Rare Damselfly discovered on The Lizard

Friday 20th July 2018

A species of damselfly thought to have never previously occurred in Cornwall has been discovered at a site near St Keverne on The Lizard peninsula. This has been verified by staff at Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s wildlife recording centre ERCCIS.

John Foster was the first to find Small Red-eyed Damselflies (Erythromma viridulum) at a series of duck ponds at Roskilly’s Tregellast Barton Farm, St Keverne. Up until now, no records of this species have ever been confirmed in Cornwall, as this species has a south-easterly distribution in the UK. Realising the importance of this sighting, he got in touch with several local recorders including the county recorder for birds, David Parker.

Dave immediately went to take a look for himself and, after a bit of searching, spotted several of the damselflies at two of the ponds. He went online to submit his sightings on Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s recording site www.orks.org.uk and ERCCIS staff were able to verify the record from his photographs, making this the first record for Cornwall.

The dragonfly county recorder for West Cornwall, Adrian Eggett says,

“Wonderful news to hear of a first ever confirmed sighting of the Small Red-eyed Damselfly in Cornwall, a really exciting discovery. Like all migrant species, they’ve probably been assisted in their appearance in Cornwall by air currents from the South-east of England where they have colonised many areas of that part of the UK. Being such a small damselfly, they can be extremely difficult to see and mistaken for the slightly larger Red- eyed Damselfly, although this species too is unknown in Cornwall. It would be great if anymore sightings could be confirmed elsewhere in Cornwall, and I would urge people to keep a lookout for this magnificent damselfly and if possible provide photographic evidence.”

Dave Parker agrees,

“I suspect that as there are at least six individuals present, that they have colonised from Devon and that there are other populations in between as yet undiscovered. Even though I had been told that they were present and I was actively looking for them, it was surprisingly difficult to find any at first. It would have been all too easy to overlook them with a casual check. Hopefully now they are firmly on the radar other pockets will be found.”

The dragonfly county recorder for East Cornwall, Dave Cooper says,

“The Small Red Eye Damselfly is not native to Cornwall therefore this constitutes a valuable new record find for the county. The Small Red Eye’s flight period is between mid-June into September. They are generally found resting on floating pond vegetation or algae which make Roskillys farm ponds the perfect habitat. As yet no females have been recorded, they don't have the red eyes, although since David's record I'm sure there will be many eyes focused on these ponds in the weeks to come and maybe spot a breeding pair or more? It would be terrific news to be able to include this species as a permanent resident to Cornwall.”

Dragonfly recorders around the county will now be scrutinising ponds in search of this elusive species. Small Red-eyed Damselflies prefer nutrient-rich ponds full of floating and submerged vegetation or mats of algae.

Earlier this year, ERCCIS organised a free Dragonfly Weekend funded by the Alexanda Fund, in which recorders were invited to learn how to identify different species of Dragonfly and Damselfly in different stages.

ERCCIS and Cornwall Wildlife Trust want to hear about your wildlife sightings, anything from damselflies to humpback whales. You can share your sightings through the Online Recording Kernow and Scilly website www.ORKS.org.uk, on your smartphone via the new mobile ORKS App, which can be downloaded on Google Play or iTunes, or via email to WIS@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk.

For more information, and find out how to join theTrust go to www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk and help support the Trust’s work in protecting Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places.