Worcestershire Record No. 24 April 2008 p. 15


Mike Averill

Many people must have thought it was going to be another hot dry year as 2007 started with warm weather in April and extended in to May. Many dragonfly species made an early appearance with Large Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula in early April and Common Club-tailed dragonflies Gomphus vulgatissimus as early as the 1st May. Scarce Chasers Libellula fulva were also early to take to the wing and for this species it was a very good year with lots being seen at their stronghold sites between Pershore and Tewkesbury and even as far upstream as the Simon de Montford Bridge above Evesham.

Beautiful Demoiselles Calopteryx virgo also did well in their usual locations and there was a new location noted near Bittell Reservoir.

Although having an early start, the Club-tailed Dragonfly had another poor year in terms of emergence rates and for this species and other synchronised early emerging dragonflies the very wet weather that took place in mid June through to mid July may well have affected their breeding opportunities. These two months turned out to be the wettest on record and there would be a drop in potential flying days and the survival rates of eggs laid in June and July in rivers would have been reduced by having to deal with raging torrents instead of the usual tranquil rivers.

The Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei once again made its way in to this country from the continent but none were reported in Worcestershire. The Small-red Damselfly Erythromma viridulum was seen at Ryall, where five males were seen patrolling over the water milfoil, interestingly though, it was difficult to visit sites like this due to the unprecedented high water levels following the storms. Not far away, Gloucestershire saw three new locations for this species near to the Worcestershire boundary.

One site that looked better than it has done for many years was Hartlebury Bog. This site has suffered drying out for many years and normal summers generally see no standing water, however with above average rainfall this year, there were good numbers of dragonflies including Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata and Emperors Anax imperator. Many wetland areas benefited from the standing water like Ashmoor Common, Wilden Marsh and Puxton Marsh and Worcestershire for once gave a glimpse of what it was like 60 years ago with water meadows still wet in the summer. Most damselfly and some dragonfly species can capitalise on conditions like this and may well have had successful breeding cycles before the water bodies started to dry out.

After July the summer was much drier and with sunnier conditions normal dragonfly watching was resumed. To end an unusual year some species like the white-legged damselfly Platycnemis pennipes were seen on the wing in September which is quite late.

In 2008 there will be the launch of a new National Dragonfly Atlas with a five year survey period and there is more of this in another article.

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