Monday, May 23, 2016

188. Anax guttatus (Burmeister, 1839)

Number: 188  
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!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Few Trips Around Chaiyaphum

Location 1: Tat Fa and Pha Ing Waterfalls, Tat Ton National Park, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 26th March, 2016
Habitat: Lowlands (a.s.l. 400-500m, fairly densely covered in trees)

Trying to ascertain exactly what is in Issan (NE Thailand) is a difficult task. Any decent habitat is often swamped with locals escaping from the oppressive heat (and who can blame them). The worst is Tat Ton Waterfall, a place I have visited a few times, but left because of the sheer numbers of revelers. As with this trip, I did the same. However, there are two other waterfalls in the local area (actually there are three on the map, but I can't find the third, nor can the locals when asked!), and I revisited them once more. Tat Fa is the bigger of the two and is fairly open with lots of rocks in the sunshine, surrounded by trees at the edges. Sounds perfect for odes, yes? Well, maybe it is, but this place was bone dry. No water anywhere, save a few tiny puddles at the edges and water running under the rocks. Therefore, there is hope when the rains come, but not right now. The only resident (other than Pantala flavescens flitting around in the sky), was a solitary female Indothemis carnatica obviously waiting for the rains and a possible mate. After searching for a few hours, it was time to move on. Bypassing Tat Ton waterfall, there are two additional waterfalls, I opted for the one furthest away, Pha Ing Waterfall. Upon arrival, it had clearly been dammed to retain the little water that was left. I searched the area taking the odd photo of butterflies, and then I saw an orange Ceriagrion sp. perching in the grasses, deep under cover. Fortunately, it was rather placid and I could get close to it. I knew straight away that it wasn't C. chaoi as the abdomen was too slender and elongate. C. malaisei? Possibly, but it appeared to be too elongate for that species, too. I have tentatively placed it as C. malaisei ... maybe Tom Kompier can help (I have added a couple of poorly shot appendages to try and ascertain what species it is). If it can't be IDd from these photos, I will return. Other than that and a few common paddy field species, there was nothing to report. 

The Ceriagrion sp. (C. malaisei or something else?)

The terrible appendage shots (do these help at all?)

The sad-looking Indothemis carnatica, desperate for the rains, just like me!

Location 2: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 02nd April, 2016
Habitat: Mid-Uplands (a.s.l. 850-900m, open, vasting marshland and tree-lined ponds)

Finally, a bit of good news and a positive ID that I saw last year! Indolestes Gracilis ssp. now has a name ... Indolestes gracilis expressior Kosterin, 2015. So, welcome to Thailand! My second Indolestes discovery for Thailand. I actually saw this last year and thought it would be the same as the one Oleg described from Cambodia, but I didn't get good photos of the appendages last time round so couldn't be sure. However, after 8 trips to the place where I first saw it, I managed to see it again. One record shot ... and it was gone again, carried off by the wind!!!! I sat in deep mud and almost cried. Determined, I searched again and again and again, getting dizzy from walking around in knee-deep mud staring at grass. After four hours, I was going to give up. I walked back to my bag where I had first spotted it, and there it was again! Forgetting my net, I had to cautiously use my fingers and managed to catch it! Now with decent photos of the appendages, I can be sure with the ID. 

Indolestes gracilis expressior the individual I saw last year:

The new specimen playing dead:

... and the appendages of the one I saw this time round:

The rest of the place was still dry, although I did find a new little pond that was manic with dragons everywhere, including Anax indicus and Camacinia gigantea and Ceriagrion chaoi all new records for me at this location.

A. indicus, new for Phu Khieo (provincial record?)

 A young male ... with hardly any wing colouration
 Not a very nice ending for this little fellow (mauled by a spider)
My first sighting of C. chaoi. Not the best photo, but the banking was deep and steep and full of mud. You get the idea.

