A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

It may seem odd to some of you that there is an article in Autumn about Dragonflies on The Lizard however there are still some on the wing. Furthermore there is a chance of a particular Dragonfly species in any month of the year. About 10 years ago a friend of mine (Andy Pay) found three Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies at Windmill Farm – these records represented the 18th, 19th and 20th records nationally. Since that time Vagrant Emperor sightings have become more common – though still rare. I have seen 14 individuals at Windmill Farm – 7 of which were this year (2 of them in October).

Male and female Vagrant Emperors

Male and female Vagrant Emperors

So when is the best time to look out for these wonderful insects? Vagrant Emperors are a migratory species that can travel a long distance – they mainly reside in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The most likely time they travel this way is when we have had a period of strong southerly winds. They are about 6cms long and generally the body is beige/brown in colour with a blue patch on the second abdomen segment (this is the part of the dragonfly behind the wings). See https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/species/vagrant-emperor/.
The most likely species that you could confuse this with is Lesser Emperor (these are rare on The Lizard – in fact I have only seen 3 of these at Windmill Farm). Lesser Emperors are slightly bigger (7cm) with Green Eyes, darker body and a much brighter blue saddle (second segment) and fly between May and June. To be fair if you see any medium-large dragonfly in the period from December to March it is likely to be a Vagrant Emperor. Therefore keep your eyes open! Windmill Farm is one of the few places in the UK that you can see 3 species of different Emperor dragonflies.

Lesser Emperor (male)

Lesser Emperor (male)

 Emperor (male)

Emperor (male)

Windmill Farm is a great place to find Dragonflies – there are still a few on the wing now. These species are Common Darter, Red Veined Darter, Emperor, Southern Hawker, Common Hawker and Migrant Hawker.

Published: Oct 2019
Author: Dougy Wright