Dragonflies & Damselflies

Hartlebury Common has a combination of habitat, from the stream and pool at Hillditch to the wet heathland on the lower levels of the common that can attract a wide range of species. Hillditch (see map) combines an alder lined stream attracting the two demoiselles:  the Beautiful Demoiselle and Banded Demoiselle, as well a good list of damselflies and dragonflies such as the Red–  eyed Damselfly, Southern Hawker, Emperor and the unusual Scarce Chaser. The latter species is an interesting anomaly as Hartlebury is the only location other than the River Avon, where it has settled since it arrived in Worcestershire in 2004.

The presence of water at the Rush Pool and The Bog provides water in a heathland context providing habitat associated with slightly more unusual dragonflies. Here, the conditions and rushy plants can attract the Common Hawker which is far from common, Four Spotted Chaser, Emerald Damselfly and even the Black Darter.  In 2023 a Hairy Dragonfly was recorded at Rush Pool for the first time.  24 of the 31 species currently recorded in Worcestershire have been seen on Hartlebury Common and so it is a very important site.

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

This beautiful damselfly prefers slower moving lowland rivers and canals, and is hard to miss as it flies out over water or perches on adjacent vegetation.  The males are territorial and will chase other males out of their chosen patch, in which they will mate and the females, with their metallic green bodies and greenish brown wings, will lay eggs.  They are on the wing from early June to mid August.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)

Unlike the Banded Demoiselle, this damselfly prefers faster flowing, clearer water such as the gravelly bottomed stream running through Hillditch pool.  Its behaviour is similarly territorial, with an elaborate courtship.  The female of this species is much plainer, with a greenish bronze body, and brown to russet wings.  The flight period is from late May to late July.

Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)

The Emperor Dragonfly is an impressive sight as it hawks for food above Hillditch pool.  You may see it begin to dismantle its prey of flying insects, including butterflies, on the wing, but it will often settle high up in a tree to finish its meal.  This the largest dragonfly in Britain and its flight period is from mid May to early August, with June and July being the best months to look for it.  The females are green with black markings.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)

This strongly flying damselfly prefers larger pools with floating vegetation.  Males will choose a large floating leaf and make it the base for their territory.  When they mate it is usually in tandem, with the female laying her eggs into the stems of water lily leaves, sometimes disappearing under the water to find the ‘right’ stem before floating up to the surface again.  They are on the wing from early June to early August.

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)

The Scarce Chaser is the jewel in the crown of Hartlebury Common and Hillditch Pool’s dragonflies, inhabiting slow flowing meandering rivers with plenty of emergent vegetation.  In 2012 it was discovered at Hillditch Pool, a slow- moving brook fed mill pond, and it has bred annually since then.  After emerging, the immature Scarce Chasers are bright orange but as they mature they become either orange/brown as a female, or develop a blue colouration to the abdomen with a black tip as a male.  The males can be told apart from the similar looking male Black- tailed Skimmer by its blue eyes (dark green in the latter) and the black triangular markings in the base of its hind wings.  After mating, males will often show mating scars (dark patches on their abdomen where a female has clasped on).