22 May
Willow Emerald Watch 2023 update

Willow Emerald Watch 2023 update

The BDS has been tracking the range expansion of Willow Emerald Damselfly since it colonised England in 2009. Learn more on the Willow Emerald Watch Project page.

Project lead, Adrian Parr, provides an update from the 2023 recording season. . .

Willow Emeralds had another relatively good season in 2023, and it was pleasing to see the large number of oviposition tracts discovered during the autumn/winter months, emphasising the usefulness of this approach in monitoring the species’ spread. In contrast to many of the last few years, further range expansion however appeared limited, though there was still consolidation near the edge of the main range boundary. The most northerly sightings of the year were from Rainton Meadows, Co. Durham, on 13 September and 9 October. These aren’t quite as far north as the record from Gosforth made in October 2022, but it shows the species still has a foothold in these very northerly parts of England. Further south, notable discoveries from new areas included records from Coombe Hill in Gloucestershire on 28 August and 8 October, and from Kyre Park in Worcestershire on 3 September. Probably the most important find of 2023 was when a young male was seen and photographed near Severn Beach in Gloucestershire on 26 June; this now becomes the new most westerly British record. The very early date raises the possibility that this individual could be from a recently established local population rather than simply being a wanderer. Since little is currently known about when and how Willow Emeralds disperse, no firm conclusions can, however, be drawn. What is clear is that this record is within sight of the Welsh coast, and the first Welsh records of the species may thus not be far away. Further developments in Britain are awaited with interest, especially as, given the recent long term trends, it seems likely that range expansion will resume again in 2024.

Map comparing pre-2023 and 2023 Willow Emerald Damselfly records. (Adrian Parr)

Map comparing pre-2023 and 2023 Willow Emerald Damselfly records. (Adrian Parr).