The following is a personal perspective on dragonfly watching in Gateshead borough made mostly from my own personal observations or records gleaned from others through word of mouth or social media. It is by no means a definitive record of any site but still gives a good idea of what can be found should you decide to visit.
If you know of any other site in the borough worth checking out, please let me know a few details and I'll add it to the page. Or if you do visit any of the sites in Gateshead I would be interested to know what you see there in order to build a more complete record, might even be useful to aid future conservation issues, so would be grateful if you would please send your site records to me on : firstname.lastname@example.org
Kibblesworth Brickworks Pools NZ250560 (Species recorded 18)
The flagship site in Gateshead (being the only site where you can find all 16 resident species over the summer) and in 2006 also hosted vagrant Yellow-winged Darter and Red-veined Darter.
The Main Pond : Black-tailed Skimmer is the star dragon here as it is not (to my knowledge) found anywhere else in the borough. It is also the most consistent site for Emperor Dragonfly (9 seen in 2014), and the most numerous site for Four-spotted Chaser. Common Darter and all the common damsels are well represented.
The Bog Pond : Best for Common Hawker and Black Darter
The Approach Ponds : Common species, Migrant hawkers along the treeline and once held the vagrant Yellow-winged Darter
Least likely : Banded Demoiselle are found on the adjacent river Teams but now and again stray over to the ponds, and Broad-bodied Chaser have been seen ovipositing but aren't regularly seen. Ruddy Darters are present in small numbers but not easy to root out.
Star Dragons : Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Black Darter
Far Pasture NZ172593 (species recorded 15)
My local patch so very well recorded over the last few years. On the pond and viewed from the hide, in any one year it should be possible to find 5 species of damselfly, 7 species of dragonfly.
Of the damsels only azure and common blue are numerous, though later in the season quite a few emeralds usually appear. Small numbers of large reds and blue-tailed can be found, and my claim to fame here is that as far as I'm aware I have the only record of Banded demoiselle here.
The approach roads and car park area in early season are more productive and far easier to study, identify and photograph the damsels in all variations of development.
Of the dragonflies only common darter are seen in any great numbers but it's a great site to study them as they are found in good numbers perched on the roadside fences, often very approachable so excellent for photography. Ruddy Darter can be seen on the pond but is also best sought on the approach road as they seem to prefer the overgrown roadside ditches.
Broad-bodied and Four Spotted Chasers prefer the 'Forbidden Pond' (out of bounds and obscured from view on the other side of the road) but at odd times will be seen on the main pond.
Migrant Hawkers can be seen hawking the fields, and the occasional Southern and Common Hawker hawking the trees and hedgerows. With patience on warm sunny days, all three will appear at the pond in late summer.
Completing the line-up I have one record each of Emperor and black Darter, both males, though wandering black darters have been recorded previously so always worth keeping an eye out come September.
Star Dragons : Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Migrant Hawker, Azure Damsel
|Far Pasture Pond (view to right of hide)|
Not easy to get good views of anything from the hide, best bet is to
search the vegetation growing outside the windows.
|The Forbidden Pond|
Early season lush and good for Broad-bodied and
Four-spotted Chaser. Tends to dry out over the summer
and is now totally fenced off so no access.
(It was always officially out of bounds anyway hence
Gibside National Trust Estate NZ178593 (species recorded 14)
A network of ponds and waterways throughout this well-managed estate, reptile and amphibian friendly and so good for a host of dragonfly species.
The main ponds to look for are the Lily Pond (under the shadow of the imposing Column to Liberty) and the Octagonal Pond (under the shadow of the Banqueting House). The Walled Garden also has a pond next to the beehives which has so far not been too good for dragonflies, but I note it appears to have been relieved of a lot of the strangling vegetation and looks more like a pond again, so may be worth keeping an eye on.
It is also bordered by the river Derwent, which is always worth a look for Banded Demoiselle and feeding hawkers.
The downside is of course unless you are a member of the National Trust, your dragonhunting will cost an entrance fee.
The Lily Pond (10 species recorded) hosts five species of damselfly and is probably the best site in the borough for getting to grips with Emerald damsel. I have also seen Four-spotted Chaser, Southern, Common and Migrant Hawker and Common Darter here.
The Octagonal Pond (6 species recorded) would probably be just as good as the Lily Pond but for the fact viewing is poor, it being bordered by an often high-growing wild margin and fenced off a couple of yards away from the pond. Good for wildlife but not so good for viewing. Blue damsels are here in abundance with a few large reds. The only dragonflies I've seen here are Emperor, and Common and Migrant Hawkers.
The Walled Garden Pond (5 species recorded) I only discovered this pond a couple of years ago but in that time it has always been choked with vegetation, but like I say it seems to have been cleared recently so might improve. Only four species recorded here personally, large-red damsel, four-spotted chaser, common and ruddy darter, but it does hold the only confirmed record of Golden-ringed Dragonfly in Gateshead over the last ten years.
Along the river I've had Southern Hawker and Common Darter, and Banded Demoiselle should be possible as I've had them on the river opposite Ladyhaugh in the past. In the late season Migrant Hawkers can be encountered feeding literally anywhere, as can Common hawkers from late June.
2014 produced a first ever record of a female Broad-bodied Chaser, away from water in the hollow walk, but the NT Rangers also netted a male by the river.
