Dragonfly species in Monmouthshire: Common Clubtail

Distribution map of Common Clubtail in Monmouthshire, March 2024
Distribution map of Common Clubtail in Monmouthshire, March 2024, produced using the DMAP for Windows software written by Alan Morton, www.dmap.co.uk

Common Clubtail (Gomphus vulgatissimus) is a very localised species in the county, found almost exclusively on the River Wye from the Monmouth area south towards Tintern, and north into Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and beyond. This is one of only a few strongholds for this species in Britain. The oldest record in our data set is from the River Wye, at Bigsweir on 18 May 1975 (observer John Paul).

The species is also seen occasionally on the Monnow in Monmouth, but in 2023, two were seen c.10km to the northwest at Skenfrith by Steve Preddy. There is an earlier record (of an exuvia) from the Monnow at Rockfield, found by Mike Averill in 2012.

In 2023, a Common Clubtail was recorded close to the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal at Govilon in the Usk Valley by Alan Underwood; more details of this record can be found here.

Current distribution in the county: what we know

The long-established population on the Wye is still present: there are post-2019 records from several sites along the river, from the county boundary north of Monmouth, south to Llandgogo, c. 2km below the tidal limit.

Current distribution in the county: what we don’t know

There are several stretches of the Wye with older records where Common Clubtail has not been recorded recently. Further recording here will indicate if the population still occupies the full extent of its historical range. In the past, exuviae have been found as far south as Llandogo, and adults have been seen at least twice at Tintern, most recently in 2017.

Further searching on the Monnow will determine how regularly and how far upstream it occurs. Given the Govilon record mentioned above, it is conceivable that the species also breeds on the Usk, and searches for it should be carried out in coming seasons.

Both the Usk and the Wye have been strongly affected by ongoing agricultural pollution. Monitoring of Common Clubtail on the Wye will indicate if and how this affects the population.

Distribution elsewhere

The Common Clubtail population on the River Wye extends further upriver beyond Monmouth, through Herefordshire and into Powys. There are two populations in southwest Wales, on the Towy in Carmarthenshire and the Teifi in northern Pembrokeshire, and in north Wales, there is a population on the Dee which continues downriver into England. The species occurs along much of the Severn, from Newtown in Powys downriver to Gloucestershire, and on two of the Severn’s major tributaries, the Teme and the Warwickshire Avon. There is also a large population on the Thames, and one on the Adur in Sussex. Elsewhere in Europe, the species is found from northern Iberia east to Russia, north to southern Scandinavia and Finland, and south to northern Italy and the Balkans. There are several other Gomphus species found further south in Europe, and it is to distinguish this species from those that the name Common Clubtail is now used in place of the former name Club-tailed Dragonfly.