On this page you will find a complete list of the dragonflies seen at Sandwich Bay. For a printable version please click The Status of Dragonflies at Sandwich Bay.
Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
This lovely damselfly is found in slow-flowing ditches with lush emergent and marginal vegetation, although it can occur well away from water. Two in a ditch on Worth marshes on 17th July 1996 were the first to have been recorded in the area (SBBO Report 1996). Since then, it has become more regular, with singles on Worth marshes on 26th June 2000 and on the Hundred Acre Field near the Point on 4th July 2002. More recently it has increased in numbers, with up to seven in 2003 and five in 2007, all in a ditch by the North Stream railway bridge, then up to nine in 2008, including six at the same ditch and three on the Delf Stream close to Roaring Gutter. Numbers in 2009 continued the trend, with up to 18 along the North Stream and the railway ditch, with at least 14 in 2010 and nine in 2011.
Flight period: 19th May – 17th July
Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa
Until recently, this was regarded as a scarce species of less than annual occurrence. It is found in a variety of water bodies, generally with dense emergent and marginal vegetation, plenty of which exists in the Lydden Valley. Although records of more than two were unusual, there were five on Worth on 13th July 1984, ten along the North Stream on 11th August 1987, 12 on Worth on 19th July 1989 and seven on Worth on 18th August 1993. Most have been recorded on the North Stream and Worth Marshes in the last 20 years or so, with one or two occasionally at Mary Bax, Middle Field, Backsand Scrape, the Hundred Acre Field and even on the sea front adjacent to Royal St.George’s Golf Club. In 2008, a thorough search of Worth marshes and the North and Delf streams in the second half of July revealed the presence of at least 52 individuals, mostly in marginal vegetation along the rivers, though significant numbers were also found in well-vegetated ditches and pools nearby. Although numbers were lower in 2009 at least 49 were evident in 2010 and 60 were found in early July 2011, mostly at a flight pond on Worth marshes.
Flight period: Mainly between 27th June and 3rd September, with the exception of singles on the Hundred Acre Field near the Point on 16th June 1998 and the Delf Stream on 17th June 2009.
Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus
Very rare in the UK, this species may be in the early stages of colonising in response to climate change. It is typical of ephemeral sites that dry out in summer, such as dune slacks, and was first recorded in 2003 at the Hundred Acre Field. In 2004, it was first noted on 16th July and numbers easily reached double figures, with ovipositing noted on several occasions during the month or more when the species was present (Parr 2005). Regrettably, the pools where it was found were inundated by high winter tides and it was not recorded again until its re-discovery in 2010, when up to three males and a female were present between 15th July and 1st September.
Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella
Azure Damselfly is widespread in Kent, occurring at a wide variety of water bodies. Although it has a similarly widespread distribution to the similar Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, it tends to favour smaller pieces of water and the phrase ‘persists at very low density at the Bay’ was used to describe its status in 1994, when there were only two records. Until recently, the available records support this statement; nine on 29th May 2003 and 11 on 2nd June, all on New Downs, were the largest counts in the last couple of decades. However, in 2008 at least 60 were present around New Downs New Pool in June and July and at least 60 were present along the bund that separates the Sampher from the river on 10th May 2011. Although it occurs in much smaller numbers elsewhere in the area it tends to be more numerous than E.cyathigerum on the pond in Middle Field.
Flight period: Between 3rd May and 25th August. Largest numbers tend to occur in May and the first half of June; earlier than the similar Common Blue Damselfly.
Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum
Listed as Near Threatened in the Odonata List of Great Britain 2008.
In the most recent county survey, Variable Damselfly was found in 16 tetrads (2km squares) in scattered localities along the marshes and levels between Graveney and Sandwich, in keeping with its rather fragmented British distribution (Kent Field Club 2001). In the Lydden Valley, it was locally common in favoured sections of ditches on Worth marshes, but appeared to be scarce elsewhere. The dykes where it is most frequently found are generally still and well-vegetated but where some water is visible; choked sections appear to be unsuitable, as do areas that are too open. Until recently, notable numbers were noted exclusively in ditches surrounding the sheepfold near the North Stream, including 43 on the rather late date of 3rd August 1984, 63 on 31st May 1995 and 34-35 on 12th June 1994 and 13th July 1987, with at least 40 on May 23rd 2007. In 2008, it was also found in similar dykes nearby, providing a combined total of at least 55. It was even more widespread in 2009, when 70 were found along the Delf Stream on 24th May and small numbers spread to the Elms and along the Ancient Highway. Although it has been rare away from Worth marshes, one was found on New Downs on 10th June 2005 and four were found on New Downs New Pool on 23rd May 2009.
