RARE dragonflies have taken flight in Delamere Forest for the first time in more than 10 years.
Wildlife experts are celebrating the return of white-faced darter dragonflies, which were last seen flying in the wild in Cheshire in 2003.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust is working with the Forestry Commission in a groundbreaking project to reintroduce the tiny bood red and black insects, moving them from sites in Shropshire and Staffordshire to former haunts at Delamere.
Classed as one of Britain’s rarest dragonflies, the white-faced darter is now only found in a handful of locations in the north west and Scotland.
This new strategy has only been used once before in the peat bogs of Cumbria, with the reintroduction scheme only the third ever attempted for a dragonfly or damselfly anywhere in the country.
After 100 white-faced darter larvae were transported to Doolittle Pool a few weeks ago, teams from the wildlife trust have now reported seeing the crucial ‘emergence’ stage, where the dragonflies leave the safety of the water and take to the air as adults.
This annual translocation is set to continue each summer in the hope that adult dragonflies will mate and develop a sustainable long-term white-faced darter population once again in Cheshire.
The scheme, part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has included extensive work by the Forestry Commission to restore habitats to suit the dragonflies, including removing trees that had previously shaded out the open pools they require.
Dr Vicky Nall, leading the trust’s reintroduction project, said: “This is always a tense time of year as we await the first tentative emergence of the white-faced darters, and begin the painstaking process of counting the dried larval cases they leave behind as they take to the skies for their maiden flight.
“We’ve been blessed with a relatively consistent warm and sunny spring so far, and the signs are good for a successful number of adults making their way into the air this year.”
The white-faced darter reintroduction project is a partnership between Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission, Natural England, the British Dragonfly Society and Cheshire West and Chester Council with funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Linley Shaw Foundation.