Dragonflies & Damselflies


Related links: British Dragonfly Society

Dawlish Warren does not regularly hold any of the rarer British species which may be found elsewhere in Devon, but 26 species have been recorded on site. The ponds on site are influenced by the tides, but despite this many of the more widespread species are present. In recent years the numbers of adult Odonata, especially Dragonflies, have been in decline. These may have been caused by a variety of factors, changes in vegetation and management, salinity, reduced water levels and increased predation are all potential causes.
Below is a full list of the species known to have been seen in the Recording Area. No specific searches for exuviae have been made on site, so breeding status is taken from egglaying adults and observations of teneral individuals.

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

A vagrant to the recording area, presumably from up river. There have only four records of females the last on 22-23 Aug 2007. The only male is the most recent record on 7 Jul 2018.

Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo

A vagrant. The first record was a female near the Tractor Compound on 28 Aug 2006. A second female was seen near the First Pond on 09 Jul 2007 with two further records that month. Records continued to increase with the first multiple record in 2010. However records then stopped until a female was present on 16 May 2018.

(c) Alan Keatley

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella
Breeds in all ponds on site, and often the commonest species present with large emergences a feature of early summer

(c) Simon Thurgood

Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum
Several records in the mid 1990s, but declined and was not recorded for several years. One on the Dune Ridge on 10 Aug 2008 was presumably a migrant, but others were recorded in 2009 and 2010. This remains a less than annual visitor to the Warren.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum

First recorded in August 2010 with up to 20 individuals and egglaying observed at the Main Pond. The species remains on site but usually in low numbers. Currently one of a handful of Devon sites and was once the most westerly location in the UK for this rapidly expanding species.

(c) Alan Keatley

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans
A common species on site, breeding in all ponds.

(c) Lee Collins

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula
This widespread species is surprisingly scarce on site with less than annual records. Has not been reported breeding.

Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense
This nationally scarce species is the rarest dragonfly found regularly on the Warren. Recorded annually from the Main Pond in varying numbers, it is presumed to breed but the occasional absences suggest the population depends on individuals from larger populations up the estuary.

(c) Simon Thurgood

Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea
A species that has bred in the past, but has declined, there are still a few records of this species most years.

(c) Simon Thurgood

Common Hawker Aeshna juncea
The scarcest of the three hawkers recorded on site, there have only been a handful of confirmed sightings and none recently.

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta
A regular sight along woodland rides in late summer, this species breeds on site and can occur in large numbers, presumably migrants, if conditions are suitable. Along with Common Darter, this is often the last species to be recorded.

(c) Lee Collins

Vagrant Emperor Anax ephippiger
The first confirmed record of this African species was on 13 May 2017. Further records have occurred on 8 Oct 2017, 18 Oct 2018 and 16 Oct 2019. Probables were seen briefly on 28 April and 16 May 2011, during a record national influx of the species, and 3 Nov 2019.

Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator
This species breeds in all ponds on site, where males can often be seen holding territory. Individuals can also be encountered foraging along the Dune Ridge and elsewhere on site.

(c) Lee Collins

Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope

Vagrant. The first record was a female near the Main Pond on 3 August 2020.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii
Previously a vagrant to the recording area with only three records prior to the mid 1990s, has since been recorded annually in low numbers.

(c) Lee Summersby

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
Usually the first species recorded each year, this species did breed at all the ponds on site, but now occurs in very low numbers, mostly on the Golf Course.

(c) Simon Thurgood

Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
With only one record, another vagrant to the Recording Area. A female was in bushes behind the hide on 19 Jul 2008. The species has become established at the top end of the estuary so it is perhaps strange there have been no further sightings.

Four-spotted Chaser
Libellula quadrimaculata
This was a regular breeding species after the pond excavation in the 1980s. It is no longer present and presumably became extinct on site some time in the 1990s, with no recent records. One in Greenland Lake on 25 May 2008 was presumably a migrant, but two were seen in 2009. There have been no further sightings.

Black-tailed Skimmer
Orthetrum cancellatum
Previously a common breeding species, but the favoured habitat of open bare ground around the ponds is now much reduced. Now no longer recorded annually.

(c) Lee Collins

Keeled Skimmer
Orthetrum coerulescens
A vagrant to the recording area with four records. singles in 1982 & 1983, a single male on the Dune Ridge on 24 Aug 2004 and a worn female in the same place on 16 Aug 2010.

(c) Lee Collins

Black Darter
Sympetrum danae
A vagrant to the recording area with two records. A single male was seen in Greenland Lake on 14 Sep 2004 and it or another was on the Dune Ridge on 23 Sep 2004.

Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolum
A vagrant to the area with only two records, both in the invasion year of 1995.

Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
A vagrant to the area, which has bred. The first was on 22nd Aug 1984, the next was a very fresh teneral male, found drying its wings in Greenland Lake, on the late date of 21st Oct 1995. This had presumably emerged from the Main Pond, it's condition showed it had not come far, the first breeding record for Devon. Since then there have 12 other records, including two on Warren Point in June 2009.

(c) Alan Keatley

Ruddy Darter
Sympetrum sanguineum
First recorded in 1982, this species previously bred at the Dune Pond and possibly elsewhere (individuals have been recorded from moth traps set around the Main Pond), its eventual demise as a breeding species coincided with the presence of a Moorhen brood at the main site! Migrants are still recorded in some years and it is thought this was the likely source of the breeding population.

Vagrant Darter
Sympetrum vulgatum
An exceptional vagrant to the Recording Area. A female was seen and photographed by the Dune Pond on 6 Sep 2007. This, the first in Devon for 60 years and the first in the UK for 10 years, was accepted by the BDS records committee.

(c) John Fortey

Common Darter
Sympetrum striolatum
The commonest dragonfly in the Recording Area, with records from all ponds and throughout the site. This is often the latest species to be seen with records well into November in some years.

(c) Simon Thurgood

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