This page [UNDER CONSTRUCTION] provides information about the dragonfly and damselfly species recently recorded in Hertfordshire. This includes  locations, flight periods, key identification points (including potential confusion species) typical habitats and hints on where to find them.

Willow Emerald Damselfly  Chalcolestes viridis

Hertfordshire status:

Likely to be found at any suitable habitat in the county. Potentially now the most widespread ‘emerald damselfly’ species in the county despite first being recorded in 2014.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-July until late October, but has the potential to be flying earlier or later (photographs or descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

A large, but slim, damselfly that tends to perch with its wings half open. Metallic green on the upperside, pale below. Larger than Emerald Damselfly, both sexes have pale pterostigma on the wings even when mature and have a obvious spur of green extending forwards on the side of the thorax. Males have white appendages at the end of the abdomen.

Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Emerald Damselfly (particularly when recently emerged as the pterostigma may be pale), and potentially Banded Demoiselle.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Found in any freshwater habitats where there are trees, or woody shrubs, overhanging the water.

Eggs are laid into overhanging shrubs and leave distinctive scars that can be looked for during the winter months. The adult damselflies can be unobtrusive and often perch fairly high up in overhanging trees – they can often be found by scanning bankside trees and shrubs carefully with binoculars.

 

***Male Willow Emerald***

 

***Female Willow Emerald***

 

***Ovipositing scars***

 

Scarce Emerald Damselfly Lestes dryas

Hertfordshire status:

Recently recorded from a few sites in south-east and central Hertfordshire after a long abscence, but remains very scarce and only found in low numbers.

Photographs or detailed descriptions will usually be required for confirmation of records.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until late August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A relatively large, and moderately robust, damselfly that tends to perch with its wings half open. Metallic green on the upperside, pale below. Extremely similar to Emerald Damselfly, Lestes sponsa, with very close examination required to confirm identification, particularly for females and immature males.

Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Emerald Damselfly – an extremely similar species, Willow Emerald Damselfly, and potentially Banded Demoiselle.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Typically found breeding in shallow ponds and ditches with plenty of emergent vegetation, particularly sedges/rushes, including ponds that may completely dry out by late summer.

They often remain low in the emergent vegetation, but can be found by walking slowly along the banks and/or scanning vegetation close to the water’s edge with binoculars.

 

***Male Scarce Emerald***

 

***Female Scarce Emerald***

 

Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa

Hertfordshire status:

A widespread breeding species which may be found anywhere in the county, but which seems to have a fairly patchy distribution. It may be overlooked at some sites.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until early September, but has the potential to be flying earlier or later (photographs or descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

A relatively large, but slim, damselfly that tends to perch with its wings half open. Metallic green on the upperside, with a pale underside. Mature individuals have dark pterostigmas on the wings and males become pale blue on the sides of the thorax and at either end of the abdomen.

Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Willow Emerald Damselfly and  Banded Demoiselle.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Typically found breeding in shallow ponds and ditches with plenty of emergent vegetation, particularly sedges/rushes, including ponds that may completely dry out by late summer.

They often remain low in the emergent vegetation, but can be found by walking slowly along the banks and/or scanning vegetation close to the water’s edge with binoculars.

 

***Male Emerald***

 

***Female Emerald***

 

***Maturing male***

 

Banded Demoiselle  Calopteryx splendens

Hertfordshire status:

A widespread breeding species that is likely to be found on any moderately sized, largely unshaded rivers, streams or canals in the county.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-May until mid-September, but has the potential to be flying from late April and into early-September.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A large, robust damselfly with coloured wings that will typically be active and easily seen. Males have a large patch in the centre of each wing that appears black, females usually have a distinct green tinge to the whole wing. Almost the whole of the body on both sexes is a metallic green, or metallic blue, including the underside.

Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Potentially Willow Emerald Damselfly and Emerald Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Breeds mainly in flowing water, seemingly preferring a silty substrate, relatively little shading, and a moderate flow (in Hertfordshire they are often found in good numbers below weirs). Sometimes found at ponds, lakes and even well away from water.

Where present this species will usually be very obvious, perching openly on bankside vegetation in the sun, or actively flying over the open water.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Beautiful Demoiselle  Calopteryx virgo

Hertfordshire status:

In recent years there have been reports of this potential colonist from a number of locations, but usually only involving a very small number of individuals. Due to the scarcity of the species in the county, and the likelihood of confusion with Banded Demoiselle, photographs or detailed descriptions will usually be required for verification.

