The first full survey mapping the dragonflies and damselflies in Hertfordshire was carried out in the six years from 2000 to 2005, organised by Alan Reynolds, Tom Gladwin and Christine Shepperson through the Hertfordshire Natural History Society. During the survey period 23 species were recorded in the county, of which 19 were considered to be regularly breeding. An additional eight species were noted as having been reliably recorded in the county at other times bringing the county total to 31.

Since 2005, six additional species have been seen in the county for the first time, and it is likely that at least 25 species are now breeding regularly in Hertfordshire.  32 species were recorded in just the four years between 2018 and 2021.

Southern Emerald Damselfly found (new to Herts) in a St Albans garden, 2021 © Rupert Evershed

It was intended to start a new six year atlas survey in 2020, exactly 20 years after the first, but this was delayed because of Covid-19 and the survey will now take place from 2022 to 2027. Read more about the aims of the survey.

The intention will be to collect as many records of dragonflies and damselflies in Hertfordshire as possible during the survey period, with a minimum of at least two, but preferably three, visits made to each of the tetrads (2x2 km squares) that include parts of the county during suitable conditions.

A project of this type relies on having a sufficient number of volunteer recorders to collect records from all parts of the county – and pretty much anyone can contribute in some way if they want to.

The most basic biological record requires just four things:

  • Species
  • Location
  • Date
  • Recorder’s name.

Dragonfly and damselfly records can be submitted via this website, where an interactive map makes it easy to pinpoint a grid reference for each sighting. Anyone can make a potentially valuable contribution to the survey, even if they don’t have time to regularly visit sites all over the country and aren’t experts who can identify dragonflies from a brief fly-past. For example, regular visits to just a single site can help determine when each species is most likely to be flying if full lists of every species recorded is submitted for each visit and, if you have permission to visit private property you might be the only person who is in a position to send in records from that site.

Even private gardens might produce important records, especially gardens with ponds. There might be no other breeding habitat in some tetrads that are largely in built up areas, and the most recent addition to the Hertfordshire list was a Southern Emerald Damselfly, Lestes barbarus, that was found in a St Albans garden in July 2021.

Although the identification of dragonfly and damselfly species can seem confusing to people without much experience, UK species can very often be identified even from relatively poor photographs, so even people who don’t know the species may be able to contribute records if they can get some sort of photo that can be used to verify the species.

Further information about the survey and the species that have previously been found in Hertfordshire, are being added to the HNHS website. As each dragonfly season progresses, I hope to provide as much opportunity as possible for anyone who wants to learn to identify, and survey, dragonflies and damselflies to gain experience.

Read more about the aims of the survey.

Roy Woodward (Hertfordshire Dragonfly Recorder).