The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Nottinghamshire
Just over two decades ago, an article by M.C. Dennis on the status of Nottinghamshire's Dragonflies and Damselflies, was published in the popular, but short lived Nottinghamshire Naturalist magazine. The article provided a brief look at the status of the (then) twenty regularly occurring Dragonflies and Damselflies which, with a bit of effort, could be found in the county in any given year.

Since then, the fortunes of the county's Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) has been relatively favourable, with most species appearing to do well in the intervening twenty years, plus we've gained a number of new species and so now have a county species list totalling 29.

Not a deal seems to have been written on Nottinghamshire's Odonata fauna since, so after several requests to provide a more up to date review, we've gathered together our own and the many records we have been sent, in an attempt to provide a reasonably accurate assessment online.

Nottinghamshire's Historical Odonata records

Perhaps surprisingly, both Dragonflies and Damselflies were rather poorly represented in J.W. Carr's 'The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire' Nottingham: J.& H. Bell Ltd. in 1916, and there are few records of even the commoner species. A total of 14 species were listed as occurring in Nottinghamshire by Carr, including the following two species, which seem to have been lost to the county's Odonata fauna more than a century ago.

Calopteryx virgo Beautiful Demoiselle (Linnaeus, 1758) .... J.W. Carr lists just a single record along Rainworth Water near Mansfield, possibly in the Harlow Wood to Rainworth area. This may be the county's only reliable record, as two recent records on the NBN Atlas from Wilford Clay Pit in 1978 and Barton-in-Fabis in 2013, have no observer or recorder associated to them and are probably best ignored.

Cordulegaster boltonii Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Donovan, 1807) .... Formerly recorded every year from Mansfield in the early part of the 1900's according to Carr. Now long since lost, two (single observer) records on the NBN Atlas from Girton in 1999, have to be regarded as dubious and probably misidentifications.

Recent additions - new species for Nottinghamshire

The county list has grown in the past 20 years, despite losing Beautiful Demoiselle and Golden-ringed Dragonfly just mentioned.

Recent additions include Willow Emerald Damselfly (2020), Small Red-eyed Damselfly (2006), Variable Damselfly (late 1990's), White-legged Damselfly (1990) plus three migrant species, i.e. Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (1998), Yellow-veined Darter (1995), Red-veined Darter (1996) and Yellow-veined Darter (1995)

A checklist of Nottinghamshire Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
Species shown with a red asterisk*, are known from historical records only
Aeshnidae Rambur, 1842
Aeshna cyanea Southern Hawker (Muller, 1764)
Aeshna grandis Brown Hawker (Linnaeus, 1758)
Aeshna juncea Common Hawker (Linnaeus, 1758)
Aeshna mixta Migrant Hawker Latreille, 1805
Anax imperator Emperor Dragonfly Leach, 1815
Anax parthenope Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (Selys, 1839)
Brachytron pratense Hairy Dragonfly (Muller, 1764)
Calopterygidae Selys, 1850
Calopteryx splendens Banded Demoiselle (Harris, 1782)
Calopteryx virgo Beautiful Demoiselle (Linnaeus, 1758) *
Coenagrionidae Kirby, 1890
Coenagrion puella Azure Damselfly (Linnaeus, 1758)
Coenagrion pulchellum Variable Damselfly (Vander Linden, 1825)
Enallagma cyathigerum Common Blue Damselfly (Charpentier, 1840)
Erythromma najas Red-eyed Damselfly (Hansemann, 1823)
Erythromma viridulum Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Charpentier, 1840)
Ischnura elegans Blue-tailed Damselfly (Vander Linden, 1820)
Pyrrhosoma nymphula Large Red Damselfly (Sulzer, 1776)
Cordulegastridae Calvert, 1893
Cordulegaster boltonii Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Donovan, 1807) *
Lestidae Calvert, 1901
Chalcolestes viridis Willow Emerald Damselfly (Vander Linden, 1825) 
Lestes sponsa Emerald Damselfly (Hansemann, 1823)
Libellulidae Rambur, 1842
Libellula depressa Broad-bodied Chaser Linnaeus, 1758
Libellula fulva Scarce Chaser Muller, 1784
Libellula quadrimaculata Four-spotted Chaser Linnaeus, 1758
Orthetrum cancellatum Black-tailed Skimmer (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sympetrum danae Black Darter (Sulzer, 1776)
Sympetrum flaveolum Yellow-winged Darter (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sympetrum fonscolombii Red-veined Darter (Selys, 1840)
Sympetrum sanguineum Ruddy Darter (Muller, 1764)
Sympetrum striolatum Common Darter (Charpentier, 1840)
Platycnemididae Burmeister, 1839
Platycnemis pennipes White-legged Damselfly (Pallas, 1771)
Contributors of records/sources

The distribution maps have been built from the Odonata records relating to VC56 (Nottinghamshire) which we have received from the following list of individual contributors and organisations. A special mention must go to the NBGRC, who provided us with a large number of records.

