A REAL rarity has been discovered at a Devon nature reserve.

The rarity in question is an aptly named dragonfly known as the scarce chaser.

It was seen recently at Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve on the outskirts of Exeter.

The charity’s site is a well-known haven for local wildlife, but the sighting of a scarce chaser still came as something of a surprise.

The nature reserve is now thought to be one of only a handful of places in Devon in which scarce chasers have ever been recorded. The dragonfly was spotted by Keith Richards, a member of the British Dragonfly Society.

At first Keith was unsure of his find but after taking photos he had it confirmed by the British Dragonfly Society who told him: “This is a very interesting record – the first ever seen at the Old Sludge Beds.

"The species first appeared at the nearby Exminster Marshes in 2007 and small numbers have been seen there since.

"It's possible that the species has bred at the Old Sludge Beds, but more likely it has flown over or under the M5 to get there.”

The adult male scarce chaser has a bright blue abdomen with patches of black, while the adult female and juvenile male each possess bright orange abdomen.

It is about 45 mm in length with a wingspan of 74 mm. This dragonfly is considered a ‘species of special concern’, making it one of the rarest in the UK.

Stephen Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust said: “We are thrilled by this news. This dragonfly’s appearance at our nature reserve suggests we are being successful with our management. Scarce chasers need wetlands with dense vegetation.

"In the last 100 years our countryside has lost many of its wetlands and wildlife like this dragonfly has struggled to survive. But at the Old Sludge Beds the mix of wet lagoons, reeds and submerged plants seem to have provided it with the ideal conditions. We are so pleased that it has found a home with us.”

The scarce chaser was spotted in early summer and with a flying season which extends into August it could be seen for some weeks to come.

Steve added: “Old Sludge Beds nature reserve makes a wonderful place to visit in the summer. Being close to Exeter and the Exeter Canal cycle path the reserve already attracts good numbers of visitors.

"But the news that this rare dragonfly has taken up residence may mean that those numbers are boosted still further.”

The Old Sludge Beds is one of 48 wildlife havens looked after by Devon Wildlife Trust. The charity is keen for people to know that they are free to enter and make wonderful places to explore the county’s landscapes and wildlife.

More details from www.devonwildlifetrust.org