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Dragonflies and Damselflies

The latest British list, Jan 2021, consists of 56 species of damselfly and dragonfly with a split of 20 damselflies and 36 dragonflies. Forty six species are resident or considered regular migrant species and ten species are vagrants. Two species are now considered extinct in the UK, not being recorded since 1957 and 1963 respectively with a third species rediscovered in 2010 after an absence of 58 years.

Damselflies - Zygoptera are split into the orders;

  • Demoiselles - Calopterygidae 2 recorded species
  • Red and Blue/black Damselflies - Coenagrionidae 13 recorded species
  • Emerald Damselflies - Lestidae 5 recorded species
  • White-legged Damselflies - Platycnemididae 1 recorded species

Dragonflies - Anisoptera are split into the orders;

  • Hawker & Emperor Dragonflies - Aeshnidae 12 recorded species
  • Golden-ringed Dragonflies - Cordulegastrridae 1 recorded species
  • Emerald Dragonflies - Corduliidae 5 recorded species
  • Club-tailed Dragonflies - Gomphidae 2 recorded species
  • Chasers, Skimmers & Darters - Libellulidae 3 Chasers, 2 Skimmers, 11 Darters and 1 Glider species recorded

Woolston Eyes has recorded 21 of the perceived 56 available species on the UK list which are identified below with a summary status, ID tips and record photographs. Click on an image to enlarge it

You can view Woolston Eyes Conservation Group Odonata Annual Reports to review our historical records via the following links;

David Bowman

01 Banded Demoiselle

- Calopteryx splendens

Identification - Banded and Beautiful Demoiselle are the only damselfly with coloured wings in the UK. Male Banded Demoiselle have a large dark-blue/black band across the centre of the blue veined wings and a deep blue body colour with metallic green iridescence and similar eye colour. Females have a metallic green body colour, sometimes bronze-green, terminating in a bronze tip. Wings are iridescent pale-amber/green or bronze without the dark centre colour band. Immature males are similar in body colour to mature males but with brownish eyes and the wing band is brown green. Immature females have very pale yellow wings and brown eyes.

Status - There were few records of this species until 2006 but are now frequently seen. Banded Demoiselle are less common than the ‘other blue’ damselfly on the Reserve. Active period generally from May through August.

2017 Records - The River Mersey appears to be clean enough, especially at the Weir Basin, to support a small population of this stunning damselfly species. Single-figure counts have now been recorded here annually for a number of years. However, our first record this year was of a wandering male, which was photographed on No.3 bed on 27th May. There were no records in June, but on a sunny 12th July, five were present at the Weir Basin, either side of the footbridge. This figure included a pair in cop, plus two males and a metallic green female, which was photographed as it perched on the bank-side vegetation. On 25th July, a male was spotted fluttering low over the water’s surface by the Weir. Finally, there was a fairly late record on 16th August of another single male on No.3 bed.

Photograph - is a male from No3 Bed

Left Dave Bowman, Centre David Mercer, Right David Spencer

02 Azure Damselfly

- Coenagrion puella

Identification - Males are predominately blue coloured with blue eyes with thin black rings on the body and have a characteristic ‘U’ shaped black mark on the second segment. Female adults have similar head and thorax markings as males but predominately greenish with thick black separation rings although a pale blue form occurs rather than the vivid blue of the males. They also lack the black ‘U’ shape mark on the second segment. Immatures differ from the adults by both having pale-brown base body colours, more pinkish in the males, with brown eyes which change into the adult colours with maturity.

Status - This distinctive damselfly is common throughout the reserve with an active flight period generally from April through August.

2017 records - The common and fairly widespread Azure Damselfly was present from the early spring period. The first of the year was on 10th May, when six were spotted by the footbridge leading on to No.3 bed. The following day 20 were perching in the grasses around the pools on No.1 bed. Along the south bank of No.3 bed on 14th May at least 25 were counted, including four pairs which appeared to be egg-laying, in the river below the footbridge. Nine were at the Loop of No.4 bed on 22nd May and two days later similar numbers were found on No.1 bed. During further visits to No.1 bed on 27th and 31st May, the species was found to be abundant and breeding activity was observed at the New Pool. Unusually there was just one record from No.2 bed, where a single male was spotted along the west path on 31st May. Numbers peaked at the No.1 bed pools on 17th June, where more than 50 were present and double-figure counts continued at these pools until the beginning of July. They were last recorded on 8th July, when 30 plus were spotted around both the Viaduct and New Pools.

