Monday, October 17, 2016

Back to Baking Heat at Phu Khieo WS

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Thursday, 13th October, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds

Well, I returned to Phu Khieo in order to find another elusive species (most of which still are and the search goes on). I knew it was Amphithemis curvistyla time. The species has apparently been recorded there and is only out for around 6 weeks and it was right slap bang in the middle of their flight time. Not surprisingly, though, I didn't get to see any. I just wonder if it is just a little too early this year due to the messed up weather and the fact that everywhere was still swamped. I will return in a week or two. Other than the usual suspects still showing in baking heat, everything is starting to quieten down now, as expected. However, even now, there was a surprise or two to be had. I managed to spot Amphiallagma parvum for the first time and they were in decent numbers, especially at the flood pond (near the marshy area where A. hisopa (or very similar) was abundant last November). The only other thing of note was a rather peculiar Aciagrion species. Could be A. borneense, but I don't think so. To add to the confusion, I saw a number of A. borneense at a slightly lower altitude (see copula below). I am at a loss as to what it is. I saw 3-4 males the one natural, uplands pond (where I once stood on a massive python, which didn't even react). Sadly, I had forgotten my net and was unable to capture any. I will return very soon and try again. 

My best photos of the day:

The conundrum of the day: Aciagrion.... what?

Aciagrion borneense, copula (at slightly lower altitude). Here you can just make out the wide black markings on the abdomen - which makes it easier to separate, whereas the specimen above is almost solid blue.
Welcome to Phu Khieo... my first sighting of the tiny, but stunning Amphiallagma parvum, male...
 ... and the female
The usual equally beautiful Ceriagrion azureum (though in much smaller numbers now)
Aciagrion pallidum, male - with white appendages (some have an orangy colour).
Orthetrum pruinosum neglectum, male. Very common right now.
 Diplacodes nebulosa, copula. These were everywhere - but my first decent shot of a copula.
The super-common Ischnura senegalensis, copula. Still nice, though
 Lestes concinnus, replaced most of the other Lestes species now and was incredibly abundant.
Gynacantha subinterrupta, teneral male - usually abundant everywhere, but rather scarce here.
Ischnura aurora aurora, male - a few made an appearance
Lestes elatus, female. Seemingly more abundant later in the year.
Very scarce here, for some reason... Orthetrum luzonicum, teneral female

Ooops ... poor damsels.

Can you guess the species?
 Orolestes octomaculata, teneral female
... and this one?
 Cratilla lineata calverti, teneral male

What, no frog?!?
Not all dragons fly. This stunning, but lazy Monitor Lizard was plonked right in the middle of the road.
 No idea what species, but there were several along the road early in the morning. This one was a decent size.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rain, rain go away ... Phu Khieo WS

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 27th August, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds and a small stream

Well, it had been raining all week and I was desperate for it to stop. Upon waking up on Saturday morning at 3.30am, I was greeted with that all too familiar sound of rain thudding against the roof. Unperturbed, I decided to go anyway. I set off and it rained all the way to Chaiyaphum around 90 kms away. There, it had stopped. Or it hadn't even started - one or the other anyway. The rest of the journey there was dry. Brilliant. Once I had entered, things seemed a little strange. It was duller than usual and I could already hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. I knew it was going to be a short day. I worked my way up the the top, stopping off at any water source I could find (which was a lot). Every puddle was occupied by one species or another, though most were common. As the day progressed, it was becoming apparent that a couple of the rarer species that reside there had now disappeared until next year. Notably, Ceriagrion pallidum, which emerged at the start of July (I saw a solitary teneral male) and has vanished already, giving it a really short flight season of around 6-7 weeks and probably the reason it is so rare or so rarely seen at least. Another was Orolestes selysi. This appears to be around for about two months also. The Lyriothemis species I have seen on a few occasions, has also long gone, though I have only ever seen that in June and July. As for Nannophya pygmaea, I searched in vain for another specimen, though I believe this just to be an incredibly rare species in these parts, rather than it not being in flight at this time of year. As for the other rare species that reside here and I am yet to find, the search goes on. On with the search and the main river was belting through and chocolate brown so that put paid to a number of the species I was looking for. Therefore, my attentions kind of turned to improvement shots of the more commonly seen residents. I also continued to search for Gynacantha species, but they eluded me once more. I will target those species in October onwards when they should hopefully be slightly more abundant. As for new records of any kind, my only addition was Rhinagrion viridatum, one of my favourite little damsels. I saw it from a bridge over a small but really muddy stream. I worked my way down to it and managed to get a pretty decent shot of it, adding to my growing list of species at PK. I searched the rest of the stream and it only threw up common species, though searching was near impossible due to the depth of the mud and the overgrown surroundings. I will target this stream after the rainy season and in April as I have an idea that this is where a few of those rare species may reside, though only time will tell. As I turned away from bridge, I came face to face with a massive monitor lizard. It stared at me frozen and, as I slowly raised my camera to get in a shot, it shot off instead crashing through the bushes at great speed. It must have been over 6 feet long and really fat - though I am sure the lizard thought the same of me! As for that rain, it had been developing overhead for several hours getting darker and darker and the thunder was increasing in frequency and volume. Before I knew it, I was caught in the middle of a heavy storm and dashed for the car. By 2 pm the day was over in terms of odes. As for the drive home it was a nightmare. The rain was so heavy that you can see better in thick fog. I was worried about flooding and getting trapped but made it home to tell the tale. In the end, I didn't manage to see any new species for my records, leaving me still 10 shy of that magical 200 barrier. I did, however, manage to take loads of photos, some of which I am very happy with indeed. I probably won't return to PK until the end of the rainy season where, I am hoping, that a few new species will appear and have me jumping for joy once more. Until then, I will have to find somewhere new I think. Watch this space ...

