2020, Challenging Year For Humans - Great for Dragonflies

In 2020, the Durham Wildlife Trust annual Odonata survey (that’s Dragonflies and Damselflies) was run in conjunction with the British Dragonfly Society, with DWT Trustee Michael Coates, now also being the County Recorder. This meant that while Durham Wildlife Trust members contributed 80% of the sightings in the North East, there were many others that had to be combined, hence the survey report being a little later than normal. View the full report at the bottom of this page.

The season started earlier in 2020, with the first Large Red Damselfly being spotted on April 14th just as observers were being locked down. The lockdown meant that a number of great sites, including a range of Durham Wildlife Trust reserves, went unrecorded until later in the season.  Despite these restrictions, there were still well over 1000 sightings submitted and only 300 fewer than in 2019.

In total, 20 species were observed in our region, which is excellent as at most there would be 24, even under the best conditions. Once again, Rainton Meadows proved to be the best dragonfly hotspot, with 16 species recorded, including a very rare visitor to our region, the Small Red Eyed Damselfly, pictured below. To the causal observer this looks very much like one of the various blue damselflies that are commonly seen, but a closer look highlights very different markings and most of all, those vibrant red eyes.

Small Red Eyed Damselfly

Small Red Eyed Damselfly credit Joe Finlay

Other Durham Wildlife Trust sites that proved to be excellent for observations throughout the season were: Malton, Burnhope Pond, Low Barns, Shibdon Pond and Milkwellburn Woods

The boardwalk at Shibdon Pond was renovated last year meaning that access was restricted, yet despite that it was one of only a few sites to have Black Tailed Skimmers. Milkwellburn Woods has three very small ponds, with only one that is easily accessible (at the rear of the wood, see photo below). The surrounding trees protect this small pond from harsh weather and as a result it was the location of the last recorded sighting, on November 14th when a Southern Hawker was clearly still patrolling this site.

Milkwellburn Wood pond

Milkwellburn Wood pond

November 14th is very late for Odonata in our region, however, the day before at Rainton Meadows, this Common Darter was photographed, and what makes that sighting even more amazing, is that it is a “teneral” meaning that it was probably only a day old – very late to be venturing out in to the open.

Common Darter

Common Darter Credit Ian and Elaine Burnell

2021 Season

The 2021 season should start this week or next, and the race is on to be the first to see a Large Red Damselfly in our region.  If you would like to be the first, then Malton Nature Reserve is a good place to start. To record your sighting you can either use iRecord or for the 58 hotspots in our region, Michael has created this online recording form, that also allows you to upload your photos direct from your phone or laptop. https://survey.protostarsurveys.com/zs/MTRrTE

To help you find the best places, you can also use this Google map that lists the hotspots and tells you how to find them, park and access the sites, plus information on what you might see.  https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1GLhdIwKe0jHxceLUxgLZFnkk_OD8Xi7E

If you are new to identifying dragonflies, Michael will be running more training sessions as the season progresses, and in the meantime, please feel free to contact him for advice michaelbds@zohomail.com