Rare dragonfly sighting turns Lochalsh estate into sanctuary

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The National Trust for Scotland has created a new habitat at Balmacara Estate by Lochalsh to help the rare Northern Emerald dragonfly flourish.

The conservation charity’s team at Balmacara Estate and its Highland Conservation Volunteers donned their wellies last week, in partnership with Raleigh International Re:Green volunteers to dig out several bog pools at Loch Achaidh na h-Inich.

The Northern Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora arctica) has been spotted breeding on the estate at one remaining pool and the addition of new bog pools will provide new habitat for the species population to expand into.

Prior to digging, the conservation charity’s senior natural heritage advisor Jeff Waddell surveyed Collie Mhor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to determine the best location for the pools. The rare Northern Emerald has specific habitat requirements, including acid peat bog pools and floating sphagnum moss to allow them to breed successfully.

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 it to become extinct at this site. This wetland habitat is part of a site of special scientific interest designated as a safe haven for these amazing insects.

‘A huge thanks to NatureScot for permitting this work, British Dragonfly Society for advice and for all the volunteers that support the trust’s vital nature conservation programmes.’

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 this rare species to flourish.

During the next stage of the project, the trust will closely monitor the pools over the next few seasons where surveys will be conducted to determine whether Northern Emeralds are occupying the new habitat, and if there are any signs of breeding.