Adrian remarks that “unlike the situation with birds, whose migrations are well-known, our understanding of insect (and particularly Dragonfly) migration is still in its infancy. It is clearly, however, an important phenomenon, and one that tells us a lot about the living world. The Migrant Dragonfly Project aims to co-ordinate the recording of migrant Dragonflies, and so provide an insight into the underlying causes and mechanisms, as well as following changing trends.
It is likely that this year’s events result from several interacting factors. Good spells of warm southerly winds during spring/early summer will have helped migrants on their way north. Recent changes in breeding range also mean that many migrants now have less far to travel before they reach the UK. Some species also had a very good breeding year in their homelands, with population levels being high. So everything came together to make for an eventful year.”
In the past 20 years Britain has been colonised by no less than 4 new species, including Willow Emerald Damselfly and Small Red-eyed Damselfly, and recolonised by Dainty Damselfly, which had previously gone extinct in 1953. “We are currently seeing major shifts in the range of Dragonfly species on a global scale, not just in the UK”, explains Eleanor Colver, Conservation Officer for the British Dragonfly Society. “Dragonflies, like all insects, cannot regulate their body temperature like humans, so are highly sensitive to small changes in environmental temperature. As a result, we believe that some of the changes we are witnessing in our local Dragonflies are their response to the ongoing global warming.
The unusual reports we have received this year illustrates the important role volunteer recorders play in Dragonfly conservation, and we would like to thank all those who have contributed to our dataset” says Eleanor. “Their findings enable the British Dragonfly Society to map the distribution of dragonflies across the country, identifying priority species and sites that require our protection.”
If you would like to take part in Dragonfly recording, or find out more about the Migrant Dragonfly Project, click here
Photo: The male Scarlet Darter can be identified by its bright red body, head, legs and wing veins ©Christophe Brochard