Here be Dragons
Here be Dragons
On Saturday, the 8th July volunteers looking to learn about the wonderful world of dragonflies (otherwise known as Odonata), joined us for a workshop led by London Wildlife Trust’s 'Water for Wildlife Project'. We at the Environment Trust and Kingston University are helping to deliver this project throughout the Kingston Borough.
David Courtrneidge of the London Wildlife Trust ran a fantastic morning workshop at Kingston University’s Knights Park campus. The workshop covered lots of great information about our dragonflies and damselflies, including their evolutionary history which spans 300 million years which has seen dragonflies with wing spans of two feet!
However, the focus of the workshop was the 57 Odonata species which can be found in the UK presently, and more specifically the species which can be found across London. We covered identifying features, behaviour and ecology. Dragonflies are interestingly in a larval stage for approximately 2 years where they patrol freshwater predating on small invertebrates and even small fish! They then emerge into their adult form where their primary purpose is to mate, they are in this stage for approximately 6-8 weeks.
Following the course, we headed out into the field to go and find some dragons. We headed to Elmbridge Meadows Local Nature Reserve, an area which the Environment Trust among other organisations is looking to enhance in the future. The site has the Hogsmill river flowing through it and we saw many species including a territorial broad bodied chaser fending off an emperor dragonfly. We also saw ruddy darters fluttering above the rivers surface, along with a range of other species including banded demoiselles, azure damselflies, blue tailed damselflies and large red damselflies. Excitingly we also spotted a white legged damselfly male which is a rare species in London!
(Above - Banded demoiselle Calopteryx splendens)
(Above - Ruddy darter Sympetrum sanguineum)
(Above - the rare White- legged Damselfly Platycnemis pennipes)
While sitting on the river bank we watched drama unfold, as a female banded demoiselle was plucked out of the air by an emperor dragonfly, who then proceeded to devour it only a few metres from where we were standing. In fact, Odonata translates to ‘toothed one’ referring to their serrated teeth enabling them to be voracious predators. Agostina one the volunteers took a fantastic photo of this dramatic scene.
(Above - Emperor dragonfly Anax imperator eating a female Banded demoiselle Calopteryx splendens)
We will now be working with the London Wildlife Trust as they carryout citizen led surveys across Kingston. This will help to give us baseline data, so we can monitor the dragonfly population as we improve the surrounding habitat. This will also contribute to a pan London atlas of dragonflies. If you would like to get involved please do get in touch! We would like to thank LWT and Kingston University for making this project possible and look forward to contributing to its successes moving forward.
Photos by - Agostina Campodonico