Thursday, June 19, 2014

Location:  A trip to Nam Nao environs 
Date: Saturday 07 June, 2014
  Areas visited:  Waterfall near the town centre

On my last trip, I planned a visit to somewhere new in Chaiyaphum (even though it still seems too early for Gomphids and it's June!). I awoke at 4.00am and started to prepare myself for the trip. However, heavy storms and rain were forecast (I checked on my phone) and I almost gave up any form of trip whatsoever. I decided then to look elsewhere and researched the weather at Nam Nao and it predicted cloudy weather, but no storms. So, within 5 minutes I had totally changed plans. Nam Nao it was. However, once I passed Chumphae, I started to wonder whether it was a good idea, as I want to see more species and I am pretty sure that I have recorded almost every species that resides with that area. So ... change of mind again. I decided to re-visit a waterfall I had visited once before, which is close to Nam Nao town centre. Noppadon Makbun had also visited there once before and had spotted Microgomphus chelifer. That species was my target once more. I arrived at the dirt track that leads to the waterfall and it was as bumpy and rocky as ever. Bones aching and head hurting, I finally made it to the waterfall. I had forgotten just how difficult it is to get around on the large rocks, which are extremely slippy and somewhat dangerous. After an extremely slow start, I managed to start spotting a few common species, yet the Gomphids were still very much absent. As the day progressed, the clouds began to slowly build and I wasn't confident of seeing any new species .... and certainly not M. chelifer. I finally spotted a somewhat damaged-looking teneral male Gomphid hanging on for dear life. I photographed it and knew it was Burmagpmhus species, but wasn't completely sure which species. Since then, it has been confirmed as Burmagomphus divaricatus, a species I have seen at Nam Nao before, as well as at Khao Yai NP. I did also see a Gomphid land in the reeds, close to me, but vanished as quickly as it arrived and I am not sure what species it was. The other interesting things I saw, were that of Pseudagrion pruinosum, which could be a new provincial record as I it seems to be more common along the west of Thailand and up to Chiang Mai. I also saw a yellow Oriental Vine Snake for the first time and it was small but simply beautiful. So, all in all, a good day, but with far more to come from this place as (hopefully) more Gomphids appear in July and August when I visit again.When I returned home, I had completely forgotten the name of the place and therefore can only put 'waterfall' for now until I return.

My best photos of the day:

Possibly a new record for Petchabun.

One of only a few 'Gomphid' sightings


'Ghost' specimens like this were everywhere.

 Though common, I have never seen a teneral female with so much colour on her wings before. Very strange. 

Another great sight was witnessing a courtship and oviposition of E. ochracea.

 They moved together slowly down the stem, until he simply 'flicked' her off by shaking his abdomen.
 She then oviposited under water for around one minute, before flying rapidly up into the air and then plunged back down onto another stem further away. 

And just to show you that I am not all about dragonflies, is there anything more beautiful than this?

Next trip: Hmmm ... I'll probably let the weather decide.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Trip to Pa La-U Waterfall

Location:  A trip to Kaeng Krachan NP 
Date: Wednesday 07 May, 2014
  Areas visited: Pa La-U Waterfall and stream located just below

I recently took a holiday with my girlfriend to Hua Hin and couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the well-known Pa La-U Waterfall which lies approximately 65 kms west of Hua Hin, located inside Kaeng Krachan National Park, Prachaub Kiri Khan. 