Photograph is three images stitched together from left, a mature male on No.3 Bed by David Bowman on 23/05/2015, centre, a mature male and female from No.3 Bed by David Mercer on 11/06/2016 and right, an immature female from No.3 Bed by David Spencer on 19/05/2016.

David Bowman

03 Common Blue Damselfly

- Enallagma cyathigerum

Identification - This species has been found to be common on all four beds since recording began in 1986. Similar looking to the Azure Damselfly but in general appears to have more blue than black colouration which is reversed in the Azure Damselfly. It also has a wider blue antehumeral stripe on the thorax than the Azure Damselfly and only one black line below this blue antehumeral stripe. Females can be blue coloured as the male or a dull green/grey colour and can be difficult to separate without attention to finer detail.

Status - Relatively common across the Reserve with an active period is from April through September.

2017 records - This widespread damselfly was recorded on 23 dates during the season which began on 9th May, when a teneral female was spotted at the Loop of No.4 bed. Two weeks later, on 24th May, at least 24 were present at the New Pool on No.1 bed and similar numbers were reported here on 27th May. By 31st May, numbers at this pool had peaked to 50 plus, including several tandem pairs. Also on the same day, 15 were counted along the west path of No.2 bed and a few more were present on No.3 bed. Along the south bank of No.3 bed on both the 7th and 14th June, a minimum of 10 were spotted, whilst 20 were present at the New Pool on 17th June. At least 12 were along the west path of No.2 bed on 2nd July and similar numbers were found on 8th July along the south bank of No.3 bed. Following several several single-figure counts during the rest of July and the first half of August, 11 were noted at the New Pool on 16th August. Four were recorded when the first Dragonfly Transect survey was completed at this pool on 26th August. Finally, two were at the New Pool on 16th September and then a single was recorded here on 20th September, during the second Transect survey.

Photograph is from No.1 Bed on 28/05/2016

Brian Baird

04 Red-eyed Damselfly

- Erythromma najas

First recorded in 1986 and repeated in 1998 but was probably overlooked until 2006 and is now regularly seen around the Reserve. The male has a dark grey abdomen with a blue tip and deep red eyes. The thorax is bronze/black in both sexes but the female has small yellowish antehumral lines as well. Mature females have dark black-grey abdomens, from top, greenish underneath, with greenish lines separating the segments.

Active period is from April through September.

Photograph from Weir Basin on 01/07/2016

Left Dave Bowman, Centre and Right Andrew Weir

05 Blue-tailed Damselfly

- Ischnura elegans

All forms and sexes are predominately dark bodied, mature males, always have a bright blue spot at the tail, blue stripes on the thorax and blue eyes. Immature males emerge with greenish stripes on the thorax with gradually change to blue. Females are more variable in colour with mature forms ranging from blue like the males to green thorax + brown tail spot and pale brown thorax + blue tail spot. Immature females can have a violet or pinkish thorax both with blue tail spots.

Blue-tailed Damselflies are probably the most common species on the Reserve.

Active flight period is generally April through September.

Photograph is of three images stitched together; left is a mature male from No.1 Bed on 26/05/2016 by David Bowman, centre an immature male form and right an immature female from No.3 Bed both by Andrew Weir on 21/06/2014

Dave Bowman

06 Large Red Damselfly

- Pyrrhosoma nymphula

The male is a dark red damselfly with black legs and dark bronze coloured thorax. Females exhibit a variety of colour forms varying in the degree of red and black but all have yellowish rings separating the abdomen segments giving a banded appearance.


The species is present on all four beds usually in small numbers.

Active period is from April through August.