Location 3: 14 kms stream, Nam Nao National Park, Chaiyaphum
Date: Thursday 07th April, 2016
Habitat: Mid-Uplands (a.s.l. 850-900m, tree-lined streams deep in forest)

This day started badly and got worse. First of all, I decided to search a number of places I frequented several years ago near Nam Nao town centre in Petchabun and was shocked to see that large area of marshland had given way to the local school development. Secondly, the brilliant little natural pond I discovered where I saw Nepogomphus walli, Idionyx selysi and the incredibly rare Phyllothemis eltoni, which was just past the town (and difficult to access), had also been raped by man. The pond itself is fine, but the trees and everything else is now full of banana trees and large areas dug out of easy access with bottles of beer and packets of whatever strewn everywhere. So, leaving the two waterfalls alone for now (too early in the season), I shot back over to Nam Nao National Park about 40-odd kilometres away. I decided against the large (and full of water) Helicopter Pad lake as I have been there a million times and headed to two great trails just further along. The first is a 4 kms walk and I have found many a great species there during my last few visits. However, this time, everything seemed different. On one side of the path the trees/scrub was heavily charred from a forest fire and all the little ponds were bone dry. The whole place was parched. I carried on, wilting in the blistering heat. I was constantly looking down into the bushes for signs of life as I walked. Suddenly, I was shocked. I had walked to the end of the 4 kms pond trail where the brilliant little natural pond was and standing there was a herd of elephants (8-10 individuals), some in the water, others on the path. I was less than 10 metres away. I crunched dead leaves under my feet as I halted. The elephants turned and looked at me. I froze. They didn't. Two started to move towards me, hesitantly. Others moved into the trees at either side of me, sounding their trunks as they went. All I could do was slowly turn and walk. I walked at pace for about 100 metres and then legged it for about 2 kms until I almost died from exhaustion. Luckily, they didn't follow or could have been dead for sure. I walked the rest of the way, jumping at every branch or leaf that fell. I made it back to the car and sat there for about 20 minutes. Finally, I decided to try the 14 kms stream trail which goes into Chaiyaphum - and you can drive there! It's a bumpy ride but you can do it. So off I went, stopping at the first stream, just a few butts and no uncommon dragons to be seen. Then, right in front of me was another, massive elephant just waddling along the path grabbing at leaves high up. It was amazing. They were everywhere and you usually don't see them at all. I think it is because we were all going for the same areas ... water! They were concentrated in small areas. Eventually it moved off and I carried on to the second stream (and only had to park 50 metres away). After all that, it was very quiet, though I did see Prodasineura doisuthepensis in Chaiyaphum for the first time and AND manage to get decent shots of it, as it is usually seriously skittish. Ad that was it, other than spotting another, even larger elephant on the pathway on the journey back slowing my progress. NE Thailand is a desperately dry place at the moment. Please rain soon or many species may disappear locally!

The solitary species I photographed ...

Next trip: God knows ... anywhere where there is water and no elephants!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

187. Polycanthagyna erythromelas (McLachlan, 1896)

Number: 187   
Family: Aeschnidae    
Genus: Polycanthagyna    
Species: Polycanthagyna erythromelas 
Common name(s): Tiger Hawker   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Lowland forest stream  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): November    
Species easily confused with: -

Another trip to Phu Khieo, but at completely the wrong time of year. November. Not really a time to expect to find new species. However, with lots of butterflies zipping around, I had half and eye on finding the elusive Libellago hyalina (a late-season species), which has evaded my camera since I started searching for it there a year ago. There was one report of it being recorded there, though this was quite a while ago and it may not even be there now, or is certainly very rare at least.  Searching the river at the lower reaches of Phu Khieo, I was happily snapping away at a few butterflies, as well as the odd ode. I was really happy to spot a Mortonagrion aborense copula for the first time and was amazed to finally scratch that seven-year itch in the shape of Thrithemis festiva, female. The males are super common, but until now I only had a fleeting glance of a female ovipositing (no chance of a photo). I continued searching and searching, but to no avail. Suddenly, from deep within the bushes I disturbed a large dragonfly which flew straight past me. I was gutted. I knew it was something special, but thought I had missed the chance. Amazingly, it returned and flew back under cover. I crept along on all fours desperately trying not to disturb it. Camera at the ready and my bag was snagged on a twig. I moved. The twig moved. The dragonfly moved ... it was off again. Aaarrrggghhh! Yet, within 30 seconds it was back again and I was still in position. I snapped away happily and managed to get some decent shots. Later in the day, I passed where it had been and amazingly, he was now right at the edge almost in direct sunlight, though he was spooked easily. When I returned home I did a little digging and it turns out to be Polycanthagyna erythromelas, easily one of the most handsome dragonflies I have seen. So, who says it is too late in the year? Over to next weekend ....

