The Gold Coast covers 1,330 square kilometres and includes more than 80 suburbs housing 600,000 people. Within it there are 65 native vegetation types with more than half of the city covered in native vegetation. The city is also home to some 85 species of damselflies and dragonflies, with another 21 species recorded within 100km of the city boundary in the past 40 years.
A new publication by Gold Coast residents and entomologists Narelle Power and Damian White, alongside Chris Burwell explores these stunning animals in beautiful detail.
“Damian and I have been photographing and documenting the dragonflies and damselflies of Australia for over 20 years, and observing them for well over 30 years,” author Narelle Power told Blank.
They both studied entomology at university, having been passionate about insects from a very young age.
“Dragonflies and damselflies lend themselves to both amateur and professional observation, similar to birds in many ways,” Narelle explained, “they are incredibly beautiful to photograph, and when you observe them for extended periods of time, you begin to recognise their habits and behaviours.”
‘Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Gold Coast’ published two months ago, is a 103-page tribute (and field guide) to the insect order Odonata found across the city. Odonata is made up of two suborders – Zygoptera (damselflies) and Anisoptera (dragonflies). It’s challenging to tell the two apart and the book gives you some insights into how to do that. It also explores the insects’ life stages as well as habitat and structural features of the insects.
Despite what you might think about the city and its penchant for development, the fact that we’ve retained 50% native vegetation across the Gold Coast lends itself to a decent diversity of damselflies and dragonflies. They’re common where most of us live – local creeks and streams, river edges, ponds and even swamps.
“You can often find the smaller species of damselflies on the edges of creeks,” Narelle explained, “they will settle on the vegetation around the water. If you look closely and pay attention, you can see them darting about catching other insects to eat.”
“The larger dragonflies you can see patrolling the creeks, and even patrolling patches of sunlight between trees. Many are fairly territorial, and if you observe them, you can see they will often return to a particular stick or piece of vegetation over and over again.”
We feel that the more people understand and appreciate nature, the more they will do to ensure we don’t lose what we have – you only protect what you understand and love.
That doesn’t mean these insects have it easy. Clearing around waterways is still the primary threat to dragonflies and damselflies and loss of habitat – both on land and water is having a detrimental impact on their ongoing survival.
Narelle notes though that for some species, the development of parklands which include ponds and dams has to lead to an increase in their numbers.
“Climate change also appears to be having a significant impact, with many species formally only found north of the Gold Coast now appearing in greater numbers as they colonise areas further south,” she said.
The book is a visual feast for the senses with stunning colour imagery captured on every page. Books have sold as far afield as Western Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania and other councils are getting in on the act, snapping up Narelle and Damian’s special talents for their own field guides.
“We were commissioned to produce a series of five books for Ipswich City Council,” she said. Those books cover frogs and reptiles, fishes and other aquatic life, birds and mammals.
“Logan City Council also provided funds to produce a book for their local residents, Wildlife of Logan, which also included spiders, bees and ants.”
Those books come on the back of other guides focussed on our own city: ‘Wildlife of the Gold Coast’ and ‘Frogs of the Gold Coast’, both published in partnership with Loders Creek Catchment Association.
“The Frog book covers all species found within the Gold Coast City Council region,” Narelle said. “The Wildlife book covered a range of vertebrate and invertebrate groups including butterflies, cicadas, fishes, frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals.”
Working in this space brings with in unique challenges, especially on the Gold Coast but Narelle says it’s “vitally important” to study our natural environment as well as document the fauna species we see every day.
“We work as consultants doing fauna surveys throughout Queensland, and even when we aren’t working, we are out in the bush looking for wildlife.”
“Although the Gold Coast like many cities, has suffered from loss of habitat and an increase in population, it still has over 50% vegetation cover and many protected areas, including City Council reserves and National Parks, and continues to provide extensive habitat for the numerous common and threatened species which call Southeast Queensland home,” she said.
“We feel that the more people understand and appreciate nature, the more they will do to ensure we don’t lose what we have – you only protect what you understand and love,” Narelle said.
‘Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Gold Coast’ by Narelle Power, Damian White and Chris Burwell is available for just $15 from Gold Coast Botanic Gardens and Piccabeen Bookshop (Mount Tamborine). You can also order direct from the author at email@example.com.