Conservation

What are the nationally important species?

The British Dragonfly Society reviewed the British Red Data list for dragonflies and damselflies in 2008. Species that are considered to be threatened enough to be in one of the IUCN threat categories are regarded as Nationally Important. In addition, Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum, (right) though not considered to be under threat, is included as a nationally important species, as it is nationally scarce, occurring in less than 100 hectads (10km x 10km squares).

 

The following species are regarded as nationally important:   

Endangered  Southern Damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale
  Northern Damselfly Coenagrion hastulatum
  Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles
  White-faced Darter Leucorrhinia dubia
   
Vulnerable   Azure Hawker Aeshna caerulea 
  Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica
   
Near Threatened   Scarce Emerald Damselfly Lestes dryas
  Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura pumilio
  Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum
  Northern Emerald Somatochlora arctica
  Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
  Common Clubtail Gomphus vulgatissimus
   
Nationally Scarce    Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum

 

The following are two successful Conservation Projects.  The first to be featured is the Dragonfly Conservation Project at Rodley Nature Reserve, Leeds, West Yorkshire.  The article was written by past BDS President, Dr Peter Mill, with photographs by Barbara Murphy. The second is a report from Ken Crick on his work at Bramshill, Heath Warren and Warren Heath in North Hampshire on how he has been able to influence the Forestry Commission to enhance the area for dragonflies. 
 

We hope these experiences will help and inspire others to create, conserve and enhance habitats for dragonflies.

Rodley Nature Reserve, West Yorkshire

 

The reserve lies adjacent to the River Aire in Leeds and is open to the public three days a week (Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday) throughout the year.  Groups such as school parties can be accommodated at other times by arrangement.

Pond from phase1The project started in 2003, when Peter Mill was given an area of RNR by the then Chairman, Shirley Carson, to establish a Dragonfly Conservation Area (DCA).  During the first phase (2004-06) five ponds were established, one of which was decked on two sides for the use of school groups.  These ponds were planted out using native species, each pond differing in choice of plants.  In the second phase (2007-2009) a further four ponds were established; also a long (45 m) ditch and a marsh area with six areas of open water.  Grass paths interlink all of the water bodies to provide good public access.  A hedge has been planted on three sides to provide protection, as well as roosting sites for adult dragonflies. Trees on the adjacent riverbank have been cut back to increase the foraging area for adult Banded Demoiselle.A considerable amount of soil had to be moved to raise the level of the paths to prevent flooding in winter and all of the ponds had to be lined because of the fluctuating water table.  A JCB was hired for some of the heavy work but all the rest has been carried out by a group of dedicated volunteers and occasional visiting parties. Since the water bodies are lined it is necessary to have a source of water in times of drought and thus an irrigation system was designed so that filtered water can be pumped selectively into any pond from a ditch in the adjacent wet grassland. Maintenance is provided by a group of volunteers who spend at least one day a week working at the reserve throughout the year.

Long ditch and bridge from phase2In 2007 we became a BBC ‘Breathing Place’. In total the project has cost about £50,000. The BDS, Leeds Philosophical & Literary Society, the RNR Trust and the Friends of Rodley provided ‘pump priming’ funding, which helped to obtain further grants from Green Leeds, the Community Chest (Leeds), WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd), the Big Lottery Fund and the Co-op.  Accenture provided funding for maintenance and the George Martin Trust paid for the display board. The RNR Trust provides funding for continuing maintenance.

The project is a great success with already 15 odonate species having been recorded, about half of which have bred; also toads, frogs and newts are breeding. We organise dragonfly days, have an open day and frequently have someone available in the DCA throughout the flight season to talk to the public. In 2010 there were 29 visits by groups and a total of around 20,000 people visited the reserve

 

Bramshill, Heath Warren and Warren Heath, North Hampshire

 

Bramshill map

I first visited Bramshill Plantation in 1989, it failed to impress. I next visited the site in 1997 and by 1999 was convinced of the sites diverse dragonfly interest. By 1999 I had gained sufficient site knowledge to generate a map detailing 15 water bodies. Conversations with other interested individuals highlighted the need to name the ponds using recognizable features. There remained the need to generate a site survey methodology which has changed little over the succeeding years.

My association with the Forestry Commission (FC) started in 2002 when they granted me a one year study grant. It was 2002 when the new methodology was applied and rigorously adhered to for the first time. The survey work is carried out under an annual permit issued by the FC. To start with the arrangement was easy going but in recent years Risk assessments and the denial of vehicular access without exorbitant third party insurance have become features of the permits renewal. From the outset the FC have required an annual report and future site management recommendations.  Each year, if there is planned work on site in the vicinity of any water body I am given the opportunity to comment, the FC seeks to accommodate the dragonflies where ever possible.

The survey area was extended in 2003 to cover Heath Warren and by 2004 it also encompassed Warren Heath, there was the potential to survey 23 water bodies over 671 ha. The SSSI (lead species – Dragonflies) is managed for its timber and access by the FC but has three different land owners. It is easy to stray into privately managed forest that merges seamlessly into the survey area. Over the years a number of habitat measures have been proposed, some implemented, with those involving significant finance/manpower held in abeyance. Then in 2009, manner from heaven, The Thames Valley Heaths Wetland Habitat Conservation Project came to Bramshill.
 

 

Bramshill Plantation, Claw LakeBramshill new small pond

The project on site was driven by Plantlife’s Dominic Price and supported by the Million Ponds Project and the FC. A 94 page habitat modification proposal based on the rare plants of Bramshill Common was drafted. Part of the work proposed would impact on 17 dragonfly breeding sites. The proposals were welcomed but raised a number of issues.  A written response was placed before Plantlife and the FC and 2 days of site meetings commenced on the 13 April 2010. It was during these meetings that a dragonfly survey of Bracknells Bottom was requested adding a further 4 water bodies to the 2010 program. The meetings were amicable and consensus was easily achieved. Work on 31 new ponds and the reprofiling of 7 existing water bodies and their shoreline cover started in January 2011, work was completed by March 2011.

Since then all the new water bodies have been mapped and despite an unprecedented early season drought only 5 dried out and at the time of writing only three remain empty. The impact on dragonfly activity has yet to be assessed but early season species such as Broad Bodied Chaser and Four-spotted Chaser have been observed ovipositing in many of the new ponds.

small red damselfly image © Santiago Monteagudo Campos