Recording Dragonflies and Damselflies in Britain






Welcome to DragonflyWatch - the BDS framework for recording dragonflies

Your records are essential to the work of the British Dragonfly Society. They provide much of the scientific basis for our knowledge, helping us to find out where and when dragonflies occur. For example, mapping records can reveal changes in species’ ranges. Your records also help us to identify and monitor important sites and to steer conservation priorities.

The DragonflyWatch recording ladder - working your way to the top

The diagram below shows how you can gather different types of records in the knowledge that they will be put to the best possible use. The more time and expertise you have, the greater the value your sightings can be to science and conservation, but even simple ad-hoc records help us understand dragonflies better. The DragonflyWatch framework allows you to ‘climb up the recording ladder’, improving your skills over time.


Dragonfly Spot

A basic record will enable us to plot distributions and changes in range and phenology (patterns of appearance during the year), and to periodically revise the Red List of species of conservation concern. Dragonfly Spot requires the basic ‘what, where, when and who’ information. It includes all ad hoc sightings and any records gathered during the BTO's Garden BirdWatch and BirdTrack and Butterfly Conservation's Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey. As well as providing us with valuable data, Dragonfly Spot will also allow you to develop your dragonfly identification skills at your own pace. This can be enhanced by attending one of our dragonfly walks, talks or courses. For more on these, and other learning tools, click here. Our Dragonfly App is an additional tool for you to use when taking part in Dragonfly Spot. For more on the app, click here.

Complete Lists (also called Site Lists)

When you have become more familiar with adult dragonfly identification, you can help us work towards the State of Dragonflies 2020 by making a Complete List of the species whenever you visit a dragonfly breeding site. Even better, Adopt a Site and make lists during a few visits there each year to cover the main flight periods. Your Complete Lists will help to produce national trends for each species, so lists from the more remote parts of Britain will be especially valuable. For more on the State of Dragonflies 2020, Complete Lists and Adopt a Site, visit the State of Dragonflies 2020 Project Page.

Priority Sites

Your records will be even more valuable if you can count or estimate numbers and record breeding evidence for each species during regular visits to wetlands. This will help to identify our most important sites, especially those holding viable populations of our rarest species (see here for more information). When confirmed, Priority Sites (also known as Key Sites) will become those where dragonfly conservation effort may be focussed. They will be promoted as sites of National or Local Importance for dragonflies. So if you have good identification skills – of larvae/exuviae as well as adults – you can put those skills to good use by recording for Priority Sites. For more information visit out Priority Sites Project page.

So the message is ...

Please record as much detail as you can – DragonflyWatch has been designed to make the best use of your records!

The table below summarises how different types of records will be used: 


Dragonfly Spot

Site Lists

Priority Sites

Trends in distribution (Atlases) and phenology




National population trends




Evaluation and monitoring of important dragonfly sites




Now you've read the background, here's how to submit your records.

If you're new to recording, here's some guidance to get you started.



We run a number of additional recording projects aimed at collecting specific information. Click on the link below to take part in a dragonfly recording project:

Willow Emerald Watch

Join us in tracking the spread of this remarkable species

State of Dragonflies 2020

Get closer to the dragonflies of your favourite wetland

Migrant Dragonfly Project

Working to understand dragonfly migration

iRecord Dragonflies App

Mobile app for in-the-field recording

Priority Sites Project

Highlighting and protecting important wetlands

Clubtail Count

Join the Quest for this Elusive Dragonfly

White-legged Damselfly Investigation

WANTED! Have you seen this Damselfly?

The Dragonfly Challenge

We are challenging you to take action now!

Variable Damselfly Survey

Help us uncover this species' mysteries


Images: Willow Emerald, Paul Ritchie; Vagrant Emperor, Aetvan; Common Clubtail, David Kitching; Varaible Damselfly, Christophe Brochard; Four-spotted Chaser, Victoria Hillman

BDS Data Policies

The BDS and its Dragonfly Recording Network operate within guidelines described by the following policies, which are based upon recommendations from the National Biodiversity Network:

Data Access Policy
Charging Policy
Privacy Policy
(pdf documents - a pdf reader may be downloaded from here)


You should always ensure that you have permission from landowners before entering private land.