Tuesday, August 18, 2015

186? - Lestes sp.

Number: 186?   
Family: Lestidae 
Genus: Lestes   
Species: Lestes sp.
Common name(s): -
Synonyms: -   
Habitat: Forest ponds  
Province(s) sighted: Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun 
Sightings (by me): Locally common
In flight (that I have seen): August  
 Species easily confused with: Lestes praemorsus decipiens, Platylestes platystylus
On a recent trip to Nam Nao with friend and birder Mark Hogarth, I decided to venture down a trail I had only visited once before back in January (he wanted to visit the trails around HQ). I was looking for Indolestes anomalus again, which I found in great numbers. Amongst a number of other uncommon or rare species, I noticed what I first thought was Lestes praemorus decipiens. Yet, very quickly I became suspicious. It seemed larger and was far more skittish. On closer inspection I could clearly see that the dorsal patch near the appendages was minimal. Unfortunately, I missed photographing it as it flew away. However, as the day warmed another appeared. Then another and another. At each pond I visited there was a healthy number of them - all with the same reduced dorsal patch. I managed to get decent photos of them but catching them was difficult. At the last pond I visited, there were many males there again and a number of copula - even harder to approach. When I returned home I did a little research and I am convinced that it isn't L. praemorsus (the most likely candidate). It could, in fact, possibly be L. dorothea, a species recorded from Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum, not too far away. However, I must return at the weekend and see if I can catch a specimen for close up shots of the appendage and possibly collect a specimen or two.
It could be L. praemorsus decipiens, but I am not convinced. 
The male

 The thoracic markings are fairly prominent (although hard to see as all specimens were heavily pruinosed)
The male appendages (the inferior appendages were extremely short)
L. praemorsus decipiens for comparison (the tips of the appendages are almost touching)
Lestes sp. from a different angle. Not the clearest shot, but shows just how short the inferior appendages are. 
The copula
Here shows the thoracic markings of the female
Close up (and compared to female of  L. praemorsus decipiens)
L. praemorsus decipiens female from Khao Yai NP.
Anyone know for sure what species it is? Maybe it is a slight variation of L. praemorsus decipiens. Only time will tell (when I return).  

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 fello 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 4kms 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 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 ...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Yet another trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Location:  Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum Province
 Date: Thursday 30 July, 2015 
Areas visited: Marshland, open grassland and a little stream
Well, I think that you have guessed the 'theme' for the season (and next) ... Phu Khieo. It is an amazing place and I know that there are loads of species waiting to be found, though I will settle for one right now. What's more, with a 4-day break upon me, it was impossible not to go somewhere and with my girlfriend, Beau, having to attend a seminar during a national Buddhist holiday (how pathetic is our school?), I had no option but to go to Phu Khieo .. well, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Well, it does for me, so shut it. Ahem. Anyway, it had been raining heavily all week and was forecast to do so that day. So ... I decided to stay at home and watch the telly. Yeah, right. I still went and this time I didn't travel alone. I travelled there with a birder whom I got to know through my brother. His name is Mark Hogarth and, as it turns out, he is the salt of the earth ... even though he is a birder haha. Moreover, his butties are top notch and he is welcome to come again any time ... as long as he makes the sandwiches! Seriously, though, he is a cool guy and very experienced when it comes to birds and nature. So, we arrived at 6am and entered the sanctuary. Straight away there were some colourful chickens knocking about and Mark was in his element. I think there was a sparrow and a pigeon, too. Joking aside, there were seemingly lots of birds and it took a while to reach the top. There, we parted ways. He went in search of birds, me, in search of odes. My only option due to the weather was the open marshy area. I really, really wanted to see that Indolestes gracilis ssp. again ... so, I searched for hours. Making my way slowly. Very slowly, though mud, silt, waist-deep water and enormous leeches. It was hard. With my bag up to 500 metres away (nestled in a dry patch), I always had one eye on the odes and one of the sky ... it was going to rain. Heavy clouds. I kept searching. And searching. I found only small numbers of odonates were present that day, but some were fairly scarce, namely Platylestes platystylus and Lestes praemorsus decipiens in the same location made separating them easy. The usual scarce species Rhyothemis obsolescens was also present in very small numbers, as were a few of the more common 'locals'. Anyway, by 12.15pm I had had enough wading through mud and prepared to return to the meeting point. I thought I would try returning via the trees and bushes as usual. Much harder but sometimes brings rewards. Just as I was getting annoyed with myself for not seeing Indolestes gracilis (4 trips, 1 sighting) again, I noticed a chubby yellow and black female. I knew what it was straight away. Lyriothemis sp. again ... this time a female of the same species I had encountered twice before (1 male and 1 female) ... this time I got decent photos, though I am non the wiser about which species it is. I returned to get my bag and then noticed a damselfly I had seen before in the north ... Pseudagrion pruinosum, a solitary male at a swamp. I was rather surprised to see it here! As I walked back to the top, I briefly caught sight of something take off ... it looked somewhat like a Idionyx sp. in the way it took off, but seemed strange that it was at the swamp. Anyway, that was gone and I can only hope to see it again. I met up with Mark and he was smiling like a Cheshire cat with the numbers of birds he had seen! We then went to a few other places and I didn't see anything new, though I was constantly on the look-out for new species in the grasses ... to no avail. Then down to a small stream. I tackled the stream but noticed a solitary Coeliccia c.f. loogali soaking up the brightest bit of gloom and that was it! Amazingly quiet. Still, looking forward to the next trip there ... 

probably a teneral of the above ...

