Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Giant surprise for naturalist as he snaps rare dragonfly at Causeway

Rare: The black-tailed skimmer

This gorgeous jewelled creature is a black-tailed skimmer dragonfly which showed up at the Giant's Causeway – only the second time it has been recorded in Northern Ireland.

National Trust conservation officer Cliff Henry was hard at work pulling ragwort when his eye was drawn to a large silvery-coloured insect resting on some long blades of grass.

He was lucky enough to snap a quick picture before it darted away.

"I've never seen this insect before in my life so I knew it was something rare and perhaps a bit interesting," Dr Henry said.

"I was worried that it wouldn't sit still long enough for me to get my camera out to take a picture – but thankfully it did. I couldn't wait to get back to the office to research what it might be."

Intrigued by his find, Cliff consulted Ian Rippey, of the Northern Ireland branch of the Butterfly Conservation Society, who has specialist knowledge of butterflies and dragonflies.

Mr Rippey confirmed that this was a male black-tailed skimmer dragonfly. The same species was spotted in Northern Ireland last year in south Armagh, but this is the furthest north in Ireland the species has been recorded.

The black-tailed skimmer breeds on lakes and ponds, usually with not too dense vegetation and a sandy or muddy margin.

Although only first confirmed in Ireland in 1943, it has been widely recorded in other parts of Ireland and Britain, and has even reached Scotland.

Speculating on how the dragonfly ended up at the Causeway, Dr Henry said it could have been blown off its migration route and that summer 2013 could have been a particularly good year for dragonflies. However, he could not rule out the possibility that the species is spreading.

This species only appeared in Britain in 1934.

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