Herefordshire Amphibian & Reptile Team

Herefordshire pond fauna

The county contains a broad range of micro-environmental conditions for aquatic invertebrates because of the range of soil conditions across the county which provide subtle but important changes in pH. In addition there are a wide variety of smaller water bodies with well developed aquatic plant communities which are indicative of rich and diverse invertebrate assemblages.

Migrant Hawker dragonfly
Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Chris Harris)

Herefordshire supports 25 of the 40 or so species of dragonfly recorded in the UK. There are 5 species which are very rare and 10 which are very common within the county. Some species lives by running water and other besides ponds. Features of good dragonfly habitat include unpolluted water, sun, shelter, emergent and floating vegetation and muddy edges. The following species account was prepared by Mike Williams of the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group following a talk by Peter Garner, principle dragonfly recorder for the county.

 

Dragonfly Species found in Herefordshire

Click to see larger imageBroad-Bodied Chaser: Flies from mid-May onwards. Very common in all types of ponds, even very small ones. Male gunmetal blue, female yellow/bronze.

Click to see larger imageFour-Spotted Chaser: Can be confused with female Broad-Bodied Chaser but it is smaller. Four spots on wings. Only seen on 12 ponds in Herefordshire and only known to breed on 3.

Click to see larger imageClub-Tailed Dragonfly: Breeds by large rivers, never in ponds. Only found on about 12 rivers in the UK, the Wye, Severn and Avon are its stronghold. It has also been recorded on the Lower Teme and the River Lugg near Hereford. It is common on the Wye south of Hereford. Flies May - June. Sits on vegetation and easy to see when vegetation is disturbed. After emergence commonly disperses several miles from the river.

Click to see larger imageEmperor Dragonfly: The largest dragonfly in the UK. Common on big garden ponds, it is blue with a black line down its back. Patrols a pond incessantly, flying 1 to 1½ metres above the water. Found in about 60% of all ponds. Climate change has led it to spread its range to include Herefordshire in recent years.

Click to see larger imageBlack-Tailed Skimmer: Flies 5cm above the water. Needs a pond with a bare bank, gravel pits or mud at the edge of the pond. Recent colonist. Male/female coloured similarly to the Broad-Bodied Chaser.

Click to see larger imageGolden-Ringed Dragonfly: Common in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire. Likes stony streams. Only common in Herefordshire in the Olchon Valley, also occasionally seen in Brilley and Cusop, and near the Forest of Dean.

Click to see larger imageSouthern Hawker: Flies from late July to October. Uses ponds as small as a metre across. Patrols less than an Emperor and does not have the black line of the Emperor down its back. Emperors are gone by the end of August. Wanders away from ponds more than the Emperor. Curious of humans, will come up to you and hover, then fly off. It may repeat this behaviour. Clear end blue segments on the tail are the defining feature of the male. It has a perch that it returns to regularly to eat its food.

Click to see larger imageMigrant Hawker: Flies from mid-August onwards. There are about 25 known breeding sites in Herefordshire. Until recently it was only a migrant in the county. Almost a centimetre shorter than the Southern Hawker and more than a centimetre shorter than the Emperor, and with more black on it. The tail is not pure blue.

Common Hawker : Very rare in Herefordshire. Found only on 2 sites. Probably breeding near High Vinnals. Similar in size to the Southern Hawker.

Brown Hawker: Cannot be confused with any other species. Only found in the east of Herefordshire, particularly around Upper Sapey, Mathon and Whitboume. Large and brown, brown wings, it is slightly smaller than the Emperor.

Click to see larger imageCommon Darter : Flies from the end of July onwards. Commonest dragonfly in the county. It is possible to see 100 at once on a good-sized pond.

Click to see larger imageRuddy Darter: First seen in Herefordshire in 1987. It is different from the Common Darter, being a brighter red and having black legs.

Click to see larger imageBanded Agrion: Found commonly in good numbers on slower flowing rivers, e.g. the Arrow below Pembridge, the lower Lugg and the Wye.

Click to see larger imageBeautiful Demoiselle: Found on faster flowing rivers and small streams, e.g. the Arrow above Pembridge. The wings of the male appear brown or blue depending on which way the light falls on them.

Click to see larger imageLarge Red Damselfly: First damselfly to appear, usually in late April early May. Hides in vegetation, especially nettles, Appears in smaller numbers than the blue damselflies.

Click to see larger imageEmerald Damselfly Very common in west Herefordshire, rarer in the east of the county. It is not very conspicuous and the male has a blue tail. The female hides like a stalk in vegetation near the river.

Click to see larger imageWhite-Legged Damselfly: Found by rivers including the Wye, Lugg, Arrow and Monnow, Can be very common beside the Wye, which is one of the best sites in the UK. Has very blue eyes.

Click to see larger imageBlue-Tailed Damselfly: Will tolerate mildly polluted ponds, Thorax varies greatly in colour between blue, pink, bronze and violet, but all have a blue tail on the penultimate segment of an otherwise black abdomen.

Scarce Blue-Tailed Damselfly: A nationally rare species, its only site in Herefordshire is a gravel pit. It is Britain's smallest damselfly. Needs shallow water that does not freeze. Less blue on the end of the tail, marking it as different from the blue-tailed damsel fly.

Red-eyed Damselfly : About 10 ponds host this blue damselfly with conspicuously red eyes - likes floating vegetation to bask on especially water-lilies.

Click to see larger imageAzure Damselfly: Very common and many found in most ponds. Very similar to the Common Damselfly.

Click to see larger imageCommon Damselfly: Very common and many found in most ponds. Very similar to the Azure Damselfly.

 

These notes have been prepared following a talk by Peter Garner, Herefordshire's Dragonfly Recorder. Peter is keen to have more records from the County. Send records of sitings, with map reference, date, a brief description of the pond, and abundance of the species to:-

Peter Garner 233 West Malvern Road West Malvern Worcestershire WR144BE

Further Reading:

  • "The Dragonflies of Herefordshire" by Peter Garner.
  • An excellent book for dragonfly identification is "The Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland" by Brooks and Lewington.

Apart from dragonflies, in general Herefordshire’s ponds have been poorly studied for invertebrates. For example to date only 156 species of water beetles have been found within Herefordshire (of which about 120 are associated with still water habitats) a relatively low number in comparison with the 250 species of water beetle recorded within Britain and Ireland. The exception to this rule is Moccas Park National Nature Reserve with its associated water bodies where remarkably over 100 species of water beetles have been recorded over a 30 year period. Notable examples include Graphoderus cinereus which listed as Red Data Book 3. The Lawn Pool at Moccas Park also supports the nationally scarce Medicinal Leech (Hirudo medicinalis) which is specially protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and also listed as Red Data Book 3.

At the Herefordshire Nature Trust Sturts reserve at Letton in the Wye Valley the Mud Snail (Lymaena glabra) a Red Data Book 2 species was recorded in April 2003. It was found within the ditches and shallow ponds and typically was found in associated with the local Moss Bladder Snail (Aplexa hypnorum) and the Button Ram’s-horn (Anisus leucostoma). The latter species is known from 2 other sites within the county.

There are few records for aquatic bugs within Herefordshire, however, it has been interesting to observe how many ponds support all 3 species of the commoner backswimmers: the Common Backswimmer (Notonecta glauca), the Spotted Backswimmer (Notonecta maculate) and the Black Backswimmer (Notonecta obliqua). The latter species is generally found in upland habitats, but turns up frequently in ponds on the Devonian Sandstone.

 

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