Book Warren event showcases the dragonfly, which have eyes with 28,652 lenses
The Book Warren and Café in Willingham is hosting the first of a new series of online events tomorrow (May 9, 11am) as wildlife guide and nature writer David Chandler talks about his new book, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies & Damselflies of Britain & Ireland’.
The Book Warren & Cafe, which won the 2019 Muddy Stiletto award for best bookshop in the county - has, like all bookshops, acted imaginatively during lockdown to keep the franchise going, and this first event is the start of a new series of talks and virtual book signings over the summer.
“Our aim is to bring a new audience to the world of dragonflies and damselflies here at the edge of Ouse Fen as well as - hopefully - starting a regular children’s online mini-beast safari,” said founder Lindsay Warren, who has closed the premises. “So I have created a series on online events co-hosted with local authors to do short, on-line chats about their work and forthcoming publications, and hoping that people will order their copy from the Book Warren.”
David Chandler is a well known nature writer and wildlife guide, has authored and co-authored several books including RSPB publications as well as having features in wildlife magazines. He moved to Over last year and has since learned a great deal about wildlife at the nature reserve, including during lockdown because the Ouse Fen nature reserve is his local walk.
“I plan to talk for about 25 minutes about dragonflies and damselflies,” David says. “I’m assuming it’s for beginners, so the talk will be about their characteristics, including their remarkable breathing behaviours, because most of their lives are spent underwater as a larva, then they emerge and they survive two months if they’re lucky. That’s the dragnoflies, with a damselfly it’s two weeks, so the wonderful flying acrobat bit you get at this time of year is only part of their story.
“They’re out there now, being fantastic, eating and mating. They’re serious predators as larvae under water, and serious predators as airborne adults.”
One of the more fantastical features David will discuss is their eyesight.
“They have the biggest eyes in terms of body size in the insect - and possibly the animal - world. They have compound eyes, so that means two large eyes and each eye is made up of lots of single lenses. A recent study in the US found that each eye has 28,652 lenses, so the two eyes have more than 57,000 lenses making images, and that takes up a huge portion of their brain power. As well as making sense of all the images they have to hunt and find a mate.”
It probably slightly helps that the dragonfly has 360 degree vision.
“With a tiny movement of their head they can turn all the way round,” David says.
David worked at the RSPB and BirdLife International for 20 years before going freelance in 2005. He has authored or co-authored 17 books, and led expeditions and studies all over England, Europe and in Asia and Australia.
Describing Over as “a fantastic place for wildlife”, he explains that his lockdown walk leads on to Ouse Fen.
“It’s a wonderful nature reserve,” he says. “With more land being handed over to the RSPB, it’s on course to become the biggest nature reserve in the UK.”
He’s keen, too, to encourage people to carry forward a lifelong appreciation of wildlife acquired during lockdown.
“A lot of conservation work is delivered by NGOs, who have volunteers working for them, and charities are struggling for income during the pandemic, and the lack of volunteers because of lockdown makes it difficult to get their work done, so any contribution to help them carry on is going to be welcome and if you’re a volunteer and have stood down it’ll be really valuable if they can go back and if you’re not a volunteer now maybe you’ll consider it.”
Event details here.