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More damsels in distress

PUBLISHED: 16:18 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

Sometimes the most spectacular wildlife appears when you least expect it. On a recent birdwatching trip to Norfolk the birds were fantastic but it was an insect that left me marvelling at the wonders of nature. I spotted something on the path ahead and c

Sometimes the most spectacular wildlife appears when you least expect it. On a recent birdwatching trip to Norfolk the birds were fantastic but it was an insect that left me marvelling at the wonders of nature.

I spotted something on the path ahead and creeping closer I could see it was a resting damselfly. The body shimmered emerald green and blue in the bright sunlight below a metallic green head, the transparent wings streaked with blue horizontal lines featuring dark blue circles. I carefully moved around it, making a mental note to check identification later. It was a magnificent male Banded Demoiselle, one of Britain's largest damselflies and a riverbank specialist.

Extensive research by the Dragonfly Conservation Group of the British Dragonfly Society has enabled the Red Data list published 20 years ago to be updated. Dainty Damselfy and Norfolk Damselfly, last seen in the 1950s, and Orange-spotted Emerald, not found since 1963, are now rated "probably extinct".

Other damsels are in distress. Under the "endangered" heading come Southern Damselfly, Northern Damselfly, Norfolk Hawker and White-faced Darter. In the "vulnerable" category are Azure Hawker and Brilliant Emerald, both showing 30 per cent reduction in occurrence. Listed as "near-threatened" are Scarce Emerald Damselfly, Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, Variable Damselfly, Northern Emerald, Scarce Chaser and Common Club-tail. They are still found in more than 10 British locations.

This is the time of year to see dragonflies and damselflies. Search near still or slow-flowing water. Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve, near Gravesend, attracts large numbers. Check your garden pond, too. Alternatively, join an organised expedition. Like the one run by Sidcup and District National History Society to Haysden Country Park, in Tonbridge, this Saturday from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Details from Tony Banks 0790 523 7041.

If you spot any of the species mentioned above, please report your sighting on the BDS website www.dragonflysoc.org

Further reading: Field Guide to Dragonflies of Britain and Europe by Klaas-Douwe B Dijkstra (British Wildlife Publishing 01747 835511).

Watching British Dragonflies by Steve Dudley, Caroline Dudley and Andrew Mackay (Subbuteo Natural History Books 0870 010 9700).

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