Photograph is a male from No1 Bed 06/06/2013

David spencer

07 Emerald Damselfly

- Lestes sponsa

The male of this species is metallic green and develops blue colouration, predominately, in the first and last two segments of the abdomen. The female is thicker bodied and lacks any blue colouration. This species typically holds it wings at in ‘V’ shape when at rest and is relatively common on the reserve since the first record in 1990.

Active period is from May to September.

Photograph is a female from No.1 Bed 2014

Dave Bowman

08 Southern Hawker

- Aeshan cyanea

Present in small numbers on the Reserve. The male usually shows bright green markings on a dark (black) body and blue spots on the abdomen sides except the last body segments which are coloured blue however specimens with all blue markings can occur. The female is brown with bright green markings.

Active period is from April through October.

Photograph is a male from No3 Bed 09/09/2013

Gill Dutton

09 Brown Hawker

- Aeshna grandis

A large dragonfly and historically the most common ‘hawker’ species on the Reserve. Has obvious golden brown wings and both sexes have strong yellow stripes on the sides of the thorax. The male is chocolate brown with small blue and yellow markings and has a noticeable waisted appearance. The female has small yellow markings and lacks the males waist.

Active period from May to October.

Photograph is a male from No3 Bed 19/08/2013

10 Common Hawker

- Aeshna juncea

This Hawker has paired spots along the abdomen, two broad stripes on the sides of the thorax and the leading edge of the wing is yellow in both sexes. The male has blue spots on each segment of the abdomen and appears quite dark, when in flight, with blue eyes.

The female is brown with similar markings to the male but the spots are yellow, or occasionally green or blue and eyes are brownish.

Contrary to the name, this species is probably scare and irregularly reported on the Reserve.

Active period is from June to October.

No Woolston image available

dave Bowman

11 Migrant Hawker

- Aeshna mixta

This is one of the latest flying dragonflies and the only Hawker likely to be sighted into November. The male appears dark in flight with paired blue spots along the abdomen and blue eyes. Females are browner with the same paired markings but these are often smaller and yellowish occasionally blue and the eyes are brown. Up close, a small golf-tee shaped diagnostic light mark is clearly visible on the top of the second abdomen segment in both sexes.

This species, first recorded in 1998 now vies with the Brown Hawker for the most common ‘Hawker’ species on the Reserve.

Active period is July through October.

Photograph of a male from No1 Bed 10/08/2013

A photograph of the female is shown below.

David Spencer

11 Migrant Hawker

- Aeshna mixta

A photograph of a female from No4 Bed 04/09/2014.

Keith Gallie

12 Emperor Dragonfly

- Anax imperator

Our largest dragonfly, the male has a bright blue abdomen with a clear black central strip running the full length of the body. The female has a greenish not blue body but similarly marked as the male. Both have a green thorax and green to blue eyes. When first emerged both sexes appear paler green with brown markings before their colours age.

First recorded in 2001 has been regularly seen on all water bodies. The irregular records on the Reserve are probably due to under reporting.

Flight period is from April to September.

Photograph from No.3 Bed on 13/07/2016

13 Downy Emerald

- Cordulia aenea

Metallic green with a coppery sheen and, as all the ‘emeralds’, noticeable light green eyes. The male is distinguished from the female by a ‘waisted’ abdomen and ‘club’ shaped body. Both sexes have a downy thorax from were the name is derived.

A single adult in 1990 is the only Woolston record to date.

Principle flight period is from April through July.

No Woolston image available

Dave Bowman

14 Broad-bodied Chaser

- Libellula depressa

New to the Reserve list in 2006 is frequently seen today. The male develops a wide blue body with small yellow spots on the segment sides. The female is golden brown on the abdomen with similar yellow spots on the segment sides. A similar looking species to the Four Spotted Chaser but does not have the mid-wing dark spots but large triangular dark patches at the wing bases.

Active period is May through September.

Photograph is a male from No3 Bed 06/07/2013

Dave Bowman

15 Four-spotted Chaser

- Libellula quadrimaculata

Both sexes of this species look alike; brown becoming darker along the abdomen, brown thorax and brown eyes with a row of small yellow spots along the sides of the abodmen. The striking feature however is the dark spots midway along the leading edges of the wings giving the species it’s name.