My best photos of the day.

Welcome to Phu Khieo ... Rhinagrion viridatum, new for my records at the place

 This shot I am incredibly happy with. At this stage, it must be the most skittish species on earth flying high into the trees with the slightest movement.
An early rise makes it worth it sometimes ... 

Love was certainly in the air. Copula seemed to abound, though I missed many of them as they are hard to approach

Probably the rarest female of the common species. Only my second sighting in 8 years and she simply plonked down next to me as I rested after trawling through mud. One shot, gone ... see you in another 8 years.
Blue was the order of the day...

Another rarely seen specimen and again incredibly skittish always flying straight up into the tree canopy. A hyaline male
Females of many species were very much present...

As were males ...

... and other things made an appearance.

A stunning owlfly (not to be confused with a dragonfly as I did when I first saw one years back). This one benefited from perfect lighting first thing in the morning.
and the ubiquitous frog ...another tiny one. Any ideas on species?
Next trip: No idea. No where's my Google Maps...?!?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back at the old place ... Nam Nao NP

Location: Nam Nao National Park, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 13th August, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested stream and some ponds

Following a few decent trips to Phu Khieo which bagged me a couple of new species for my records, I planned to go again at the weekend. However, terrible weather, too much work and being decidedly skint almost put paid to that idea. However, reading up on Facebook that Andrew Pierce had photographed Microgomphus thailandicus at the stream which crosses the pathway on the way to Som Bun Ranger Station and seeing a great photo from Noppadon Makbun on Facebook, my mind was made up. The stream he visited is actually in Chaiyaphum (which I didn't know at first). Anyway, with Andrew's great finding, I had to go and find it for myself. I didn't even set off until 9 am and arrived a little after 11 am - still plenty of time to do some serious searching for one small Gomphid! The first species I saw, however, was rather surprising as it was one of my favourite Gomphids, Merogomphus pavici. It is easily recognisable with its seemingly permanently arched abdomen. Unfortunately, it was obscured by leaves to get a solid shot of it (I already have a great shot but wanted the money shot). I edged my way around and spent around 10 minutes doing so. However, by the time I had done so, the clouds had appeared and, as if by magic, the dragon disappeared too. And that was it. Nothing appeared for around 30 minutes as it rained. Only a solitary and sad looking Trithemis aurora perched defiantly on his stick. I almost gave up when suddenly the clouds gave way to a small, but significant burst of sunshine. Out came a million Pantala flavescens overhead swooping at every bug. Then, from nowhere, came a beast of a Gomphid I have seen here before in decent numbers too. Gomphidia kruegeri krugeri is not a rare or even that uncommon in NE Thailand, but getting a decent photo is really tough. It flies away at the slightest movement. Fortunately for me, however, once it landed - or rather plonked - onto a large rock, the clouds returned and he seemed somewhat paralysed, unable to move. I was able to get pretty close and fire off some decent shots before the sun returned and he shot off. I was then greeted by a female of the same species which was carrying a cargo of red eggs. Sadly, I had no chance of photographing her as she moved quickly between rocks searching for areas to offload her eggs. Still, this is only the second time I have seen the female so I was happy indeed. Other than that, I was the extremely common Prodasineura autumnalis everywhere, but I also managed to encounter Prodasineura auricolor here for the first time. A new provincial record? Not sure, but it is for me anyway. For the rest of the day, I pretty much sat around the stream or walked as far as I could in search of M. thailandicus, but it never showed. Maybe as the weather too poor for it and it prefers sunshine like many Gomphids. I decided it was time to move back up the path and try and locate any ponds. I found a couple but most of them were man-made, created for wild animals and didn't house that much. A couple of ponds, however, seemed to have potential and I will return for sure. I did manage to spot a couple of male Palpopleura sexmaculata sexmaculata which are always a welcome sight and though Indothemis carnatica males were present in small numbers, the females seemed to be everywhere. I also saw a solitary male Lestes praemorsus decipiens and a male Ceriagrion azureum. Other than that, it was common species and nothing really to report. 

Though I didn't see that much, I really need to investigate this place much more as I think there are one or two species still to be found here. Watch this space.

My best photos of the short trip:

Not common, but fairly easy to find around Nam Nao NP

Fairly common, but not easy to photograph

How can anyone not want to photograph this beauty...

Females, old and young ...

Just for the record, I am not completely all about dragons ... I saw a stunning little frog and also The Blue Kaiser butterfly made an appearance for the first time for me.