News 2000

5th September 2000

On the 3rd of September Brian Nelson and Colm Ronayne visited Arklow Ponds and recorded at least 4 male Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta in the northern ponds along with 7 Brown Hawkers Aeshna grandis and large numbers of Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum. Later in the day a female Migrant Hawker was seen ovipositing with at least 2 males also present (John Coveney), John also saw Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans and a single Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum.

News from Wexford concerns larger numbers of Migrant Hawkers with about 12 seen at Tacumshin. Slightly later at the Ring Marsh area of Lady's Island Lake a further 14 were seen including two pairs mating and a female ovipositing. A probable Emperor Anax imperator was also seen (Michael O'Donnell and Killian Mullarney).

Last week in Louth Colm Ronayne saw large numbers of Common Blue Enallagma cyathigerum and some Blue-tailed Damselflies at a disused marl pit near Dunleer. Some of the damselflies were teneral. A single Black Darter Sympetrum danae and some Ruddy Darters were also seen.

Peter Doyle sent in the following sightings of dragonflies from Glendalough, Co Wicklow on the 3rd of September;

" Plenty of Black and Common Darters were to be seen. I had at least 6 Common Hawkers - mostly males, but including 1 female ovipositing. There were quite a few Keeled Skimmers still on the wing. 2 late Four-spotted Chasers were a bit of a surprise. The usual high numbers of Emerald Damselfly, about half a dozen late Common Blue Damselfly and 1 Large Red Damselfly were also observed."

31st August 2000

The following news describing the finding of a Migrant Hawker on 27th August at Arklow, Co. Wicklow was sent in by Michael O'Donnell and Janet Whelehan.

"The site where we saw the Migrant Hawker is an area of pools, one large pond and three small pools immediately to the north of it, which is just north of Arklow Town at T255742. The Migrant Hawker was on the northernmost pool. We have been ringing birds in this area throughout the summer and up to this the only large dragonfly we had seen in the area had been Brown Hawker, up to five at a time reduced to four when a Moorhen got one. So when Janet said that she had seen a 'blue' hawker it was definitely worth checking out as whatever it was would have been a new species for the area, for us at least. We watched it flying up and down the pool for quite a while, hovering frequently for long periods, before eventually managing to catch it. Having seen the Migrant Hawkers in Wexford the previous week-end, we knew what to look for and saw instantly that it was a male Migrant Hawker. In size it was distinctly smaller than Brown Hawker, with both species in view at the same time allowing a good comparison. It flew lower over the water than Brown Hawker and hovered for long periods. The adult was released after a description and photographs were taken."

Other news is sparse but the Migrant Hawker is still being reported in Wexford (Killian Mullarney and Michael O'Donnell). Over the period between 7th to 20th August Ian Rippey saw 16 species of dragonfly in the west of Ireland (Mayo, Galway and Clare), including the Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo, Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum, Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens and Black-tailed Skimmer O. cancellatum. Ian also saw the Scarce Emerald Damselfly at Tullaghnafrankagh Lough near Kilcolgan, Co. Galway. This is the first report we have received of this, the rarest Irish damselfly species, since the launch of DragonflyIreland.

Other insect news to pass on includes reports of migrant butterflies. There are very large numbers of Clouded Yellows Colias croceus flying at present the progeny of earlier arrivals in June. 300 have been reported in Wexford. The Painted Lady Cynthia cardui is also common this year. Two Commas Polygonia c-album have been seen in Wexford, only the second or third report of this nettle-feeding butterfly in Ireland. It has been increasing its range in Britain so it, like the 'new' dragonfly species is a potential colonising species.

June, July and August are the main months for dragonfly activity in Ireland. In September dragonfly activity starts to tail off as does the species diversity and abundance. How quickly this will happen will depend on the weather. No Irish species of dragonfly overwinters as an adult and these are fated to succumb to the effects of lower temperatures and shorter days. The lower temperatures and less settled weather makes observing dragonflies much more weather dependant. Concentrate on sheltered sites and look especially for adults sunning themselves on rocks and bare ground.

Numbers of damselflies are now much reduced compared to the summer. Both species of Emerald damselfly (Lestes sponsa and L. dryas) may still be seen in good numbers, but essentially the season for all the blue species is over. The main species evident in September will be the darters Sympetrum spp. and hawkers Aeshna spp.

