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News: The Dragonfly Atlas Project

15th March 2007

Ruddy Darter Phil Smith
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguinum).

The Dragonfly Atlas Project for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside is now up and running until 2009 under the auspices of the Lancashire & Cheshire Fauna Society and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit. The aim is to record the distribution, abundance and breeding status of all dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) in our region and then publish a book summarising this information.

Open quotesVolunteers are needed to record wetlands in one or more tetrads (2 x 2-km squares) at least once a month between May and SeptemberClose quotesVolunteers are needed to record wetlands in one or more tetrads (2 x 2-km squares) at least once a month between May and September. Garden ponds can be included as well as the wider countryside. Detailed instructions on how to do the recording are available from the Project organisers (see contact details below). There will also be a web-site.

Phil Smith Phil Smith
Phil Smith recording dragonflies.
Dragonflies are among the most spectacular and entertaining insects. They have become increasingly popular in recent years partly because there are now several excellent field guides and also because all the British species can be identified from a distance using binoculars. Thus, many birdwatchers have taken up dragonfly spotting.

Open quotesCurrently, these insects are of particular interest because they are responding spectacularly to climate change. Thirty years ago, only 12 species occurred in our recording area; today the total is up to 23, nearly twice as many!Close quotesCurrently, these insects are of particular interest because they are responding spectacularly to climate change. Thirty years ago, only 12 species occurred in our recording area; today the total is up to 23, nearly twice as many! Most of the new arrivals have spread up from the south and east of England as temperatures have increased. A few, like the Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii), are long-distance migrants from the continent. Their invasions have become more frequent and they are beginning to colonise the country. Thus, The Red-veined Darter bred at Brockholes Quarry, Preston last year. Another potential newcomer is the Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum), first recorded in Essex in 1999. It is rapidly spreading north and west, reaching Derbyshire by 2006. Who will be the first to record it in the Northwest?

There is also a chance of finding dragonflies that breed just outside our region, for example in Cumbria or Cheshire, but which have so far eluded Lancastrians. We should be on the lookout for Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense), Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea), Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum caerulescens) and Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum). However, Open quotesthe way the climate is changing, almost anything could turn up!Close quotesthe way the climate is changing, almost anything could turn up!

Atlas Project Organisers:

  • North Merseyside & Lancashire: Steve White, Seaforth Nature Reserve, Port of Liverpool, L21 1JD. swhite@lancswt.org.uk
  • Greater Manchester: Graham Jones: Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, Ryecroft Hall, Manchester Road, Audenshaw M34 5ZJ. grahamjones@tameside.gov.uk
Recommended Field Guides
  • Brooks, S. & Lewington, R. (2nd edition, 2002). Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing, Hook Hampshire. (16.00 p & p free, from the publishers at 01747 835511)
  • Smallshire, D. & Swash, A. (2004). Britain's Dragonflies. Wild Guides, Old Basing, Hampshire. (15.00 p & p free, from the publishers at 01628 529297)


Source: Dr Phil Smith