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!

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

184. Polycanthagyna erythromelas (McLachlan, 1896)

Number: 184    
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

183. Macromia moorei Selys, 1874

Number: 183   
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 ...