29th August 2000

Today we visited the ponds in the conservation area at Belfast Harbour Estate. The water quality of the ponds which have been established for approximately four years appears to be very good. We recorded 50+ Common Darters, 1 Ruddy Darter, 30 Emerald Damselflies, 5 Blue-tailed Damselflies and 1 Common Hawker (Brian Nelson, Bernard Picton and Christine Morrow).

10th August 2000

This news came to us on the 8th of August from Killian Mullarney and reports the presence of a third new species to the Irish dragonfly fauna!

" The rapidly developing heat-haze put an end to observation of the 4000+ Common Scoter off Balinesker and prompted me to suggest a quick look for dragonflies at one of the nearby Ballyvaloo pools where I saw a male Emperor a couple of weeks ago. The first dragonfly we saw was a female Emperor which promptly settled on the surface vegetation and assumed the ovipositing position, remaining there for about five minutes, permitting superbly detailed (not to mention intimate) views, through the telescope. A beautiful bright blue male Emperor patrolled the pond throughout. We looked at another pool on the way back to Wexford and saw another male Emperor. By the time we arrived at the south end of Lady's Island the cloud cover had greatly increased, but it was still warm and there was only a slight breeze. We enjoyed excellent views of another male Emperor at precisely the same spot where I saw one two weeks ago, and, less than 100m away, we had flight views of the male Lesser Emperor that I reported yesterday. I don't know if it is typical, but this insect seems not to be as accommodating as its (apparently) larger relative; it seems faster, tends to stay lower and is generally less predictable in its movements than the Emperors I have watched recently. This may, however, be due to its darker, duller coloration which makes it a little more difficult to follow at high speed against a dark background. Anyhow, at last I did see it at rest, through the telescope, for about fifteen seconds; I was able to confirm some of the important identification features observed only in flight on previous dates, plus a couple of additional points which were impossible to discern on the moving insect. A sudden marked drop in the temperature put an end to dragonfly observations and we left Lady's Island to have a look at the tern flock around Carne/Churchtown. There were, as it happens, very few terns to be seen but as afternoon turned to evening the clouds disappeared and the sun returned. The temptation to return to Lady's Island proved irresistible, so we began to drive back in that direction. As we passed along the narrow lane at Churchtown I noticed two or three medium-sized dragonflies just ahead of us - Common Hawkers I thought, though this was just a guess as they were practically overhead, semi-silhouetted against the sky. We stopped and got out to have a better look. Fortunately, one of them alighted on the small extremity twigs of a large Elm(?) about twelve feet above the ground. I noted the spot and set up the telescope, close enough that the insect filled the field of view. I could hardly believe my eyes when I focussed on it and registered the - apparently diagnostic - "golf-tee" shaped pale yellowish marking at the base of the abdomen. This, I was aware, indicated the species was Aeshna mixta the Migrant Hawker. Aeshna mixta, a species not officially on the Irish List ( but predicted by Brian Nelson in a recent posting to this net.). I sketched some of the important details while it remained attached to the branch, and Colm Moore corroborated observation of the salient features (he suggested that on this individual the shape of the marking at the base of the abdomen was more like the head of a nail in profile, than a golf tee). I took some photographs which I hope will record the diagnostic markings. Subsequent reference to two dragonfly guides (Brooks/Lewington, and Powell) indicated that this was a female. "

The following news is from Colm Ronayne,

" I was at a section of the Royal Canal north of Kinnegad (N624480, near Croboy Lough) on Mon.(7th). I counted more than thirty Brown Hawkers Aeshna grandis females ovipositing in canal-side vegetation over a distance of approximately 1km (of course, some may be repeat counts). Many males close by, also Common Hawkers Aeshna juncea, Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata, Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum, Banded Demoiselle Calyopteryx splendens, Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa, Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, and Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum. A lovely stretch of habitat, that probably should also have Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense and Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula earlier in the season."

The following report was sent to us on the 6th of August by Killian Mullarney,

" At Our Lady's Island today I had reasonably good views of what I believe is a Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope. Furthermore, I am quite sure this is the same insect (or at least the same species) which I first observed in the same area on 20th July, in the company of Pat Lonergan. I saw it again, briefly, on 28th July, but it wasn't until today that I had more than just fleeting views. In the company of Brian Porter I watched it on and off over a period of about three hours, at ranges down to just a few metres, but alas, never at rest. Nevertheless, views through binoculars and telescope permitted clear observation of the salient features, all of which indicated a male Anax parthenope. There are still good numbers of Red-veined Darters Sympetrum fonscolombii in the area and I saw three "coupled" pairs, two of them apparently ovipositing."

