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The Oxfordshire Dragonfly and Damselfly list

This is a list of all the dragonflies and damselflies recorded in Oxfordshire. In compiling this list, I acknowledge information contained in Anthony Brownett's 1996 booklet [1]. Thanks also to Stephen Prentice for supplying the latest official Dragonfly Recording Network (DRN) list for Oxfordshire.

Important note added 4.2.10: The NBN Gateway [5] is a veritable treasure trove of information especially for the rarer species, now that I have applied for and been granted access to the more recent BDS database. I will now gradually update the information given below, to take account of this information. 2015 update: This database is useful but it unfortunately doesn't seem to be updated very often having no recent records. 2020 update: The NBN database is now more up to date!

For a site guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Oxfordshire, click here.

  Species Distribution Comments Photograph*
1 Beautiful Demoiselle Localised. Perhaps increasing. Brownett mentions the River Swere in north Oxfordshire as a stronghold to at least the early 1990's [1]. More recently, there is a cluster of records from the extreme north of the County, with a scattering from various sites in the south, including Letcombe Brook in East Hanney (2004), the rivers Ock and Windrush, as well as the Thames at Tadpole Bridge [5]. There are 2010 records from Waterperry Wood and Stanton St John, both in the north of the County. In 2011/12 there were records from other sites in this general area - Waterperry Wood/Bernwood Forest and Otmoor. In 2017, there were again a few records from Otmoor. Since then this species appears to be expanding its range in the county, and increasingly moving into sites where only Banded Demoiselle were found previously.
2 Banded Demoiselle Widespread A common and widespread species, especially along the river Thames. Banded Demoiselle
3 Emerald Damselfly Localised. Occurs intermittently at a small number of sites in the county. In 2016 Radley Lakes is the only known site for this species in the County.  Otmoor was previously the premier site but there were no records from there in 2015 and 2016. In September 2012, there were new site records of three at Shellingford Pit, with a further record for 2013 and a few in 2014. There have been none since caused by the sad total desiccation of this site. There is a scattering of odd records from a few other sites, such as Dry Sandford Pit [5]. Another recently discovered site is Faringdon Folly Park Pond, that held small numbers in a very localised area in 2017. Since then there have been various scattered records of small numbers from sites such as the Trap Grounds, Oxford and Longford Park, Banbury. Emerald Damselfly
4 Willow Emerald Damselfly First record in 2019. The first county record was on 10 September 2019 by S Brooks at the unusual location of a dried up pool in the middle of Wytham Woods. No photo or description was provided but the observer was experienced with this species. There was no further sign when looked for later by local enthusiasts. At the time, this was the furthest west record for this species in the country.

In 2020, there were records from three sites - Radley Lakes (1), Otmoor (small numbers of males and females) and the Trap Grounds where a breeding colony with more than 10 individuals was established, with ovipositing noted. In 2021, further range expansion was noted, with records from sites along the River Thames in the south east of the county (North Stoke, Shillingford and Cholsey). However smaller numbers were recorded at the 2020 sites of Otmoor and the Trap Grounds. 
White-legged Damselfly Localised Reasonably common in suitable habitat, i.e. well vegetated slow moving rivers such as the Thames, especially near Goring railway bridge. In the 2015 there were more records than usual from other scattered sites including Chimney Meadows and the Cherwell Valley (between Grimsbury Reservoir and the M40). Since then there have been several records from the Thames downstream from Abingdon, and also the BBOWT reserve of Lambs Pool in the north of the county.  
Large Red Damselfly Common Quite widely distributed in the County and usually the first species of the new season to be reported. Sites include Otmoor, Farmoor (Pinkhill), Dry Sandford Pit, Faringdon Folly Park Pond etc. Large Red Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly Abundant One of the commonest damselflies in the County. Blue-tailed Damselfly
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Rare. Brownett mentions records from the Lower Windrush Valley Gravel Pits in the early 1990's when they were being actively dug [1]. There are more recent records from the same area, up to 2000 [5] by J M Campbell.

