Foxearth dragonflies

In February 2015, A Rocha UK became proud owners of a reserve on the Essex/Suffolk border. Comprising nearly five hectares of wetland on the River Stour floodplain in north Essex, it used to be farmland, but is now a small oasis for wildlife.

Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve is literally buzzing with life, with dragonflies and damselflies zipping over shaded ponds while other insects and mammals go about their business. But their presence is entirely dependent on having the right kind of habitat to live in. Known collectively as ‘Odonata’, these large, brightly-coloured insects are one of the best indicators of a healthy natural environment. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent as a nymph, beneath the water’s surface. The adults feed on other insect species and favour quiet, sunny and secluded sites. Our reserve supports a blend of open water, shaded pools, reed beds and healthy plant life for these insects. Odonata are also sensitive to climate change. The arrival of new species in the country points to a warming climate.

Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly. Photo: David Chandler
Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata (David Chandler)

Other plants and creatures flourish on our reserve with several bird species residing here, including the Hobby Falco subbuteo, a migrant falcon whose favourite food is dragonflies.

Hundreds of species of plants, fungi, mammals, molluscs, birds and insects have now been recorded at Foxearth Meadows and the rapidly growing dataset is being regularly updated at the Essex Wildlife Trust Biological Recording Centre. Experiments in cattle-grazing and mowing regimes are improving the floral diversity of the grasslands and dense blackthorn and hawthorn scrub has been laid to benefit nesting birds. Continuing care and careful habitat management will no doubt see more and new species taking up residence.

It’s important to A Rocha UK that everyone has access to enjoy nature. Visitors are welcome to explore Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve!

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