A Yellow-winged Darter at Magor Marsh in 1995, the first county record

by John Martin

On 21 August 1994 Andy Musgrove found a male Yellow-winged Darter (Sympetrum flaveolum) at Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol. This was my main birdwatching patch at the time and I had been watching Odonata since 1985 so naturally I tried to see it the next day. Several of us saw it in the same spot and got some photos. Perhaps coincidentally the following year saw a major influx of this irregular scarce migrant into Britain. The first I saw were two males at Middle Hope, North Somerset on 8 August, one of which was netted. I also netted some Common Darter (S. striolatum) that day to check for Vagrant Darter (S. vulgatum), a few of which had been reported elsewhere during the influx. Then on 11 August I saw another 2 males at Weston Moor, North Somerset, another of them netted (as again were some striolatum to check for vulgatum).

On 13 August, I went to Goldcliff Pill in Gwent with Mike Powell to look at the adult White-rumped Sandpiper on the high tide wader roost. We met Clive Hurford and then went to nearby Magor Marsh to look for Odonata and anything else we could find. We were in luck, with one male S. flaveolum, which we netted and which Clive photographed before release. Also noted were c.5 S. striolatum, 10 Ruddy Darter S. sanguineum, a male Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa, 2 male and an ovipositing female Emperor Anax imperator, a male Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta and a male Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea.

Like all the S. flaveolum we saw that year it was distinctive in its obvious saffron suffusion on the basal quarter to a third of the wings and blood-red abdomen with a black underside just visible as a narrow stripe when side-on.

The last one I saw that year was another male, on 24 August at Avonmouth Sewage Treatment Works, Bristol, and I have never seen another, so it would be nice to have another influx year soon.

[This is the first, and to date only, confirmed record of Yellow-winged Darter for Monmouthshire. However, there is an intriguing report, also from Magor Marsh, on an unspecified date in 1965, from a recorder named K. Hallet. It’s not been possible to trace any further details of the record, or of the recorder, and so this unfortunately has to remain unconfirmed; however, if anyone has any information that can help us corroborate it, please get in touch. Steve Preddy]

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