Over the course of the 2017 flight season, which locally was from mid May until mid September, nearly three dozen people sent me 226 records of their dragon and damsel sightings, using all manner of methods. Some forward me their neat and tidy spreadsheets, others post photographs on social media, a few sets of handwritten records usually appear and then personal conversations, phone calls and emails account for the rest. Orkney is a small county, both in area and number of inhabitants, and its latitude also reflects this in the reduced populations of Odonata. However, encouraging folk to go out and look for these insects and then report their sightings are two of the central aims of my largely unofficial remit as the island's 'Mr Dragonfly'.
As you can probably gather from the low numbers mentioned above, compiling the records is not an onerous task, but each record must be verified to check that an insect has been correctly identified and its location accurately noted. Cartographic errors do occur. Orkney sits astride two 100km squares, so annotating the wrong one puts the record on mainland Scotland or in the sea. It is also easy to transpose northings and eastings in a grid reference, or simply type one figure incorrectly, which will have a varying inaccuracy depending upon which significant figure it is. Correct identification of the insect is somewhat less of a problem, as the archipelago has only eight breeding species which are, thankfully, sufficiently different from one another. Well, for now at any rate. Yes, with the 'warm front' of climate change migrations heading steadily northwards, we will likely receive a few confusion species before too long.
Obviously, local recorders with much larger taxa, like butterflies and moths, have to plough through thousands and thousands of records each year. I really do believe that I get off lightly!
Once the data is compiled and submitted to the various official recording bodies (locally, the Records Centre in the Library, and nationally through iRecord) then I can begin writing up a report of the flight season for the Journal of the Orkney Field Club. I have to remember that it isn't a blog, and so must leave out my terrible puns, awful jokes, made-up words and general references to rock bands and lyrics. This is the difficult part!
And when that is complete, I can turn my attention to matters slightly further afield and create a presentation for an airing at the Scottish Dragonfly Conference in April. This will be my biggest challenge (and audience) to date, but at least it will keep me occupied through the cold, dark nights of February, my head full of dragony delights, facts and figures, and the occasional