Bute’s dragonflies – a checklist

Southern Hawker, St Blanes, 3rd August 2013 © Mark Anderson

Southern Hawker, St Blanes, 3rd August 2013 © Mark Anderson

 

Although dragonflies are the largest, most conspicuous, flying insects likely to be encountered on Bute, they have not been well studied on the island. For most historical information we rely on the content of a paper by Dr Jack Gibson that appeared in the Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society (Gibson 2000), but there is little recorded information for earlier than the latter part of the twentieth century. More recently Norrie Mulholland collected many records.

Twenty-two species breed annually in Scotland, but only nine species have been firmly recorded on Bute. The species recorded from Bute are:-

          Emerald Damselfly
          Large Red Damselfly
          Common Blue Damselfly
          Blue-tailed Damselfly
          Common Hawker
          Southern Hawker
          Golden-ringed Dragonfly
          Four-spotted Chaser
          Common Darter

Gibson assessed the commonest two species to be Large Red Damselfly and Golden-ringed Dragonfly, with Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Hawker and Common Darter also well known. He reported that Emerald Damselfly and Four-spotted Chaser had been seen less frequently. A few of these species have shown changes to their status in recent years, for instance Common Blue Damselfly is probably now the most frequently seen damselfly. Since 2000, Southern Hawker has been added to the list of species recorded on Bute, and appears to be establishing itself on the island.

Other species occurring near to Bute, which have still to be recorded on the island, include Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo, Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella, Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea, Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens and Black Darter Sympetrum danae. These species are all well worth looking for on Bute.

Further information about dragonflies can be obtained from The British Dragonfly Society (BDS), who collate records and promote dragonfly conservation. The BDS website can be found at www.british-dragonflies.org.uk.

 

Species Systematic List

Order: Odonata (includes dragonflies and damselflies)

Suborder: Zygoptera (damselflies)

Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa

Gibson (2000) said that it was not common, but present in the south of island, particularly at Loch na Leighe. More recently Norrie Mulholland saw one at Glen Callum Bay (NS115526) on 25th August 2005. Ron Forrester found one in a gorse bush alongside Mount Stuart Reservoir on 4th July 2013, at least 10 there on 19th July 2013 and 10 at Bull Loch on 27th July 2013. Ian Hopkins has also recorded the species at Loch Quien. It is recorded annually in small numbers.

Emerald Damselfly, Mount Stuart Reservoir 4.7.13 © Ron Forrester

Emerald Damselfly, Mount Stuart Reservoir 4.7.13 © Ron Forrester

 

Emerald Damselfly, Mount Stuart Reservoir, Bute 19th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

Emerald Damselfly, Mount Stuart Reservoir, Bute 19th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

 

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Gibson (2000) said that it was well distributed and one of the commonest species on Bute. Norrie Mulholland has records from Bull Loch on 19th July 2006 and 4th June 2009 and from Scoulag Moor on 7th and 9th June 2009. Bute Bird Group members saw four at Bull Loch on 6th July 2013. On 19th July 2013 Ron Forrester saw 2 at Mount Stuart Reservoir and 10 along Quien Burn. In 2014 Doug Menzies saw two at Loch Quien on 3rd June and in 2016 he saw one in Rhubodach Forest on 12th May, the earliest Bute record. It is recorded annually on Bute, being the second commonest damselfly.

Large Red Damselflies, 'in tandem', Loch Quien 3rd June 2014 © Doug Menzies

Large Red Damselflies, ‘in tandem’, Loch Quien 3rd June 2014 © Doug Menzies

 

Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum

Gibson (2000) said that it was well distributed and fairly common, a statement with which Norrie Mulholland agreed. Norrie Mulholland has extreme early/late dates of 11th June and 15th August. In 2013 it was by far the commonest dragonfly species on Bute, being widely distributed, with counts including 100+ at Mount Stuart Reservoir on 19th July and 100 at Bull Loch on 27th July. It is regularly the commonest damselfly on Bute.

Common Blue Damselfly, male, Loch Fad 13th June 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

Common Blue Damselfly, male, Loch Fad 13th June 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

 

Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans

Gibson (2000) said that it was ‘fairly well distributed’, often near the sea-shore. Among the sites Norrie Mulholland has recorded the species are Mount Stuart and Scoulag Moor. There were 6 along Quien Burn on 19th July 2013 (Ron Forrester). Two were at the Quien Burn on 1st June 2016 (Doug Menzies), the earliest recorded date for the species on Bute. It continues to be fairly common on Bute.

