Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Thrill to damsels & dragons

Banded demoiselle damselfly © Zsuzsanna Bird

Take a front row seat for a colourful show of aerodynamics at the water’s edge.

Like most insects, dragonflies are at their most active in warm sunny conditions, so pick your day wisely. Binoculars will come in handy, as most species of odonata will fly off if you get too close. And of course, take care at the water’s edge

The height of the summer sees the emergence of a multitude of dragonflies and damselflies (their smaller more delicate relatives), together known as Odonata. Electric blue damselflies, the size of a darning needle, flutter through the reeds. Demoiselles, with beautiful coppery blue patches in their wings flap out from overhanging willow branches along the river bank, males battling low over the water to secure the best territories.  Small blood-red darters, powder blue skimmers and chasers, and large powerful hawkers all do exactly what their names suggest, darting and skimming, chasing and hawking, busy hunting for their insect prey.

Our largest dragonflies are two very different beasts.  Around ponds and lakes in the lowlands of England and south Wales lives the big boss, the sky blue emperor dragonfly, which can often be seen patrolling back and forth over the water.  But you will have to head to the uplands to catch sight of, the beautiful golden-ringed dragonfly.  An impressive black flyer, with apple green eyes and bright yellow bands ringing the body, the female reaches over 8cm in length, making her Britain’s longest insect.  They patrol small moorland streams in Scotland, Wales, the north of England and the south west.

These two species may seem big, but they are mere whipper-snappers when compared with the fossil dragonflies: the largest fossil found had a quite mindboggling wingspan that measured 75cm across!  Dragonflies have been around at least 325million years.  They were around for 100 million years before the dinosaurs turned up, and have outlived them by another 66million years. That makes them pretty successful survivors.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…There are very few places where you don’t stand a chance of finding a dragonfly.  Several species travel a long way away from water, to feed in gardens, fields and woodland edges. One of the greatest wanderers is the migrant hawker, which you can often find hunting along sheltered hedgerows in August and September.

Special spots

Decoy Heath in Berkshire may not be a large reserve, but it’s one of the best places to see dragonflies in the country, with a very impressive 23 different species known to have bred in its shallow pools, including the rare small red damselfly.

Anglesey,  Cors Goch

Bedfordshire,  Felmersham Gravel Pits

Berkshire, Greenham and Crookham Commons

Berkshire,  Wildmoor Heath

Cumbria,  Bowness-on-Solway

Cumbria,  Foulshaw Moss

Derbyshire,  Carr Vale Flash

Derbyshire,  The Avenue Washlands

Devon,  Meeth Quarry

Dorset,  Upton Heath

Gloucestershire,  Woorgreens

Linconlshire,  Deeping Lakes 

Lincolnshire,  Whisby Nature Park

London,  Crane Park Island

Norfolk,  Roydon Common and Grimston Warren

Norfolk,  Upton Broad and Marshes

Northamptonshire,  Summer Leys

Northumberland,  Falstone Moss 

Suffolk,  Redgrave and Lopham Fen

Surrey,  Chobham Common

Surrey,  Thundry Meadows

Worcestershire,  Knapp and Papermill

Norfolk hawker dragonfly © Jamie Hall

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