Flight period: It has been recorded between 7th May and 3rd August.
Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas
This species is distributed mainly from The Wash to the Welsh borders and is widely scattered in Kent, mainly in the south and west of the county (Kent Field Club 2001). It is a noticeably more robust insect than Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum, though they can occur in close proximity to each other. Both favour surface plants such as lily pads away from the edges of water bodies; those on the North Stream tend to use floating mats of vegetation snagged on reed stems on the middle of the river. Recently, it has been colonising new areas and was first recorded locally on the North Stream on 23rd June 2002. Subsequent records were few, but in 2007 there were up to 13 on the North Stream between 23rd May and 1st June and singles on the pond in Middle Field between 13th and 30th July. It has since been recorded on the Delf Stream, where there were up to 22 in 2009, New Downs New Pool, where small numbers have been regular since 2008 and on a flight pond on Worth, where there were up to 21 in 2010. Expansion continued in 2011 when 41 were recorded on Worth, mainly on the North and Delf Streams.
Flight period: 11th May to 9th September and, in 2009, on 25th September.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum
This delightful damselfly has become a very recent resident in England, only being discovered in Essex in 1999. The first for the Bay was recorded along the Ancient Highway on 16th August 2004 and its subsequent spread has been rapid. By late July 2006 there were up to 21 on New Downs New Pool and over 100 on Restharrow Scrape. Up to 60 have since been recorded on the flight pond by the railway line on Worth marshes, with up to 25 on Middle Field pond, up to 23 along the North Stream and at least eight on a broad, open ditch on Worth marshes in 2008. Small Red-eyes emerge in July, about a month later than the previous species, and can be observed flying weakly on eutrophic waters, lakes and gravel pits, particularly where there is floating vegetation such as Hornwort Ceratophyllum and Water Milfoil Myriophyllum.
Flight period: Between 1st July and 9th September.
Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula
This species is present throughout Kent and although its distribution within the county is predominantly in the south and west, it is scattered along the Stour valley from the Graveney marshes eastwards (Kent Field Club 2001). It frequents a variety of habitats, including ponds and ditches, but can wander far from water and this feature is characteristic of several records from Sandwich Bay. It is by no means annual in occurrence and it may be that the majority originate from Ham Fen, where it is present in small numbers. In 1985, singles were seen on the North Stream on 31st May and the Delf Stream on 2nd June and in 1987 there were singles on St.George’s Golf Course on 25th and 31st May. Singles were seen on the sheepfold on Worth marshes on 23rd June 1993 and in the Big Gully on 11th May 1994 and in 1995 two were found in a ditch adjacent to New Downs New Pool on 25th May. In 2003, four were found on 29th May and singles were seen on 31st May and 7th July, all on Worth marshes. Most recently, one was photographed in the Little Elms on 16th May 2005, another was seen on the North Stream on 21st July 2008 and singles were seen in the Elms on 23rd April 2011 and in Middle Field on 9th May 2012, with three in Middle Field on 22nd May 2012.
Flight period: It has been noted from 23rd April to 21st July.
Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum
This species and Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans are comfortably the most widespread and abundant of the damselflies of Sandwich Bay. Common Blue Damselfly is found throughout the area in ponds, ditches and streams and largest recorded numbers include 592 on the Worth transect on 18th August 1989, 469 on the transect on 3rd August 1994, over 400 on the North Stream/Delf Stream on 23rd June 2002 and at least 200 around Prince’s reservoir on 8th August 2007.
Flight period: From 21st April (in 2011) to 25th September, with largest numbers at any time from late June to mid August.
Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans
This species and Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum share the distinction of being the most widespread and abundant of the damselflies found in our recording area and Blue-tailed Damselfly can be found at almost any type of water body. Indeed, it is a pioneering species that will quickly colonise new habitats and it is no surprise that this species was the first dragonfly to be recorded on the new scrape at Backsand in 1994. Although it seems usually to be less abundant than Common Blue, with comparable counts (on the same day in the same area) suggesting a ratio of approximately 2:1 in favour of Common Blue, there were over 1,000 Blue-tailed Damselflies on the North Stream/Delf Stream on June 23rd 2002, compared with nearly 600 of the other species. Specimens of the female colour variations f. violacea (violet) and f. rufescens (red) seem to be relatively frequent although, tentatively, the green form f. infurcam seems to be most usual.
Flight period: From 4th May to 3rd October.
Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea
This bulky dragonfly is widespread in Kent and is frequently seen patrolling woodland rides and hedgerows; typical behaviour for many that are seen at Sandwich Bay. It was recorded in nine years from 1986 to 2007, generally involving ones and twos, which may mean that it is sometimes overlooked and actually occurs annually in small numbers. Most recently, three singles were recorded in 2007, with similar numbers in 2010 and 2011, though seven-nine were recorded in 2008 and 2009, so the situation in 1999 when there were ‘many records’ from the Estate, Worth and New Downs from late July to mid September was most unusual.
Flight period: From the end of June to 25th September.
Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis
This distinctive, robust species with its brown wings and abdomen is one of our largest dragonflies, though very often the first sign of its presence is when it flushes from its resting place in lush vegetation. Until recently, numbers have been small, usually involving no more than four a day, but up to nine were recorded in the last week of July 2007, at least 13 individuals were seen in late July 2008 and 15-20 were recorded in 2010, with over 30 in 2011. It occurs with greatest regularity on the Estate, Worth and the North Stream and has also been found on the Green Wall and Restharrow Scrape, though its appearance on New Downs seems to be noteworthy; one on 7th August 2002 is the only such occurrence since 1986. Females were noted ovipositing on the pond in Middle Field in 2007 and in the dyke bordering the railway line on Worth marshes in 2008.
Flight period: It has been recorded between 10th June and 17th September and is most frequent in July and August.
Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles
In Britain, this species is restricted to the fens and grazing marshes that are relatively isolated from polluted water in the Broadlands of Norfolk and Northeast Suffolk. On the near continent it is fairly common in the Netherlands. 2011 was a notable year for this species in Kent, with singles in the Stour valley in June and one in a ditch near The Drove on 4th July; weather conditions at the time suggest that these were migrants from the continent.
Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta
This medium-sized, slender hawker can be abundant, occurring in groups that hug the edges of woodlands and bushes, making short forays to feed and hanging at rest when they can be quite approachable. It is likely to be found throughout the area in places where trees and bushes afford shelter and feeding opportunities and large numbers, of 25 or more, have been noted on the Estate, Worth and New Downs. The highest counts on record include at least 100 on several days in September 1994 and in early August 2008 and up to 47 on Worth in the second half of September 2003, though numbers actually present in the area in years of greatest abundance undoubtedly amount to many more.
Flight period: Although it usually appears in late July, one was seen on 12th June 1996 and there were records from early July in 1998 and from 13th July in 2008. Lingering individuals have been noted as late as 4th November in 1993, 2009 and 2013 and on 10th November 2013.
Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator
This imposing species is frequent throughout the area, though its familiarity and wide-ranging habits are probably the main factors in ensuring that it is under-recorded. Although it never attains the profusion reached by species such as Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta or Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum it can sometimes be found in substantial loose gatherings; counts of up to 14 on Worth in June 1993 and July 1995 and 14 in the dunes between Prince’s and the Point in July 2008 are probably a reasonable reflection of its abundance. Females have been observed ovipositing on a wide range of water bodies, including the dipping pond at the Observatory, the pond in Middle Field, Restharrow Scrape and ditches on Worth marshes and New Downs.
Flight period: It has been recorded from 17th May to 22nd September and is most numerous in the second half of July and early August.
Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope
A male that was seen and photographed in Waldershare Gully on July 12th 2008 was the first to have been recorded in the area, while a second was seen at the flight pond on Worth marshes on June 16th 2009. The first Kent record was at Dungeness in August 1998 and it has been recorded there annually, with strong suspicions that it has bred on the peninsula.
Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense
This is the first hawker dragonfly to emerge in spring and locally, in May at least, is unlikely to be confused with any other similar species. County records seem to indicate that it is becoming more common (Kent Field Club 2001) and it seems to have increased locally since the first Observatory records in the Haven on 8th July 1984, near Mary Bax on 31st May 1985 and an ovipositing female in a sheepfold dyke on Worth on 2nd July 1987. Since then, it has been recorded annually since at least 1993, when up to five were present on Worth marshes in June. Subsequently, although it has been most regular on Worth marshes and the North Stream, it has been seen at several other localities across the recording area, including the Hundred Acre Field, New Downs New Pool, Backsand Scrape and the adjacent riverbank, the Green Wall, St.George’s bushes, the Elms and the pond at the Observatory. Although numbers are generally small, ten were present on Worth marshes on 31st May 1995, nine were recorded on the North and Delf Streams on 20th May 2008 and 16 were found along the Delf Stream on 24th May 2009, with similar numbers in 2011.
