A rare dragonfly has moved into the turning ponds at the Caen Hill locks in Devizes. It is the first time that the scarce chaser dragonfly (Libellula fulva) a British Red Data Book species, has been recorded at this spot.
According to Steve Covey, the County Recorder for Odonata (the group name for dragonflies and damselflies), it is likely that climate change is behind its appearance, because as temperatures warm up dragonflies are using habitats they previously considered to be unsuitable.
“A well-used canal like the Kennet and Avon makes good hunting but poor breeding grounds for dragonflies because there is so much turbulence. But at Caen Hill I found young newly emerged scarce chasers, which indicates they are actually breeding there. The ponds provide a suitable habitat for them as they receive flowing water but are much quieter than the main stretch.”
With the help of the Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre (WSBRC) Steve is recording and mapping the exact whereabouts of dragonflies and damselflies around the county to create a Dragonfly Atlas. The Wiltshire Atlas will become a baseline against which any changes in dragonfly populations can be mapped to aid their conservation.
The impetus for creating this Atlas has been the lack of comprehensive coverage of Odonata records across the county, and the project has been launched this summer to fill in the gaps. The completion of a Dragonfly Atlas for Wiltshire is a target in the newly revised Wiltshire Biodiversity Action Plan, a blueprint for restoring wildlife in the county.
The Cotswold Water Park (CWP) in the north of the county is also creating its own Atlas and results from both will feed into a five-year programme run by the British Dragonfly Society to map the distribution of Odonata around the UK. This will culminate in the publication of a national dragonfly atlas in 2013.
Sightings sent in by the public will also be forwarded to the WSBRC, based at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in Devizes, so that a truly comprehensive record of these beautiful insects is built up.
Gareth Harris, Biodiversity Officer of the Cotswold Water Park Society, agrees that climate change is bringing new species into the UK from continental Europe, and allowing species already here to move further north.
In 2006 both he and Steve recorded a new species for the CWP and for WIltshire, the lesser emperor, which comes from the Continent, and in 2007 were able to confirm that it was actually breeding on one of the lakes. “We are finding that some species are responding to climate change by becoming less fussy about where they live,” says Gareth.
Both Steve and the WSBRC would love to receive your sightings of any dragonflies and damselflies. If you would like to send sightings, photos, even larvae shells then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can contact the WSBRC – you can fill in an online recording form at www.wsbrc.org.uk – or contact them by post at Elm Tree Court, Long Street, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1NJ, or telephone on (01380) 725670. Please provide the date, location (grid reference is best) and the name of species if you know it – if you are not sure, then you can send a photo to confirm identification.