WILDLIFE experts will train people to keep tabs on dragons living in the North-East.

But fear not, the dragons in this case are not fire-breathing beasts but dragonflies and Durham Wildlife Trust needs help with its annual survey of the population in the region.

The survey aims to determine how dragonflies and damselflies are faring after the challenges of 2018's savage cold weather and the hottest summer since 1915.

One of the benefits of the annual survey is that species more commonly found in the south can be recorded over time and habitats can be managed to encourage that spread, if appropriate.

The Trust will hold identification training days for the public and urges people to record sightings, which can be done using an app on mobile phone, tablet or PC.

With just 22 species common to the North East, if you spot the colour you have a one-in-four chance of getting identification right.

Survey organiser Michael Coates said: “While we hope many people will attend the training events, even if you just take a good guess at identifying what you saw, we can check against any photos you upload. It’s like Instagram for dragons.”

Durham Wildlife Trust recently announced the results of its 2018 survey during which 16 species were observed at its reserves but overall numbers were down, due to the weather.

Dragonflies are more common and varied in warmer climates around the world but, possibly due to global warming, since 2001 four species– Migrant Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Ruddy Darter and Hairy Dragonfly– have increased their distribution in the North of England. They are among species sought during this year’s survey.

Mr Coates, a trustee of the charity, said: “2018 was a year of extreme weather with a significant impact on dragonflies in the Durham Wildlife Trust region. Firstly, during March, the Beast from the East brought significant snowfall and icy conditions. Frost impacts the larvae of some species and it is potentially why the first dragonfly sightings were at least three weeks later than in 2017 and why numbers at some sites, such as Rainton Meadows near Houghton-le-Spring, were significantly lower.

“Then, June 2018 was the hottest on record since 1915, and the hot weather continued well into September, resulting in many wetland and pond areas drying up completely, giving no hope to the eggs that had been laid up to that point. Hot weather also causes oxygen levels to decrease in ponds and lakes, plus lower water levels mean larvae are more vulnerable to predation.

“The first 2019 sightings have already come in, so this provides a great and easy opportunity for anyone in the North East to get involved in some citizen science and really make a difference.”

All the survey findings feed into national records and people taking part this year can attend the following events, led by Michael Coates: Dragonfly Identification Talk and Walk at Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve, Houghton-le-Spring, on May 11 from 10.30am to 1pm; a Dragonfly ID and Surveying Refresher/Intermediate Level at Malton Pond, Lanchester, on May 12, 10.45am to 1pm and a Dragonfly Identification Talk and Walk at the Land of Oak and Iron Centre, Derwent Valley, NE216RU on June 2, 10.45am to 12.30pm. To book visit