200 m in the Himalaya.

12. Sympetrum fonscolombii – The Red-Veined Darter/Nomad

13. Sympetrum meridionale – The Southern Darter

14. Sympetrum sanguineum – The Ruddy Darter

14. Sympetrum striolatum – The Common Darter

15. Sympetrum vulgatum – The Vagrant Darter

DAMSELFLIES

And that blue there, cobalt

a moment, then iridescent,

fragile as a lady’s pin

hovering above the nasturtium?

~Kleinzahler

1. Ischnura inarmata – The Kashmir Damselfly*

*Since the boffins have failed to bestow a common name upon this beauty, I have taken the liberty to quite unscientifically name this species the ‘Kashmir Damselfly. so there!

2. Lestes barbarus – The Migrant Spreadwing/Southern Emerald Damselfly

3. Sympecma paedisca – The Winter Damselfly

Corrections and suggestions are welcome.

: Listed in “ODONATA (DRAGONFLIES) FROM THE INDIAN OCEAN, AND FROM KASHMIR, COLLECTED BY DR. W.L. ABBOTT” published in “PROCEEDINGS ACADEMY NATURAL SCIENCES PHILADELPHIA 1898 1898:141-154” by Philip Powell Calvert.

William Louis Abbott was an American doctor born in the nineteenth century. In 1886 he received a substantial inheritance, gave up the practice of medicine, and travelled extensively around the world. Dr. W.L. Abbott discovered around 40 new species and collected more than 16,000 specimens of birds, mammals, and reptiles in addition to ethnological artefacts and photographs from far-flung corners of the world. Dr. W.L. Abbott visited Kashmir numerous times between 1891 and 1895 and finally in 1915.

[All images © Dr. Bakshi Jehangir. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is not permitted.]