Alderney Dragonfly List
The first records of Alderney Dragonflies were made by Guernsey naturalist W.A. Luff in the late 19th Century and published in several annual issues of La Société Guernesiaise Transactions from 1899-1908. The 25 specimens collected during this period by Luff and other Guernsey and UK naturalists, in a total of six separate species, still exist in the collections in the Guernsey Museum. Suitable habitats are very limited in Alderney. Most of these species were collected at Mannez pond, but other important breeding sites are La Mare du Roe (Longis pond), Corblets quarry and a number of domestic fish ponds. Later records of other naturalists have been published in several editions of Transactions since that time. The most recent was "Dragonflies in Alderney" in the 1989 edition, page 370 by Jersey naturalist, Roger Long. This added three new species to the earlier lists, summarised by Dr. Jean Belle in her article, "The Dragonfly fauna of the Sarnian Islands" in the 1979 Transactions pages 465-481, which listed seven species, repeated in her small booklet, "The Dragonflies of Alderney", published by the Alderney Society in 1980, with an additional single species added in 1981.
Luff's six species in lists published from 1900-1909 were;
The Blue-tailed Damselfly, Ischnura elegans; the Southern Emerald Damselfly, Lestes barbarus; the Migrant Hawker, Aeschna mixta; the Four-spotted Chaser, Libellula quadrimaculata; the Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolum; and the Red-veined Darter, Sympetrum fonscolombei.
The Common Darter, Sympetrum striolatum was added to this list by Dr. Bell, who collected this and Ischnura elegans in 1979 and the Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator was found by Marie Mendham in July 1981, all at Mannez quarry pond.
Rich and Margaret Austin from Guernsey identified the Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum in Mannez Quarry in September 1981, whilst the Black-tailed Skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum was found in Corblets Quarry by Roger and Margaret Long in July 1987.
In August 2000, local resident Jean Possnicker found a male Banded Demoiselle, Calopteryx splendens near her garden pond, the identity was confirmed by Roger Long and a pair of what appeared to be the same species was seen a day or two later by the author, flying around his swimming pool for about half an hour in the evening.
Most of these have been recorded on a number of occasions since.
The current situation is summed up below by David Wedd, an experienced entomologist who came to live in Alderney about 2½ years ago.
The total of 15 species of dragonfly recorded in Alderney is remarkable for such a small and isolated area. Reading through the literature on this subject I have been concerned at the disastrous effect of the lowered water-table on Longis Common. In her short booklet, The Dragonflies of Alderney (1980) Dr Jean Belle stressed this several times. The loss of breeding birds from Longis Pond has rightly attracted plenty of attention, whereas the disappearance of a unique damselfly, as well as several other rare species, seems to have passed almost unnoticed.
1. BANDED DEMOISELLE Calopteryx splendens
This attractive species does not breed in Alderney. I have recorded it three times, twice in the Houmet Herbe area and once in the garden of the Old Barn. Others have also seen it (see above), but the slow rivers the species favours do not exist here.
2. SOUTHERN EMERALD DAMSELFLY Lestes barbarus
In the early 20th Century this species occurred in Alderney and nowhere else, in UK or Ireland. Walker and Luff found it commonly at Longis Pond in 1900-1, and other entomologists recorded it in later years, but Belle (1980) writes that it effectively disappeared with the lowering of the water table on Longis Common.
3. COMMON BLUE DAMSELFLY Enallagma cyathigerum
Although it has been recorded several times, this damselfly is not yet common in Alderney. If Mannez can continue to retain water, I am sure it will quickly become abundant, for that pond seems ideal for it, whereas the one at Platte Saline, where it has also been recorded, is too small and cramped for this species.
4. BLUE-TAILED DAMSELFLY Ischnura elegans
This little damselfly is common all over Alderney, breeding in reservoirs, ponds and all manner of garden pools. At Platte Saline pond, in particular, it swarms during the summer.
