Working to conserve dragonflies and their wetland habitats

Recording Dragonflies and Damselflies in the British Isles


Recording evidence of breeding greatly adds to the usefulness of the recordRecording the occurrence of Dragonflies and Damselflies is of primary importance in enhancing our understanding of these fascinating insects and taking significant steps towards their protection and the conservation of their habitats. Within the British Dragonfly Society, the Dragonfly Recording Network (DRN) has been set up to handle Odonata records in the British Isles.

New to recording Dragonflies?

Here's a brief introdution and some materials that should help you to get started.

  • What is a record? A basic dragonfly record has 5 parts to it:
  1. Your name and contact details
  2. The date you made your sighting
  3. The name of the site where you made your sighting
  4. An Ordnance Survey Grid reference for the site
  5. What you saw

Other information that can be recorded, and is useful to us, includes the type of habitat, the weather, the altitude of the site and breeding behaviour.  Recording evidence of breeding greatly adds to the usefulness of the record.

  • What did you see? Although it may seem daunting to start with, dragonfly identification skills can be learnt by anyone. A great place to start is your garden pond, or a local park or nature reserve. Start by separating dragonflies and damselflies. The time of year and location in the UK will narrow down the number of species to consider, as will the habitat (still or flowing water). You can separate the dragonflies into 'types' - hawkers, chasers, skimmers, darters and emeralds. Binoculars will help you to see the specific markings that separate species.

    There is a guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies in your Garden, compiled by the BDS for Natural England, which you can download from us now. This is most useful for those living in England and Wales. (1.3MB PDF file. You can download a free PDF reader from here)

    Leaflets on dragonflies in Scotland are available here

    There is information about all of the UK species on the UK Species pages of our website, and several field guides to Dragonflies are available.

  • Still not sure? There's two things to do:

    1. Have a look at the Dragonfly and Damselfly Identification Help page which will give you tips on identification.

    2. Join a field visit or training course. Check the  Diary page for a list of events and courses. Nothing in your area at the moment? Get in touch with our Field meeting Coordinator and maybe together we can get something organised.

How do I submit my records?

With the introduction of online recording recorders have a new method of submitting records to the Dragonfly Recording Network. The new system does not replace existing methods but is an addition to encourage submission of records for the new National Atlas. Recorders can still submit paper RA83 recording cards to their local Vice County Recorder. For larger numbers of records the ideal method is the Species Recorder Excel spreadsheet. As all records need to be verified, records entered online will be sent to the appropriate Vice County Recorder for checking. 

  • Online Recording enables BDS members and other visitors to submit records for inclusion in the new National Atlas.  This application was redeveloped for the 2011 flight season with more enhancements in 2012.

RA83 recording card





  • Excel spreadsheet Alternatively you may enter your records using an Excel spreadsheet. To make entering records into Excel easier Sussex Biological Records Centre produced a record input facility. This is known as 'Species Recorder' and has been modified for use within the Dragonfly Recording Network. Download the DRN Species Recorder (Unzip the folder and read the guidelines document).

Please send your Odonata records (RA83s and Excel spreadsheets) to the relevant Vice-County Recorder, so that the best use can be made of them. Vice-County Recorders will send data to the National Coordinator of the Dragonfly Recording Network. PLEASE CHECK THIS LIST REGULARLY FOR UPDATES IN YOUR AREA. List of Odonata Vice-County Recorders (pdf file, last updated 29th April 2015)


The Dragonfly Recording Network operates within guidelines described by the following set of policies. These polices are based upon recommendations given by the National Biodiversity Network (NBN). (These are .pdf Documents. If you do not have a .pdf reader, it may be downloaded from here.

Dragonfly Recording Network - Data Access Policy
Dragonfly Recording Network - Charging Policy
Dragonfly Recording Network - Privacy Policy


Odonata recorders should ensure that they have full permission of access from the landowner(s) before entering any private land.