Overall 1999 was rather quiet for dragonflies as the weather conspired to give some very wet periods at times. Weather systems also denied any movements of foreign species in to the mainland although there was a small influx of Lesser Emperors Anax parthenope into Britain in early July.
In May/June, survey work on the Club-tailed Dragonfly Gomphus vulgatissimus continued, this time along the upper reaches of the River Teme. Rather like its move up the River Avon this species has shown a steady expansion up the River Teme as well. Before 1999 records were only found up the river as far as Eardiston where it then became very difficult to find proof of breeding. This year however the Club-tailed Dragonfly was found in seven new 1km squares right up to Tenbury. After Tenbury the river does get rockier in nature and does not seem suitable for this species which generally prefers silty beds. The whole issue of why The Club-tailed Dragonfly is expanding its range is an interesting one when taken in context with other rarer river dragonflies in the country which are not doing as well.
At Bewdley, the long running survey of the Club-tailed Dragonfly counted the third highest total of emergences in the 13 years of the study.
Although just over the border in Shropshire, there were good sightings of The Club-tailed Dragonfly displaying and pairing over stands of Comfrey at Highley Country Park. This was interesting because such activity is not often seen. If you do see any pairing and especially ovipositing please let me know.
There were a few reports of the Common Hawker Aeshna juncea this year with larval cases being found again at Bayton, although none of these hawkers were seen again at Bodenham Arboretum following the emergences in 1998.
Following the sightings of Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei last year at Kemerton, it was disappointing that no records were reported this year. This is not to say that there definitely were not any but it would be very difficult to spot freshly emerged dragonflies from a small clutch as they usually fly away from the emergence site straight away. However despite examining many exuviae none proved to be Red-veined Darter.
A good batch of records were again taken at Ipsley Alders this year but the Black Darter Sympetrum danae was not seen. Gary Farmer did however record this species at an unexpected site somewhere else near Redditch.
All sorts of changes are taking place in dragonfly movements at the moment and just when you thought you were safe with one red eyed damselfly to identify, we may soon have another to cope with as the Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum has now been recorded in Essex. Although E. viridulum can be seen to be a bit smaller than E. najas when together, a better identification for the males is the presence of blue sides to segments 2 and 8 in the former.
Finally a word about not assuming what you see is always the obvious. Apart from the common Emperor Anax imperator, there is now the Vagrant Emperor Hemianax ephippiger, Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope and The American Emperor or Green Darner Anax junius to look for. As a final tip there could also be the Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis which is like the migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta only all the abdominal segments are a striking sky blue in the male.
(Apologies to Mike - this article should have appeared in the November 1999 issue but I mislaid it! Ed.)
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