Black Darter
Sympetrum danae

One of the smallest and least striking of the dragonfly species, the Black Darter is easily overlooked. Both males and females will spend long periods perched, and when disturbed tend to indulge in short bursts of flight before finding another nearby perch.

This activity means they are quite easy to photograph. Both males and females can be approached to within 6-10 inches before taking to flight.

The slender 'nipped' abdomen of the males, with the prominent yellow flash toward the front of the abdomen make them easily identifiable, yet often highly camouflaged.

Unfortunately this species is scarce in the New Forest, but a trip into neighboring East Dorset (Avon Causeway marshes) will find them in abundance.

locations media gallery

I have had the most success finding Black Darters in and around heath land (specifically on heather), in the Ramsdown Forest area of East Dorset. Females tend to perch on posts and areas of higher visibility, while males are quite happy perching low within the heather..

Female Photo Female Photo Female Photo Juvenile Photo Juvenile Photo Juvenile Photo
Male Photo Male Photo Male Photo Male Photo Male Photo Male Photo View movie clip
seasonal appearance distinguishing features

Males tend to be slight smaller than females, and aside from a small yellow marking toward the front of the abdomen (see gallery) are predominantly a dusty black colour. Males have a very slender 'nipped wasteline' as the abdomen narrows and then flares toward the end. Females have a distinct yellow colouration, with notable black fringes on abdominal segments.