None of these lists can be
reproduced without written permission from
dragonflies and damselflies
by Mike Pennington
One species of damselfly is
resident in Shetland (Pennington 1995) and at least four species have
occurred as vagrants.
Large Red Damselfly V: one record - Sandgarth, central Mainland, in
(Charpentier) Common Blue Damselfly R: locally frequent in
small, vegetated pools in north and central Mainland and south Yell;
also recorded on Fetlar in 2002. June-August.
(Linn.) Common Hawker V: one record - Fair Isle in July 1955.
(Burmeister) Migrant Emperor V: at least one record - Fetlar in
1970; a probable was on Fair Isle in September 1995.
(Linn.) Four-spotted Chaser V: at least three records - Fair
Isle in July 1958, Noss in June 1998 and Sullom Voe in August 2004; a
possible was on Fair Isle in September 2004.
Darter sp. V - one record - Fair Isle in August 2001.
Damselflies in Shetland
and damselflies (Odonata) are amongst the oldest of all the insect orders
having flown around the primeval forests with the dinosaurs. Their bright
colours, relatively large size and small number of British species make
them a popular group amongst naturalists. Their ability to migrate over
quite long distances gives than an added interest. In Shetland, only five
species have been certainly recorded so far, and only one of these is resident.
In addition, an unidentified Sympetrum sp. has been seen.
photo right: male Common Blue Damselfly
- Large Red Damselfly
- Pyrrhosoma nymphula
One frequented a pond in a garden at Sandgarth,
north of Voe, on 29th June and 3rd July 2004. Although this would seem
to be an unusual migrant, no plants had been imported to the pond for
several years, so it must have been a migrant. The species does breed as
close as Orkney.
Common Blue Damselfly
is the only dragonfly or damselfly to breed in Shetland. It is one of the
commonest and most widespread of the damselflies, especially in Scotland,
where it is often the only species present at some sites. The first
published reference to its occurrence in Shetland is by Godfrey who said
the species was 'observed in some abundance at the lochs of North Delting
and the peat-holes of Gluss Isle' in 1896 and 1897.
sites for the species fall into three main areas. There are a series of
records from the north-west coastal areas of Northmavine (sites at
Eshaness, Tingon and North Roe), a few sites around the inlet of Sullom
Voe (sites at Gluss Isle, Scatsta, Toft and Hill of Garth) and a number of
sites in the southern half of the island of Yell. One site, at Laxo, does
not fall into any of these broad categories, while in 2002 the species was
recorded on Fetlar for the first time.
is no obvious reason why the damselflies are restricted to this area of
Shetland. Indeed, the richer more eutrophic waters of South Mainland, or
the more heavily vegetated lochs of West Mainland would appear to be more
likely sites for Odonata. The discovery of populations of damselflies
outside the known areas is not impossible, but it is highly unlikely that
they will be discovered in relatively populous South Mainland.
used in Shetland are usually small pools on peat moorland with an
extensive growth of floating vegetation. Confirmed breeding records are
few but mainly because the sites are in remote areas which are seldom
visited. The damselflies occasionally wander to larger bodies or water or
are seen flying along streams.
right: a map showing the distribution of the Common Blue Damselfly in
Shetland by 10 km squares
Common Hawker was collected from Fair Isle on 24th July 1955 and sent for
identification to the famous dragonfly expert Cynthia Longfield. Although
not a renowned migrant, other members of this genus are, and the Common
Hawker does occur as close as Orkney.
specimen of this African and Asian dragonfly, another member of the family
Aeshnidae, was obtained on Fetlar in about 1970. The specimen is now in
the Natural History Museum in London. Although it is an essentially
tropical and sub-tropical species, this dragonfly is a famous migrant and
vagrants occur in variable numbers in Europe every year. It remains a
great rarity anywhere in Britain but it is, in fact, the only species of
dragonfly to have occurred in Iceland.
Another unidentified hawker was seen on Fair Isle on 13th September 1995.
It was only seen briefly but could not be identified with certainty. It
was a member of the family Aeshnidae, most probably this species.
this species were recorded on Fair Isle in July 1958,on Noss on 14th
June 1998, at Sullom Voe Terminal on 12th August 2004. A probable was
recorded at Golden Water on Fair Isle on 6th September 2004. This species is a well known migrant from the Continent into
southern Britain in many years, so its occasional appearance as a vagrant
elsewhere is to be expected.