There were then no records until 2020, when a new site at Longford Park, Banbury was found by Brian Stone on 19 June. This stormwater pond held several individuals and breeding was clearly taking place. This site also had Emerald Damselfly and there was one report of a Keeled Skimmer.

In 2021, there were further reports from Banbury and a new site in Didcot, again at a stormwater pond, was located.
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly
Southern Damselfly Very localised Used to be reasonably numerous at Dry Sandford Pit, with a reported spread to the nearby BBOWT reserve of Parsonage Moor [2]. However recently numbers may have been lower at these sites. This is a very isolated population, and I have heard a suggestion they might have been introduced here several years ago. Since then this species has maintained its foothold in the county with continuing records from Dry Sandford Pit and the other Cothill reserves. Southern Damselfly
10  Azure Damselfly Widespread A numerous species, but needs careful examination to separate from the commoner Common Blue.  Particularly abundant along the Roman Road at Otmoor, early in the season where hundreds can be found on a fine day. Azure Damselfly
11 Variable Damselfly Very localised Only known from a few locations in the County, which tend to change. It was seen in 2010 and previously [7] in the Cothill/Parsonage Moor area, but between 2013 and 2016 there have been no records from that site. In 2017, another was found. Roger Wyatt had been monitoring a second site near Yarnton for several years, but in 2013 he found only 4, down on previous totals and there have been no records since then. There was a further record of 6 at this site in 2020, per Roger Wyatt. 

In 2015, Martin Wackenier found several in a small area by the River Thames close to Barton Fields nr Abingdon. They appeared to be concentrated near a pool at N51.669995,W1.260927. This colony was still present in subsequent years to 2021 but in reduced numbers. In 2016 Wayne Bull located another site at Iffley Meadows, but there were no further records.
Variable Damselfly
12 Common Blue Damselfly Abundant Probably the commonest damselfly in Oxfordshire. Common Blue Damselfly
13 Red-eyed Damselfly Widespread Occurs quite widely at many sites. Red-eyed Damselfly
14 Small Red-eyed Damselfly Very localised
Currently only known at a few sites
Shellingford Pit held varying numbers since at least 2006 until 2016, but in 2017 the site was dry with no records. 2010 was a good year for this species with well over 10 from Shellingford, and with a new site record from Radley Lakes [7]. It has also been recorded from Didcot Power Station/Appleford Pit [5]. 

In 2017, the first record for VC23 was from Blenheim Lake (southern end) and the best site was Faringdon Folly Park Pond where Bill Haynes recorded up to 60 in early August. After years of being confined to a small number of sites, its range appeared to expand hugely in 2020 with records from many locations with no previous records. The highest numbers came from Otmoor, with many records provided by those looking for the elusive Southern Migrant Hawkers. In 2021, there were records from further additional sites, with the highest numbers found at the Grove Meadows Stormwater pond.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly
15 Small Red Damselfly One site Regular records from the special habitat in the Cothill NNR/Parsonage Moor area from 1910 to 2015! [5]. Cothill NNR continues to be more productive than Parsonage Moor for this species. Small Red Damselfly
16 Club-tailed Dragonfly Localised. Some evidence of a decline since 2012. An elusive species localised to suitable habitat such as the Thames, where it is reputed to occur along its full length in the County, albeit at a low density on some stretches. The best known site is the railway bridge south of Goring, although even this are not guaranteed to produce sightings. The Thames at Little Whittenham Woods gave a remarkable count of 14 on 9 May 2009 [3].

The 2017 BDS Clubtail count produced only a handful of records of adults/recent emergents, with only one upstream of Oxford at Tadpole Bridge. Larger numbers of exuviae were found, especially downstream from Goring.