5. MIGRANT HAWKER Aeshna mixta
Until recently, this dragonfly was a rare late-summer visitor to UK and the Channel Islands, although Gaudion recorded a specimen in Alderney as early as 1900. Now it occurs regularly, sometimes in big numbers. In August 2006 many were observed flying together with swallows in the field behind Essex Farm, showing off the dragonflies' extreme manoeuvrability.
6. SOUTHERN HAWKER Aeshna cyanea
This large, beautiful 'hawker' can most frequently be seen patrolling the edge of Mannez and Water Lane ponds, sometimes soaring high or disappearing into the trees. It is always alone. It is of regular occurrence in Alderney, but not common.
7. BROWN HAWKER Aeshna grandis
This very large dragonfly has been recorded several times, usually far from water. Its distinctive yellow-tinged wings make it unmistakable. It does not appear to have bred here yet and such a powerful insect would have no trouble crossing the Race from France, where it is common.
8. EMPEROR DRAGONFLY Anax imperator
Marie Mendham recorded the first specimen of this striking dragonfly in Alderney as recently as 1981, but it is now a common and familiar insect around the island, breeding in reservoirs and pools but also in small garden ponds. The larvae are at present particularly abundant in Water Lane pond. The adults are best observed from the bird hide at Mannez, where the males (blue) and females (green) patrol the open water. (Photo BB)
9. FOUR-SPOTTED CHASER Libellula quadrimaculata
In 1908 many thousands of this famous migrant appeared in Alderney, and there have been several 'quadrimaculata years' since, but there are few recent records. Two of the three I have seen here have been in the eastern part of the island, basking on footpaths, and the other was in Mannez Quarry, patrolling an area of gorse. It is a very rapid flyer, and the dark wing-markings make it unmistakeable.
10. BROAD-BODIED CHASER Libellula depressa
This squat, powerful dragonfly has only been recorded once in Alderney (Chateau a l'Etoc, July 2006,) and was probably an immigrant from France. With its very wide abdomen, it is an easily-identified species, and I expect more to be seen here.
11. BLACK-TAILED SKIMMER Orthetrum cancellatum
This very active dragonfly is a recent Alderney colonist, and in the summers of 2006-7 it was recorded from many parts of the island. The Longis and Mannez bird hides are good places to observe the males (blue) and females (yellow) flying low over the water, sometimes in tandem, but this species is also likely to appear at quite small garden ponds, or even out on open heathland. (Photo BB)
.12. COMMON DARTER Sympetrum striolatum
This small dragonfly is indeed extremely common in Alderney, and can be seen at any time from June almost to the end of the year. It breeds in numbers in all the large ponds, but also in tiny pools that are liable to dry up, such as in Berry's Quarry, and the adult insects have been seen sunbathing on benches, walls and outdoor café tables. . (Photo BB)
13. RUDDY DARTER Sympetrum sanguineum
The only time this rare migrant dragonfly has occurred in Alderney was during the hot summer of 2006, when several were seen dashing to and fro over and around Mannez pond. Despite signs that at least one female was egg-laying, no adults were seen in 2007.
14. YELLOW-WINGED DARTER Sympetrum flaveolum
Another rare darter, this species was recorded in large numbers by Luff and Walker in the early 20th Century, and like L barbarus it disappeared with the lowering of the water table on Longis Common. It has not been seen here since.
15. RED-VEINED DARTER Sympetrum fonscolombii
This was the first dragonfly to be recorded in Alderney (E.D.Marquand, July 1899), but was not seen again until 2006, when more than a dozen were seen over and around Mannez Pond for much of the summer. As the pool dried out in the autumn, we feared our colony of this very rare migrant species would disappear but in the summer of 2007 several more were seen, and there was evidence of egg laying. In UK, migrating Red-veined Darters sometimes breed, but cold winters prevent their being more than transitory residents. We hope that our climate in Alderney will enable them to stay. .(( (Photo DW 10.3.08)