This year we have made an effort to record damselfly and dragonfly species seen on the reserve’s pond, which we constructed in December 2009 in partnership with the Environment Agency. It is a shallow pond, with some deeper areas to act as a refuge for dragonfly larvae and other invertebrates in case the pond dried out in the summer, as some ponds do in the area, although fortunately this has not happened yet. Identifying some of the species is tricky, and often you need to get very close or, a better option, take a photograph ensuring you focus on the specific diagnostic features. Subtle differences between immature and mature specimens and males and females can add to the difficulties in correct identification. For example, the Azure Damselfly and the Common Blue Damselfly are remarkably similar – a good field guide is essential, or you can visit www.shropshiredragonflies.co.uk which has identification hints as well as a wealth of other information.
This year we identified 15 species, and here is the list:
Common Blue Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly
In addition, Southern Hawker has been recorded in a previous year, bringing the pond’s species list to a total of 16. Here are photos of some of them:
|Common Blue Damselflies mating||Blue-tailed Damselfly|
|Emperor Dragonfly||Ruddy Darter|
|Four-spotted Chaser||Common Hawker|
This autumn volunteers will be busy planting 20,000 plug plants of Bell Heather, Erica cinerea. They have been grown for us by Forestart, a seed company based in Hadnall, from seed harvested on the reserve by our volunteers. There are two types of heather on the reserve, the other one being Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, also known as Ling. Both species will be used by the Silver-studded Blue for egg-laying, but Bell Heather is an important source of nectar for the butterfly as it flowers during the butterfly’s flight period of June and July. By contrast, Common Heather does not flower until August and September, by which time the Silver-studded Blues have mated, the females have laid their eggs and both the males and the females have died. The plugs are being planted in clumps of around ten, mainly in areas of bare ground that are being restored to heathland.
Bell Heather plugs planted in a clump
This year we saw a significant number of Silver-studded Blues on the southern end of the heather area to the east of the runway. In September Lucy found three Silver-studded Blue eggs in this area, proof that it is now being used for breeding. Surprisingly, one of the eggs was found on Common Mouse-ear, Cerastium fontanum. A number of ants’ nests are clearly visible in the area. The eggs will remain there throughout the winter until the tiny caterpillar hatches in the spring.
Silver-studded Blue egg laid on Common Mouse-ear
Prees Heath Volunteer Warden, Butterfly Conservation