Monday, September 7, 2015

186. Macromia moorei Selys, 1874

Number: 186   
Family: Corduliidae   
Genus: Macromia   
Species: Macromia moorei 
Common name(s): N/A  
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Exposed upland forest stream
Province(s) sighted: Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, Phitsanoluk  
Sightings (by me): 3-4 specimens at this location
In flight (that I have seen): September  
 Species easily confused with: -
At last another species to add to my list. This time in the shape of Macromia moorei. I saw one patrolling the same area of a small, clear and exposed stream. I tried again and again to get a shot in flight, but they were all terrible. Finally, it rested and I managed to get shots of it and even catch it (luckily as I wouldn't have been able to ID it properly otherwise). It's a new genus for me and, thanks to Noppadon, I am now aware that it is also a provincial record! I know that there is a Macromia species that resides at Nam Nao. I have seen it numerous times but never got anywhere near it. I now have to catch it to find out. Watch this space.

Now in the hand ...

Note his rather bland face.

 The appendages ... (ventral, then dorsal)

... and the genitalia ...


A Trip to Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park

Location:  Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park,Phitsanoluk Province
Date: Saturday 05 September, 2015 
Areas visited: Small streams (mainly exposed) and one pond

A place I had often thought about visiting but never got round to it finally materialised last weekend. Along with fellow birder, Mark Hogarth, we set out for a day trip at 3am and made it to the foothills for around 6.30. However, it is an extremely arduous climb to the top with about a million sharp turns even before you reach the park itself. I have to say, however, that it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited (including the views on the way to the top). Though the park is famous for being the hideout for the communists, it is also one of extreme beauty. It's also around 1200m a.s.l. and therefore very similar in temperature to Phu Kradeung, in Loei. Everything was set up for the perfect day. The odes, however, had other ideas. They were extremely thin on the ground, with only small numbers showing. I found a largish lake on Google Earth and decided to hit there first. Next to it was a small, clear stream which had been messed around with as there was a section of stream that had been altered with concrete walls. That said, Coeliccia loogali was the first to appear there and was easily the most abundant species throughout the park. Next, I saw several Copera marginipes and Copera vittata at the edges and deeper in the reeds. At the pond itself it was extremely quiet. I saw a large Anax sp. patrolling the edges at great speed and I am fairly confident it is Anax guttatus, though my attempts at photographing it were rather futile. There was a healthy number of male and female Aciagrion tillyardi present, too. Yet, that seemed to be it. 
I moved on to another stream which led to Huai Khamunnoi Waterfall and this one again had high numbers of C. loogali dotted around the edges. Finally I noticed a larger species which kept on patrolling the exact same area at a rapid rate. I knew it was Macromia species, but no idea which. I tried for about 20 minutes to get a shot but I had no chance. Finally it landed and I managed to shoot him and then catch it with a tiny net I had with me. Upon returning home, it turns out to be Macromia moorei, later confirmed by Noppadon Makbun, who also confirmed that it was a provincial record. I later saw another 2-3 specimens at the same stream. The only other species of note was Aristocypha fenestrella and a solitary male Coeliccia chromothorax hiding deep under cover. I moved on. I visited a couple of the waterfalls but were just that: waterfalls. Sounds stupid, but you could only view them and couldn't get anywhere near the stream, so were struck off my visiting again list. Finally, I arrived at where Mark was walking - that main loop where the communist buildings are, which also had lots of tourists. And then the rains came. And boy did it rain. Eventually, at about 2pm it stopped and we decided to go out one more time. It was a beautiful open space with lots of tiny puddles and temporary streams, yet there was literally nothing around and with the looming clouds it was time to give up. Or was it? At the only proper stream (still tiny) I noticed a yellow damsel and I knew what it was straight away: Ceriagrion fallax pendleburyi. A species I bumped into about five years ago at Doi Inthanon and my photos were awful. I tried again and failed. This species is seriously skittish. I moved on, gutted once more. Then the sun came out big time. With it, came a small number of dragonflies. Surprisingly, the first one was Sympetrum hypomelas, a stunning species I have encountered at Phu Kradeung, where it is locally common. I also saw a damaged teneral female damsel which turned out to be Orolestes octomaculata (ID by Noppadon Makbun). Two small blue male dragons then attacked each other and as quickly as they appeared, disappeared again. I am sure they were Palpopleura sexmaculata, though I will try to confirm next time. I also saw briefly, the jaw-droppingly beautiful Anax immaculifrons, orange form, though I didn't get a photo. Finally, I returned to where I saw C. fallax pendleburyi. Amazingly, a female was in the same place. I managed to get decent shots of her before tourists walked past and spooked her. There I then sat for about 45 minutes. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting ... then, from deep inside the bushes a dusky yellow figure emerged. It was a male. I managed to get a decent shot of him just as more heavily-booted walkers arrived and off into the depths it returned. Still, I was happy now. And that was it. Evening had arrived and it was time for the long journey back home. This is a place I will definitely return to ... there are definitely many more goodies to be had here (especially if it stays bright).