Yesterday (9th of August) Mark Shorten reported a male Emperor from Ballyhonock Lake, Co Cork just a few miles east of Castlemartyr where Tom Gittings reported the first Lesser Emperor.

8th August 2000

This months issue of BBC Wildlife features a double page spread of Richard Lewington's dragonfly illustrations from his "Field guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland" by Steve Brooks.

3rd August 2000

Since the news on the 25th of July, some more information has been sent to us concerning the records of the Emperor Anax imperator. It still is somewhat confusing as to how many have been seen, but it is certain that records have come from a number of Wexford localities. At least one site has had two individuals and at least one female has been reported. What does this all mean? There are two possibilities, firstly that these individuals all arrived this year, the weather conditions, associated species and location seem to support this. The alternative is that these adults are the progeny of an earlier invasion. This could be investigated by searching for larvae. If well grown larvae are found then this would indicate that the species has established itself. Monitoring of sites in the SE for any sign of established Emperor populations in the next few years is needed and could be exciting for anyone prepared to take up the challenge!

August is now upon us and marks the end of the season for the Coenagrion species and Pyrrhosoma. The Common Emerald Lestes sponsa will be the most obvious damselfly at lakes and ponds this month. Darter Sympetrum species are also very conspicuous especially as the males will have developed full coloration. Look for the Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum at fens and base-rich lakes, the Common Darter S. striolatum on shallow ponds and lakes and the Black Darter S. danae on bogs and small acid lakes.

In August there is also the possibility of additional migratory species, although with the present weather systems coming from the west their arrival from Britain or Europe seems unlikely.

Mid August to mid September is the peak flight period for the Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta. This is still spreading in Britain and has reached the Pembrokeshire coast, NW England and the Isle of Man.

Some additional news concerning the Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens including a third Donegal record (Ralph Sheppard) and confirmation of the colony in Armagh (Ian Rippey).

The Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea is the only resident anisopteran not reported during this first year of DragonflyIreland. The adult flight period is almost certainly over so confirmation will have to wait until next year. A visit to the site in Galway where Cordulia was reported in 1992 (in good weather) failed to discover the species, so this record remains unconfirmed.

25th July 2000

Some exciting "front page" news; Two new species have been added to the Irish Dragonfly fauna, the Emperor Anax imperator and the Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope. The Emperor was recorded from Lady's Lake, Co. Wexford by Dave Daly. The Lesser Emperor was recorded at Lough Aderry, near Castlemartyr in Co. Cork on Saturday 22nd July by Tom Gittings (apparently southeast and southwest Ireland are the places to be!). Whilst the Emperor is a resident species in southern England and Wales the Lesser Emperor is only a rare migrant and was first recorded in England as recently as 1996. The Lesser Emperor occurs throughout southern Europe and presumably the Co. Cork record was part of a northwards migration. It would be interesting to know whether the Emperor record from Co. Wexford was also part of this migration or whether it originated from Britain. The following is Killian Mullarney's account of the first sighting of the Emperor Dragonfly;

In the company of Peter Doyle and others I spent the middle part of the day (yesterday) at Lady's Island, hoping for another look at the Emperor Dragonfly. We saw no sign however, and Peter felt the strong easterly wind was likely to suppress flight activity of any large dragonflies that might have been present. I had more luck today however, in the company of Dave Daly and Aidan Kelly. It was not so windy, but was mostly overcast until around 14.30, when we arrived. Then sunshine started to predominate, and at around 16.00 Dave located the Emperor just a little further along the lake shore than the previous sightings (but close to where Tom Kilbane glimpsed a "large, blue" dragonfly this morning). There was great excitement as we followed this really impressive beast through binoculars and telescopes as it travelled back and forth over the stands of rushes, all of us willing it to settle - and then it did! We all had a superb twenty or so second view of it through telescopes, not as long as we might have liked, but long enough for even three novices to note its salient features and confirm its identity as a male Emperor. It then flew "inland", away from the lake margin, but ten minutes later I relocated it flying about over and old field of long, dry grasses and rank growth. There were plenty of Red-veined Darters along the same stretch and we saw at least one "attached" pair (the male was definitely a Red-veined ) apparently ovipositing.