The 2020 season produced an unusually high number of records of exuviae, emergents and adults with the most sightings being from Goring (or Gatehampton) Railway Bridge and Cholsey Marsh. All records were downstream from Oxford. Records in 2021 returned to a more typical level, probably due to the poorer spring conditions.
Club-tailed Dragonfly
17 Hairy Dragonfly Increasingly reported and spreading to new sites. The main site, early in the season, used to be Otmoor where it had been seen in small numbers since 1998 [5]. In 2010 and subsequently it was found at Radley Lakes by Wayne Bull. In 2013 there were new site records from the Pinkhill reserve at Farmoor and Whitecross Green Wood. In 2015, there were reports from more new sites - the Barton Fields area of the River Thames, to the south of Radley Lakes and the Parsonage Moor BBOWT reserve near Cothill.  Since then further first site records have included the Trap Grounds in Oxford (2017).

By 2020 this species was being reported from many sites across the county, including along the River Thames and is no longer a localised species.
Hairy Dragonfly 
18 Common Hawker Very rare due to absence of suitable habitat The last confirmed record given by Brownett [1] was in 1983. There are just a handful of records since 2000 in the NBN database [5], from sites including Lashford Lane Fen, Parsonage Moor and Iffley Meadows. With no records since 2004, this must be one of the rarest dragonflies in Oxforshire. There is potential for confusion with other hawkers (Migrant and Southern) and many of these historical reports are suspect for this reason.

19 Southern Hawker Widespread One of the easiest hawkers to find in Oxfordshire. Visits gardens regularly. Southern Hawker
20  Brown Hawker Widespread A commonly encountered hawker, but slightly less so than Southern. Brown Hawker
21 Migrant Hawker Widespread Can be numerous in late, good summers. Migrant Hawker
22 Southern Migrant Hawker Very localised The first county record was of an immature by Geoff Wyatt on 15 June 2020 from the western side of Otmoor. Further records of different immatures and, later, adults followed from different locations all across Otmoor but it remained elusive throughout with a maximum count of 3. It is likely to have first bred, unnoticed, the previous year. In 2021, there were further reports from Otmoor, but numbers were generally lower than in 2020, and disappointingly the species was even more elusive.  
23 Emperor Widespread Again a widespread species in Oxfordshire, occurring at plenty of sites. Emperor
24 Lesser Emperor Rare Records from Appleford Pit in 2006 (2), Radley Lakes in 2006 & 2007 and at Shellingford Pit in 2008. Quite remarkably this last record was one of only 8 in the entire country for 2008 [6]! After a few blank years, the next record was on 31 July 2011 at Pit 60, Standlake Gravel Pits. The next report was of the first female for the county, photographed near Drayton in late August 2020. Lesser Emperor
25 Vagrant Emperor Vagrant On 27 February 2014, a large dragonfly was seen briefly at Pucketty Farm, Littleworth, near Faringdon by someone with limited Odonata knowledge. No photograph or detailed description was obtained, but from the time of year, the only plausible species of dragonfly was considered to be Vagrant Emperor. Remarkably, there was another record of a large dragonfly crossing the M4 near Swindon, about a week later.  Not available!
26 Golden Ringed Dragonfly Vagrant Golden Ringed Dragonflies are normally associated with the acidic conditions in the northern and western areas of Britain, but there is a small breeding population in the Bracknell/Crowthorne area of Berkshire. A wandering individual from here may account for a remarkable record of one from Cholsey on 25 May 2012, seen by an observer experienced with this large, difficult to mistake species. This date is however very early for this species. There is a more recent record from just over the county border in Bucks in July 2014, at a similar distance from the Berkshire breeding area.

The NBN database [5] used to contain a number of records from the early 2000s from the west of the county, but these seemed doubtful and have now disappeared, possibly because they were mis-located from the New Forest, 100km to the south! 
Goldeen Ringed Dragonfly 
27 Downy Emerald Localised. Possibly increasing Downy Emeralds favour ponds or small lakes with surrounding trees. Brownett mentions this is a scarce species with a northerly bias in the county. Records since 2000 are from a scattering of sites, mainly in the north of the county such as Rousham Ponds, Ditchley Park and Standford St Martin [5]. However, there are a few records from sites in the south, including the lake at Buckland House (no public access) and the ponds at Little Whittenham Wood (but not since 2001) [5]. In May 2010, there were records of males on Otmoor. As a result, other records for that site emerged for 2002, 2003 and 2004 [7]. In 2010 it was also found by Wayne Bull at a new site - Radley Lakes. There were also records for this site in 2011 and 2012. In 2016, it was reported from Barton Pool by observers looking for the Variable Damselflies. In 2020, there was a record from another new site - the Trap Grounds, Oxford as well as from Radley Lakes and Otmoor.
Downy Emerald
28 Broad-bodied Chaser Reasonably widespread Can be found at a number of sites, including Otmoor and Shellingford Pit in good years.
29 Scarce Chaser

