Red-veined Darters at Goldcliff in 2002

by Kevin Dupé

On 29th July 2002, in my role as Assistant Warden for the Countryside Council for Wales, I was monitoring the salinities of the saline lagoons at Goldcliff, part of the Gwent Levels Wetlands Reserve. This necessitated walking around the edge of each lagoon and testing the conductivity of the water at various points. Adam Rowlands (the previous warden) had seen Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) here in 2000 and he had shown me the place he had seen them – perched on the ground in the area of bare mud around the edge of each lagoon. As I had recently heard reports of Red-veined Darter elsewhere in the country I was keeping my eye out for dragonflies as I walked around the edge of the lagoons. When I had walked half way around Lagoon 1, I spotted a bright red darter on a lump of mud near the water’s edge. At first I thought this might be a Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum), but on close inspection from approximately 1.8m away, and using a pair of Leica 8×32 binoculars, I could see strong red venation in the wings. I also noticed that it was larger than a Ruddy Darter, the abdomen was not waisted and the legs were not all black.

I immediately phoned Ian Smith, Monmouthshire’s County Dragonfly Recorder, who told me to check for a bi-coloured eye – red above and blue below. This I did and indeed I could observe a distinctive horizontal dividing of the eye into reddish brown above and bluey grey below. I observed the specimen for around 25 minutes, during which time it made several flights out over the lagoon. The flights were very strong and powerful, approximately 20cm above the water surface, and flying in a large circle approximately 50m in diameter before returning to the same perch.

Ian Smith arrived after 25 minutes and he was able to observe the dragonfly using my binoculars and he confirmed that it was a Red-veined Darter. Ian pointed out the pterostigmata, which were yellow with a strong black border. We decided to search the other two lagoons, but without success. However, on returning to Lagoon 1, we observed a Red-veined Darter, on the opposite side to where we had seen the first, which we took this to be a second individual.

[These records of Red-veined Darter from Goldcliff from 2000 and 2002 are the only known records from the county. Adam Rowlands describes the initial sightings in 2000 here. Steve Preddy]

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