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Britain's Dragonflies

Britain's Dragonflies: A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Britain and Ireland (Third Edition)

Dave Smallshire
Andy Swash
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: REV - Revised, 3
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Britain's Dragonflies
    Book Description:

    Britain's Dragonfliesis the only comprehensive photographic field guide to the damselflies and dragonflies of Britain and Ireland. Written by two of Britain's foremost experts, this fully revised and updated edition features hundreds of stunning images and identification charts covering all 56 resident, migrant and former breeding species, and seven potential vagrants. The book focuses on identification--both of adults and larvae--highlighting the key features. Detailed species profiles provide concise information on identification, distribution, flight periods, behaviour, habitat, status and conservation. Other sections cover biology; how to watch, photograph, record and monitor Dragonflies; conservation status and legislation; and introduced exotic species.

    This redesigned, updated and expanded edition features:

    Beautiful colour plates showing males, females, immatures and all colour forms for every speciesOver 450 stunning photographs and 550 illustrationsUp-to-date species profiles and distribution mapsDetailed, easy-to-use identification charts for adults and larvae

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5186-7
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-5)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. 6-6)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 7-7)

    Dragonflies are Rock-and-Roll insects. They are high-energy aerial predators that have all the raptorial appeal of birds of prey, the grace, agility and vibrancy of butterflies plus, for those with patience enough to sit and watch the water on a still and sunny summer's day (and, let's face it, what better place to be and what better occupation?), they have the 'watchability' that is second to none in the insect world. In some cases, the dramas and excitement that unfold are so special that, I can honestly say, in some instances even compete with some of my best birdwatching moments!...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 8-9)

    Dragonflies are stunning and amazing insects! They are often very brightly coloured, kill for a living and have phenomenal powers of sight, flight and manoeuvrability. Some are large, though none as big as the one-metre wingspan giant Protodonata that flew some 325 million years ago. These are considered to be the ancestors of Dragonflies, which were well in evidence during the heyday of the dinosaurs. Almost 6,000 species are recognised today, but only a fraction of these have ever been seen in Britain or Ireland, and only 40 or so currently have breeding populations.

    Dragonflies are characterised by having an...

  6. Dragonfly biology and ecology
    (pp. 10-20)

    The illustration opposite summarises the life-cycle of a Dragonfly, and more detalied information on the egg, larval, emergence and adult stages is given in this section.

    Female Dragonflies can lay hundreds of eggs during their adult lives, in batches over a few days or even weeks. Eggs are laid (oviposited) either into plant material (endophytic eggs) or deposited loosely into water (exophytic eggs). The former are elongated, but the latter are rounded and laid in a jelly-like substance which confers some protection.

    All damselflies and the hawkers have scythe-like ovipositors and inject their eggs into plant stems or leaves, rotten...

  7. Where to look for Dragonflies
    (pp. 21-33)

    The habitats favoured by breeding Dragonflies in Britain and Ireland can be broadly subdivided into eight categories: lake, pond, river, stream, canal, ditch, bog and flush. Each is illustrated in this section and the typical species that are likely to be found are listed. The tables onpages 30–31provide a summary of the favoured breeding habitats for all the breeding species.

    These tables summarise the main habitat preferences for all the Dragonfly species recorded breeding in Britain or Ireland. The key below explains the coding used to differentiate between common and widespread species, and those that are scarce....

  8. Watching and photographing Dragonflies
    (pp. 34-35)

    Fine weather is usually needed for field visits, especially to see territorial dragonflies, which fly mainly when the sun shines. When it is very hot, however, dragonflies can be too active to be viewed well, and may even retire to shade. Sometimes, the best views can be had outside the main period of activity, which is usually between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., or during cloudy and even showery spells on an otherwise hot day. The main season for dragonfly watching is May to August: the 'spring' species are best between late May and late June, with the 'summer'...

  9. How to identify Dragonflies
    (pp. 36-57)

    The key to learning how to identify any group of species is first to gain a good knowledge of the commoner species. Although there are relatively few species to worry about in Britain, this does not mean that there is no scope for confusion - the variations in colour related to age and sex can be confusing for beginner and expert alike!

    Remember that tenerals have subdued colours (check for dull eye colour and pale wing-spots (pterostigma) and reflective wings, and a rather weak, unsteady flight). If it is possible to obtain close views, it is often worth sexing individuals:...

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 58-58)


        (pp. 60-99)

        A common large and conspicuous damselfly that is typical of fast-flowing waters in southern and western Britain. Living up to its common name, it presents a dazzling spectacle that greatly enhances the rivers and streams that it inhabits.

