DRAGONFLIES IN 2003

Mike Averill

2003 appears to have been a good summer for insects with long hot sunny periods. Closer scrutiny reveals some early records for dragonflies but then in May and early June a slight slowing up of sightings occurred as the weather turned wetter and cooler. During these two months there were the usual showings of damselflies but it seemed to be a long wait for the true dragonflies to emerge.

After that warmer temperatures and sunshine were in plentiful supply all the way to September. Some of the longest dry periods on record were in March, April, July, August and September. This pattern seems to be developing nowadays with brief spells of heavy rain between dry periods.

In our county early sightings produced the Large-red Damselfly in early May and also the Banded Damselfly. There was the tantalising report of a large brownish dragonfly flying in a car Park at Kidderminster on the 1st April (no fooling) which could have been a Hairy Dragonfly (only two previous records in the 1970ís in Worcestershire, or maybe a Migrant Emperor Hemianax ephippiger. The latter has not been recorded before in Worcestershire but it is a well travelled insect found from the Middle East to Iceland. It tends to move out of the Middle East in early April and expand northwards.

The Club-tailed Dragonfly had another disappointing emergence on the Severn equalling 2002 with the lowest counts in 15 years. This is of some concern and may be due to the succession of poor June months over the years, which is the period when this dragonfly is most active.

In order to ensure this low emergence is not just down to some anomaly on the Severn at Bewdley I would like to run parallel surveys on the Avon, Teme and possibly somewhere else on the Severn. If you can help with this please contact me. It involves checking the rivers edge every other day for about a month from Mid May for larval cases (Exuviae)

By mid June the larger dragonflies were beginning to show themselves with Black-tailed Skimmers particularly evident. It also seemed a good year for the Beautiful Demoiselle which was reported from some new sites.

We often travel long distances to see different locations in the county and amazing things can happen on your own doorstep. I was reluctantly digging some foundations in my garden (instead of chasing dragons) when I noticed a different hawker investigating my pool. It had yellow thoracic stripes, alternating yellow and brown abdominal markings and a very yellow costa on the leading wing edges. It was a female Common Hawker and it began to lay eggs in to some rotting wood at the pool edge. It did this for about 20 minutes and did in fact return later in the day as well. Despite its name it is not common in most of Worcestershire and not really a garden dragonfly. I await the outcome next June with interest.

Migrant darters have again provided some interest this year and you may remember that I mentioned last year that exuviae had had been found at Pirton Pool. Despite several visits in June no early Red-veined Darters were seen to suggest a successful early emergence from the previous year. By July 9th , however, several R V Darters were seen at Pirton and this coincided with other sightings at Kinsham and in Gloucestershire and Lancashire. By the 14th there were also three seen at the Grimley old workings. Despite many visits to Pirton there were no signs of breeding as in last year. At Kinsham, a teneral specimen was spotted on the 17th of August and a detailed search on the 25th produced three exuviae. This proved that the R V Darter has bred at two sites in Worcestershire now but it is a tenuous hold and the numbers are too low to continue without further influxes from outside the area. Finally, it is obviously never too late to see this species if the weather holds up because it was seen on 29th of October near Hereford.

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