Star Dragons : Emerald Damselfly, Ruddy Darter.
|The Lily Pond|
If you only have time to visit one site, make it this one. Apart from anything
else the setting is worth the walk alone.
|Looking down on the Lily Pond from the Column of Liberty|
|The Octagon Pond|
Another impressive setting but not so impressive viewing.
Stargate NZ169632 (species recorded 14)
Most interest here is at the beginning and end of season, as over the last few years it has been the most reliable site for Broad-bodied Chaser in June, and invariably holds a few Black Darters at the end of summer, but as far as I'm aware there is no proof of this species breeding and as it is always mature males which are seen, they may be just wanderers.
It is a good damselfly site especially in early season, (only Banded Demoiselle is not present) and on my late season visits I have encountered all of the hawkers, with a common hawker female ovipositing.
Four-spot chasers are present early season but tend to be very flighty and mostly stay at the opposite end of the pond to the Broad-bodied Chasers, but erect a perching stick and with a bit of patience one should alight to photograph.
Common Darters can be numerous, especially on the adjacent boggy pond favoured by the Black Darters.
Star Dragons : Broad-bodied Chaser, Black Darter
Burdon Moor NZ213573 (species recorded 8)
A site I don't visit often enough, mainly in late season when one of the specialities, namely Black Darter, are on the wing. But the 'Stone Frog bog' pool which they favour is also inhabited by Common Hawker, Common and Ruddy Darter, Emerald and Common Blue damselfly (there must be more damsels but like I said it's not a site I visit enough).
The open pond which is fenced off is favoured by Broad-bodied Chasers (the other speciality) and Southern Hawkers.
Star Dragons : Broad-bodied Chaser, Black Darter, Common Hawker
Can't see any water but this is the boggy 'Stone Frog' Pool favoured by
Black Darter and Common Hawker.
The open pond favoured by Broad-bodied Chaser is beyond that wall
and over a fence.
This is primarily a damselfly site and one well worth visiting early season. The main point of interest is the outlet stream running into the river Derwent which holds a good population of Blue-tailed Damselflies which can be observed and photographed in all stages of development.
All the damsels bar Emerald are represented here, and it provides the best opportunities for photographing perched Banded Demoiselles should you be fortunate enough to encounter one.
The area is used by Migrant Hawkers for feeding in late summer, and I have also seen ovipositing Southern Hawker, and flypast Common Hawker and Common Darter, but these are by no means regular.
Star Dragons : Blue-tailed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle
Thornley Woods Pond NZ176607 (species recorded 9)
The best pond by miles for observing one species in particular, the Southern Hawker. Every aspect of their life cycle can be studied at this intimate little site; from emergence, to territorial males, copulation and ovipositing, a fascinating insight into their lives.
The supporting cast of damselflies mainly consists of azure and large red, but last year was the first time I'd noted blue-tailed and an ovipositing emerald.
I don't know if this is something to do with the more open aspect of the pond since a lot of tree-felling in the area a couple of winters ago, but last year also was the first time I'd noted Common Hawkers exhibiting potential breeding behaviour with males searching the margins for females.
Other dragonflies recorded have been passing Migrant Hawkers and ovipositing Common Darters (though I've never seen a teneral or exuvia here to prove breeding success).
2014 saw first ever records of Broad-bodied Chaser, with two individuals flying through (without stopping) on separate occasions in June.
The pond is not without its problems though. The tree-felling might do something towards alleviating the amount of leaf litter lining the pond bottom, and I've already noted last year the sunnier aspect seems to have encouraged a lot more growth of emergent grasses.
Another problem has been caused by someone introducing sticklebacks a few years back which has an effect on tadpole survival rates and probably dragonfly larva survival rates. Last year (2013) in fact very few exuvia were found compared to previous years, I hope this was just a one-off but will watch closely this year.
The most irritating problem here is dog walkers allowing their pets to rampage through the pond, especially at emergence time when I have found drowned and crippled southern hawkers in the pond after a mutt has had its fun. Bloody annoying.
Star Dragons : Southern Hawker, Large Red Damselfly, Azure damselfly
|Thornley Woods Pond|
A paradise for Southern Hawkers
The River Derwent at Haghill NZ189613 (species recorded 1)
Over the years I have seen Banded Demoiselle at many slow-moving stretches of the river, but the Haghill walkway is the most consistent and by far the best point for observing this species, culminating in the cracking summer of 2013 with well over 20 individuals on one particular July day, an absolute treat to watch. The downside here is the high viewpoint isn't conducive to good photography, so just sit back and enjoy with binoculars.
Star Dragon : Banded Demoiselle
|Haghill Banded Demoiselle Viewpoint|
The essence of summer
Shibdon Pond NZ195627 (species recorded 8)
Vastly underwatched by me so I'll be making more trips here this year, especially late season when Migrant Hawkers can be found perched up in the mornings.
To date the only records I have are from casual visits and consist of Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed Damsels; Emperor, Southern, Common and Migrant Hawkers, and Common Darter.
Milkwellburn Woods NZ105575 (species recorded 13?)
Just one visit in 2013 to this newly regenerated site but it gave me potentially my best Gateshead record with a Hairy Hawker hawking a woodland clearing. The new pond held Broad-bodied Chaser, Azure and Large Red Damselfly on my one visit, but I hear that 12 species were recorded over the summer. Another site to record more fully this year.