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Mount Stuart 11th June 2009 © Norrie Mulholland

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Mount Stuart 11th June 2009 © Norrie Mulholland

 

Suborder: Anisoptera (dragonflies)

Common Hawker Aeshna juncea

Gibson (2000) said that it was fairly widely distributed and probably fairly common. Norrie Mulholland has recorded it at Kirk Dam on 3rd October 2008, on Scoulag Moor on 8th September 2004 and 16th September 2006 and at Bruchag shore on 30th September 2012. Another was recorded by Ron Forrester in Rhubodach Forest on 27th July 2013.

However, there are fewer recent records of Common Hawker on Bute than there are for Southern Hawker.

Common Hawker, male, Scoulag Moor 16th September 2006 © Norrie Mulholland

Common Hawker, male, Scoulag Moor 16th September 2006 © Norrie Mulholland

 

Common Hawker, male, Rhubodach Forest, Bute 27th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

Common Hawker, male, Rhubodach Forest, Bute 27th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

 

Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea

Ron Forrester photographed a Southern Hawker alongside the garden pond at The Gables (now East Bank), Eastlands Road, Rothesay on 24th June 2008. However, it was in 2013 when looking through old photographs that he realised the correct identification and showed them to Pat Batty, the British Dragonfly Society’s Scottish recorder. Pat confirmed the identification, saying that the species likes garden ponds.

Paul Power had seen Southern Hawkers at Ardencraig House annually since about 2010, but it was not until he viewed this website in October 2014, that he realised the significance of his observations. Although he had not recorded dates of his earlier observations, he saw Southern Hawkers there on 3rd September 2013 and on 4th, 19th and 29th September and 14th October 2014. Paul also photographed the species in both 2013 and 2014, which confirm his identification.

A visiting naturalist, Mark Anderson, from Kincardine, saw two, and photographed one, in the ‘cauldron’ at St Blane’s Church on 3rd August 2013. Ron Forrester saw another at the garden pond at East Bank, Eastlands Road, Rothesay on 25th September 2013 and 4th October 2013. Again in 2014 Southern Hawker was seen by Ron Forrester at his garden pond in Eastlands Road. This time, on 19th August, a female was watched egg laying on the underside of vegetation less than 10 cm above the water level. In July 2014 , two exuvia, almost certainly belonging to this species were found at the pond, and as larvae typically take two years to develop, this would indicate that breeding had taken place at the pond in 2012 or 2013. On 17th August 2015 a recently emerged female teneral, with a damaged wing, was observed at the pond and a male was also seen there on 29th September 2015. In 2016 another ‘hawker’ exuvia was seen at this pond on 1st August.

On 27th July 2016 one was seen at Quien Burn (Ron Forrester).

Southern Hawker has now been seen at a variety of localities between St Blane’s Church in the south and Rothesay, being recorded on dates ranging from 24th June until 14th October.

During the last twenty years, Southern Hawker has dramatically expanded its range in Scotland, primarily into the coastal lowlands of Argyll and Inverness region, although, perhaps surprisingly, remains absent from most of the rest of the country. A small population of Southern Hawker has now become established on Bute and the species should be looked for, particularly at small ponds. Records indicate that it is most likely to be found on Bute from July to early October.

Southern Hawker, St Blane's Church, 3rd August 2013 © Mark Anderson

                  Southern Hawker, St Blane’s Church, 3rd August 2013 © Mark Anderson

 

Southern Hawker, male, East Bank, Eastlands Road, Rothesay 29.9.15 © Ron Forrester

Southern Hawker, male, East Bank, Eastlands Road, Rothesay 29.9.15 © Ron Forrester

 

Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii

Gibson (2000) described Golden-ringed Dragonfly as being widely distributed and ‘probably one of the commonest dragonfly species on Bute’. It remains the commonest of the true dragonfly species on Bute. Norrie Mulholland’s records include at Kerrycroy on 24th August 2008 and on Scoulag Moor on 9th July 2008 and 7th August 2012. Another was photographed at Drumreoch Circuit on 19th June 2010 (Doug Menzies), Bute Bird Group members saw at least four near Bull Loch on 6th July 2013 and Ron Forrester saw one was near Mount Stuart reservoir on 19th July 2013 and 6 in Rhubodach Forest on 27th July. Lindy Sharpe recorded seeing several newly ‘hatched’ tenerals at her garden pond in Wellpark Road, Craigmore during mid-August 2015. Angus Hannah reports that he often sees the species in Glen More and Dawn Collis has seen it fairly regularly at Ascog.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly, near Bull Loch 6th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

