The southern damselfly is a scarce species, even in the New Forest. Apart from one or two isolated colonies, it is only found south of the A31 in the streams between Burley and Brockenhurst and between Lymington and Beaulieu.
In the UK it is only found in the New Forest, along the Itchen and Test rivers in Hampshire, a few parts of Dorset and a few parts of Pembrokeshire in Wales. It is on the edge of its European range and is endangered throughout Europe, with the UK holding an estimated 25% of the world population. It is protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Southern damselflies breed in slow-flowing heathland streams and runnels with plenty of plant-life, but not shaded by trees and scrub. Away from the New Forest they have more recently been found breeding in chalk streams in Hampshire. One of the best places to see them is at Crockford Stream, just north-east of Pilley, near Lymington. The adults fly from May to September and are best seen in the middle of the day.
ID tip – Identification is not easy. They are a blue damselfly with some black along the body, but definite identification requires a good look at the shape of the black mark just behind where the wings join the body. This black mark is a spot with a large ‘U’ balanced on top.
Altogether this is a rare species and the New Forest is one of the most important sites for it in the world.
Photo credit: Simon Curson