Visual Key: Sympetrums – striped legs

You have one of our two Sympetrum species with light longitudinal stripes running down the legs.

This means either Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) or Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii). Observations of both, in England, at least, are quite widespread but the Red-veined Darter is much less numerous.

The pattern on the side of the thorax differs quite noticeably and the Red-veined Darter has quite strong black running down the side of the frons whereas the Common Darter does not. [1]

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), thorax & frons

Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter), thorax & frons

Allowing a brief foray into colour, for mature specimens there are very obvious differences: Red-veined Darters of both sexes have a blue-grey underside to the eyes and yellow pterostigmas edged for and aft in black

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), eye & pterostigmas

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii), eye & pterostigmas

[1] We are now in the grip of several hopeless mobile phone identification apps which, for those unable to do anything without their mobile phone, have a predilection for identifying a Common Darter as a Vagrant Darter/Moustached Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum). As the name Moustached Darter implies, the latter does have black running down the side of the frons and looks otherwise very similar to a Common Darter. However, whilst being quite prevalent sur le continent, Moustached Darters are very rare vagrants to the UK. There have been 66 accepted records, the most recent in 2013. Use a decent field guide.


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