Four-spotted Chasers have been common on the Reserve since the start of records in 1986.

Active periods are April through August.

Photograph from No1 Bed 08/06/2013

Trisha Thompson

16 Black-tailed Skimmer

- Orthetrum cancellatum

Males develop a blue abdomen which darkens to black in the last three segments. Females and immatures are yellowish brown with bold dark lines running down the length of the abdomen and yellowish wings.

First recorded in 2006 this species is now frequent at the Eyes and should become more so as the dragonfly increases its northern range.

Active period is from May through September.

Photograph is a male from No1 Bed

Dave Bowman

16 Black-tailed Skimmer

- Orthetrum cancellatum

A photograph of a female from No.1 Bed 31/05/2014

Dave Bowman

17 Black Darter

- Sympetrum danae

This is a small dragonfly and the male the only ‘black’ - abdomen, thorax and legs - UK dragonfly. Maturity darkens the colouration but yellow markings remain along the abdomen and thorax. Females and immatures have a yellow abdomen and brown thorax with strong black markings on the sides of the thorax and abdomen.

This is an uncommon species at Woolston but has been recorded since 1993.

Active flight is from June to October

Photograph is a male from No1 Bed 10/08/2013

Trisha Thompson

18 Yellow-winged Darter

- Sympetrum flaveolum

Not resident in the UK but is known to migrate here in some years in numbers. Breeding populations occur after these eruptions but fade out after a few years. Males become orange red with maturity and red-brown thorax. The females have an ochre yellow abdomen with black marking along the lower sides. The basal areas of the wings especially the inner rear wings are noticeably coloured pale yellow-orange.

A continental vagrant, a single male was recorded in 2006 on No1 Bed.

Active period for migrants is July through September.

Photograph of a male from No1 Bed 2006

19 Red-veined Darter

- Sympetrum fonscolombii

A single male was recorded in May 1989 after a large influx into the UK of this continental species.

The males are bright red and females yellow-brown. The eyes are brown above and blue-grey below and the bases of the hind wings are yellowish. The pterostigma (dark spot on the leading edge of the wings) is yellow to orange strongly outlined in black. Males become a deep red with maturity with red veins on the wings, particularly on the leading edges, and the thorax are red-brown.

Females have a ochre-yellow abdomen with two black lines along each side. The wing veins are yellow at the leading edge and base. Immature males are coloured as the females but have only a single line along each side of the abdomen.

A dragonfly of central and southern Europe which in some years migrates north, increasing so since the 1990’s, as far as northern England. The principle flight period is May to November.

No Woolston image available

Dave Bowman

20 Ruddy darter

- Sympetrum sanguineum

Male abdomens become blood-red (not orange-red as in Common Darter) with maturity with red-brown thorax and they exhibit a very noticeable constriction mid way down the abdomen giving the species a ‘club’ like appearance from above. Females have ochre-yellow abdomen and thorax but can develop with maturity some red along the mid-line and segment boundaries. The legs are black without the yellow stripes as in Common Darter (noticeable in the photograph opposite).

One of the less common species on the Reserve but as its range increases northwards should produce more records. Generally not as early as the Common Darter, emerging in summer and active from July through to November.

Photograph of a male from No1 Bed 03/09/2013

Dave Bowman

21 Common Darter

- Sympetrum striolatum

Males become bright orange-red with maturity with small black spots on the latter segments. Females have a pale, yellowish-brown abdomen often developing red markings along the segment boundaries and mid-line as they mature. In both sexes the eyes are brown above and yellowish below and the legs black with distinctive yellow lines along their length (both these features are very noticeable on the photo of the female below).

Common species on the Reserve, generally active from May through to November.

Photograph of a male on No.3 Bed 13/09/2014

Photograph of a female is below

Dave Bowman

21 Common Darter

- Sympetrum striolatum

Photograph of a female No.3 Bed 10/08/2013