Best photos of the day:




Monday, August 17, 2015

Another Trip to Nam Nao

Location: Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun 
Date: Saturday 17 August, 2015 
Areas visited: Suan Son Ban Baek (several natural ponds)

Well, another weekend was fast approaching and it had been pouring down all week. I had to make a decision ... was I going to even bother going anywhere, especially as it was forecast rain all weekend, too. It was forecast heavy rain at Phu Khieo and possible thunderstorms at Nam Nao. Well, being the idiot that I am, I decided to brave it no matter what. Happily, Mark Hogarth - a fellow nature lover and birder - was also mad enough to come along too in search of feathered friends. We decided upon Nam Nao as there was less chance of rain. However, there really is no point in me hitting the helicopter pad lake as I don't think there is much left for me to see (if anything). So, I decided upon a 4 kms trail I went down in January and saw small numbers of teneral Indolestes anomalus. My hope was to find it again, but as fully 'mature' adults. So, I dropped Mark off at the HQ so he could follow the trails inside and I shot off to the entrance to the trail which is about 1.5kms further along heading towards Lomsak. I parked the car near the gate (you can't drive inside) and noticed that the ditch that was tiny in winter, was now slightly swollen. I decided to have a quick look and it was totally devoid of anything. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw my old friend, Indolestes inflatus, male. It was the only thing there at that time, but started my day off perfectly. I then followed the trail. The first couple of kilometres are quiet, only a few male Cratilla lineata calverti were around defending their private puddles along the way. Eventually, I reached the first small but natural pond. There were a few common species knowing around, Lestes elatus and several Ceriagrion indochinense. There is also a strange-looking female, which could be C. olivaceum or even a freaky C. indochinense. I dream of it being C. pallidum, but I didn't see a single male so doubt it. I continued down the trail stopping at all the little ponds and ditches along the way, getting bitten to death by horseflies. I saw a few male and a solitary female Orolestes octomaculata - only my second sighting of the female. Finally, I reached the end of the trail, which has a fairly decent-sized pond surrounded by reeds and trees around that. It is a great place. I waded around the place and it was very quiet. The very first thing I saw was another teneral Indolestes anomalus. I followed it and lost it near the trees at the back. However, looking up there were dozens of mature males in the trees but too high up to photograph. Then, with the appearance of the sun, many specimens started to appear at pond level. There were many male I. anomalus and eventually there were was literally dozens of copula. Large numbers of Ceriagrion azureum appeared (I have never seen so many) and they, too, were copulating, so I saw the female for the first time. Everywhere I looked, they were at it! Possibly as it was the first decent break in the weather for a long time and the were randy! The numbers of specimens was large but only a few species were present. Then, flying straight through the reeds was Lestes praemorsus decipiens. Or was it? I followed it around the pond attempting to take photos but it was seriously skittish. I finally hit lucky and it perched long enough to get photos. The striking difference was the small dorsal patch on unlike the large patch on Lestes praemorsus. It also seemed a little larger and upon closer inspection it seems that the inferior appendages are too short. It could possibly be Lestes dorothea (as it was recorded at Phu Khieo, not too far away), but it is too pruinosed to be sure. So, for now, it will have to stay as Lestes sp. On my way back I visited the same ponds and now they, too were filled with the same species. Copula everywhere. Now including many of the Lestes species too and hundreds of L. anomalus copula everywhere. Even back at the ditch near the car there were several specimens of the same species I had seen along the trail. It really was the right time to go there! However, I think I will have to return to collect specimens of the Lestes species to find out exactly what it is.
Best pics of the day:

How many copula can you get on a stick? ... they were everywhere. Note the white holes created by the females to place eggs.

The Lestes sp. ... L. dorothea or a variation of L. praemorsus?

... and the copula (even the female looks different than that of Lestes praemorsus)

My bag was being well guarded by a tiny frog ...

if you ever want to go ...