Improved water quality helping dragonflies thrive at RSPB Saltholme

Emperor Dragonfly.  Image credit: Richard Chandler
An Emperor Dragonfly. Credit: Richard Chandler

Improved water quality at a North East nature reserve is helping dragonflies to prosper.

RSPB Saltholme, in Middlesbrough, is a breeding and hunting ground for a variety of dragonfly species, with a record number spotted at the reserve in 2021.

The reserve has 14 freshwater pools, created in 2019, which are helping the species flourish, the RSPB said.

Dragonflies, which are voracious hunters, are about 300 million years old and pre-date dinosaurs.

A new dragonfly boardwalk, which is wheelchair accessible, has opened at RSPB Saltholme to enable people to get closer to the creatures.

Among the species spotted at the reserve are Common Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Emperor, Four-Spotted Chaser, Broad-Bodied Chaser, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Common Darter and Ruddy Darter.  Damselfly species include Banded Demoiselle, Emerald, Large Red, Azure, Common Blue and Blue-tailed.

Since the creation of the freshwater pools, a record ten different species were recorded on the reserve in 2021. 

In the summer of 2022, a Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly was recorded for the first time at reserve - the first time the species had been seen in Cleveland.

Michael Copleston, director of RSPB England, said: “Some of wildlife’s most special moments can be seen at RSPB nature reserves and we want people to fall in love with the nature on their doorstep. 

"Dragonflies are incredible insects and we’re excited to engage people with their story and tell them more about why these hunters are so important for humans”. 

Ed Pritchard, Warden at RSPB Saltholme, said, “Not only are the dragonflies striking to see as they perform their aerial displays, they also make our outdoor experiences more enjoyable by reducing those pesky mosquitoes and gnats.  

"I really hope this new boardwalk will encourage people to learn more about the importance of dragonflies and give them the chance to see these amazing creatures in action.”

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