        Adult Identification: Male: Dark brown-black wings with iridescent blue veins; the extreme tips and bases may be paler and immatures have browner wings. The body is metallic blue-green. Female: Dark brown iridescent wings with a white ‘false wing-spot’ that lies further from the tip than in Banded Demoiselle (page 62). The body is metallic green with a bronze tip to the abdomen....

        (pp. 100-151)

        The smallest hawker, flying in May and June before the peak emergence of other hawkers. It is found sparingly at unpolluted waters with luxuriant vegetation, mostly in the southern half of Britain and across much of Ireland.

        Adult Identification: A small, rather dark hawker with a distinctive hairy thorax. Best identified by the combination of a pair of relatively small, oval-shaped dots on the top of each abdominal segment; yellow costa; long, thin, brown wing-spots; and long anal appendages. The sides of the thorax are extensively green, lacking the pattern of paired pale stripes characteristic of most other hawkers. Male:...


        (pp. 154-161)

        True to its name, this species is slightly more delicate than Emerald Damselfly.

        Adult Identification: Similar to the other emerald damselflies (spreadwings), with the typical metallic green upperparts and habit of holding its wings partially spread when at rest. Like Southern Emerald Damselfly (page 68), the back of the head is yellow and clearly demarcated from the green top of the head, but the wing-spots are brown, edged at the sides with white. In the subspecies in the northern part of its range closest to Britain,Lestes virens vestalis, the narrow shoulder stripes do not extend back to the base...

        (pp. 162-187)

        The erratic occurrences of this wanderer from arid lands have often been associated with the arrival of winds from the Sahara.

        Adult Identification: A medium-sized hawker, differing from the similar, but larger, Lesser Emperor (page 118) in being yellowish-brown with brown eyes. The lower parts of the eyes, thorax and S1–2 are yellow-green. Both sexes have an irregular black marking down the slender abdomen from S3–10, with pale, paired yellowish spots on the top of S8–10. The long, thin wing-spots are brown, the costa is yellow, and the broad hind wings are variably suffused with yellow. Both...

  12. Introduced exotic species
    (pp. 188-189)

    Thirteen species - five damselflies and eight dragonflies - have been recorded in Britain only as a result of accidental introductions, either as eggs or larvae in imported aquatic plants These species have been included in this book to increase awareness that further potential confusion species could be encountered.

    Most of the exotic species recorded in Britain have been found in the greenhouses of importers of tropical pondweeds. However, at least one, Common BluetailIschnura senegalensis, has been discovered at a garden pond, to which it was probably moved with recently imported pondweed. Although unlikely, there is a possibility that...

  13. Identification of larvae and exuviae
    (pp. 190-211)

    Most people who become interested in dragonflies do so through a fascination with the adult forms, rather than larvae. For this reason, the main focus of this book is on adult identification. However, there are good reasons for taking an interest in larvae and exuviae, since their presence and numbers at a water body give the best indication of breeding populations and hence the conservation value of a site.

    Larval identification requires different skills and equipment to both catch and identify specimens. They can be caught with a pond net or sieve, or by studying pondweed and organic debris. The...

  14. Conservation status and legislation
    (pp. 212-215)

    A signficant number of the Dragonfly species in Britain and Ireland are rare or highly localized. As a consequence, many are of conservation concern and those that are particularly at risk are afforded legislative protection, including through requirements to conserve their habitats. This legislation is informed by evaluations of the status of all species. The legal measures and the means by which species are assessed are explained in this section and summarised in the table below. This information is highlighted in the red 'Legal Status' boxes in the main species accounts (see explanation onpage 59) and an explanation of...

  15. British Dragonfly Society
    (pp. 216-216)

    The British Dragonfly Society (BDS) was formed in 1983 to promote and encourage the study and conservation of dragonflies and their natural habitats. Through its various committees, local groups and members, the Society is the principal body overseeing the study, recording, conservation and education effort focussed on Dragonflies in Britain. The BDS manages The Dragonfly Centre at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, in conjunction with the National Trust.

    Matters of conservation concern are addressed through a Conservation Officer and a Dragonfly Conservation Group (DCG). Work includes advising and collaborating with a wide range of nature conservation bodies and others, producing advisory and...

  16. Dragonfly recording and monitoring
    (pp. 216-217)

    Britain and Ireland have a long and enviable history of biological recording. This has been firmly based on harnessing the enthusiasm and expertise of volunteers, such as Dragonfly recorders, who can play a major role in converting their field observations into scientific knowledge and conservation action. The publication of a second Dragonfly distribution atlas for Britain and Ireland in 2014 is a major tribute to volunteer recording effort. The information from over a million records was used to produce the atlas maps, but the records hold much more information than just where Dragonflies have been seen. For example, the dates...

  17. Further reading
    (pp. 218-218)
  18. Acknowledgements and photographic credits
    (pp. 219-221)
  19. Index of English and scientific names
    (pp. 222-224)