Daffodils and Dragonflies

The end of winter has been marked by the arrival of Vagrant Emperor dragonflies across the UK.

The countryside at the end of February is usually associated with the bright colours of daffodils not the whirr of dragonfly wings. However, over the past few weeks Britain has played host to an unusual visitor: the Vagrant Emperor.

Most commonly found in the wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, this hardy voyager is known to regularly migrate to continental Europe and South-east Asia, but occasionally travels as far as the UK. Smaller than the UK’s resident Emperor Dragonfly, the Vagrant Emperor can be identified by its brownish coloration and the black stripe that runs down its back. Males also have a bright blue band below their wings that distinguishes them from females of the species.

In late February swarms of Vagrant Emperors were sighted on the southern tip of Spain and moving north along the coast of Morocco with the help of southerly winds. Around the same time wildlife spotters took to social media to share their photos of Vagrant Emperors touching down across the British Isles. Reports have predominantly come from the  west of Britain, with Devon, Cornwall and coastal parts of Wales seeing most records; there was even one sighting as far north as Kirkcudbrightshire in Scotland.

Records from these sightings are being compiled by the British Dragonfly Society as part of their Migrant Dragonflies Project, which aims to track the arrival of new species in the UK. As the climate warms, influxes of migrants and new species are becoming more frequent. For example, last year Yellow-Spotted Emerald was recorded in Britain for the first time at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Carlton Marshes nature reserve.

Emperor Dragonfly, the UK's resident species of Emperor which can be seen between June and August

First Yellow-spotted Emerald, sighted and photographed in Britain by Andrew Easton.


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