White-faced Darter is a specialist of lowland peatbogs, and spends most of its life as aquatic larvae living in deep bog pools. Unfortunately, lowland peatbogs in England have experienced decades of decline as a result of human activity, including drainage to create farmland, as well as the planting of commercial forests. As peatbogs disappeared, so did the White-faced Darter, until only a handful of their original sites remained, and the species became one of the UK’s rarest dragonflies. White-faced Darter were absent from Cheshire for over a decade, until Cheshire Wildlife Trust developed an ambitious project to help bring the species back.

Delamere forest is the largest woodland area in Cheshire; however, the forest also contains remnants of species-rich bog habitat. Historic records show that White-faced Darter used to breed in Delamere but disappeared as the wetlands were lost. In partnership with the Forestry Commission, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working to reinstate these important areas of wetland in order to make Delamere a home for the White-faced Darter once more.

This project is being supported by the British Dragonfly Society and has been largely carried out by hardworking volunteers, who have been performing practical habitat management, survey work and community engagement.

Project timeline

2013

  • Cheshire Wildlife Trust receives funding from Natural England and Linley Shaw Foundation to carry out a re-introduction project.
  • 100 larvae and 120 litres of Sphagnum Moss (containing eggs) translocated to Doolittle pool, Delamere, from donor sites at Fen’s and Whixall Moss, Shropshire, and Chartley Moss, Staffordshire.
  • 4 White-faced Darter exuviae (larval skins left behind when an adult dragonfly emerges) found during survey work.
  • 4 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.
  • Liverpool student research project looks at exuviae collected at both donor sites. Discovers significant difference in the size of exuviae from each population, which could be caused by genetic differences or differences in environmental conditions during larval development.

 

2014

  • 100 larvae and 120 litres of Sphagnum Moss (containing eggs) translocated to Doolittle pool, Delamere, from donor sites at Fen’s and Whixall Moss, Shropshire, and Chartley Moss, Staffordshire.
  • 28 White-faced Darter exuviae found during survey work.
  • 4 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.

 

2015

  • 150 larvae and 120 litres of Sphagnum Moss (containing eggs) translocated to Doolittle pool, Delamere, from donor sites at Fen’s and Whixall Moss, Shropshire, and Chartley Moss, Staffordshire.
  • 18 White-faced Darter exuviae found during survey work.
  • 6 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.

 

2016

  • 200 larvae and 120 litres of Sphagnum Moss (containing eggs) translocated to Doolittle pool, Delamere, from donor sites at Fen’s and Whixall Moss, Shropshire, and Chartley Moss, Staffordshire.
  • 51 White-faced Darter exuviae found during survey work.
  • 7 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.

 

2017

  • 14 White-faced Darter exuviae found during survey work, this is representative of previous years as a transect approach was developed.
  • 8 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.

 

2018

  • 19 White-faced Darter exuviae found during survey work. Using the transect approach established in 2017.
  • 7 White-faced Darter adults counted during survey work.

 

2019 and beyond

Exuviae transects are continuing through the spring and summer months. Cheshire Wildlife Trust will continue to work with the Forestry Commission to improve peat basins within Delamere forest and work towards greater connectivity between mossland sites. There are currently over 50 sites equalling over 140ha of peatland restoration work within the immediate area of Doolittle moss in which the hope is for greater diversity of mossland species.

 

Title image by Donald Judge.