9th July 2000

The Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombi has been reported from Tacumshin Lake, Co Wexford on the 2nd of July. The exact spot was the NE side of Siggilstown Island, grid ref T064062. "The finder, Tom Kilbane is a very thorough birder and has a keen interest in dragonflies - he spends most week-ends around this area and would be familiar with the regular species. He is almost certain he also saw one a little further west in Tacumshin the previous week-end" (Dick Coombes). This is the second record of this species this year (see News for 22nd June). It is only the fourth time this species has been recorded in Ireland and it is a new record for Co. Wexford.

The Northern Emerald Somatochlora arctica, the Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo and the Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula were seen at Galway's Bridge Co. Kerry on the 1st of July by Robert Thompson. This is the first record of the Northern Emerald since 1992.

The Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella, the Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans and the Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum were recorded from Lady's View lake, Co. Kerry also on 1st of July by Robert Thompson.

The Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella, the Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, the Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans, the Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata, the Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens and the Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum were recorded from the Roundstone Bog complex on the 3rd of July by Robert Thompson.

6th July 2000

The first Black Darters Sympetrum danae were seen on the 5th of July at Montiaghs Moss, Co. Antrim, there were several newly emerged males (Brian Nelson). This species is on the wing from early July until mid October.

4th July 2000

The Common Hawker Aeshna juncea is now on the wing. The first adults were reported from Lough Finn (18th June) and Glenveagh National Park (19th June) both in Donegal (Michael Bradley) and from Charlestown (19th June) and Achill Island (20th June) in Co. Mayo (Ian Rippey).

The Hairy Dragonfly Brachyrton pratense is still on the wing and could be confused with the Common Hawker and both species can be found at the same site. The Hairy Dragonfly is a smaller insect and tends to fly low over pools and lakes amongst the vegetation. The Common Hawker is noticeably a larger insect, the adults can often be seen well away from water. They are strong flyers and can often be seen at tree top level and along regular beats. The other large dragonfly, the Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis, is now conspicuous over fens and lakeside marshes. It should present no difficulties in identification as its wings are strongly suffused with amber. Some Aeshna juncea can show a brownish tinge to the wings, but never as strongly as in A. grandis and the body colouring is different.

July marks the end of the flight season for the Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense. The Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula is also noticeably less obvious. One of the reasons is that the peak of the flight period is past, but it also tends to stay in places the other damselflies are rarely seen. Early in the season when the blues are less common, adult Pyrrhosoma are relatively more conspicuous. In mid summer at small lakes, while the shore will be teeming with blue damselflies (Enallagma, Coenagrion and Ischnura), adult Pyrrhosoma will be found along adjoining streams and ditches, so it is also worth checking these areas. Pyrrhosoma should also be seen on acid pools and Sphagnum filled runnels and flushes.

July is the best month to see our bogland species. Upland and western lakes will support large numbers of Common Blue Damselflies Enallagma cyathigerum which in calm sunny weather can be seen swarming over the water surface, often far from the shore. Other damselflies are scarcer on these oligotrophic lakes. Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata will be present in shallower margins, their presence betrayed by the swift darting flights and rustling of wings as males challenge and investigate each other. The Common Hawker Aeshna juncea can often be seen at lakes but it is more likely to breed in small bog pools. Adults can be seen most easily along the edges and rides of conifer plantations. The prize species is however the Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens. The beautiful powder-blue males can be seen by flushes and slowly flowing water, where they hover and perch looking for passing females. Even tiny patches of habitat will be used, so breeding sites are undoubtedly very easy to miss. The map shows a distribution restricted to the main mountain areas, as breeding sites generally have some water flow. These runnels are most likely to be found along flat or gently sloping sides of broad river valleys, along spring lines or as in a recently recorded Donegal site, a former river channel in a shingle bank.

3rd July 2000

The Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura pumilio has been reported for the first time from Cork and Limerick. 2 mating pairs and 2 males were seen in a disused limestone quarry at Robertstown near Barrigone, Co. Limerick, on 24th June by Ian Rippey. A male was seen at Kilcolman, Co Cork, on 27 June by Chris Bently.

22nd June 2000

The following news comes from Rick Mundy, Youghal, Co Cork:

"Some exciting news for the page. I saw (and caught and examined in the hand) a male Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombi yesterday (19th June) close to Youghal, Co Cork. It was presumably just a vagrant, but the weather wasn't brilliant, so it's hard to say whether or not there were others around. I will go back to the site on Friday, to check that there aren't any more !"

