Rare dragonfly spotted at Minsmere

A RARE type of vividly-coloured, green-eyed dragonfly may have begun breeding at Minsmere, conservationists believe.The Norfolk Hawker dragonfly has been spotted recently at the Minsmere RSPB nature reserve on the Suffolk coast.

By Sarah Chambers

A RARE type of vividly-coloured, green-eyed dragonfly may have begun breeding at Minsmere, conservationists believe.

The Norfolk Hawker dragonfly has been spotted recently at the Minsmere RSPB nature reserve on the Suffolk coast.

The beautiful insects are confined within Britain to the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, where they breed at a small number of sites.


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The nearest known colonies to Minsmere are in the Waveney Valley. Now it seems they have set up home further south at Minsmere itself, after several were seen this month.

Although two were reported at Minsmere in the mid1990s, wardens first suspected that breeding could be possible when seven were seen in the summer of 2001.

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Because Norfolk Hawkers have two-year breeding cycles, staff at the reserve have been extra vigilant this year, and their reward has been several sightings of the beautiful creature.

RSPB wetland warden Ian Hawkins said: "I have been a dragonfly enthusiast for 20 years and this is the best event that I have witnessed. These are lovely insects with their big green eyes and yellow triangle on their back."

The first was sighted on June 13, and several more were located along woodland rides and on the grazing marshes of the Minsmere Levels over the next few days. On June 16, one was also found at the nearby Dingle Marshes reserve.

It is not certain whether these insects were born on the Suffolk coast following successful breeding in 2001, but the signs are that this may be the case.

The Norfolk Hawker usually requires a plant called Water Soldier for breeding, which does not grow at Minsmere, and this raises questions about the origins of the insects.

Conservationists do not know whether they have spread south from Norfolk, or whether they or their parents are immigrants from the continent.

FACTFILE

n The Norfolk Hawker's scientific name of Aeshna isosceles reflects the distinctive yellow triangle on their back. They also have large green eyes, which help to distinguish them from other similar dragonflies.

n Norfolk Hawkers breed in grazing marshes with ditches full of Water Soldier, although on the continent they have a more varied habitat requirement.

n One of the best places to see Norfolk Hawkers in Britain is at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB reserve in the Yare Valley, between Norwich and Yarmouth. They only fly for a few weeks between early June and mid July.

n Successful breeding can only be confirmed by finding larvae or larval cases. These have not yet been found at Minsmere, but the Norfolk Hawkers found so far have been fresh adults, which suggests they have bred locally, rather than flying very far.

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