It hadn't been that long since I had taken up the role of Kent Dragonfly Recorder that I received a phone call from the Sandwich Bay Warden, Steffan Walton telling me that the very rare Dainty Damselfly had been discovered on a private pool with no general public access in the area. I believe that a group doing a bio blitz in the area had stumbled across this mega rarity. I had never seen this species and for some reason, never ended up going to the Isle of Sheppey where they were seen in 2011but it was most definitely on my 'most wanted' list to see. The flight season come around this year but due to the pandemic, it was at first not possible to visit to survey for them but as the weeks passed, I was at last granted permission to visit the site with Steffan where on a warm late May morning, I was soon viewing the small pool where they had been seen last year. Having never seen this species before, you imagine my excitement then when Steffan put me onto my first ever male Dainty Damselfly. I made sure I made a note of all the features required for an id and made my way through them one by one. I was happy to see one but it wasn't long until we started to see more and by the end of the session we had seen a brilliant 30 Dainty Damselfly. Many were in tandem out over the water already ovipositing and although a little distant for the camera, I couldn't help but snap away and ended up with a few useable photos. We also collected a few exuviae which were checked by Gill Brook and many were confirmed as Dainty Damselfly exuviae, what an addition to the collection. Having seen one of Britain's rarest damselflies, I drove home buzzing.
Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) ovipositing
I returned again in the first week of June with Steffan and John and Gill Brook but little did we know what we were about to witness. As we arrived at the pool late morning in warm sunny conditions, we immediately started seeing Dainty Damselflies over the water in tandem and many mating pairs in the grasses near the pool. Everywhere we looked, we saw Dainty Damselflies and we soon realised that they were far more than when we had looked last time. In the grasses there were mating pairs everywhere you looked and I was soon stalking them and taking a number of photos.
Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum)
A few males were also posing in the grasses showing off their characteristics well and I was again like a child in a sweet shop as I clicked away with the camera.
Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - male
We started making counts in our own areas and over time, we come to the conclusion that there were at least 180 DAINTY DAMSELFLY, an incredible number to see of this rare damselfly. I wonder if this is the most ever seen in the UK at one site? We made the most of the time watching them resting, mating and ovipositing before we made our way back to the Observatory quite stunned by what we had just observed. I haven't retuned anymore during their flight period but it would be quite possible that over 200 could have been seen. We did survey another pool a few hundred metres away and found a solitary female Dainty Damselfly so it is hoped that they may well spread to other areas and slowly colonise. I think I can safely say as far as Odonata goes that seeing Dainty Damselfly this year and in such numbers will be my highlight of the year quite easily. Fingers crossed that they have a good winter and emerge next year in good numbers and that others get the chance to see this stunningly rare damselfly.
Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum) - female