Flight period:

Likely from mid-May until late August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A large, robust species with coloured wings that will typically be active, but which can be unobtrusive in its preferred habitat. Males have almost completely dark wings, females have orange/brown toned wings – but care needs to be taken because the dark patches in the wings of Banded Demoiselles can sometimes look surprisingly extensive, and female Banded Demoiselles occasionally have somewhat brown toned wings.

Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Banded Demoiselle.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Flowing water, with a preference towards smaller rivers and streams and more of a gravel substrate those preferred by Banded Demoiselle. They are also far more tolerant of shade and may be found along small, quite heavily shaded streams. Although they tend to perch openly along their chosen streams, they can be easily overlooked if they are in the shade.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

White-legged Damselfly Platycnemis pennipes

Hertfordshire status:

A scarce species in the county, with a restricted distribution.

Photographs or descriptions may be required for confirmation of records away from known sites.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-May until mid/late August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Easily identified if attention is paid to the pattern of dark markings on the abdomen and thorax, with narrow dark lines running along the length of the body. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly are often mistakenly identified as this species because individuals of these species can sometimes have quite white legs.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

The preferred habitat is relatively slow flowing rivers and canals with extensive herbaceous vegetation along the banks, although they can sometimes be found breeding at still water sites. Best looked for by walking slowly along the banks and looking for them on the bankside vegetation.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

 

 

 

Azure Damselfly  Coenagrion puella

Hertfordshire status:

A very common and widespread species that is likely to be found breeding in most freshwater habitats across Hertfordshire.

Flight period:

Mainly from early May until late August, but a few may be flying earlier or later.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Very similar to the equally widespread Common Blue Damselfly, but separable with a close view and/or a bit of experience. Markings on the thorax, and either end of the dorsal side of the abdomen can be used to confirm the identification. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Common Blue Damselfly and potentially Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

May be found in any freshwater habitats but particularly favours well vegetated smaller ponds. Will also breed in larger lakes/gravel pits, and streams and rivers, where they will tend to be found in the parts with the most extensive emergent vegetation. Usually found in, or close to, emergent vegetation near the water’s edge. May also be found away from water in long grass and along hedgerows.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Common Blue Damselfly  Enallagma cyathigerum

Hertfordshire status:

A very common and widespread species that is likely to be found breeding in most freshwater habitats across Hertfordshire

Flight period:

Mainly starts to emerge from early-May and can be flying into October.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Very similar to the equally widespread Azure Damselfly, and separable with a good view of the markings on the thorax, and either end of the dorsal side of the abdomen. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Azure Damselfly and potentially Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

May be found in any freshwater habitats, including smaller ponds, but typically occurs in the largest numbers on larger lakes and gravel pits where large swarms may be seen over open water on sunny days. May also be found on rivers/streams and away from water in long grass and along hedgerows.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas

Hertfordshire status:

A relatively widespread species that might be found at any suitable habitat across the county but which can sometimes be easy to overlook.

Flight period:

From early May until mid-September.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Very similar to the Small Red-eyed Damselfly, which is now likely to be just as widespread. Males are best separated using the less extensive blue at both ends of the abdomen. Females of the two species are usually trickier to separate without experience. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Small Red-eyed Damselfly and potentially Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Typically found at larger ponds, lakes and gravel pits and on slow flowing canals and rivers, where there are lilies or other floating vegetation. Although they may be found in bankside vegetation they are best looked for by scanning for males sitting on floating vegetation, or flying low over the surface of the water, using binoculars.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Small Red-eyed Damselfly  Erythromma viridulum

Hertfordshire status:

Beginning to colonise at the time of the previous atlas survey, with the first Hertfordshire record in 2002. Now probably breeding at most suitable habitat across the county

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until at mid-September, but has the potential to be flying earlier or later.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Males can be distinguished from the similar Red-eyed Damselfly by looking for the noticeably more extensive blue at both ends of the abdomen. Females require more experience to identify but tend to have complete antehumeral stripes. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Red-eyed Damselfly and potentially Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Mostly found at ponds, lakes and gravel pits and on slow flowing canals and rivers, where there is floating vegetation, perhaps favouring habitats with smaller leaved floating plants than Red-eyed Damselflies seem to prefer – although there is considerable overlap and both species are often found together. Best looked for by scanning with binoculars to look for males sitting on floating vegetation, or flying low over the surface of the water, in the same way as for Red-eyed Damselflies.

.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans

Hertfordshire status:

A common and widespread species, potentially the most widespread damselfly species in the county due to the variety of habitats they can breed in.

