Dragonflies in Worcestershire 2013

Mike Averill

It seemed like a very long cold winter this year (2012-2013) and the lateness of any dragonfly records reflected this. Following a cold start in January and February, March was one of the coldest months since the 1960’s. Relentlessly the cold weather continued into April and then finally temperatures began struggle in to double figures in the third week of that month. Just as some species were beginning to appear it turned cooler again for a couple of weeks in mid May, only perking up at the end of the month. In terms of dragonfly emergences, this had a dramatic effect delaying all species by between one and six weeks compared to the earliest times in 2008-2012 (Table 1), except for the Small Red-eyed Damselfly which emerges later in the year anyway.

In terms of individual species, all the regular species were seen plus an occasional uncommon one: the Red-veined Darter which was seen at Grimley but not at its usual location at Pirton. The Club-tailed Dragonfly was 17 days late to emerge and the numbers counted were somewhat lower so perhaps some individuals will have delayed their emergence until next year. This can happen with a species that has a synchronised emergence because it is important for all the males and females to emerge together. This is particularly vital for a species like this that disperses widely after emergence. The Beautiful Demoiselle seems to expand its range each year appearing in more locations on the River Severn and even at Yardley near the River Cole. Croome Court had less Small-red Eyed Damselflies than last year but the same species was also seen at Lower Smite Farm. The fact that this species wasn’t late emerging compared to other years may be explained by the fact that it normally emerges later in the summer and so would have had time to recover from the early cold spell. The Four-spotted Chaser tends to pop up in more locations than it used to so it was nice to have proven breeding reports from Penny Hill, near Martley.

The unexpected arrival of the Scarce Chaser at Hillditch Pool, Hartlebury in 2012 gave rise to the possibility of a breeding colony there and so it was with excitement that the first larval cases were found in June this year. Whether such a small group will be self sustaining will make an interesting case study.

Dragonflies attracted to moth traps are not all that common and certainly not as common as in the United States where warm evenings and crepuscular activity often leads to dragonflies being drawn to light. In Worcestershire we had two instances via Val Weston this year: a Brown Hawker in Acocks Green and a Common Darter at Monkwood. This is nothing to do with feeding of course, merely the response to light in the way that birds and other day flying insects are attracted to lighthouses or ships lights.

For those who are eagerly awaiting the new national Dragonfly Atlas, the launch date will be May 2014 and a pre publication offer can be found at: http://www.field-studies-council.org/publications/pubs/atlas-of-dragonflies-in-britain-and-ireland.aspx

Common NameScientific Name Earliest sighting 2008-12 Earliest sighting 2013 Days later than 2008-12
Large Red DamselflyPyrrhosoma nymphula 09/04/2011 04/05/2013 25
Beautiful DemoiselleCalopteryx virgo 23/04/2011 22/05/2013 29
Blue-tailed DamselflyIschnura elegans 23/04/2011 22/05/2013 29
Common Blue DamselflyEnallagma cyathigerum 23/04/2011 13/05/2013 20
Azure DamselflyCoenagrion puella 24/04/2009 25/05/2013 31
Banded DemoiselleCalopteryx splendens 26/04/2011 25/05/2013 29
Red-eyed DamselflyErythromma najas 26/04/2011 22/05/2013 26
Broad-bodied ChaserLibellula depressa 26/04/2011 01/06/2013 36
Four-spotted ChaserLibellula quadrimaculata 02/05/2011 31/05/2013 29
Common Club-tailGomphus vulgatissimus 03/05/2011 20/05/2013 17
Hairy DragonflyBrachytron pratense 05/05/2011 Not Seen  
White-legged DamselflyPlatycnemis pennipes 08/05/2009 03/06/2013 26
Black-tailed SkimmerOrthetrum cancellatum 08/05/2011 04/06/2013 26
Southern HawkerAeshna cyanea 14/05/2012 29/06/2013 46
Scarce ChaserLibellula fulva 22/05/2011 09/06/2013 18
Brown HawkerAeshna grandis 24/05/2009 30/06/2013 34
Emperor DragonflyAnax imperator 30/05/2008 08/06/2013 8
Common DarterSympetrum striolatum 30/05/2008 30/06/2013 30
Red-veined DarterSympetrum fonscolombii 31/05/2009 17/06/2013 Migrant
Golden-ringed DragonflyCordulegaster boltonii 09/06/2012 12/07/2013 1 record
Emerald DamselflyLestes sponsa 15/06/2011 29/06/2013 14
Ruddy DarterSympetrum sanguineum 16/06/2010 09/07/2013 23
Common HawkerAeshna juncea 26/06/2010 Not Seen  
Lesser EmperorAnax parthenope 07/07/2011 Not Seen  
Small Red-eyed DamselflyErythromma viridulum 11/07/2011 14/07/2013 3
Migrant HawkerAeshna mixta 22/07/2009 07/08/2013 16
Black DarterSympetrum danae 12/09/2009 Not Seen  

Table 1. Dragonfly emergence dates. 2008-2012 compared with 2013.