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Culture: Good weather for dragons! says the RSPB

dragonfly (3031480)
dragonfly (3031480)

The warm weather is not only good news for us. As David White explains, the insect world on Lakenheath Fen is thriving.

As I write this article at the end of June, we are in the middle of a very dry and very hot spell here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. This warm and dry weather means good news for the local insect population. This is especially the case for dragonflies and damselflies and a species of dragonfly has been seen on the reserve for the first time recently.

On Friday, June 22, local birdwatcher Steve found a Norfolk hawker dragonfly near the reserve’s New Fen viewpoint. As its name suggests, this species it a bit of a local speciality and, until recently, it has been restricted to the Norfolk Broads. It has now spread to a couple of other sites in East Anglia and it has even been seen in Bedfordshire.

It is a very distinctive dragonfly and it is one of our largest resident species. Its body is mainly brown and its scientific name of Aeshna isoceles gives you a clue as to what shape can be found under its wings (an isosceles triangle!). Its most distinctive feature though is the fact that it has bright green eyes. This is usually very obvious, even from a distance.

Although only one individual has been seen so far, hopefully it will find a mate and a female will lay some eggs in the reserve pools. Once the eggs have hatched, the nymphs will live underwater for around two years before emerging as adults. We will therefore have to keep our eyes out for these green-eyed insects in a couple of years’ time!

As well as the Norfolk hawker, there are plenty of other species to see on the reserve at the moment. Perhaps the most conspicuous and numerous are the common darters and ruddy darters, which are often seen perched up on the vegetation looking for prey. Although these species look rather similar, the ruddy darters are a lot brighter red and have a waisted abdomen. The common darter has a straight abdomen and I have included an image of this species with this article, so you have an impression what one looks like.

Although dragonflies can be seen anywhere on the reserve, they are especially visible around the poplar woods. We also have a dedicated dragonfly platform which is a short walk from New Fen viewpoint on the reserve. This is around half a mile from the visitor centre and is a short boardwalk that leads out to the edge of the reedbed.

If you are interested in coming to visit the reserve, it is open at all times. The visitor centre and toilets are open daily 9am-5pm. RSPB members visit for free. There is an entrance charge for non-members: Adults £3, students £2, children £1.50 (first child free per family group) Please ring 01842 863400 or email lakenheath@rspb.org.uk.

We hope to see you soon!

David White

Visitor experience officer

RSPB Lakenheath Fen

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