Two confirmed records

The Dragonfly Recording Network (DRN) [5], contains one single unconfirmed record from Cassington Gravel Pits in 1986 by an un-named observer. Not mentioned in [1] and I doubt this record would have been accepted if it were a bird species!

However in 2014, there was a confirmed record of one male on Otmoor on 6 July by Terry Sherlock and Jason Coppock, with some photos to support the ID. Given its increasing range in the country, more records may occur in future. The second record was from the River Thames at Pinkhill on 29 June 2018  by Brian Walker.

30 Four-spotted Chaser Widespread & numerous Can be very abundant at some sites, e.g. Otmoor.
31 Black-tailed Skimmer Widespread Likes muddy edges of ponds etc. Not difficult to find in the County, e.g. Otmoor, Pinkhill and Standlake Pit 60.
32  Keeled Skimmer Very localised This is generally an acid water species and probably a relatively recent colonist. It now occurs at Dry Sandford Pit (since 2006) and Parsonage Moor/Cothill NNR.

In 2020, there was a single record from a completely different site in the extreme north of the county - the stormwater pond at Longford Park, Banbury.

In 2021, records emerged of a male and an immature seen at the Lye Valley NR, Oxford, with a male also reported the previous year. There was a report of a male at Sydlings Copse BBOWT. It is notable that all these sites, apart from the stormwater pond at Banbury, contain rare examples of alkaline fen.
33 Black Darter Extinct? This is also usually an acid species, but the most recent record is from as long ago as 1986 at Hill End Camp. There are also a few even older records from Cothill, but none recently, suggesting this species is extinct in the County.
Black Darter
34 Ruddy Darter Quite widespread A reasonably common species in Oxfordshire. I have even seen it in some surprising habitats such as the stagnant canal near Wantage. Ruddy Darter
35 Yellow-winged Darter Vagrant Brownett mentions 4 records, the most recent being from Clattercote Reservoir in 1995, which coincided with an unprecedented influx of this species into Britain. More recently, there was a record by G Hopwood at Aston Rowant on 27 August 2006 [4],[5] which again coincided with an influx of this species.

Not available

36 Red-veined Darter Vagrant Brownett mentions just 1 record from 1976. There are two more recent records, from Otmoor in June 2006 and Radley Lakes in June 2007 [5]. The 4th record was from Radley on 13th September 2012 by Wayne Bull, in a year during which there were several records from Crookham/Greenham Commons in Berks.

There were no further records until 2020, when Wayne Bull again saw and photographed an immature at Radley Lakes on 4th September at a very similar location to that in 2012.
37 Common Darter Widespread & abundant Surely the County's most numerous dragonfly, later in the season! Common Darter
* Most but not all photographs taken in Oxfordshire!

[1] Anthony Brownett, (1996)."The Dragonflies of Oxfordshire", Brookside Books, Banbury
[2] BBOWT Wildlife Life News, January 2010
[3] British Dragonfly Society Hot News for 2009
[4] British Dragonfly Society Hot News for 2006
[5] The Dragonfly Recording Network records can be viewed via the NBN Gateway which is a powerful interactive database with limited access to casual visitors
[6] Adrian J Parr, "Migrant and dispersive dragonflies in Britain during 2008", Journal of the British Dragonfly Society, Vol 25, no 9, p 95, 2009.
[7] Wayne Bull, personal communication
If anyone else would like to contribute any records or information, don't hesitate to get in touch.
All pictures copyright Stephen Burch, unless stated otherwise