Sunday, July 3, 2016

188. Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895

Number: 188    
Family: Lestidae    
Genus: Orolestes    
Species: Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895 
Common name(s): N/A   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)   
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July    
Species easily confused with: Oroletes octomaculata

There are times when you have to question all those hours of your life spent being torn to shreds by nasty bushes, wading through treacle-like mud, waste deep in putrid water, bitten to death by leeches, mosquitoes and horseflies, as well as those long, arduous and expensive journeys. There are other times when it makes the bad times simply melt away. And last Saturday was one of them. I finally managed to see the fabled Orolestes selysi - a stunning damselfly that was the stuff of legends as many of the rarer species at Phu Khieo (and the rest of NE Thailand) seem to be. Though it is found in several countries, it seems to be a very rare species in Thailand. When, after all this time, I managed to spot one dangling from a tree overhanging a gloomy and temporary pond I was over the moon. Amazingly, like buses, I then noticed another and another. In fact, I saw three at this pond and two single specimens at other ponds. It must simply be a good year for them. Another thing of note was the fact that Orolestes octomaculata was also very much present (I am confident this species is around all year now) and they co-habit ... I was amazed to spot a male of each species on a branch, but was just too late to get a shot. The question is now whether there are hyaline specimens here too. According to Noppadon Makbun (the man who had said it was reported from Phu Khieo and encouraged me to find it), it is only known from this location in Thailand... hopefully it will be found again soon at a different location. Until then, I can now sleep happily, safe in the knowledge that I have photos of another rare species in Thailand. Roll on next weekend for more torture to my body for moments of true joy!

187. Gynacantha basiguttata Selys, 1882

Number: 187    
Family:  Aeschnidae 
Genus: Gynacantha     
Species: Gynacantha basiguttata
Common name(s):  Spoon-tailed Duskhawker   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July   
Species easily confused with: Gynacantha saltatrix; Gynacantha bayadera

There are definitely several species of Gynacantha that reside in Phu Khieo WS, but they are incredibly difficult to locate. That's why I was really happy to spot three species in one day, one of which is a new species for my records in the shape of Gynacantha basiguttata. It is a large species that I spooked out of his hiding place which was deep inside tall reeds overhanging a temporary pool. Unfortunately, he flew fairly high up into a tree and didn't hang around for long. For now, this record shot will have do. Incidentally, the other two species I saw were G. subinterrupta (a first for me here) and G. saltatrix (another first for the place). According to the records, G. bayadera is also present and Noppadon Makbun believes G. phaeomeria to be there also. Seeing all five species there would be amazing. Hopefully one day, especially if I keep trawling the little swampy ponds all the time.

A great day at Phu Khieo WS

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 2nd July, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds (many temporary)

The saying goes, it never rains but it pours. If you had visited Phu Khieo WS on Saturday, I think you would have really understood what that meant - on two levels. The first level was literally the weather. It had been pouring down every day during the week; so heavily floods abound throughout Thailand which cast doubt over my trip. However, with a little persuasion from my brother (not that I needed much), it was game on. At the sanctuary, though it had been clearly ravaged by the rains, it only rained slightly all day. The second level were the dragons themselves. Though in small numbers, I still managed to find two new species for my records (along with a possible third). Something I haven't managed to do in NE Thailand for a long time. So, why am I spotting additional species now that I didn't spot last year? Simply, it's all about location. Previous trips took me to some of the more obvious locations: enormous marshy areas, rivers and streams and other easy to spot ponds. This trip, however, was all about hunting for new areas as much as it was spotting any dragons themselves. My brother even led me to a great-looking stream which runs deep under canopy cover which he told me has a decent and exposed waterfall along it. I will be visiting there the next time the weather picks up and isn't so dull. Other than that, it was stopping en route to the top every few hundred meters whenever I saw a pond or ditch (no matter how small) or even if I could make out tall grassy reeds further back I would investigate. Did it pay off? You bet it did, though I tore my body and clothes to shreds and was bitten heavily by mosquitoes and horseflies. I missed the first few ponds at the bottom  (there are so many all the way up) and decided to start about half way. It was still early and the initial ponds were quiet, especially as there was light drizzle. As the weather picked up, so did the sightings of the regular species, though numbers were very small. About 3/4 of the way up, I noticed a temporary pond that looked devoid of life and was about to drive on when in the corner of my eye I spotted something with black wings. I knew what is was straight away: Orolestes selysi, a simply stunning species I had been told had been seen at the sanctuary, but after many trips I thought it was a mythical creature (in Thailand anyway). It is known from several countries, which now includes Thailand. I am not the first person to see it here, but had to see it to believe it was here, if you get what I mean. Amazingly as I photographed the first specimen, I noticed a second. I investigated the rest of the pond searching for the female, but only managed to spot a third male and a young female Gynacantha subinterrupta for the first time at the sanctuary, boosting the species list even more. I moved on, clicking my heels as I went. As I reached the road, I caught up with my brother who was having a very quiet day on the bird front. He photographed O. selsyi specimen too just for good measure. Moving on, I hit many more ponds without seeing much. Then, at one pond, I was following a Lestes copula, I must have disturbed a large Aeshnid, which flew out from where it was resting and flew up into a tree. It was large and I knew straight away it was one of the two Gynacantha species there that had eluded me after all this time. It turned out to be Gynacantha basiguttata and I was extremely happy (the other species is G. bayadera). Moving on, I visited many more ponds without success and eventually reached to top. Instead of searching the top, I simply turned around and worked my way back down doing the same thing. I didn't manage to see any more new species - or did I? One species I have been looking for since the day I first came here was Ceriagrion pallidum, a rare species known from PK and a location in Laos. Until now it has avoided me. That said, I saw a small dirty yellowish specimen that was too small to be C. indochinense (I have seen hundreds of specimens though it could be that species). Could it be the elusive C. pallidum? Probably not, as the abdomen should be olivaceous, but I can dream. Hopefully it is a completely different species. Even then, to finish the day, I found another Gynacantha species, which is new for me at the sanctuary: Gynacantha saltatrix - a species I see on occasion in Khon Kaen I now wonder whether this species was mistaken for G. bayadera as it is a very similar-looking species. I hope not. Anyway, the sanctuary is really hitting top form and I am getting out there again next week ... hopefully I will see even more species and get a better shot of G. basiguttata.

