Damsels and dragons

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust explain how to tell dragonflies and damselflies apart and work being done to give them the perfect environment

WHO can fail to be enthralled by the colourful spectacle and breathtaking aerodynamic agility of dragonflies as they cavort around reed-lined streams and ponds on warm summer days? However, most of us admit to knowing very little about them. Thanks to a six-year survey and the work of local natural history experts, we do know that there are ten sites in the county where at least 16 of the 19 species that can be seen in the county can be found. Four of these are Trust nature reserves - Amwell, King's Meads, Hertford Heath and Fir and Pond Woods. The survey has resulted in the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Hertfordshire - a book launched in April by the Herts Natural History Society (HNHS), full of dragonfly descriptions, colour photos, distribution maps and flight charts. The work provides accurate and up-to-date information not only on where, but also when particular species can be seen in our county. The Trust has been working alongside HNHS for many years and staff and volunteers also helped to contribute to the huge body of survey information. This new work will be a valuable resource for wildlife watchers and help you to get to know the damsels and dragons on your doorstep a lot better.For more information on Dragonflies and Damselflies of Hertfordshire (ISBN 978-0-9521685-6-0) or to order a copy, visit www.hnhs.orgLook out for dragonfliesFind out more about dragonflies and our work at King's Meads Nature Reserve on Sunday, July 6, between noon and 4pm. Look out for our marquee on the towpath between Hertford and Ware adjacent to the nature reserve. HMWT staff and experts will be on hand to point out some of the dragonflies and to tell you a little more about our conservation work there.On the trail of dragonsHMWT's Amwell Nature Reserve near Stanstead Abbots is the top site for dragonflies and damselflies in Hertfordshire. This month the Trust opens its new Dragonfly Trail around Hollycross Lake, including boardwalks stretching out over reedbed, pools and ditches and a circular walk provides a chance to see orchids up close too.The trail will remain open until September, when it will be closed to public access to allow wintering birds the peace and quiet they need. The trail will reopen each May when the summer dragonfly displays start up again.

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