Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Invasion of the Flying Dragons

Picking up from yesterday's post, I was enjoying a sunny lunchtime break at work today watching the antics of the blue tailed damselflies at one of our ponds and rejoicing in the wonderful biodiversity that we enjoy on the Durham University estate.  Suddenly, the peace was shattered by the plasticky clatter of a hawker's wings and a spanking male Emperor Dragonfly whizzed past.  (No chance of me getting a photograph but for some crackers try the British Dragonfly Society web site.)   The big dragonflies catch me out anew every year with their size, bulk and all round brilliance. 

When I got home I decide to check Anax imperator because I still have it in my head as a southern species.  Sure enough, the distribution map in the 1983 edition of Cyril Hammond's book, 'The Dragonflies of GB'  shows that it definitely does not like NE England.

(c/o The Dragonflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Cyril O Hammond: Harley Books 1983)

So what's it doing in Durham then?  Well, I guess the answer is that things change - and rapidly in the dragonfly world it seems. Have a look at the most recent distribution data on the NBN Gateway and you'll see what I mean.  Dragonfly buffs will be saying.. yeah... and.. tell us someting new but for me as a rank amateur in most fields of natural history I was still impressed to note the rate of spread.  So much so that I checked other species and found the pattern repeating.

For example, the wonderful damselfly with the wonderful name - the Beautiful Demoiselle  (Calopteryx virgo), photographed here in Morven, Scotland last year, absent on the '83 map but now well established on the Durham University's Estate.


  1. I was standing admiring an Emperor on the edge of the reed beds at Dukes pond in the Rising Sun country park in NORTHUMBERLAND.

  2. Hello John. Onwards and upwards they go. I see that there are several Northumbrian records on the latest map and a few well into Scotland. Of course there is always the chance that the change just reflects more people taking an interest in dragonflies and better reporting. Anyway I'm not two shakes from the Rising Sun myself so might take a look. Allan