Before I visited, I asked a few fellow dragon chasers and I was recommended to a stream near to the entrance of the waterfall by Pattarawich Dawwrueng. I was hoping to spot the stunning Gomphidae Nihonogomphus pulcherrimus. When I arrived, I loved the look of the stream. Extremely shallow and narrow with a sandy bottom. I did manage to see N. pulcherrimus straight away, but was unable to photograph it as every time it flew down from the treetops, it was attacked by numerous Onychothemis testacea and it eventually gave up and retreated. Amongst several commonly seen species, I managed to spot and photograph three new records for my blog: a solitary male Onychothemis culminicola was present, but extremely shy;  a small number of Paragomphus capricornis were present on the sandy and pebbled areas of the stream and I also saw a female Burmagomphus sp. that I was unable to identify, but looks different to the females of other species I have seen in the genus. I moved along the stream and could have spent days there. However, I only had one day and with time ticking, I decided it was time to move on and head to Pa La-U Waterfall. The only thing that annoyed me was that I had to pay "foreigner" price. 200 baht instead of 20. Normally I pay the same as Thais wherever I go as I pay tax in the country (I am a teacher if you didn't know). However, I wasn't going to miss out for 200 baht! Just a short walk from the car park and I had arrived. Quite literally. The place was alive with odonates. Most were common, but I did manage to spot a few more species to add to my collection. The first was a male specimen from the genus Onychogomphus. However, I'm not sure that it has been described yet, so I can only call it Onychogomphus sp. I only saw this male, but did managed to catch sight of a female ovipositing. It managed to evade my camera though. Once I had photographed the Gomphid, I stood up and a tiny female landed between my legs. I photographed it and then noticed a good number of males seemingly 'hopping' from rock to rock. I probably saw around 10 specimens. Upon my return home, it has been identified as Stylogomphus sp. - a species I had seen before. However, that wasn't true as the specimen I saw in Petchabun was much larger and the appendages are slightly different, though my photos are not perfect. Therefore, I would suggest that there are at least two species from the genus waiting to be described. If all that wasn't enough, I then witnessed my first ever full emergence of a Gomphid. It was amazing to see. Unfortunately, as it was extremely fresh and a female, it is almost impossible to ID. Hopefully someone can. For now, I can only call it "Unknown Gomphid". There were many other common species buzzing around and I continued up the waterfall. After several hours, a heavy-looking storm started looming and I was worried that I had no protection for my camera gear (I forgot all my waterproof stuff). I continued but the thunder got louder and it got darker. It was time to give up the ghost. I had been a brilliant day anyway. I started my way back down and as I almost reached the first level a long slender damselfly caught my eye in the gloom. I knew it was a Platystictidae species and upon inspection, knew that it was of the genus Drepanosticta, probably D. sharpi. However, when I returned and posted photos on Dragonflies of Thailand, I was informed that there are some species in the genus yet to be described by science. Therefore, I can only leave it as Drepanosticta sp. Hopefully, someone will describe them all in the very near future. And that was it. All in all, a brilliant day and a place I will return to for sure. 
My best photos of the trip:

And just to finish off the trip, I managed to spot a female (that looks like a male) I. senegalensis rather surprisingly at a brackish pond right alongside the coast - this is something I have been looking for for a long time!
Next Trip: probably Chaiyaphum

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

177. Drepanosticta sp.

Number: 177
Family:   Platystictidae
Genus: Drepanosticta 
Species: Drepanosticta sp. (probably yet to be described)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Rocky forested stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary male
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: Drepanosticta species

At the end of a long and fruitful day at Pa La-U waterfall, I made my way back down to the first level, acutely aware that a storm was brewing slightly higher up the mountain. Just as I was about to put my camera back into my camerabag, I noticed an extremely long Platystictidae perching on a tree trunk. I knew it was a new species for me, but couldn't tell in the bad lighting whether it was in the genus Drepanosticta or Protosticta. I managed a few poor shots and then a group of tourists walked past and the thing flew away. I searched for a while and then remembered the male Drepanosticta jurzitzai which I had spotted a few weeks earlier. I simply stood back and waited. And waited. And then ... amazingly, he returned to the exact same spot. This time I managed to get a few better shots and with the storm rapidly approaching, I caught the specimen with my fingers. By now I knew it was Drepanosticta sp. and thought it was possibly D. sharpi. I managed a few shots in the hand and while preparing to get shots of the abdomen, I slipped and released it by mistake. It flew straight up and out of sight. I still thought I had enough shots for ID. However, upon my return, I posted my photos on "Dragonflies of Thailand" on Facebook and Noppadon Makbun informed me that there are a number of species in the genus yet to be described. This is likely to be one of them. So ... like many specimens spotted on this trip, I cannot conclude the exact species. It will for now be Drepanosticta sp.