My best shots of the day:

There are so many males this year, but the females are thin on the ground. I was happy to see this one first thing in the morning
Phu Khieo's mythical damselfly that is not so anymore, Orolestes selsyi
 Another new encounter for me - and a beast of one too, Gynacantha basiguttata
 Not rare in Khon Kaen, but the first time I have seen it at PKWS, Gynacantha saltatrix
 The day's conundrum. Is it? Isn't it? It could be a freakishly small Ceriagrion indochinense, but it could be C. pallidum or even a new species entirely.  I must find more of them to prove it.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

186. Ceriagrion malaisei Schmidt, 1964

Number: 186   
Family: Aeschnidae    
Genus: Ceriagrion     
Species: Ceriagrion malaisei
Common name(s): N/A   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Lowland forest stream
Province(s) sighted: Pha Ing Waterfall (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): March    
Species easily confused with: Ceriagrion sp.; Ceriagrion chaoi

Thanks to Tom Kompier, I am now able to confidently say that I have definitely seen Ceriagrion malaisei. This means that my earlier sighting back in 2011 must now been downgraded to Ceriagrion sp. Although it is very similar, it is, in fact, as different species. C. malaisei has a longer abdomen than the Ceriagrion sp. and there are several differences between this one and C. chaoi. When I visited Ph Ing Waterfall in Chaiyaphum, I managed to spot on one male hiding deep in the grasses. However, it was a blisteringly hot day and was in the middle of a drought. Therefore, I expect t see many more when I return. Likewise, it means I will have to return to a pond (which I will struggle to find) about 5 hours away to get myself a specimen of the Ceriagrion sp. as it is most likely a species yet to be described. What a shame hehe.

Not the best shot in the world, but enough for a positive ID.

Once again, many thanks to Tom Kompier for the ID.

A trip to Phu Kao - Phu Phan Kham National Park (Khon Kaen)

Location: Phu Kao - Phu Phan Kham National Park, Khon Kaen
Date: Saturday 28th May, 2016
Habitat: lowland, shallow lake on the edge of some decent forest

As we all know, trying something new doesn't always pay off. And this little trip was neither a new location nor did it yield any new species for me. However, I had only visited once before really early in the season and I saw quite a few decent species. Therefore, I thought it was high time to return. Unfortunately, all those earlier species had vanished and there were very few species to be seen at all. The location was almost identical to that at Nam Phong (shallow yet large lake surrounded by lowland forest - and is within the same strip of forest) and I expected to see Sinictinogomphus clavatus phaleratus. It duly delivered. It is most certainly an uncommon species in Thailand, yet within ten minutes of looking, I found one of the large beasts perched on a solitary stick about five metre out in the water. Creeping up to it and getting decent photos, however, is a completely different thing. Though it is a massive species, it is incredibly skittish and is easily spooked. One wrong move, going a little too close or even blinking at the wrong time and it has already taken off before you have a chance to photograph it.

That said, unlike at Nam Phong where it seems quite scarce, it was most certainly abundant here. Failed attempt after failed attempt, however, nearly got the better of me. And with that horrible blistering Issan sunshine, I was already wilting by 10 am. However, thinking about my many failed attempts from previous trips, I marched - or rather crept - on. Eventually, I managed to get close to one specimen and it simply didn't move. Instead, he was happy to perch on his stick even with me near him. I was amazed, but seriously happy. I got my photos of the male at last and was even lucky to spot and photograph a female ovipositing, closely guarded by another male. Other than this species and many specimens of Epophthalmia frontalis whizzing around the lake, but all in flight and NEVER perched (as always) and that was it. I am sure there are more species there, but I spent all my time on S. clavatus.

