Colloquial names apart, the big question is.... Who designed the dragonfly?

I ask you, what sort of mind could conceive of a cross on a stick that flies, then make the stick-body metallic or furry; colouring it bright red, electric-blue or brown and adding a couple of balls for eyes! It’s the stuff of sci-fi spaceships or flying robots.

Four spot chaser at Pulborough Brooks (c) Graham Osbourne

Dragon and damsel flies are mesmerising in their fragile beauty. One of nature’s small wonders, haunting ponds, puddles and waterways. And we’ve plenty of these darting, stuttering and hovering creatures on our reserves in the south east.

Blue eyed hawker at Rainham Marshes (c) Jerry Hoare

There are an estimated 45 different species in the UK and you can find more than half of those at our Pulborough Brooks reserve in West Sussex, Broadwater Warren in East Sussex or Rainham Marshes on the eastern outskirts of London and plenty to see at other sites too.

Willow emerald at Rainham Marshes (c) Dawn Cowan

We’ve a series of opportunities for you to discover them on our reserves for yourself over the coming summer. So check out the events pages of your nearest RSPB reserve or set-off on your own safari and lose yourself in the world of dragons and damsels. It’s become an obsession for at least two of our brilliant volunteers, who’ve become expert dragon-hunters.

Dragon hunters Rob and Samantha Croker's selfie at Broadwater Warren

Rob Manvell, knew little about them until we asked our regular reserve volunteers if any of them would carry out a survey. Rob stepped forward and attended a Dragonfly Identification course held by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Once Rob had attended the course, Broadwater’s warden Matt Twydell offered to show him the route for the first survey. Rob’s partner, Samantha Croker is a keen photographer and decided to join them. After two hours of wading through bogs, jumping across streams and being scratched by brambles, they had recorded 13 species.

Female emperor laying eggs at Broadwater Warren (c) Samantha Croker

Last year, Rob and Samantha identified six new species for the site, including; red-eyed damselflies sitting characteristically on lily pads, white-legged damselflies and four-spotted chasers. Samantha says: “With each new survey there is the excitement of the possibility of finding new species for the season or even better, new species for the site. We completed eight full surveys last year and among the new species confirmed were the heathland specialist keeled skimmer, the striking banded-demoiselle and the UK’s smallest resident dragonfly the black darter.“

Male southern hawker patrolling ponds at Broadwater Warren

Broadwater Warren’s list now runs to 22 species and may increase this year. Rainham Marshes has 24, and staff at Pulborough Brooks are confident they’ll top 26 different species on site this summer. Nip along to one of our reserves or a nearby pond and see how many you can spot?

Broad bodied chaser at Rainham Marshes (c) Barry Jackson

Our online shop has a field guide to dragon and damsel flies and we've also got an ID chart.