This course on dragonflies and damselflies introduces the identification, life history, behaviour and conservation of these beautiful and fascinating insects, covering all of the British breeding species and vagrants too.

The course introduces identification techniques, key features for discrimination and gives an understanding of the importance of these species for conservation, ecology and recording. Adults and nymphs may be netted for examination then released unharmed.

Your course takes place on a 12-hectare estate, surrounded by a rich range of habitats, including the River Severn and semi-ancient woodland, set in the heart of Shropshire with views disappearing into Wales.

There are three booking options which all include course tuition, meals and refreshments *please see the ‘whats included’ section below for further details:

  • Non-Resident
  • Resident (Shared Room)
  • Resident (Sole Occupancy)

For course bookings including accommodation please note bathroom facilities may be be shared

Who Should Attend? Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject. This course is suitable for 18 years and over only.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Manchester Metropolitan University students must also select Identifying Moths and Butterflies, and do both 2 day courses to complete the unit Identifying Odonata and Lepidoptera.

What will be covered during this course?

  • The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work. Adults and nymphs may be netted for examination then released unharmed.
  • Different techniques for identifying adults and larvae in the Odonata, examining a range of diagnostic features to separate out the genera, and in many cases tackling identification to species level.
  • The importance of Odonata as biological indicators in the context of climate change and land use change.
  • The ecology of a number of key Odonata.
  • By the end of the course, you will be able to:
  • Identify and justify the identification of a range of common species within the Odonata
  • Explain and critically evaluate the importance of field guides and ecology in aiding identification

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and justify the identification of a range of common species within the Odonata
  • Explain and critically evaluate the importance of field guides and ecology in aiding identification


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email: [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio comprising of two parts:

Part 1: A test with a range of specimens. Points awarded for correct identification, and critical comparison between specimen and superficially similar/related species.

Part 2: A critical evaluation of the importance of field guides and ecology in the identification of Lepidoptera and Odonata (Equivalent to 1000 words).

Tutor: Peter Boardman

Pete first got into flies after volunteering with Liverpool Museum’s entomological department in the early 1990s, with support from Tom Mawdsley and Richard Underwood. He ‘discovered’ craneflies when county moth recorder for Shropshire and chose them as a dissertation subject for his MSc in the mid 2000s. Following this he committed to the group and immediately worked on a Shropshire distribution atlas (2007) and a second improved version with keys in 2016. 

In 2018 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship which enabled him to spend a month at the Smithsonian Institution collections in Washington DC studying the Charles Alexander collection. This enabled him to later name 23 new species to science from Cameroon. 

He currently is national cranefly recorder for the Cranefly Recording Scheme supporting John Kramer and Alan Stubbs. 

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.
If you have booked accommodation with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.
If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.
Please arrive in time for the evening meal at 6.30 pm on Friday
The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm
The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day

The course will start on the Friday evening with a general introduction to dragonfly natural history.

We will visit a range of local habitats to practise identification and to observe dragonfly behaviour. On Saturday evening we will review the findings of the day.

The second day will focus on other aquatic habitat sites. Topics to be discussed include habitat requirements, breeding and feeding behaviour and dragonfly conservation. There will be opportunities for photography during the day.

Part of the course will be spent on the identification and lifestyle of dragonfly larvae and exuviae. The course will involve both laboratory work with microscopes and field work. Adult dragonflies will be netted and examined closely before releasing them again.

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • In Course Transport
  • Lunch

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which we arerenowned
  • Clear objectives and progression
  • All meals provided

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing this course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to Bring

  • Waterproofs and wellingtons (can be hired from the Centre).
  • You will however need pens, pencils and a notebook.
  • If you have a copy of a field guide to British dragonflies, please bring it with you.
  • Especially useful are close-focussing binoculars or monoculars and a 10x handlens.
  • If you are interested in dragonfly photography, please bring an SLR or digital camera with a suitable macro lens, flash gun(s) and a tripod.

Recommended Reading

  • Barnard, P.C. (2011) The Royal Entomological Society Book of British Insects. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Chinery, M. (2005) Collins Complete British Insects. Harper Collins
  • Klaas-Douwe, B. D. (2006) Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing