Dragonfly ID day at Barstobrick, Sat 13th July
Seven enthusiastic wildlife recorders joined SWSEIC manager Mark Pollitt at Ringford to learn about our local dragons and damsels.
The morning session was indoors with a little theory before putting our new-found skills into practise in the afternoon. We began with by looking at the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) biology, and participants soon learned how to tell dragonflies and damselflies apart and about their life-cycles. That some species may spend five years as a larvae is easy to forget when we see them for a few short weeks in the summer months. We then looked at how to recognise different species, focusing on the 10 species that make up 95% of local records. Who knew that lollipops, buckets and wine-glasses are all key to separating our blue damselflies!
Over tea and cakes we looked at some examples of different dragonfly exuviae (the cast ‘skins’ of dragonflies as they emerge from their larval from into fully winged adults) . Exuviae are great things to look for when the weather is less suitable for flying adults.
After lunch we all headed out to the ponds at nearby Barstobrick visitor centre, an excellent place to see a wide range of common species. The Scottish Wildlife Trust were holding an open day focusing on dragonflies, and the Centre was busy with people enjoying the wildlife and teh enthusiasm of the SWT volunteers. We headed towards the ponds and soon came across our first damselflies around in a tiny wet pool by the edge of the path. Despite their best efforts to elude capture we managed to catch male and female Large Red Damselflies, and an Azure Damselfly. Soon we arrived at the first pond, where SWT volunteers were stationed with some specimens. These included a Common Darter and a Banded Demoiselle taken from another site. We soon found more adult Azure Damselflies perhing on the floating pondweed and Emerald Damselflies in the emergent vegetation. Blue-tailed Damselfly was added to the list and we had a rather distant view of a Four-spotted Chaser, which was patrolling around the island in the middle of the pond, perching on a favoured stem sheltered from the prevailing breeze. We were able to see some damselfly larvae which had been netted previously, including a mature Emerald Damselfly larva with its banded caudal lamellae (external breathing apparatus) – it would, no doubt, be joining its fellow damsels on the wing very shortly. The margins produced more of the same damselfly species, but gave an opportunity to see different behaviour – mating Large Red Damselflies in the ‘wheel’ position and pairs of Azure Damselflies flying in tandem, the male reluctant to relinquish his mating grasp until the female had laid her eggs.
A walk around to the next pond added a few butterflies, the plentiful Ringlets and a single Painted Lady. More of the common damselfly species were noted, and we were able to look at an immature hawker dragonfly larvae (probably Common Hawker) which had been pond-dipped earlier in the day. Few larger species were on the wing, with perhaps Four-spotted Chasers past their peak whilst other species such as Common Darter and Black Darter would only just be emerging. A Golden-ringed Dragonfly had been seen earlier in the day, but failed to put in an appearance in the afternoon.
We looped around the remaining ponds and returned to the car park (just too late for the cafe unfortunately – bad planning on my behalf). Overall it was a good day, with a reasonable range of species present; I think it was enjoyed by those who attended. The weather was relatively kind to us, which is always a worry when planning a dragonfly event since they are much active in warm, sunny weather. I hope those who attended will get out and find plenty of dragonflies to enjoy!