Flight period:

Mainly from early May until late September, but may be flying earlier or later.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A very variable species, particularly females which can show a variety of different colour forms. The dorsal side of the abdomen of most forms is dark with the only blue on the 8th abdomen segment – near the tip of the abdomen but not actually at the tip. The pterostigma on all forms is roughly diamond-shaped and is black & white. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: potentially Red-eyed Damselfly and Small Red-eyed Damselfly, and perhaps females of Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly. There is a small possibility of one colour form being mistaken for Large Red Damselfly.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Blue-tailed Damselflies are able to breed in almost any freshwater habitat that isn’t completely shaded, and seemingly have a greater tolerance of some pollution than many other species. They do seem to prefer to remain in emergent vegetation, and will often stay fairly low down within this, so are best looked for by slowly walking along the banks and peering into emergent vegetation.

 

***Male***

 

***Females***

 

Large Red Damselfly  Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Hertfordshire status:

Widespread, relatively common, and likely to be present across the whole county.

Flight period:

The earliest flying species, mostly flying from early April until mid-July, but seems to fly later at some sites and may potentially be flying well into August (photographs or brief descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

No other damselfly species that has been recorded in Hertfordshire is red, so most Large Red Damselflies should be easy to identify. There is a dark form of the female that needs some experience to identify, but this form is rare. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: There is a small potential for darker individuals of a pink/reddish form of Blue-tailed Damselfly to be misidentified as Large Red Damselflies, and later in the year it is possible that inexperienced observers may mistake Ruddy Darter, or Common Darter, dragonflies for Large Red Damselflies, as these can be far smaller than might be expected.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

This species is typically found in, and around, well vegetated ponds and ditches, and shallow edges of larger lakes, streams and rivers. They can tolerate relatively stagnant ponds, such as woodland ponds, and it is in the latter type of habitat where they seem to be most likely to be found flying later in the year.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis

Hertfordshire status:

Recorded on just a handful of occasions since 2018, but increasing in south-east England and likely to become more frequent in Hertfordshire.. Due to the scarcity of the species in the county, and the potential for confusion with Migrant Hawker, photographs or detailed descriptions will usually be required for verification.

Flight period: Most likely from late-June until late August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

With experience, identification of mature males is relatively straightforward if seen well but care is needed with the identification of all hawker species. The plain thorax sides and large spots on the abdomen are key features. This is one of the smaller hawker species, and one of the few species of ‘hawker type’ dragonfly that lays eggs while still in tandem. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Southern Migrant Hawker is very similar to the far more common Migrant Hawker and there is also a potential for Southern Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly and Hairy Dragonfly to be misidentified as this species.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

For breeding habitat this species favours ponds and ditches that have a tendency to dry up, or largely dry up by late summer, and elsewhere in the UK are most commonly found breeding in habitat favoured by emerald damselfly species. Migrant individuals may turn up at sites that are not particularly well suited for breeding and there is a potential for them to be found away from water, for example, along hedgerows and woodland edges.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Southern Hawker  Aeshna cyanea

Hertfordshire status:

A common species, widespread across the county. Although common, large numbers are not usually seen together.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until late October, but has the potential to be flying earlier and later (photographs or descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

In the UK this species is the only one of the hawker type dragonflies to have a bar of colour on the last abdomen segments rather than separated spots. The broad antehumeral stripes on top of the thorax and the relatively plain thorax sides are additional features. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: In the spring and early summer confusion with Hairy Dragonfly and perhaps Emperor Dragonfly is possible, while later in the year Migrant Hawker needs to be considered.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Although Southern Hawkers can be found breeding in a wide variety of habitats, they seem to show a preference for ponds and are tolerant of a fair amount of shading. They are frequently found breeding in small woodland ponds and garden ponds, and often feed by flying up and down woodland rides at a very low height.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis

Hertfordshire status:

Widespread in Hertfordshire with the potential to be recorded anywhere in the county.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until late September, but has the potential to be flying earlier and later (photographs or descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

This is the largest of the two largely brown hawkers found in the UK and is by far the most widespread of the two in Hertfordshire. Brown Hawkers usually have very obviously amber-tinged wings which can be very noticeable in flight. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Brown females of other hawker species may be mistaken, especially older individuals that may have some colour in the wings, for this species but are smaller and have more clearly patterned abdomens. The most likely confusion species is the much scarcer Norfolk Hawker, a smaller, more orangey-brown hawker which has noticeable green eyes when mature.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Most larger water bodies, including gravel pits, rivers and canals, are likely to have Brown Hawkers present and they will also breed in smaller ponds. They are easily seen when patrolling territories, or when feeding over meadows and along hedgerows. Females can often be found ovipositing around the edges of water bodies and seem to show a preference for ovipositing into dead wood.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isoceles

Hertfordshire status:

First recorded in the county in 2015, now fairly well established in the Lea Valley south of Hertford and starting to spread further. Photographs or descriptions will usually be requested for verification of records from new sites.

