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21 Oct 2021

Calling all dragonflies!

A close-up view of a northern emerald dragonfly, with a teal green body with yellow markings on its thorax. It is resting on some twigs, with its lacy wings spread out wide.
Somatochlora arctica | Photo by Dave Ashton
We’ve created new pools at Balmacara Estate in Wester Ross, to allow the rare northern emerald dragonfly to flourish.

Our team at Balmacara Estate, along with our Highland Conservation Volunteers, donned their wellies recently, to dig out several bog pools at Loch Achaidh na h-Inich. They were also joined by young Re:Green volunteers from Raleigh International.

The nationally rare northern emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora arctica) has been spotted breeding at one pool on the estate, and so we hope the addition of new bog pools will provide further suitable habitat for the species to expand into.

Before digging began, Senior Natural Heritage Advisor Jeff Waddell surveyed the Coille Mhòr Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to determine the best location for the pools. The northern emerald has specific habitat requirements, including acidic peat bog pools and floating sphagnum moss, to allow them to breed successfully.

The volunteer groups used an assortment of hand tools, spades and colanders to dig out and clean the pools, working through all weathers to create the perfect habitat for the dragonflies to flourish.

A group of people in high-vis vests and head-to-toe waterproofs are digging a small pond in a boggy area on a wet day. Small trees grow behind them.
Creating the ponds

Jeff explained: ‘It was fun, productive and rewarding to work with National Trust for Scotland volunteers to create some much-needed breeding pools for the rare northern emerald dragonfly at the Trust’s Balmacara property last week. Without this work, its habitat would disappear here, as natural processes mean the fen would become covered in trees and too dry for the species to breed, causing the dragonfly to become extinct at this site. This wetland habitat is part of the SSSI, designated to provide a safe haven for these amazing insects.’

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“A huge thanks to NatureScot for permitting this work, to the British Dragonfly Society for their advice and to all the volunteers that support the Trust’s vital nature conservation programmes.”
Jeff Waddell
Senior Natural Heritage Advisor

For the next stage of the project, we will closely monitor the pools over the next few seasons. Surveys will be conducted to determine whether northern emeralds are occupying the new habitat, and if there are any signs of breeding.

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