THE blue-tailed damselflies flitted and hovered over this languid pool on the Blackdevon Wetlands, bringing shimmering colour to the landscape.

A viewing platform by the path edge was the perfect vantage point to watch these beauties, as well as their common blue and large red damselfly cousins as they engaged in elaborate aerial courtship displays, intent on feverish mating and often coupling in the air.

Once mated the female damselfly lays her eggs in the water or on adjacent aquatic vegetation, which hatch into six-legged carnivorous larvae (nymphs) that lurk on the bed of a pond or loch. They are voracious predators that seek out a wide range of small invertebrates.

Then, after a couple of years or more, the nymph crawls out of the water onto the stem of plant and from its larval skin emerges a vibrant adult winged insect. It is like the unfurling of a sparkling jewel. The contrast in lifestyle and appearance between the larval and winged stage could hardly be greater, which is part of their appeal.

Damselflies, and their dragonfly cousins, have been described as ‘birdwatchers’ insects’ because their size and colour make them stand-out from the crowd, and they are easy to watch through binoculars.

With their long pencil thin bodies and multi-coloured hues, these wonderful creatures rival butterflies for their beauty.

After a while watching the damselflies, I ventured over to another viewing platform, which looked out over a silvery expanse of water where a pair of mute swans and their young cygnets glided across the surface. There were also some mallards about and a moorhen uttered its distinctive ‘whinnying’ call from somewhere in among the reedy margins.

As I left the wetlands, a magpie sat on a fencepost and watched me closely.

Nothing was likely to cause more angst in the heart of my late mother-in-law than the sight of a lone magpie, a superstition long held in the mists of time of impending bad luck that can only be alleviated by the sight of another magpie (the source of the rhyme ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’), or by quickly saying: “Hello Mr Magpie, how is your wife and family today?”

The magpie is also a rather attractive bird.

From a distance it looks black and white but, close-up and in the sunshine, the black is embossed with a glossy metallic green and purple sheen.

Although never previously superstitious, my late mother-in-law’s strongly held beliefs have also rubbed off onto me to a certain degree.

Whenever I see a lone magpie, I too find it difficult to resist the temptation to scan around for its partner, the words ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’ ringing in my ears.