Flight period:

Mostly from mid-June until late August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A fairly small hawker that is predominately orangey-brown with few markings. When mature the eyes are a noticeable green colour. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Brown Hawkers are a similar plain brown colour but tend to be darker and less ‘orangey’. They also usually have a noticeable amber suffusion in the wings and, with experience, can be seen to be much larger.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Existing records in Hertfordshire have come from gravel pits, rivers and ditches with plenty of emergent vegetation, almost always sites where a good variety of other species have been recorded. If present at a site, males will usually be obvious, patrolling short sections of the bank and frequently stopping to hover. Ovipositing females will tend to be less obvious, but records of egg laying are particularly welcome for this species – especially if the plant being oviposited into can be identified.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta

Hertfordshire status:

This is probably by far the most abundant hawker species in the county and can potentially be seen in large numbers anywhere in Hertfordshire at the peak of their flight season.

Flight period:

Mid-July until late October, but has the potential to be flying well into November.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A relatively small hawker with mature males showing a blue-spotted abdomen and obvious yellow and black stripes on the side of the thorax. Females, and immature males, lack the bright colours but still have an obvious dark stripe across the side of the thorax. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Confusion is most likely with Southern Hawker, the only other hawker species that is widespread in the county and flying at the same time. Females may be confused with other hawker species but the pattern on the side of the thorax should be diagnostic.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Migrant Hawkers will breed in practically any freshwater habitats and are easily seen both when at water and when feeding over meadows, along hedgerows and in woodland clearings. It is not unusual to find large numbers together, especially when feeding.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator

Hertfordshire status:

A widespread species found at sites across the whole of Hertfordshire.

Flight period:

From late-May until August, occasionally later (photographs or descriptions may be requested for verification of early or late records).

Identification and potential confusion species:

The largest dragonfly in Hertfordshire. Males have a plain green thorax and a largely blue abdomen with black stripes along it’s length. Females have a plain green thorax and are usually green on the abdomen but may be blue or brownish. Widespread species that confusion may occur with: Confusion is most likely with Southern Hawker which has a largely green thorax and a lot of blue/green on the abdomen, and is also possible with other hawker species and Lesser Emperor. Look carefully at the patterns.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

May be found in any freshwater habitats, seemingly preferring those that have areas of open water, with males patrolling at least a metre above the water, but will breed in some fairly small garden ponds and also sometimes habitat covered with floating/emergent vegetation. Can also be found feeding over meadows and along woodland edge.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Lesser Emperor  Anax parthenope

Hertfordshire status:

First recorded in Hertfordshire in July 2006, this species might now be maintaining a small breeding population at Hilfield Park Reservoir but this is yet to be proven. Records elsewhere in the county remain rare, but are becoming increasingly frequent. Due to the scarcity of the species in the county, and the potential for confusion with Emperor Dragonfly, photographs or detailed descriptions will usually be required for verification.

Flight period:

Typically from mid-June until early September.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A fairly large dragonfly that is typically relatively dull in colour with a brown thorax and abdomen and green eyes. Males have a bright blue ‘saddle’ at the base of the abdomen.  Care needs to be taken to rule out Emperor Dragonflies, especially females, which may become duller with age and can sometimes show limited blue at the base of the abdomen. From late July some hawker species, particularly Migrant Hawker might potentially be mistaken for Lesser Emperor.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

This is a species that is becoming increasingly regular in the UK and which may be found at any freshwater habitat, particularly those with extensive emergent vegetation.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

 

Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense

Hertfordshire status:

At the time of the 2000-2006 survey Hairy Dragonflies had a relatively restricted distribution in the county, predominantly being found in the south-east part of the county around the Lee Valley Regional Park. In recent years there have been a few records from new sites so there seems to have been some expansion. As an early flying and fairly unobtrusive species they may be overlooked.

