Group Meeting – 26th May 2017

Jacob Everitt opened our May meeting with a talk on his search for as many different species of dragonfly that he could identify during 2015. Jacob is a Senior Countryside Warden at Horsham District Council and began by describing to us the difference between dragonflies and damselflies. Dragonflies have joined eyes with no split segment and two pairs of flat wings whereas damselflies have large eyes either side of their head split into coloured segments and much thinner wings that are held against their body.

There are 41 species that are native to Britain and they can be found from Land’s End to John O’Groats, but not in Ireland. Jacob said that 29 of the species can be found here in Sussex.

With a list of Britain’s Dragonflies, an AA Road Atlas, a book entitled ‘Watching British Dragonflies’ and a camera, Jacob began his voyage of discovery. His first visit was to Dungeness in Kent where the many coastal lagoons were an ideal location and here he spotted a Hairy Dragonfly, this large, hardy dragonfly is blue, green and yellow and Jacob found it easy to photograph as this species is happy to sit for periods of time. A Vagrant Emperor was also seen passing through the area, these dragonflies tuck their legs in during flight and use them to catch insects to eat.

Jacob’s hunt continued in the Ashdown Forest where he discovered a Small Red damselfly, a Black Darter dragonfly and the largest of the species at five inches long, the Golden-Ringed dragonfly which is found on heathland.

In late May Jacob visited Norfolk and was fortunate enough to see and photograph a Norfolk Hawker. This is one of two brown Hawker dragonflies found in Britain.

A return journey time of 18 hours and 1036 miles took Jacob to Abernethy Forest in Scotland on a hunt for three target species, the Northern and the Northern Emerald damselflies and the Azure Hawker dragonfly found around boggy pools in moorland.

With over 5,000 miles on the clock and 290 hours driving, including visits to Loch Maree Scotland, the Isle of Sheppey, the New Forest, Hadleigh Castle in Essex and the Isles of Scilly Jacob spotted 45 species of Odonata (the collective name for dragonflies and damselflies) including all of the 41 species native to Britain.

After a break for refreshments Tricia Hall delivered her popular Nature Notes with news of a Great Spotted Woodpecker nesting in a hole in the same tree as last year in the Plantation. Blue tits are very busy in some of the nesting boxes in the village and five fox cubs were seen playing in Clover Lane. Early marsh Orchids are alongside the Rife along with Comfrey, which has medicinal qualities and can be cut, rotted down and used as fertilizer and is also a good food source for Bumble Bees. Ed Miller concluded the meeting by advising us that the draft version of the Arun Local Plan has been modified to reflect the increase of the new housing quota to 1,000 properties per year for the next 15 years. So far this draft plan protects the Goring Gaps.