Alan and Pauline Bradford. Bob Merritt. Brian Wetton. Chris Bradbury. Darren Matthews. David Hursthouse. David Yates. Ian Hunt. Keith and Belinda Lugg. Lound Moth Group. Mark Dennis (Colwick Park Bird Reports 1993-2001). Mark Dennis and Michael Walker (The Nottinghamshire Naturalist Magazine 1997-1999). Martin Gray. Martin Harvey. Martin Warne. Meg Skinner. Michael Craven. NBN Atlas (Dragonfly records from the British Dragonfly Society's Dragonfly Recording Network for the period up to 2014). Nottingham Biological and Geological Record Centre (NBGRC). Natural England - Invertebrate Site Register 2006. Netherfield Wildlife Group. Nottingham City Council. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. Paul Naylor. Peter Kirby (Bentinck Tip & Void Invertebrate survey 2007). Phil Cadman. Phil and Steph Lee.  Richard Rogers. Sherwood Forest Trust (2008 Oak Tree Heath invertebrate survey). Steve Horne. Stuart Warrington (The National Trust Clumber Park invertebrate records). Trevor and Dilys Pendleton. Wil Heeney.

Species accounts and distribution maps

Brief species accounts and distribution maps are provided for 25 of the 27 species of Dragonflies and Damselflies known to occur (or have occurred) within VC56 Nottinghamshire. The maps are built on post-1970 records, so we have not produced maps for Beautiful Demoiselle and Golden-ringed Dragonfly, both of which have not occurred in the Nottinghamshire for many years.

Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea   Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis
Nottinghamshire distribution: Generally widespread in most parts of the county. Often occurs well away from water, including gardens.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Common and widespread throughout Nottinghamshire. Often recorded along woodland rides and edges, well away from water. This is the only UK Hawker with a brown suffusion to the wings.
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Common Hawker Aeshna juncea   Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta
Nottinghamshire distribution: Often described as being a Dragonfly of moorland, Common Hawker was described by Dennis in 1997 as being 'rare and local' in Nottinghamshire, with its stronghold being in the Idle Valley Carrlands in the very north of the county. There are recent records from the Budby South Forest and Clumber Park areas, with a string of records from heathland sites lying on Sherwood Sandstone.

The NBN Atlas lists a large number of Nottinghamshire records, effectively giving it the same distribution as Southern Hawker, but its status has probably changed very little since 1997, so many of these records possibly relate to misidentifications.

  Nottinghamshire distribution: Common and widespread over the whole of the county and will often be the commonest of the four Aeshnas at large water bodies. This is another Hawker, prone to occurring well away from the nearest water and will turn up along woodland rides and over well-planted gardens in the late Summer.
Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator   Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope
Nottinghamshire distribution: Geographically, this Dragonfly is regular at Gravel Pits and large ponds throughout Nottinghamshire and is perhaps made a little more noticeable than the other four regular Hawkers, through its large size and the male's distinctive blue/green colouration.   Nottinghamshire distribution: A rare migrant to the county, with at least eight records since 1998. Nottinghamshire's first was at Holme Pierrepont on 20/06/98 (Critchley, A.), followed two years later by one at Colwick CP on 13/08/00 (Dennis, M.C.).

Another turned up at Netherfield Lagoons on 16/07/02 (Woodward, R.) and there were subsequent records from Lound GP on 18/07/06 (Hursthouse, D.) and Annesley Pit Top on 28/07/06 (Dawson, M.) before one at Martin's Pond in Wollaton on 19/07/10 (Shields, T.). The most recent Lesser Emperor records have both been from the well watched Annesley Pit Top, with singles present on 27/06/11 (Naylor, P.) on 23/07/18 (Naylor, P.).

There was a report of a Lesser Emperor at Netherfield Lagoons on 13/06/14, but it was such a brief view that the observer was unable to confirm the identificaton and didn't submit the record.

Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense   Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
Nottinghamshire distribution: This is still a rare Nottinghamshire Dragonfly and despite being recorded occasionally from sites in the south of the county, it is still largely confined to the Idle Valley NR, Gringley Carr and Misson Carr.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Widespread and common in most parts of the county, most often found alongside slow-moving rivers with lush bankside vegetation. However, we have occasionally recorded wandering males in more unusual locations; including one flying through a supermarket car park in New Ollerton.
Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella   Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum
Nottinghamshire distribution: Less widespread than both Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, with which it is often found. Generally prefers smaller pools and ponds, usually in discreet colonies.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Certainly one of Nottinghamshire's rarest Damselflies and restricted to just two opposing parts of the county. In the north of Nottinghamshire, it has been recorded from both the Misson and Misterton areas, yet there appear to be no records more recent than the late 1990's.

The most reliable site for Variable Damselfly, is currently along a stretch of the Grantham Canal, where it runs into Leicestershire, but it has recently been recorded from two sites near Cotham (Merritt, B.).

Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum   Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas
Nottinghamshire distribution: Our most common Damselfly, being present anywhere throughout Nottinghamshire where there is water. Will commonly occur at garden ponds, even within urban areas.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Present in Nottinghamshire at just a single site prior to 1991, which the NBN Atlas presumably lists as near Trowell in 1976 (Eyre, S. and Eyre, E.). Red-eyed Damselfly has undergone a rapid range expansion in recent years, yet still remains more or less absent from the Mansfield and Sherwood Forest areas. Most known sites are in south Nottinghamshire, but it is found in the north of the county at Idle Stop, Gringley Carr and the Idle Valley NR.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum   Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans
Nottinghamshire distribution: Arrived in the UK in 1999 and quickly expanded north through southern and midland counties of the UK, to reach Nottinghamshire in 2006, where it was recorded on a number of occasions from Attenborough NR (Rogers, R.). Found as far north as the Idle Valley NR in 2014, this is still an uncommon Damselfly and still largely restricted to south Nottinghamshire.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Common and abundant throughout Nottinghamshire, wherever there is water. Commonly occur around garden ponds within urban areas.
Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula   Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes sponsa
Nottinghamshire distribution: Widespread in most parts of the county and another Damselfly that will occur around well vegetated gardens with small ponds. Has probably undergone an increase in range, as Dennis regarded it as being 'local in the county' back in 1997.   Nottinghamshire distribution: The first UK record came from Suffolk in 2007, since when it has continued to expand it's range further inland. It was recorded new to Nottinghamshire in 2020 with records from different parts of the county. Two were found along a stretch of the Chesterfield Canal at Gringley in September 2020 (Phil and Steph Lee) and three were reported from Sellers Wood Nature Reserve on September 13th 2020 (DS, per British Dragonfly Society's website).
Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa   Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
Nottinghamshire distribution: Another common Damselfly at many Nottinghamshire sites, especially the Carrlands in the north of the county. However, it is by no means restricted in its range and will be met with along ditches and the banks of many still waters.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Recorded in Nottinghamshire for the first time in 2020 (Bradbury, C.). A colony of Scarce Chaser has been known from along the River Soar near Kegworth for a number of years. The site lies on the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border, but the colony was only known from the Leicestershire side. But in June 2020, it was found that some examples did indeed fly into Nottinghamshire
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa   Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata
Nottinghamshire distribution: Fairly common and widespread over most of Nottinghamshire and probably more than is evident from the accompanying distribution map. Often recorded in small numbers at most sites.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Widespread and relatively thinly scattered in much of Nottinghamshire. This is another species which has its stronghold in the north of the county, around the Carrs of Misson and Gringley etc.
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum   Black Darter Sympetrum danae
Nottinghamshire distribution: Generally common and found at many sites throughout the county. Usually present at open waters, with bare shorelines. Probably increasing in Nottinghamshire.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Generally restricted to the Misson, Misterton and Gringley areas of north Nottinghamshire, where it is frequent along the Carrland ditches. Records away from here are rare, but it has been recorded from Budby South Forest, Netherfield Lagoons and Bennerley Marsh.
Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolum   Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
Nottinghamshire distribution: An irregular migrant to the UK and one prone to large-scale invasions such as 1995 and 2006. Yellow-winged Darter appears to have reached Nottinghamshire on just one occasion, when recorded at Attenborough NR on 18/06/95 (Wetton, B.).   Nottinghamshire distribution: A scarce but almost annual migrant to the UK. There was a huge influx of Red-veined Darters into the UK in 2006, but it reached Nottinghamshire twice prior to that year, when there were earlier records from Attenborough NR on 06/07/96 (Wetton, B.), Lound GP on 16/07/02 (Hursthouse, D.) and Attenborough NR from 28/06/04 to 01/07/04 (Aitken, A. Rogers, R. and Wetton, B.).

The influx of 2006 saw a number of records from Lound GP between 03/06/06 and 23/10/06 (Hursthouse, D.). Red-veined Darters also appeared at Annesley Pit Top between 02/07/06 and 11/08/06 (Naylor, P.) and from Warsop Main Pit Top between 07/07/06 and 23/07/06 (Pendleton, T.A. and Pendleton, D.T.).

Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum   Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
Nottinghamshire distribution: Less frequent than the similar looking Common Darter, but still widespread and found throughout the county, at a wide range of sites.   Nottinghamshire distribution: Often common where it occurs and found widely across Nottinghamshire. Will often be found well away from water, even at seemingly very dry sites along woodland ridges and edges and regular at garden ponds.
White-legged Damselfly Platycnemis pennipes    
Nottinghamshire distribution: On the Nottinghamshire list on the basis of a single observer records via the NBN Atlas, from the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill on 17/10/90 and the Erewash Confluence, north-west of Selston on 28/08/97 (Ambler, E.A.). This Damselfly occurs regularly in several areas of neighbouring Leicestershire and Rutland, but there are just four records listed for Derbyshire and apparently none from Lincolnshire.    
The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Nottinghamshire (pdf version)
      Not a deal seems to have been written on Nottinghamshire's Odonata fauna since the late 1990's, so after several requests to provide a more up to date review, we've gathered together our own, and the many records we have been sent, in an attempt to provide a reasonably accurate assessment online.

This pdf looks at the status of the county's 27 known species of Dragonfly and Damselfly, with species summaries and distribution maps.

Published February 2018

Now out of date, hopefully the pdf version of this page will be updated late 2020.