Golden-ringed Dragonfly, near Bull Loch 6th July 2013 © Ron Forrester

 

Four-spotted Chaser    Libellula quadrimaculata

Gibson (2000) inferred that it was not common and that all known records were from the south of the island e.g. Loch Quien and Loch na Leighe. Norrie Mulholland photographed one near Dhu Loch on 16th May 2008. However, those participants in a Bute Bird Group outing saw two at Bull Loch on 6th July 2013. One was at Carrick Point, below Mecknoch Farm on 6th June 2014 (Ron Forrester).

Four-spotted Chaser, near Dhu Loch, 16th May 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

Four-spotted Chaser, near Dhu Loch, 16th May 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

 

Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum

Gibson (2000) inferred that it was not uncommon and fairly widely distributed e.g. Loch na Leighe, Loch Quien, Loch Fad, edges of woodland and heath moorland as far north as Rhubodach. Norrie Mulholland has many more recent records from such localities as Bruchag, Kilchattan Bay, Loch Fad, Scoulag Moor and Loch Ascog, mostly in August, but with dates ranging from 15th July to 16th September. In 2013 Ron Forrester saw 5 along Quien Burn on 19th July, 1 at Mount Stuart Reservoir on 24th July, and singles in Rhubodach Forest and at Bull Loch both on 27th July,and Mark Anderson saw two pairs at St Blane’s on 3rd August. Dawn Collis has also recorded the species on several occasions at Ascog.

Following DNA analysis, the taxon nigrescens, previously considered a separate species, Highland Darter, is now treated as a smaller, darker subspecies of Common Darter. However, the island is within the area where the two taxa striolatum and nigrescens may meet. A few Common Darters on Bute have shown characteristics of nigrescens, however Pat Batty, the British Dragonfly Society’s Scottish recorder has said that markings can be very variable and that DNA evidence indicates a significant overlap, making visual identification unreliable. We are currently left with uncertainty as to which subspecies occurs on Bute, or indeed whether both may be present.

Common Darter, male, Bruchag 22nd August 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

Common Darter, male, Bruchag 22nd August 2008 © Norrie Mulholland

 

Flight periods for Bute Dragonflies*

May June July Aug Sep Oct
Emerald Damselfly       X XXXX XXXX XXX
Large Red Damselfly XXXX XXXX XXXX XX
Common Blue Damselfly       X XXXX XXXX XXXX X
Blue-tailed Damselfly     XX XXXX XXXX XXXX X
Common Hawker     XX XXXX XXXX XXXX X
Golden-ringed Dragonfly XXXX XXXX XXXX XXX
Four-spotted Chaser     XX XXXX XXXX XX
Common Darter       X XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX

* There is insufficient Bute data available, therefore data for this table taken from Dudley et al. 2007

 

We hope to update this website at regular intervals, so please report all unusual or interesting dragonfly sightings to ron.butemuseum@gmail.com . Observations will be acknowledged. Also we would be pleased to receive any photographs taken on Bute of any dragonflies, which improve upon those currently shown.

 

References

Brooks, S. 1997. Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing, Gillingham, Dorset.

Cham, S., Nelson, B., Parr, A., Prentice, S., Smallshire, D., & Taylor, P. 2014. Atlas of Dragonflies in Britain and Ireland. Field Studies Council, Telford.

Corbet, P. S. & Brooks, S. J. 2008. Dragonflies. New Naturalist Library. HarperCollins Publishers, London.

Dudley, S., Dudley, C. & MacKay, A. 2007. Watching British Dragonflies. Subbuteo Natural History Books, Shrewsbury.

Gibson, J. A. 2000. Collected Notes on the Dragonflies of the Island of Bute. Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society 25: 93-96.

Smallshire, D. & Swash, A. 2010. Britain’s Dragonflies: A field guide to the damselflies and dragonflies of Britian and Ireland. WILDGuides Ltd., Hampshire

4.8.16 (RWF)