Two teneral  B. farinosa females ... same location, very different appearance. Very interesting. 

I was very surprised to see this in Chaiyaphum in marshland. Maybe a provincial record. 

Mr. Coeliccia c.f. loogali .... my only sighting along a 1/2 kilometre stretch of a tiny stream ... I thought that there would be several species! Still it was a dull day.

Just when you thought it was safe to back into the water ... there were a few massive leeches hanging around in the boggy swamp. Not the usual little land leeches, these were enormous and even made me nervous. I picked one off my back but three still managed to drink about a litre of blood each from my legs. This one dropped off my leg once it had had its fill. And, yes. It was painful but only when as it released itself ... nice!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Another Trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Location:  Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum Province
 Date: Saturday 18 July, 2015 
Areas visited: Marshland and the large river

 This trip really was a case of the good, the bad and the downright horrible! The day started well. I arrived at 6.00am and got in straight away. About 1kms from the entrance, I saw about a dozen birds walking around on the road. One of them was a Siamese Fireback and the others were Jungle Fowl. It was great to see and it increased my excitement for the day ahead. I couldn't wait to get up to the marshland at the top. I arrived and was greeted by several deer, staring at me as usual. The marsh was extremely quiet. I only managed to spot the usual suspects and failed to find my target species, Indolestes gracilis ssp., which I wanted to find and collect for ID purposes (as well as the female if possible). It turned out to be 'teneral day', with hundreds of shiny specimens flitting around as I walked. They must have emerged due to the rains from the previous week. After a couple of hours of searching, I thought it was time to move back down and head towards the river. I stopped at another pond, which my brother mentioned and it looks good for future trips, though it was just a flying visit this time. I continued and saw another path. "Hmmm ... what's up there?" I thought. Big mistake! I got about 100 metres along the path when I decided it was getting worse and worse with thick mud. I decided to turn and stopped at an area where it was possible to do an 8-million point turn. As I started, the wheels started to spin in the mud. It got worse and worse until I knew I wasn't going anywhere. I got out and tried to clear the mud. Nope. Wedged lots of twigs and sticks under the wheels. Nope. Walked back to the entrance with a bag and filled it up with small stones. No chance. I was stuck fast. Now full of mud and being attacked by hordes of leeches, I knew my only option was to walk back up to main area and try to stop somebody. Anybody! It was totally deserted. The poor weather had forced everyone to stay at home. I walked about a kilometre when an angel appeared. Actually, it was a young guy on a motorbike wearing a Man United shirt. I flagged him down and he took me to the ranger station. As if by magic, another guy appeared from nowhere, armed with rope. We jumped in his truck (with the United fan) and we returned to my truck. After numerous attempts (including his truck getting stuck), we eventually got it out. I gave them a reward for their fantastic help. Without them, I would still be there now I think. So, that was it. Straight to the river at the lower reaches. I searched for hours and hours, but only common species could be found. Thankfully, the sun decided to make a brief appearance and with it, so too did around 5-6 specimens of Burmagomphus divaricatus. I have seen this species at several different locations and it appears to be fairly common, in NE Thailand at least. Other than that, nothing showed, except for a female Gomphidia kruegeri donning masses of eggs on her abdomen, and a large Corduliid, which looked most certainly like Epophthalmia sp., though not sure which. I WILL have to remember my net next time. And that was it. I wandered around for a good few hours with nothing really to show for it. Until, that is, I decided to take a look in the gloomy darkened areas. I searched for a good while and was about to give up, when there above me in the gloom, something looked possibly like a resting dragonfly, though it could have been a stick. I had to take a number of pictures with the flash just to see what it was. Amazingly, it turned out to be a new species for me in the shape of Macromidia rapida, a species that has only ever been recorded once before in Thailand (at the same location, too, I believe). So, right at the death I was saved. 

 My best pictures of the day:

(I actually sat - yes, sat - in the stream for this photo ... am I mad?)

Certainly not my first sighting of G. krugeri, but certainly my first female ... check out those eggs! 

Who can resist taking photos of this species?

The marshland was awash with teneral specimens...  

Not commonly seen ... a Brachydiplax farinosa teneral specimen with 7 antenodal crossveins on one wing and 8 on the other. Very strange.

I am certain that there are still plenty more species waiting for me to find at Phu Khieo. Hence the number of trips recently. I believe that there could be at least another 10-12 species waiting for me to find, with possibly one or two more species new to Thailand. Hopefully, I will get to find out!