The conventional wisdom received by those with but a passing interest in local odonatology is that members of the infraorder Anisoptera are larger and more heavily built than damselflies. The observation holds true, indeed, for many species encountered in urban parks and reclaimed wetlands, where big, bold dragonflies patrol the airspace around lilyponds and slip under the line of sight to land on the turf. Zygopterans, meanwhile, duck the hazards of exposed heights, where they risk running afoul of cousins with the power to outflank fellow odonates. Thus, common coenagrionids usually stay close to the water margin, hunting midges and harassing mates in a stratum they leave only just before dark, when the adults rise to roost, hesitantly, in a nervous hopscotch from blade to bush until they hit the lower canopy.
In the denser clearings above step swamps and forest streams, however, there are damselflies whose bulk and boost match many of their anisopteran peers. Here, too, are libellulids of rare status and uncommon size, midgets in a family of chasers, darters, gliders and cascaders, many of which are themselves dwarved by clubtails and hawkers, the true giants of the group. A far easier way to stomp out widely held stereotypes than wading through damp soil, though, is to stroll by the marshy edges of municipal reservoirs, where native pipeworts and spikerushes wrestle with invasive bog moss for footholds on waterlogged banks. Common parasols, variegated green skimmers, common scarlets and pond adjudants haunt the topmost layers of low vegetation, while scarlet baskers and dancing dropwings survey the scene from the tips of flimsy perches. Two species of sprites, one perceptively bigger than the other, share the reedbeds with crenulated spreadwings; all three damselflies strain the eye, for their coats of cærulean and powder blue offer scant contrast against the sun-stroked stalks and there is little to distinguish their wispy frames, even in flight, from the weedy stems that rise just above the surface to bow before the wind.
Similar shades and stripes are favoured by two dragonflies that occupy the unmown fringes between the forest reserves and a putting green. Male trumpet tails, a diminutive libellulid partial to grassy borders, are evident only when they take off and alight a little distance away, thus revealing their scorpionfly-like abdomens and bright blue eyes. The females of this species, along with those of the black-tipped percher, are even more cryptically clad, with pale green hues and deeper lines that match the swirl of light and shadow in which they hide. A rather larger member of the genus can be found on many a lawn and garden, but Diplacodes nebulosa is never far from water, favouring overgrown marshes where the males stake their claims over pockets of wetland with their tails in the air, the better perhaps to stave off the heat and display their hackles to unwelcome neighbours. They share with Cratilla metallica wings with dark apices, but are just a third the size of forest skimmers and even smaller, though not slimmer, than the sprites in their midst.
Even tinier than elfs, perchers and many zygopterans is a dragonfly that could well be mistaken for a small bee. Female scarlet pygmies, in particular, are thought to mimic hymenopterans with their brown-and-white patterns as well as buzzing pitch. Mature males, however, have few peers in their intensity of colour and dogged wanderings in defence of meagre territories by choked inlets abutting swampy woods as well as open country in the far west of the island. Widespread across the orient but localised in distribution, Nannophya pygmaea can be an elusive creature, appearing in fits and starts at suitable habitat and dwindling to a trickle with little regard for the season. Clinging to twigs and shoots on boggy ground, the dragonflies are bolts of brilliance in an growing sea, a body of suitors in courtyards overlooked by harried souls and stages wrecked by grander schemes. Faithful to a fault, they are loath to stray from a small circle of influence, rising to perch on a higher plane only when harassed beyond what passes for reason in the realm of miniature hunters with few demands for space and no time to kill. For within a minute or two, the tiny subject of attention will whirl back to his domain and hold fort with his back to the sun, lest a wandering rival launch a strike to wrest control of the square he owns and wring the love of waspish brides in shallow pools.