In Britain there have been reports of Red-veined Darters from sites in Yorkshire and also a male Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope. These records have coincided with a major immigration of butterflies and moths into Ireland and Britain over last weekend. Clouded Yellow Colias croceus, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Painted Lady Cynthia cardui, Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum, Silver Y Autographa gamma, Bordered Straw Heliothis peltigera, Dark Swordgrass Agrotis ipsilon and Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella (a micro moth) have all been reported widely. In Mayo, Ken Bond described encountering Rush Veneer moths every few metres, even inland on the bogs. The Youghal record suggests some dragonflies have also arrived - so take a close look at any darters seen in unusual and coastal sites. The possibility that this was a locally bred individual should also not be discounted. If so that would be even more interesting! Recorders on the south coast especially should be aware of the possibility that there are undetected breeding sites of Red-veined Darters. In Britain breeding has been proved in the last few years in Cornwall.

21st June 2000

June is probably the peak month for dragonflies and the hot spell of weather has produced perfect conditions for many species. Hairy Dragonflies have been conspicuous at many sites including Cullentra Lough and Lough Fadda in Tyrone and the Montiaghs Moss Co. Antrim. At the latter site over 25 male Irish damselflies Coenagrion lunulatum were seen by Robert Thompson on the 18th.

Ian Rippey reports two new sites for Irish damselfly Coenagrion lunulatum and one new site for Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura pumilio in central Tyrone.

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella at Clandeboye Lake on the 17th is a new record for this site (Christine Morrow/Bernard Picton).

The first reports have been received of the following species:

8th June 2000

On the 4th of June The Belfast Naturalist's Field Club (led by Brian Nelson) visited Brackagh Bog Nature Reserve and Selshion Bog, near Portadown. At Brackagh Bog they recorded adults of the Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum and the Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella. They also recorded the larva of the Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa. At Selshion Bog only the Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum was recorded.

6th June 2000

The first Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies Ischnura pumilio were seen at Tonnagh Quarry, the long standing colony in Fermanagh, on 26th May (Ian Rippey). On the 27th Ian also recorded Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens on the Sillees River, west of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.

20th May 2000

A male Hairy Dragonfly was seen at Ballyvergan reed bed near Youghal, Co Cork (Harry Hussey).

14th May 2000

Both Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense and Irish Damselfly were seen at Montiaghs Moss National Nature Reserve, Co Antrim (Ian Rippey).

10th May 2000.

At Cullentra Lough, near Fivemiletown Co. Tyrone large numbers of newly emerged damselflies were seen (Brian Nelson). Common Blue Enallagma cyathigerum, Variable Coenagrion pulchellum and Azure Coenagrion puella damselflies were seen at this site and Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans at Fymore Lough near Clogher also in Co. Tyrone. These emergence dates are all amongst the earliest recorded for each species in Ireland, and it is probably unprecedented for 6 species to have been recorded by this date.

8th May, 2000

First reports of Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum and Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella from Portadown area (Ian Rippey, Robert Thompson)

7th May, 2000

The first Four-spotted Chasers Libellula quadrimaculata were seen on the Montiaghs Moss NNR (J0965) Co. Antrim on the 4th May (David Nixon). This is the earliest emergence of the species in Ireland. More Large Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula have been reported from cutover bogs around Lough Neagh and at a garden pond in Portadown (Brian Nelson, Robert Thompson).

2nd May, 2000

The first adult Odonata have been recorded. On the 1st a single Large Red Damselfly was seen at Bohill, Co. Down (David Nixon) and on the 2nd two male Large Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula were seen at Mount Usher Garden, Co Wicklow (Robert Thompson). Provided we have a period of warm settled weather this species should soon be flying more widely. Another species to look out for is the Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense as in 1999 an adult was recorded on the 9th of May.

According to the Dragonfly Report in British Wildlife (April 2000 issue) another species has been added to the British list, the Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum. This was reported from three ponds in Essex. The numbers present and behaviour suggest the colony has been established for some time. This follows the addition in the last few years of the Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope, the Green Darner Anax junius, the Banded Darter Sympetrum pedemontanum, the Scarlet Darter Crocothemis erythraea and the Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis to the British fauna. What are we missing in Ireland?

Nelson, B., Thompson, R. & Morrow, C., 2000 (Dec 21). [In] DragonflyIreland

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