Adopting a Waterbody

No we don’t mean a mermaid I’m afraid! What we need instead is a dedicated team of individuals who are willing and able to go a survey one or two ponds, lakes or stretches of river in heir local area on an annual basis (or as often as you are able). It is incredibly valuable for us to be able to develop a list of records of dragonflies/damsels which has been developed over a long period of time. This enables us to get a real picture of the changes that occur in dragon and damsel populations within years and over a number of years. Sometimes it can help detect problems with
pollution of a watercourse, and often it can reveal fascinating new discoveries to the adoptee!! You don’t necessarily have to be a whiz at identification just as long as you can wield a digital camera.

I’m afraid you don’t get a certificate of adoption! But you do get the satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing valuable data to the next dragonfly atlas of Sussex. We have eight adopters so far, so many thanks to them for their efforts.

If you are interested in adopting a waterbody please get in touch with johnluck AT


Adopting a River

The Cuckmere

The idea of adopting a river followed on naturally from the Scarce Chaser Project. What better way to monitor the species of dragonflies present on a river than surveying from source to mouth. This is no small undertaking even for a committed ecologist! I looked upon it as a project which might take several years to complete, but with potentially fascinating results. There were opportunities to meet landowners and farmers, visit areas not normally open to the public and to be something of a pioneer. But, where was I to start? Where does the river start and end? Who are the landowners and will they be good enough to let me wander all over their land? Did I need to access both sides of the river? Which sections should I concentrate upon? The list seemed endless.

It was important to get cracking on establishing how far the Scarce Chaser presence extended as the flight season would be over by mid-July and it was already well into June. My first meeting was with a farmer from near Alfriston, who was particularly interested in the project as his granddaughter had recently appeared in her school play as a “dragonfly”. Timing appears to be everything and sometimes the gods shine upon you! Most landowners have been incredibly helpful and happy for me to have access to their land.

This year has been particularly frustrating for watching dragonflies. It has been the wettest year I can recall and consequently the opportunities for surveying have been few and far between. Despite this, I had managed to establish actual breeding of Scarce Chasers by June 3rd this year, with a mating pair plus two further males nearby. On Thursday June 5th, I took leave of my wife at Exceat Bridge at the mouth of the Cuckmere, drove to Long Bridge and just 200 metres north of the bridge located one old male Scarce Chaser hanging on doggedly to a Common Reed swaying in the breeze. This is the furthest south that I have found this species on the Cuckmere.

Since then I have managed to find the time to survey all the way to Michelham Priory. We have managed to establish that the Scarce Chaser population extends as far upstream as 200 metres north of Sherman Bridge, where six males were sighted on July 13th. I also decided to try to locate the source of the Cuckmere. The Environment Agency website tells us that the Cuckmere falls 100m in the first 7 kms, fully living up to its meaning of fast-flowing. Its source rises north of Heathfield. Some time, and many attempts later I had been frustrated by footpaths lost under mounds of mud and concrete, and overgrown vegetation which would have needed a Chieftain tank to strike through it! Eventually after an escapade worth of Indiana Jones, I made my way to Grovebridge Farm via a series of country lanes, and beleaguered by traffic.

At last I was able to reach the river. As you would expect near the source, the river is fast-flowing and it was no surprise to find one species in abundance, namely Beautiful Demoiselle, but I was even more amazed to find a Ruddy Darter. To cut a long story short, after a series of adventures I reached Hellingly – with, as anticipated, no Scarce Chaser.

So, I have now made a start on my project, but how about all you other recorders out there? How does the idea of adopting a river appeal to you? There are plenty left to pick from in Sussex. Or perhaps you could chose a stream, a lake or any other water-body which you could find time to monitor regularly over the coming years. I can promise you that it will be an absorbing task and it would be interesting to see whose river produces the most species. The SDS can help with finding landowner contacts and gaining access permission – and from there it is a pleasant walk in the country!

We look forward to hearing from you.
John Luck


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