Meet London's emperors and hawkers

Meet London's emperors and hawkers

Banded demoiselle

Image by Iain Leach

London Wildlife Trust publishes the first guide to the capital's dragonflies and damselflies
London Wildlife Trust staff member holds a copy of the guide book

Credit: Tom Bellamy

London Wildlife Trust are delighted to publish the very first guide to the dragonflies of London, following four years of extensive surveys carried out by staff and trained volunteers.

Today I saw a demoiselle… Dragonflies and damselflies of London’ celebrates and marks the completion of Water for Wildlife, a project which improved several important sites for dragonflies and damselflies in the city.

The guide introduces these magnificent but under-appreciated insects, complete with fascinating information on their life cycle and ecology. 23 species of damselflies and dragonflies (or Odonata as they are called collectively) known to be present in London are explored in the book.

These include willow emerald damselfly, beautiful demoiselle, emperor dragonfly, and migrant hawker.  While many can be found in parks and gardens across the city, the guide highlights some of the best sites in London to spot dragonflies, such as Wanstead Flats, Woodberry Wetlands, Keston Common and Richmond Park.

A map highlighting locations in London

Contains OS data © Crown Copyright

The data collected for the guide includes that held by Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL, the environmental records centre for London) and that provided by local experts, landowners and the general public. 

Emerald damselfly

Emerald damselfly by Iain Leach

Dragonfly identification courses attracted more than 300 participants, and over 160 volunteers carried out surveys on their local patches covering more than 130 sites. Together with Dragonfly Detectives, the Trust’s online public survey portal, this resulted in over 8000 new records, significantly bolstering our knowledge of how these insects are using London’s wetlands and rivers.

Due to extensive conservation work carried out over the last few decades – including that delivered by London Wildlife Trust as part of the Water for Wildlife project –  London’s rivers are now cleaner than they once were. The new guide will also highlight the dragonflies which are likely to move into the capital soon - because of the changing climate, insects better suited to warmer climate are soon to establish themselves in our local green spaces. 

Water for wildlife volunteer work day

“We are very excited to introduce this guide illustrating a fantastic variety of freshwater habitats that the capital has to offer, as well as surprising diversity of dragonfly species that can be found in urban setting. We hope that getting to know these large colourful insects will encourage readers to get involved in helping capital’s wild spaces. The guide provides useful tips on how to do just that, from collecting data, joining volunteer workdays, to building a dragonfly-friendly pond.”

Petra Sovic Davies, Water for Wildlife Project Manager 

Today I saw a demoiselle… Dragonflies and damselflies of London’ is available for download now. A limited number of hard copies are also available. Please use the links below:

Download the guide

Order a copy


The new guide, surveys and other Water for Wildlife projects were supported by generous funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Thames Water

“The Water for Wildlife project addresses several of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation's key environmental aims including community engagement, a sense of pride, ownership and stewardship for those communities, and furthering knowledge of vital lesser known species and the wonder that dragonflies bring. We are excited to support this new guide that we hope will inspire and empower residents and visitors to discover, enjoy and play a hands-on role in championing and protecting their local water bodies, now and in the future.”

Hannah Armstrong, Communications Officer, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

“We are delighted to have partnered up with the London Wildlife Trust for this project. At the heart of our business is a commitment to make more of a difference to the environment and communities within which we all live and work. The Water for Wildlife initiative successfully achieves this through its focus on community engagement, learning and the conservation of biodiversity. This exceptional guide is the result of four years of hard work by the Trust and its volunteers and we are extremely proud to have been a part of it”

Claudia Innes, Community Projects Executive, Thames Water,