A good find yesterday was this teneral Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva flying along rank vegetation in one of the fields at Great Chalfield. As its name suggests this is a quite rare dragonfly and very local: there are only six discrete populations all in south and south-east England. In Wiltshire it breeds only (as far as anyone knows) on the River Avon, from Melksham downstream.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that wandering individuals would make their way onto the Great Chalfield estate which is just downstream of Melksham. Two years ago Steve Covey, the Wiltshire Odonata County Recorder who runs http://www.wiltshiredragonflies.org, identified a male along the Leat (in essence a ‘mini-canal’ which draws water from the Chalfield Brook right past the Manor and which used to power the water mills that were here for hundreds of years) at about Point C, and the one in the photos here was at Point D: the aerial shot is taken from the internet and was from the late summer/autumn) and so the ground looks very different at the moment but the line of trees marks the course of another brook, the Lenton Brook which joins the Avon just outside Melksham.
Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva
Photographed May 2012, Great Chalfield. Copyright Charlie Moores/Talking Naturally
The two spots where Scarce Chaser has been recorded so far
(breeding is not suspected)
To quote Steve’s Dragonfly website on the species:
- “Distribution: As its name suggests, is one of the UK’s rarer species: there are only six discrete populations all in south and south-east England. This is primarily a riverine insect its preference being for the mature floodplain/watermeadow stages, and Wiltshire is privileged in having one of these colonies along a stretch of the Bristol Avon from Melksham, downstream past Bradford upon Avon, and on into Somerset. Interestingly, it is not present along the whole section, there being some puzzling gaps; puzzling because, to the human eye, the stretches where they occur look the same as those on which they have not been found.” (http://www.wiltshiredragonflies.org/Scarce_Chaser.html)