Flight period: It has been seen on the wing between 23rd April (in 2007) and 2nd July, though it is usually most numerous from mid May to mid June. In the delayed summer of 2013, however, it was recorded as late as July 19th.
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
The most widespread of the Libellula species in the county, this medium sized, heavy bodied dragonfly favours still bodies of water, such as small ponds and ditches and it wanders widely in search of new areas to colonise. Locally, although it currently appears to be fairly regular, only three individuals were recorded between 1986 and 1989 and singles in the Whitehouse and Middle Field on 29th May 1993 appear to be the only other sightings prior to 1996. Since then, however, it has been recorded more or less annually, with small but possibly increasing numbers on New Downs New Pool, the Green Wall, New Downs and Backsand Scrape and at several localities around the Estate. However, reports of more than two are notable and they include four on the 100 acre field on 16th June 1998, ‘several’ over the Observatory pond in June 1999, seven on Worth marshes on 7th July 2003, five in Middle Field in June 2009 and an exceptional 16 along the riverbank bund around the Sampher on 25th May 2011.
Flight period: It has been recorded from 29th April to 6th August, with one on 7th September 2012.
Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
Listed as Near Threatened in the Odonata List of Great Britain 2008.
This species is found along well-vegetated, slow flowing rivers and lakes, typical of the Westbere area of the Stour valley and the North Stream at Sandwich; currently the only areas in the county where it can be reliably expected. Prior to 2008 Its existence in the Sandwich area seemed to be ephemeral and it was sometimes apparently absent for several consecutive years. It was re-discovered along the North Stream in 1985, when up to seven were recorded (SBBO Report 1987), and in 1986 two males were seen in the same area on 2nd July. In 1987, one or two were recorded between 29th June and 13th July, initially on the North Stream, then a pair was seen in tandem on the Delf Stream on 13th July. In 1989, three were recorded on Worth marshes on 19th June and 19th July and in 1993 two males were seen on the North Stream on 17th June, with one on 2nd July. Subsequently, a male was seen on the North Stream near the railway bridge on 26th June 1998. Its status changed dramatically in 2008 when over 50 individuals were recorded, mainly on the North and Delf Streams, and in 2010 at least 120 were recorded, mainly along the North and Delf Streams, augmented by up to 12 along the North Stream between St.George’s and Black Sluice, ten along dykes on Worth and smaller numbers elsewhere. However, following subsequent dredging of the Delf and North Streams only small numbers were evident in 2011, suggesting that it remains vulnerable to such activity on the rivers and streams where it occurs.
Flight period: From 7th June to 28th July.
Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata
This species occurs in a wide variety of water bodies, from lakes and ponds to ditches and streams and has a widespread but thin distribution in the county. Until recently it was fairly scarce locally and far from annual in occurrence; in the 12 years from 1984 to 2006 for which records are available, it was recorded in only seven. It also appeared to be unpredictable in terms of where it might be found, the only sites where it was recorded more than once up to 2006 were the Middle Field (where an exuvia was found on 19th May 1993) and the Hundred Acre Field. Other records came from Slazenger’s, Mary Bax, the Whitehouse, the Green Wall, New Downs New Pool (where four on 13th June 1997 was the only record of more than two), the North Stream railway bridge and Restharrow Scrape. In 2008, however, one was seen near Old Downs farmhouse in late May and four were seen along a broad ditch between the Delf Stream and the railway on 22nd July. 2009 brought a further expansion, with up to nine along the Delf Stream, two on New Downs New Pool and regular sightings in Middle Field. A major increase took place in 2010 when at least 48 were recorded, including 19 along a dyke on Willow Farm, Worth, 17 on a flooded section of Lydden Valley and the adjacent Delf Stream and four on New Downs New Pool. The increase was consolidated in 2011 when at least 70 were present in early June, including 40 on and around New Downs New Pool and at least 30 on Worth.
Flight period: It has been noted from 9th May to 6th August, with most records from the second half of May through June.
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum
The Black-tailed Skimmer, only found in East Kent in the 1940s (Kent Field Club 2001), has benefited from the recent increase in gravel pits and fishing lakes and is now widespread in the county. Although it is now regular at Sandwich Bay, a female on Worth on 22nd June 1993 was only the 5th Observatory record (SBBO Report). The following year ten were recorded between 19th June and 9th July, including three males in the Middle Field, two males on the North Stream and females on the sea wall and Princes and in 1996 there were 18 individuals, including five on Backsand Scrape on 26th July and three on New Downs New Pool on 22nd August. It underwent a period of scarcity until 2002 when a male was seen along the North Stream on 23rd June, up to eight were present on New Downs in July and seven males were present on the North/Delf Streams on 14th July. Although its numbers seem to have fluctuated considerably, it seems to be steadily increasing in response to the expansion of areas of fresh water within the recording area and in 2008 there were up to 40 on Restharrow Scrape in mid July and approximately 80 individuals in 2010, including 30 on Restharrow Scrape on 29th June, 25 on part of the Lydden Valley RSPB reserve adjacent to the Delf Stream that flooded in late June and 17 on the flight pond on Worth on 27th June.
