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Dragonflies and Damselflies in the Cairngorms come under the spotlight

28th May 2009

Some of the most beautiful yet mysterious creatures in the Cairngorms National Park are coming under the spotlight.

A pictorial guide to dragonflies and damselflies found in the Park has been produced with the aim of encouraging volunteers to record them for a new national dragonfly atlas.

Dragonflies are among the largest and most spectacular insects alive today, and their bright colours, fantastic aerial skills and habit of flying in warm sunny weather makes them easy to spot.

At least 13 different types of dragonflies and damselflies are found across the Cairngorms and their identification is relatively straightforward. The new Cairngorms guide will help people to recognise them and also identifies a number of locations where it is easy to see dragonflies and damselflies.

However, the Park contains a number of species whose future is uncertain. Northern Damselflies and White Faced Darters are classified as endangered by conservationists, while the Azure Hawker is classified as threatened.

The National Dragonfly Atlas Project was launched in April 2008. The aim of this project is to update the known distribution of British dragonfly and damselfly species over the next 5 years, culminating in the publication of a new national atlas in 2013.

Cairngorms Biodiversity Officer Stephen Corcoran said: “I hope the new Cairngorms Dragonfly leaflet will encourage more people to go looking for these amazing creatures and make use of this pocket guide to identify what they see. The status of dragonflies across the Park is unknown, and it is not clear what impact climate change may have on them.”

He went on: “A new national atlas is urgently required to map any change and highlight potential threats. To succeed in this ambitious project good national coverage is needed, particularly in the Cairngorms, which is the stronghold for several rare species many of whom are under recorded.

“I would urge people to record the dragonflies and damselflies in their local area or further afield. If you would like to help our Cairngorms damselflies and dragonflies you can become a Dragonfly Recorder and help fill in the gaps in our knowledge of these fascinating animals.”

Dragonflies are found in many places but are associated with freshwater for breeding: ponds and pools, lochans, old curling ponds, slow running burns, bogs and ditches are the best places to see them. Adult dragonflies are on the wing from May until October but the best time is usually June and July on warm, sunny days with little wind.

They favour sites with clean, unpolluted water, open to sunlight yet sheltered from winds, with plenty of vegetation in the water and around the water’s edge. Good places to see them are the pools in Abernethy, Glenmore and Inshriach Forests, Revack and Rothiemurchus, Glen Tanar Estates, Insh Marshes, and Dinnet National Nature Reserve in Deeside,

Dragonflies are harmless, although some are very inquisitive, and feed on many types of insects including midges. They usually lay eggs on plants in the water (males and females are often seen in tandem) and the eggs hatch into fearsome larvae that may spend several years in the water before emerging and transforming into dragonflies. Adult dragonflies live a few weeks.

Mr Corcoran is running a field event on Friday May 29 searching for the rare Azure Hawker in Abernethy. He is also helping to run dragonfly events on June 18 in Boat of Garten, at Glenmulliach near Tomintoul with the Glenlivet Ranger on June 25, in Revak near Grantown on June 27, at Glen Tanar on June 28, Nethy Bridge on July 4 and Cambus O’May near Ballater on July 11.

To volunteer to be a Dragonfly Recorder in the Cairngorms area or pass on any dragonfly records contact Stephen Corcoran, Cairngorms Biodiversity Officer ([email protected] , 01479 870 528).

For information on local or national events, or more information about dragonflies in general, check out the British Dragonfly Society’s website