05 September 2010

Flying time with Dragons and Damsels at the Leafmonkey Workshop

Our awesome dragonflies and damselflies was the focus of the last Leafmonkey Workshop for nature guides for 2010.
And who else better to learn from than Tang Hung Bun, the author of Singapore's first and only guidebook on these amazing creatures! Tang also kindly autographed our copies.

Tang shared lots of fascinating facts about the lifecycle and behaviour of these aerial marvels. I was particularly struck by the information that these poor creatures were often plagued by little mites! My photo is blurry but this dragonfly was coated in the little pests.
Here's a closer look at the pest! Although the dragonflies and damselflies can bend their abdomens and make all kinds of twists for their very kinky sex (which includes males scraping out sperm inserted into the female by previous mates), they can't remove these pests from their own bodies. Poor things.
Tang shares lots of video clips of all aspects of these very active animals. From how the larvae hunts and eats, to how the adults emerge, and of course their literally loopy mating. The males are particularly flashy and 'battle' over good laying spots. Tang explains how a particular pair of males will come close to one another to intimidate with their spots on their wings. The one with the flashiest and widest apart spots wins! Tang's videos are awesome!
We sure learnt a lot about dragonflies and damselflies! Way too much to summarise here. You can catch up on the facts by buying the Guidebook, or checking up Tang's fabulous Singapore Odonata website. There's also a short write up on these creatures on the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog, which has more links.

Robin then stepped up to share some history about the study and conservation of dragonflies and damselflies in Singapore. Alfred Wallace of course identified many of them from Singapore, and among the other important contributors is Prof Murphy (more about him here).
The most recent contributions was led by Dr Cheong Loong Fah and of course Tang and Robin as well as many others.
There was a survey of our dragonflies and damselflies with results revealed this year, raising the number of our dragonflies and damselflies further. More about the survey results.
Recently, there are efforts to convert our concrete canals and rivers into more natural areas. These will provide more habitats for our dragonflies and damselflies! These colourful and active creatures are also the focus of some new upcoming park developments. Wow!
Robin also has many fascinating stories, photos and video clips about dragonflies and damselflies on his Creatures Big and Small blog.

With so many opportunities to share about drangonflies and damselflies during our nature walks, let's workshop some ways to talk to them with different kinds of visitors! Here's a team role playing working with elderly visitors.
While this team discusses how to share with teenagers, who are here all well lined up by a guide who is very much in charge!
Some groups really brought the session to life with a real life dragonfly! The blue male dragonfly was really life-like and was challenging for visitors to photograph.
It turns out the female dragonfly is brown! And here's Mr and Mrs Dragonfly together, sadly, no demonstration of mating methods.
Another team has a green male dragonfly who fascinates the primary school kids.
All too soon, we end this workshop, the last for 2010.

Thanks to Tang and Robin for sharing such fascinating and inspiring stories!

November and the many supporting guides who turn up to help as facilitators are going to take a break for the rest of the year. But if you have any suggestions for workshops in 2011, do drop her a note at the Leafmonkey Workshop blog or facebook page. Sign up to be on the mailing list so that you get updates when the workshops resume in 2011.

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