Spotting dragonfies

Alistair McLean, Curator of Natural Science at Museums Sheffield
Alistair McLean, Curator of Natural Science at Museums Sheffield
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Wildlife recordings is great fun and anyone can join in.

Being a curator of Natural Sciences is an incredibly varied job. It’s my responsibility to look after over 180,000 natural history specimens in the city’s collection and develop exhibitions and displays.

Large Red Damselfly C Museums Sheffield.jpg

Large Red Damselfly C Museums Sheffield.jpg

They all help tell the story of the city’s wildlife and environment. I also manage Museums Sheffield’s weather station at Weston Park, which has been used to keep an eye on the city’s climate for the past 130 years.

The specimens in the collection are a unique record of the animals and plants that have lived in the region in the past. The data that’s been collected at the Weather Station provides a great perspective on how the environment has changed over the last century. As well as taking care of the historical collections and records, I’m also part of a network of professionals and volunteers who work to protect the environment in our region today.

It is very important that we maintain a current record of our wildlife, so we can spot any immediate changes in their distribution and look at the reasons why those changes might be happening.

Just by recording where and when we see animals and plants helps us to protect them and their habitats.

Common Blue Damselfly C Museums Sheffield.jpg

Common Blue Damselfly C Museums Sheffield.jpg

As well as being important and fulfilling, wildlife spotting is great fun and anyone can join in. Why not try your hand at recording dragonflies this summer? You don’t need to be an expert.

Five top tips for recording dragonflies

1. Dragonflies generally live around slow moving rivers and lakes, with sandy or muddy bottoms. They tend to come out in ideal picnic weather, when it’s warm and calm.

2. Get a pair of binoculars. They don’t have to be expensive, but something that can focus quite close up, with a wide field of vision will work best.

3. Dragonflies aren’t too difficult to identify. You could buy a book on them, but there are plenty of websites that show good quality photographs and give hints of what features to look out for. British Dragonflies is a good place to look.

4. Join a local Natural History Society. Sorby Natural History Society is a good local group for all kinds of wildlife. If you’re particularly keen on Dragonflies, check out the Yorkshire branch of the British Dragonfly Society

5. Don’t forget to tell someone what you’ve seen and when and where you saw it. You can submit your sightings to Weston Park Museum. If you’re unsure of the identification of a species, send in a photograph and we can ID it for you.