Flight period:

Adults may be on the wing as early as late April with the flight period peaking around mid-May. It is rare for them to be flying after the end of June.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A relatively small blue/green spotted hawker with obvious pale antehumeral stripes on top of the thorax. Male tends to stay low to the water and ‘patrol’ in and out of the vegetation at the water’s edge. Few other ‘hawker type’ dragonflies are flying during the spring, so the most likely confusion species is Southern Hawker which can overlap the later part of the Hairy Dragonflies flight period. Southern Hawkers tend to be larger, brighter, and behave differently.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

This is a species with a preference for clean water bodies with extensive emergent vegetation at the edges. Look for them in May and early June when males will be actively patrolling the emergent vegetation at the edge of streams, canals and lakes/gravel pits.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Downy Emerald  Cordulia aenea

Hertfordshire status:

The current status of Downy Emerald in Hertfordshire is uncertain. They have been a handful of records in recent years which may refer only to individuals wandering from elsewhere, but there is a slight possibility that they may be breeding in low numbers at Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits, or somewhere nearby. Photographs or descriptions will may be required for confirmation of records.

Flight period:

Mid-May to July, with some potentially continuing to fly into August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A fairly small dragonfly which is mostly metallic green all over when recently emerged but which can become increasing ‘bronze’ as they age. Males will hover at the edge of lakes and ponds, often those with some shaded margins, and have a characteristic way of holding their abdomens angled 30° upwards while in flight. There are no other species that have been recorded in the county that are likely to be confused with Downy Emerald if seen well, but it is possible that Brilliant Emerald might reach the county in the future.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

In south-east England the typical habitat for the species is small to moderate sized ponds that are at least partially surrounded by deciduous woodland. The species is found at very few sites in counties around Hertfordshire.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Broad-bodied Chaser  Libellula depressa

Hertfordshire status:

A widespread breeding species that is often one of the first to colonise garden ponds.

Flight period:

Mainly mid-May to early August.

Identification and potential confusion species:

The broad abdomen is

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Scarce Chaser  Libellula fulva

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Four-spotted Chaser  Libellula quadrimaculata

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Black-tailed Skimmer  Orthetrum cancellatum

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Red-veined Darter  Sympetrum fonscolombii

 

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Ruddy Darter  Sympetrum sanguineum

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Common Darter  Sympetrum striolatum

Hertfordshire status:

 

Flight period:

 

Identification and potential confusion species:

 

Typical habitat and finding tips:

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

VAGRANT SPECIES

The species covered here have been recorded at least once in Hertfordshire but they are considered very unlikely to currently have any presence in the county other than as occasional wanderers from outside of the county.

Photographs or detailed descriptions will be required for verification  of records of all the species listed below (and for any species that have not previously been recorded in Hertfordshire).

 

Southern Emerald Damselfly  Lestes barbarus

Hertfordshire status:

One record, a female found in the observer’s St Albans garden on 21st July 2021

Flight period:

May be flying between mid-June and September in the UK.

Identification and potential confusion species:

A large ‘emerald damselfly’ which, like other emerald damselflies, habitually perches with the wings half spread. The metallic green is slightly more restricted than on other emerald damselfly species, and the pterostigmas on the wings are noticeably bicoloured.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Like other emerald damselflies, the breeding habitat will tend to be ponds that have a tendency to dry up during the summer, and may be found in areas of rushes or long grass, even in dry areas.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Variable Damselfly  Coenagrion pulchellum

Hertfordshire status:

There have been three verified records, in 1969, 1996 and 2020.

Flight period:

Mainly from May to August in England

Identification and potential confusion species:

Very similar to Azure Damselfly which is very widespread and common in Hertfordshire. With experience, males can be identified by looking at features such as the antehumeral stripes and the pattern on the dorsal side of the second abdomen segment, but care needs to be taken because some Azure Damselflies can show patterns similar to Variable Damselflies. Both males and females can be confirmed by looking at the shape of the pronotum at the front end of the thorax, a feature that can be seen in good photos taken from above.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

This is a species that favours ditches and ponds with clean water and extensive emergent vegetation. They are often found around grazing marshes and similar areas in south-east England. Check all Azure/Common Blue Damselflies carefully for a chance to find a Variable Damselfly – but don’t expect to get lucky in Hertfordshire!

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly  Ischnura pumilio

Hertfordshire status:

There is a single historic record from ‘North of Hertford’ on 4th August 1948.

