Vol­un­teer: work­ing for na­ture

All over the world, de­voted in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing their bit by vol­un­teer­ing to get in­volved with wildlife. Jo Price meets a wo­man who has been an Odo­nata en­thu­si­ast for three decades.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Pat Batty on her work to con­serve and bet­ter un­der­stand drag­on­flies

There are times when ex­plain­ing what you’re up to can be tricky for con­ser­va­tion­ists – par­tic­u­larly when you’re wad­ing in wet­lands with a kitchen im­ple­ment in hand. “I spend a lot of time in bog pools, burns and lochs, look­ing at lar­vae to iden­tify dragon­fly and dam­sel­fly species – and I get a few funny looks go­ing around with a colan­der on the back of my ruck­sack,” says Pat.

For more than 30 years, the now-re­tired teacher has ded­i­cated her spare time to the con­ser­va­tion and un­der­stand­ing of drag­on­flies – a role as var­ied as it is im­por­tant. Vol­un­teer­ing as Scot­tish Recorder for the Bri­tish Dragon­fly So­ci­ety (BDS), she mon­i­tors and records the in­sects at spots in­clud­ing Taynish Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve in Ar­gyll, Forestry Com­mis­sion sites, SSSIs and other ar­eas. She also leads guided walks, an­swers queries and pro­vides ad­vice to land man­agers.

For an Odo­nata en­thu­si­ast, there can be im­me­di­ate highs: Pat re­calls the ex­cite­ment of find­ing rare species in new places – azure hawker, north­ern emer­ald and white-faced darter lar­vae in bog pools in the Loch Quoich area, for ex­am­ple, and hairy dragon­fly and keeled skim­mer in Knap­dale. But some of her work has been more di­rectly fo­cused on con­ser­va­tion.

“We’ve been work­ing with the Scot­tish beaver trial in Knap­dale For­est to mon­i­tor its im­pact on

drag­on­flies,” says Pat. “The beavers have made changes to wa­ter bod­ies in the area through dam build­ing and by graz­ing aquatic veg­e­ta­tion but, for­tu­nately, the drag­on­flies con­tinue to do okay there.” Pat is keen to point out that there are al­ways small, in­ex­pen­sive things that can be done that will have a big ef­fect on drag­on­flies. “The Bri­tish Dragon­fly So­ci­ety is in the process of iden­ti­fy­ing key sites and get­ting landown­ers in­volved,” she says. “They have hotspots where vol­un­teers can learn about these car­niv­o­rous in­sects.”

Thanks to Pat and her col­leagues, more in­for­ma­tion is al­ready avail­able on the dis­tri­bu­tion of drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies in Scot­land. “We’ve dis­cov­ered that south­ern species are mov­ing north into Scot­land with the chang­ing cli­mate but we don’t know the full ef­fects of this on our north­ern species yet,” she ex­plains.

Though the Scot­tish weather doesn’t make it easy, there has been an in­crease in peo­ple vis­it­ing habi­tats to record drag­on­flies, and Pat con­tin­ues to in­spire vol­un­teers of all ages: “I love see­ing the en­thu­si­asm on young peo­ple’s faces when they find dragon­fly lar­vae”.

FIND OUT MORE Bri­tish Dragon­fly So­ci­ety: bri­tish-drag­on­flies.org.uk

South­ern species are mov­ing north into Scot­land with the chang­ing cli­mate.

Pat mon­i­tors drag­on­flies us­ing a highly tech­ni­cal piece of kit – a kitchen colan­der.

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