BDS logoSome personal ramblings on the rise & fall of the Cornwall Dragonfly Group

It is now 25 years since Dave Thomas & Steve Jones led the first British Dragonfly Society field meeting to take place in Cornwall at Red Moor & Breney Common on the 19th July 1986.
On a bright and sunny day 22 people came along to that first meeting, including former dragonfly county recorders, Pat Paton (1962 to 1975) and Harry Robinson (1976 to 1988). Others had travelled from as far a field as Devon & Hampshire.

Dave Thomas 1986

The BDS was formed in 1983 and I had been a member from the very start. Dave joined shortly after we had first met during a Camborne - Redruth Natural History Society field meeting at RAF Portreath in July 1983.

From that point on one of Dave's many mission's in life was to drag me out of my shell, to get me leading field trips, and later on, to get me installed as county recorder!

So rather than breaking ourselves in gently with a nice afternoon dragonfly walk, that first Cornish BDS meetings was a complete weekend event! Dave even got the Western Morning News photographer to come along, and the article on the left appeared in the 21st July 1986 edition as a result.

We started in Mid Cornwall at Redmoor & Breney on the Saturday and then resumed on the Lizard peninsula on the Sunday.

This is how I reported the event in the BDS Newsletter no.10 (Winter 1986):

Cornwall, 19th/20th July
Over twenty members of the BDS and Cornwall Trust for Nature Conservation assembled on the Saturday. On a mostly sunny day, thirteen species of dragonfly were recorded. The morning started with a walk around Red Moor, a CTNC reserve with 160 acres of wet heathland, bogs and small willow woods. Ceriagrion tenellum was seen in large numbers and Coenagrion puella, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Ischnura elegans, Enallagma cyathigerum & Lestes sponsa were also seen. Sympetrum striolatum were observed emerging and a female Cordulegaster boltonii devouring a meal proved very popular with the photographers amongst us. Anax imperator & Libellula quadrimaculata completed our tally for the morning.
In the afternoon we moved on to Breney Common, a 180
acre CTNC reserve which contains a series of shallow pools left as a result of tin streaming. In addition to the ten species seen in the morning we found Aeshna cyanea (exuviae), Calopteryx virgo, and the county recorder Harry Robinson pointed out Sympetrum danae, a species absent from much of West Cornwall.

On the Sunday ten of us visited Bray's Cot Pool on the Lizard peninsula, but unfortunately the weather was misty with drizzle for most of the morning. Despite this eight species were seen at this former serpentine quarry, including Lestes sponsa, Anax imperator & Libellula quadrimaculata. We then moved on to Polkerth and recorded nine species, including Ceriagrion tenellum, Orthetrum coerulescens & Orthetrum cancellatum, a species new to many of us. After lunch the sun came out and we visited Croft Pascoe Pool where we were greeted by a nesting Curlew. Nine species of dragonfly were also observed here, an identical list to Bray's Coy Pool but with the addition of O.coerulescens.

Riveting stuff! However the event was a great success and was repeated the following year with 21 people attending from as far a field as Huddersfield and Nottingham! The legend of Dave Thomas also gained momentum that weekend as I noted in my note book that he ran out of petrol between Bray's Cot Pool & Polkerth, so we had a convoy of cars taking him to the old Telstar garage to fill up via a petrol can! A few years later, at our field meeting at Carwen on Bodmin Moor, he followed this up by locking his Renault 5 from the outside with the keys still in the ignition! Que frantic attempts to reach for the keys via the sun roof ably supported by the bodies of his friends!

In 1989 I formally took on the role of County Recorder for Dragonflies so Dave's master plan had reached fruition! By 1990 we wereCornwall Dragonfly Group logo running four field meetings a year, (sometimes five), under the banner of the Cornwall Dragonfly Group (CDG), and we even had some "foreign" trips across the Tamar to Devon, Somerset & the Thames! From 1991 to 1998 I produced 8 annual reports/newsletters that included up to date tetrad maps for all the species found in Cornwall, colour photographs, season reviews, details of practical conservation work & the advice we had given, and of course field trip reports. Roger Jones, then of Bennett Jones & Co, Chartered Accountants of St.Austell & Bodmin, generously provided funding for the newsletter. Meanwhile Graham Sutton had done an excellent job in securing funding from the Environment Agency to allow the group to buy a computer, printer and the BDS "Darter" recording software. We were regarded as the model BDS local group.   

In 1998 my son Adam was born and with my wings clipped so began the decline of the CDG. Only three field trips were held that year, the final one being at Hayle Kimbro Pool on the 16th August where a large influx of Red-veined Darters put on a good show. After that, moving house to take on a building project while simultaneously switching jobs to a post an hour away from home effectively killed off CDG and in 2002 I didn't see a single dragonfly in the UK, not a good advert for a county recorder!   There were no further field trips until 2004 when in a moment of madness I organised field meetings at Great Wheal Seton, Seaton Valley, Windmill Farm & Penhale two of which were rained off! The briefly visible CDG faded into the murk again.

However in 2009 I agreed to lead 2 dragonfly courses for ERCCIS/Duchy College which were a great success and have been repeated in 2010 & 2011. Up popped Dave, sensing the time was right for a revival, to coax me into leading a June 2010 meeting at Goss Moor to celebrate Dragonfly Week and over 40 people turned up on a glorious day when 14 species including Scarce Blue-tailed and Small Red Damselflies. Sadly the follow up in 2011 at Trehudreth & Carwen was rained off but encouraged by a good turn out at the Cheesewring dragonfly meeting, where 27 people attended, we are planning some indoor meetings in the winter/spring of 2012.

During these two indoor meetings we ae hoping to encourage a reassurgance of interest in the Cornwall Dragonfly Group so that it won't be reliant on the enthusiasm of one or two people for it's survival, while I also live in hope that a new county recorder will step forward!

So if you are interested in dragonflies & damselflies and enjoy a relaxed friendly atmosphere please come along and get involved, the meetings have been provisionally booked at the CWT HQ, Allet, near Truro, for 7.30pm on Thursday 23rd February (a talk on dragonflies by yours truly), and for 7.30pm on Thursday 29th March (a social evening showing digital images from those attending followed by a discussion on future plans for recording and the CDG). Full details will appear on this website nearer the time. I'll look forward to meeting you then.

The photo below was taken by Dave Thomas during a recent dragonfly meeting at the Cheesewring organised by Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project and led by Steve. The 27 people who attended all benefited from the flying lessons Steve gave during the event!
Steve Jones teaching a group to fly like a dragonfly at the 2011 Cheesewring meeting