My best shots of the day:
A decent shot of the female in flight (she kept on pausing like this to produce eggs).
She then swooped down and literally smashed her abdomen into the water's surface with a loud splash.
All the while, the male was guarding here closely from above

Monday, May 23, 2016

185. Anax guttatus (Burmeister, 1839)

Number: 185  
Family: Aeschnidae    
Genus: Anax    
Species: Anax guttatus 
Common name(s): Pale-Spotted Emperor   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Mid-upland small pond 
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Common (though photographing them is another story) 
In flight (that I have seen): May-October    
Species easily confused with: Anax indicus; Anax parthenope julius; Anax panybeus

I was stood in the middle of a shallow pond, bitten to death by horse flies, mosquitoes and leeches. It was an overcast area of the small pond with light fading fast. Suddenly, a large Anax sp. appeared from nowhere and started whizzing around the little pond desperately in search of a mate. This was my chance to add another Anax species to my list. However, it had to be the worst place to do it - it was too dull and enclosed. Worse still, a second male appeared and a million aerial battles ensued. However, I noticed that at one end of the pond, the wind would whistle through causing this big guy to stop momentarily. I edged around to the other side of the pond and set myself up. Basically, I sat in the pond with leeches digging into my arse. Still, I was going to get it this time. As I waited and waited, then I noticed a Lestes sp. to my right. I know that L. dorothea also lives somewhere at PK and turned towards it to see. It was L. elatus (I think). As I turned back Anax guttatus was right there in front of me, hovering as I had predicted. Perfect. As I lifted my camera, the wind dropped and it was off.... aaaarrrrggghhh! Missed it again. And this time it seemed to disappear. I was about to stand up and pull the leeches off my body when it swooped back down to the edge of the other side of the pond. I waited again and the wind picked up. He stopped, though a little further out. But I got my shots in and I am extremely happy with them. I know you can get better shots of dragons in flight, but I don't care. I know how hard I worked to get these ... and I finally did it! I managed to capture a rare photo of a very common species. Well, it's actually not that common where I live, though I do see it now and then, and it isn't rarely photographed, though I always find it impossible. Now I just need to find it in better lighting. Until the next time...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Phu Khieo ... back on track

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 21st May, 2016
Habitat: a.s.l. 500-900, small ponds (some temporary) densely covered in trees

Well, following a few weeks of fairly heavy rain I decided to charge my camera once more and head out. I had recently visited Pa-la-U Waterfall in Hua Hin (I have just got married and it was my one sneaky trip on my honeymoon). Anyway, it turned out to be awful. Everything was dry and wilting - including me. I saw a few fairly common species, but the whole day was a washout - or dried out? -save spotting even more awesome elephants waddling about. So, camera back in the cupboard and waiting for the rains. Well, they finally came and with it, my enthusiasm. Now, when Saturday comes, so does my desire to get out there. I decided upon a regular place that I KNOW has many more species for me to find. Most of which are extremely rare and it will take my whole life to find. OMG what a shame ... searching for odes forever. That is such a travesty. Honest. Also, now being married and poor, it is within easy reach (two hours) and I don't have to stop there. So, Phu Khieo it was.

However, most visitors (including me) do the river and then the lakes at the top. Yet, I have done those to death and have been thinking about other species that are supposed to be there. Therefore, I decided to worm my way up the 23 road to the top ... I must have stopped 20 times. There are so many little ponds now. It took me 5 hours to do so, but I managed to spot a few new species for Phu Khieo along the way ... Ceriagrion azureum were out in force in many of the small ponds, though, oddly, the males were all very young (whiteish green) and not that striking  azure blue. However, the odd thing was that they were ALL copulating and all young males. I have seen it the other way round, but never young males. Is this normal? Who knows? Even stranger is the fact that I haven't ever seen this species here. Also, Indolestes anomalus, a species I had bumped into and was common at one small pond in Petchabun (Nam Nao), I found for the first time here. Likewise, it was abundant and all of them seemed to be busy copulating. How did I miss these species last year? 
However, I suppose the highlight of the day has to go to a common species that I regularly see but have seen for the first time. Huh? I Hear you say. Well, it is Anax guttatus, a species I come across often, but NEVER get to photograph it. I kind of only count species once I have recorded them photographically. This time, however, I got that chance and it paid off (though the background was dark). I must admit I am very happy with these photos. Anyway, things look like they are turning out for the best and I hope to add many more species this year ... 

My best photos of the day:

And my new "old" species ...

Next trip: Anywhere I can get to use my camera a lot ... I really enjoyed yesterday!