Male white-faced darter (c) David Kitching
Cheshire Wildlife Trust is working on a project to reintroduce the white-faced darter dragonfly back into Delamere Forest, after an absence of more than a decade.
The white-faced darter is one of the UK's rarest dragonflies and was once a key feature of Cheshire's Meres & Mosses landscape. Due to habitat loss, it became restricted in its range in the UK, and in particular in the North West became limited to the pools and mosses of Delamere. It was last confirmed as breeding in the Cheshire region in 2003.
To find out about this year's reintroduction see our 2015 Report.
Previous reports : 2014
Watch how you find and translocate a white-faced darter dragonfly!
Records of white-faced darters in the Delamere area date back as far as 1882. Adults were present at many, widespread sites and breeding was recorded until relatively recently, but no sightings have been made since.
In 2003, a project led by Colin Hayes of Ecology-First entitled “The Lost Meres and Mosses of Delamere” recognised and identified restorable basin mires. Since then, there has been widespread restoration work across Delamere by the Forestry Commission and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust including removal of trees and scrub and the blocking of basin outfalls which has increased the potential habitat suitable for the white-faced darter. The white-faced darter is the emblem for Delamere Forest and is a flagship species for the extensive meres and mosses restoration work taking place across the forest.
A feasibility study in 2011 confirmed there was suitable habitat into which the white-faced darter could be reintroduced. Habitat that would become suitable with minimal restoration work was highlighted and formed part of the Delamere’s Lost Mosses project workplan.
Before the flight season in May, larvae (immature dragonflies in their aquatic stage before they emerge and develop wings) are translocated from the donor sites at Chartley Moss and Fens & Whixall Mosses NNRs (Stafforshire and Shropshire) to the receptor site in Delamere Forest. White-faced darter larvae are easily distinguised from other species which helps to avoid confusion. Only larger larvae that are in the final stages of the life cylcle and likely to emerge that year are selected.
The second stage of the reintroduction process is the transfer of white-faced darter dragonfly eggs and immature larvae later in the season. The reintroduction needs to take place over several years due to the life cycle of the dragonfly and the number of years its spends as a larvae in the pools.’
This is the second ever dragonfly reintroduction in the UK. The first was a similar and successful project in Cumbria also reintroducing the white-faced darter.
There is extensive monitoring of both donor sites and the receptor site throughout the project.
At the donor sites, weekly exuvia (empty larval case) counts take place throughout the white-faced darter flight season. This involves seaching in the vegetation up to five metres from the edge of the white-faced darter pools for the exuvia. When an exuvia is found, it is collected and a number of factors it is recorded.
Weekly exuvia counts also take place at the receptor site, as well as adult dragonfly surveys across Delamere following specific transects (line surveys) using the standard British Dragonfly Society (BDS) methodology.
General observations are made around the reintroduction site for various aspects of adult white-faced darter behaviour such as hunting, roosting, mating, ovipositing and interactions with other species to ensure the ‘fit’ of the species into the ecosystem.
For more information on volunteer tasks and how to get involved please contact Chris Meredith at Cheshire Wildlife Trust or call 01948 820728/07837 431478.