Wildlife Column: Bring on the beautiful damsels

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Christine Handley commented on a recent article on Emperor Dragonflies on my blog.

‘We often get these on ‘my patch’ around Woodhouse Mill and Shire Brook Valley. My ‘gold star’ records of the week for dragons and damsels were Broad-bodied Chasers egg-laying and a dozen male Banded Demoiselles all at Woodhouse Washlands. I was one of the first to record the Demoiselles in the area – they had hitched a ride on the water crowfoot that the

Environment Agency had put into the River Rother to improve the water quality and fishery and now they breed locally and are seen every year’. I replied that when I helped set up the Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve back in the 1990s, I then produced the management plan / vision of a ‘pondscape’ with a target of around 50 new ponds over 25 years or so. My recollection of the first Banded Demoiselles on the river was about the year 2000 but I might be a few years out. At nearby Beighton Marsh, which was another reserve I initiated, we got Sheffield’s first ever record of Emperor Dragonfly which was broadcast as it happened on Radio 5 Live with Sheffield wildlife media star Chris Baines!

There are two main species of Demoiselle that occur reasonably widely, the stunning ‘Beautiful Demoiselle’ which is most common in the south-west and west, and the ‘Banded Demoiselle’. The latter is the one that we get around Sheffield, always close to running water, and only with a generally southerly distribution though it is extending this northwards.

Today it is found increasingly along watercourses and is one to watch out for from the River don to the Rother and all its tributaries. However it got here it is certainly a nice addition to our riverside fauna.

The one I pictured is a female taken close by the Rother at Poolsbrook near Eckington. Mainly a tropical group of insects, the Demoiselles are also called the ‘Agrions’ and are in the family Agriidae. I wonder if the beautiful Demoiselle will also show up in our area; that would be rather nice.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.