Flight period: It has been recorded between 21st May and 14th September, though it is most numerous in June and July.
Black Darter Sympetrum danae
This species is a rare migrant to Kent from the continent, the most recent records of which appear to have accompanied a large influx of Yellow-winged Darters Sympetrum flaveolum in 1995 (Kent Field Club 2001). This appears to have given rise to the only records of this species at Sandwich Bay; a male in the Green Barn area of Prince’s Golf Club on 21st September 1996 and two at the Middle Field pond on 8th August 1997, which were trapped and photographed.
Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolum
Mention of previous records of this rare migrant from the continent in the 1995 SBBO Report is a mystery, since they do not appear in the report for 1989 when they are supposed to have occurred. However, there was an exceptional influx in 1995, during which no fewer than 31 were recorded between 2nd-14th August, with further singles on 25th August and 9th September. Most were found in rough grassy areas around St.George’s bushes, the Middle Field and the Elms extension, but three-four were discovered on successive transects of the 100 acre field. Subsequently, singles were seen on Restharrow Dunes on 29th July 1998 and in the Middle Field on 25th August 1999.
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
This species is common in tropical regions of Asia and Africa and in Europe in common in the Mediterranean region. It frequently migrates into northern Europe and has become an increasingly regular migrant to Britain, occurring in most recent years in southern England. Breeding has been sustained over a few years in Cornwall and Kent (Corbet & Brooks 2008) and it was recorded annually at Sandwich Bay since 2004, when one was seen on Worth on 17th June. A significant increase followed, with 15 over Restharrow Scrape on 16th June 2005 and at least 20 at the same site on 29th June 2006, including four pairs in tandem with ovipositing females. Singles were also recorded in the same year at Backsand Scrape on 10th July and in one of the dykes on New Downs on 14th July. In 2007 it was recorded between 9th June and 27th July, almost exclusively on Restharrow Scrape, where numbers peaked at 22 on 28th June, including two ovipositing females, and one was found on the Hundred Acre Field on 27th July. Numbers were lower in 2008, with up to six over Restharrow Scrape in late June, including at least two ovipositing females, but in June 2009 up to 11 were seen over Restharrow Scrape, with up to five at the flight pond on Worth and one in Middle Field. Despite desiccation of Restharrow Scrape in summer 2009 at least 35 were present there in June 2010 and although none was recorded in 2011 up to seven were present on the scrape in late May 2012.
Flight period: From 26th May to 11th September.
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum
Although Ruddy Darter is fairly regular in the area, its numbers seem to be very variable, as would be expected of a species that undertakes frequent migrations from the continent (Kent Field Club 2001). For example, 51 were recorded on Worth on 13th September 1984, with ‘numbers along the upper beach, probably immigrants’ and, more recently, nine were recorded on New Downs on 16th August 2003 and up to 16 were present between 27th July and 19th August 2006, also on New Downs. However, in 1993 it was described as ‘generally scarce’, with only two individuals that year, and in most years since 1994 only moderate numbers have been evident, usually involving peaks counts of between five and seven in late July or August. However, distribution mapping during 2008 showed that it is more numerous than daily counts suggest and that it appears to be more widespread in the southern part of our recording area, particularly on Worth marshes, where it seems to be more numerous in the dykes and ditches than Common Darter S.striolatum.
Flight period: It has been recorded from 26th June until 13th October, with most records between mid July and mid September.
Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
This species, one of the most widespread species in the county, occurs at almost any type of water body and along the edges of hedgerows and woodland, often well away from water (Kent Field Club 2001). Locally, at least, it is a good deal more numerous and widespread than Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum. Notable concentrations include at least 50 around Prince’s plantation on 9th August 1986, 100 on the Estate on 30th October 1989, up to 100 along a poplar hedge on New Downs and 146 on the dragonfly transect in September 1994, 63 on Worth marshes on 17th September 2003 and more than 250 on the Estate on 19th September 2004.
Flight period: Usually from mid June (13th June in the warm spring of 2007), with large numbers possible from early August onwards. Lingering individuals occur well into November and the latest was recorded on 29th November 1997.