The male.
The male is, like many species in the genus, dull in colouration with a bright patch on the abdomen. This specimen, however, had an abdomen that seemed to go on forever. The other notable thing, is that the thorax has a dull but noticeable green metallic sheen dorsally.

 The best natural shots (in almost darkness):

Now in the hand (notice that stunning metallic green sheen):

 Not a great photo (light had almost gone), but gives an idea of size (and my hideous fingernails):

My best attempt at photographing the appendages, before it escaped:

Thanks to everyone with their help on trying to ID this specimen, especially to Noppadon Makbun.

176. Unknown Gomphid

Number: 176
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Unknown 
Species: Unknown
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Rocky forested stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: -

Whilst I was at Pa La-U waterfall, I was lucky enough to spot another emergence. This time, it was a medium-sized Gomphid. In the blazing sunshine, the dragonfly emerged rather quickly. Unfortunately, it is a female and at this stage (lacking colour, markings and other attributes) it is extremely difficult to confidently ID. So, though exciting to watch my first ever Gomphid emerge, I am annoyed that I can't ID it. Hopefully, somebody somewhere may know. For now, I can only call it Unknown Gomphid.

 Now fully emerged and stretched.

Appendages (close up) ...

Whilst 'pumping' her abdomen straight, she emitted a clear liquid which came out in rather large quantities.

Hopefully someone can ID this specimen or at least determine the genus (I have no idea).

175. Burmagomphus sp.

Number: 175
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Burmagomphus 
Species: Burmagomphus sp.
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Sandy shallow stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: Burmagomphus species

During my trip I also briefly saw a female Burmagomphus species, which landed momentarily in front of me. I managed one poor quality snap and it was off. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to spot a male. I do believe it is a different female to the two other species I have seen from the genus. The markings along the abdomen seem somewhat different. However, until I return to the same location and spot the male, I can only say Burmagomphus sp.

The female
The female is typically Burmagomphus-like in appearance. However, the markings along the abdomen are new to me and differ to the two species I have encountered before (B. divaricatus and B. asahinai).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

174. Stylogomphus sp. 2

Number: 174
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Stylogomphus sp. 2
Species: Stylogomphus sp. (yet to be described)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Forested rocky stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Several males and one female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: -

Working my way carefully up the beautiful Pa La-U waterfall, a tiny female Gompid landed right between my legs (I almost stood on it). I managed to get some decent photos of it from above and then it flew away. I had no idea what it was and it was easily the smallest Gomphid I had ever seen. Then, I saw a similar-sized male. Then another and another. There were at least 6-7 males present and I was able to get some decent photos of them. When I returned home, I posted my findings on "Dragonflies of Thailand" on Facebook and the feedback was unanimous (Noppadon Makbun, Pattarawich Dawwrueng, Kroolek Reinthong): Stylogomphus sp. (not yet described as far as I am aware). I had actually seem a solitary male once before at Nam Nao NP, but that one was much larger in size, whereas these were tiny. Also, I think the appendages differ slightly too. However, where I can tell the difference from my photos (and not just memory), is through the number of antenodal crossviens. Stylogomphus sp. 2 from Kaeng Krachan has 9-10 antenodal crossveins, whereas Stylogomphus sp. 1 from Petchabun has 15. You can see images of the Petchabun specimen here.

The male
A tiny fellow that doesn't seem to fly far, but instead flies from rock to rock. Though superficially a typical-looking Gomphid, its appendages are unique (which is what gives it is name, I believe).

The appendages are like the stylus of an old record player (hence its name) ...

Wing venation
Here, you can easily compare the crossveins of the species I found at Kaeng Krachan and Petchabun. Somewhat different I think!
... and another specimen with 10 antenodal crossveins ...

 The female
The female is difficult to ID. However, it was also tiny making life easy for me (I only managed photos from this angle as it was perching directly between my feet).