Black-tailed Skimmer

Key Sites: Any of the Nene Valley gravel pits. Well distributed in the County, and has benefited from the gravel pits and grazing by cattle which creates bare ground. Recorded at standing water bodies as well as some parts of the River Nene and Willow Brook, where cattle are allowed to approach the water and create muddy banks.


Spotting: Adult male Black-tailed Skimmer are easily confused with the Broad-bodied Chaser and Scarce Chaser as all three have the pale blue pruinescence in the adult male. Although primarily a still water species, it breeds alongside the Scarce Chaser on the Nene near Thrapston and the Broad-bodied Chaser at Fermyn Woods Country park. Observers should look closely at behaviour to separate the two species rather than colouration.


This species favours sites with bare, trampled ground, making the Nene Valley gravel pits ideal sites. Large numbers can be seen at the north lakes at Stanwick Lakes. When hunting, they make skimming flights over water, very close to the surface and will clash with other males where their territories meet. This is in contrast the Scarce Chaser, who rarely fly over open water, favouring flights between emergent vegetation. They can often be observed flying vertically upwards when "fighting" other males.


Females are seen less often, preferring to spend their time in fields and areas away from the water. Their yellow and black-banding colouration is similar to immature specimens of both sexes, such that it is not reliable to sex an immature in the field.


County Status: May be under threat in its traditional home in the Nene Valley gravel pits due to over growth of emergent plants, which reduces the favoured bare open ground.

Orthetrum cancellatum

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Male Stanwick Lakes, July 2006