Flight period:

May to August in England.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Immature females in the orange ‘aurantiaca’ form are distinctive, but in any other form close observation is required to separate this species from Blue-tailed Damselfly. Males have the blue ‘tail’ mark slit across the eight and ninth abdomen segment instead of the whole of the eight abdomen segment. Mature females are very nondescript.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

This is a species that breeds in small trickles and seepages, such as those found in boggy areas, rather than the streams, ponds and lakes that other species breed in. It is unlikely to become established in Hertfordshire, but there has previously been a population in Bedfordshire that was found to be breeding in water that had collected in tyre tracks in a quarry.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Common Hawker  Aeshna juncea

Hertfordshire status:

A handful of historic records with the most recent record that is considered to have sufficient detail to be considered verified coming from Bramsfield Forest on 7th September 1971. The majority of other records were considered to have insufficient detail when assessed in 1981, but it is possible that Common Hawkers once bred at some sites in the county.

Flight period:

Mainly late June to September in the UK.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Common Hawkers could potentially be confused with any of the other spotted Aeshna species, particularly with Migrant Hawker. If you suspect that you have found a Common Hawker in Hertfordshire, try and get photos that clearly shown the top of the thorax and the first abdomen segments.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

In south-east England, Common Hawkers tend to be restricted mainly to heathland sites, although they can also be found in other habitats such as pools in sand dunes.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Vagrant Emperor  Anax ephippiger

Hertfordshire status:

One record, from Hilfield Park Reservoir on 6th October 2013

Flight period:

An African species that periodically reaches Europe. Most records tend to be in the spring or autumn, but they can reach the UK at any time of year, including mid-winter if there are suitable winds.

Identification and potential confusion species:

The most similar species likely to be seen in Hertfordshire is Lesser Emperor. Vagrant Emperor tends to be browner overall, with brown rather than green upper sides to the eyes and a smaller blue ‘saddle’ on males.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Although records in the UK most commonly come from sites near the coasts, this species could potentially turn up anywhere. Influxes usually come during prolonged spells of southerly winds coming up from Africa, and any future records in Hertfordshire are likely to be associated with records elsewhere in the UK at around the same time.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

 

Keeled Skimmer  Orthetrum coerulescens

Hertfordshire status:

There are two verified records, from 2003 and 2018.

Flight period:

Mainly June to August in the UK.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Similar to Black-tailed Skimmer but slimmer. Males lack the black ‘tail’; both sexes have pale antehumeral stripes on top of the thorax. Females and immature males could potentially be confused with female/immature darters when immature.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Mainly found on heathland sites in south-east England, breeding in bog pools and seepages. Most likely to be found on heathland type sites if the species reaches Hertfordshire, but a population has recently been found breeding in a quarry in Bedfordshire.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Black Darter  Sympetrum danae

Hertfordshire status:

An occasional visitor that has seemingly become much rarer in recent years.

Single males at Symonshyde Great Wood on 31st August 2009 and 16th September 2021 are the only records since 2006.

Flight period:

Late June to October in southern England.

Identification and potential confusion species:

Mature males should be distinctive as no other small British dragonfly species will usually be largely black. Females and immature males can easily be confused with female/immature Ruddy Darters or Common Darters, and are best distinguished by looking for the black triangle marking on top of the thorax.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Mostly found breeding on heathland in south-east England, but they occur in a wider variety of freshwater habitats in continental Europe. Remnant heathland in Hertfordshire probably gives the best chance of finding the species, but they could potentially turn up elsewhere, especially if there are influxes of other darter species from the continent.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Yellow-Winged Darter  Sympetrum flaveolum

Hertfordshire status:

A rare visitor, with almost all records during a large influx into the UK in 1995.

Flight period:

Most likely to reach the UK between late July and early September.

Identification and potential confusion species:

The yellow patches in the wings will typically be the first clue, but should not be the only feature used for identification. There is a potential for confusion with any other darter species, particularly Ruddy Darter and Red-veined Darter which can both sometimes show fairly extensive yellow in the wings – check the facial pattern, leg colour and abdomen pattern.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Could potentially be found in any freshwater habitat, but there have been virtually no records in the UK in recent years and the species has declined in western Europe.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***

 

Vagrant Darter  Sympetrum vulgatum

Hertfordshire status:

Two records in 1995 during a large influx of Yellow-winged Darters.

Flight period:

Most likely to reach the UK between late July and early September.

Identification and potential confusion species:

There is a potential for confusion with any other darter species, particularly Common Darter, but potentially also Ruddy Darter. Suspected Vagrant Darter can be confirmed by looking at the pattern on the face and thorax, abdomen colour and shape, and the vulvar scale on females.

Typical habitat and finding tips:

Could potentially be found in any freshwater habitat, but there have been virtually no records in the UK in recent years and the species has declined in western Europe.

 

***Male***

 

***Female***