Results from the biggest dragonfly citizen science project ever to hit Great Britain have revealed the common clubtail dragonfly is now absent from many of the surveyed rivers.
Over the summer of 2017, 110 volunteers scoured 206km of bankside along major British rivers in search of evidence of breeding common clubtail.
"It was truly a mixed bag for this beautiful dragonfly last year, with worrying declines on some rivers offset by the new finds elsewhere,” says Genevieve Dalley, clubtail count project coordinator for the British Dragonfly Society.
The common clubtail is the only species of clubtail in the UK, and is a relatively elusive insect, despite its conspicuous markings.
The species is listed as Near Threatened in Britain and is a conservation priority, but there is very little data on its distribution and abundance.
The survey found the first evidence of common clubtail breeding on the River Vyrnwy, across the English/Welsh border.
Furthermore, visiting Polish entomologist, Paweł Buczyński, is now the first person to ever find common clubtail in Devon, after spotting it on the River Otter.
However, despite further sightings of the dragonfly on the River Severn and River Dee in Cheshire, the news is not good as the species has suffered catastrophic declines elsewhere.
No sightings were recorded on the River Avon in Worcestershire and Warwickshire, or the River Kennet in Oxfordshire.
And it was a similar story in Wales, where both the River Towy and River Teifi failed to produce and clubtail sightings.
“The important thing now is to keep looking, as we need more data to really understand the changes that are occurring,” continues Dalley. “Now we have launched Clubtail Count 2018, we would love to recruit kayakers and canoeists to reach those difficult stretches of rivers, such as along the Rivers Teifi and Towy.”
Main image: The common clubtail dragonfly is an elusive species. © Christophe Brochard