A RARE dragonfly is spreading its wings at a north Cumbrian nature reserve.

An exciting conservation project to restore peat bogs by Cumbria Wildlife Trust has seen large numbers of the white-faced darter, a small, dark dragonfly with red or yellow markings and a distinctive white face recorded at Drumburgh Moss, on the Solway coast.

The insect is only found at a handful of areas in England.

The trust described the result as "fantastic" and said it was "really encouraging" with the numbers set to rise this season.

It added in recent years "extensive restoration work" has been carried out at Drumburgh Moss to repair its peat bogs.This has caused water levels to rise and allowed bog vegetation to grow, including quantities of floating Sphagnum moss, which the white-faced darters need for laying their eggs, it explained.

The trust said it has worked with the British Dragonfly Society since 2019 to reintroduce the species but it "was not expecting such high numbers" this year.

Jack Dryden, from Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: "The larvae usually have two-year life cycles, and two years ago the weather was quite bad during their emergence. This can injure a lot of vulnerable emerging dragonflies, reducing the number that then go on to reproduce. But this year’s numbers suggest that they are clearly more resilient than we give them credit for!”

Mr Dryden described it as a "fantastic result" and said added: "328 is a really encouraging number for the first day of our monitoring season. For comparison, it’s over half of last year’s total count of 627, which was done over seven weeks of monitoring. The year before that, in 2022, there were 124, so it looks like numbers will continue to rise, which is brilliant news."

The goal is for the white-faced darter to be able to sustain itself at Drumburgh Moss, without bringing over eggs from the donor site, and the evidence so far is positive. Eggs and larvae were only introduced to two pools at Drumburgh Moss and they have now naturally spread to four others. Cumbria Wildlife Trust hopes the white-faced darter’s horizons will broaden even further across the Solway Mosses. The charity is working alongside the British Dragonfly Society, Natural England and the RSPB to achieve this aim.

The decline of white-faced darters in Britain is linked to the historic loss of the habitat they depend on - peatlands with deep bog-pools - through climate change and human activities. Drumburgh Moss Nature Reserve, a site of international importance, was chosen for white-faced darter introduction as it has over 150 hectares of restored peatbogs.