There be dragons

The Dragonfly and Damselfly event kicked off a 10am at Delamere car park on Sunday 1st July. During the pre-walk talk a flock of Crossbill flew over surely heralding what was to be a succesful wildlife watching day… or was it?!

Walking around the large Blakemere moss and cutting into the large water body at various points was fruitless for odonates, but great for invasive plants; Crassula helmsiiLemna minuta and Azolla filliculoidescovering what must have been acres in total around the lake edge. The weather was due to improve but the dull grey sky held on until after lunch.

Swamp Men

Moving away from Blakemere to a small peat cutting we saw Large Red Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly Adults sheltering on Juncus effusus stems away from the bank and then some more including Azure Damselfly at a pool towards the centre of the forest. The bad weather trump card was played and the pond net was employed – within seconds several Common Hawker larvae as well as some Lestes sponsanymphs were netted. The large aeshnid nymph took an instant dislike to Robert O’Connor and plunged its mandibles into the skin on his hand. We all hoped that there was no harm done but the Dragonfly seemed fine.

The group then moved to Hatchmere with the promise of a possible glimpse of a very localised odonate; the Variable Damselfy. We needn’t have worried about it’s scarcity at this site as it was all over the fringing vegetation and even in the adjacent woodland. The management here seems to be working well and having a positive impact. The connectivity to the adjacent heath has improved vastly and shading of the schwingmoor has been much reduced. To help separate the blue damselfies, diagnostic features were illustrated on a pad and compared to live animals that were observed.

It was time to head back and en route call at Wickentree Waste pond, a site where Ruddy Darter was once common. Unfortunately the pond had changed from an open, richly vegetated landscape feature to a heavily shaded woodland pool now seemingly devoid of plants other than Yellow Flag Iris and Bittersweet. As Ruddy Darters are associated with the former, we moved on. The name Wickentree Waste seeming more apt now.

Commen Darter Nymph

Back at the car park and after a well earned brew, the group went for there final leg of the walk, down a few hundred yards to a possible White-faced Darter reintroduction pool. What a decision; eagle-eyed Helen Lacey first spotted a Grass Snake slough in the shallow water, followed by another one spotted by Jane Colley, also in water (must have sloughed relatively close and blown into the pool). A female Palmate Newt was netted followed by eight dragonfly nymphs; Azure, Large Red and Emerald Damselfly, Black and Comon Darter, Four-spotted Chaser, Common Hawker and Southern Hawker were netted which made the total drags for the day ten.

A number of other aquatic brethren were netted at the final pool, namely

Ilybius aenescens – Diving beetle

Hydrobius fuscipes – Scavenger Beetle

Ilybius ater – Diving Beetle

Agabus bipustulatus – Diving Beetle

Rhantus exsoletus – Diving Beetle

Helochares punctatus – Scavenger Beetle

Hydroporus erythrocephalus – Diving Beetle

Dytiscus larvae – A type of Great Diving Beetle

Nepa cinerea – Water Scorpion

Cloeon dipterum – Pond Olive Mayfly

Elophila nymphaeata – Brown China Mark Moth

Riccia fluitans, an aquatic liverwort was a nice find to finish the visit.