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.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

190. Nannophya pygmaea Rambur, 1842

Number: 190  
Family: Libellulidae   
Genus: Nannophya   
Species: Nannophya pygmaea 
Common name(s): The Scarlet Dwarf   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)   
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Extremely rare 
In flight (that I have seen): August    
Species easily confused with: N/A

Straight after seeing Ceriagrion pallidum for the first time, around the corner of the same little forested pond, I saw a microscopic, but bright red dragonfly hanging on to reeds for dear life in very blustery conditions. To be honest, I had to look at it for a few seconds before my mind would compute. It was Nannophya pygmaea - a lifer species for me. I had always wanted to see Thailand's smallest species, but feared I would have to travel south in order to do so. However, there it was, much smaller than I could ever dream. I shocked myself into action and managed to get a few shots away before the wind was too much and it shot off never to be seen again. I spent a few hours searching the rest of the pond, but eventually the sun disappeared and with it any chances of finding more. I will return to get improvement shots and I hope that it isn't as rare as I think it is. Maybe I won't see it again. Who knows? I believe it has been recorded once at Phu Kradueng, Loei, but other than that it is mostly seen in the far south, though it is rare there too. 

The male



189. Ceriagrion pallidum Fraser, 1933

Number: 189    
Family: Coenagrionidae    
Genus: Ceriagrion   
Species: Ceriagrion pallidum 
Common name(s): N/A   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)   
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): August    
Species easily confused with: Ceriagrion fallaxCeriagrion indochinense

A species I had been looking for at Phu Khieo WS for two years, has at last made an appearance. However, maybe I have seen it before, but simply overlooked it. At first glance it looks a lot like a young male C. indochinense or a young C. fallax (though I haven't yet seen this species at this location). However, luckily for me, it was actually the former species that helped me to ID it. Thanks to help and information from Noppadon Makbun, I knew it was similar to C. fallax but much paler. Then, yesterday, two male C. indochinense harried a slimmer much paler specimen into the reeds and it just looked different. I wasn't sure but following closer inspection and a few photos, it was in the bag: Ceriagrion pallidum was mine. It is exactly as the description and alongside C. indochinense, it is fairly easy to separate. Fortunately, I even managed to spot other males at different ponds and several females even made an appearance. Better still, this species is fairly easy to approach and not skittish like similar species in the genus. Now I just need to find C. nigroflavum (if it is actually now present in Thailand) to complete the "set" of known Ceriagrion species in Thailand, though there are more I am sure.

I would just like to add that I believe this to be more common and should be at different locations, though it is most definitely easy to overlook. Next time you see a pale specimen, don't simply pass it off as an immature C. indochinense or C. fallax. Take a closer look and you never know. 

The male



The female



Another, slightly paler still female


The species keep on coming .... at Phu Khieo WS


Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 6th August, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds (many temporary)

First of all, I haven't been able to get out as much as I would like recently and it can be frustrating. However, needs must and I can't turn down work. Unfortunately, this work is eating right into the best part of the season. Worse still, it seems as though another species turns up during every trip. If I could get out there even more, I would be approaching that magical 200 sooner, I think. Anyway, rant over and on with yesterday. It had been pouring down with rain all week, sometimes it was torrential, and I was in two minds whether to even go or not. August is a particularly bad month for rain and I never seen to get to go out. Therefore, at the last hour I set out regardless, totally unperturbed. I even set out later than usual, at around 5.30am (instead of 4.00am) with the idea that by the time I arrived, the dragons would have too. Unfortunately, it was raining upon arrival and making my way to the summit was slower than usual. I checked out a few ponds at the lower reaches and only saw a couple of common species, though I did see a freshly emerged Gynacantha subinterrupta which, by the time I had assembled my camera gear and crept back down the banking and into the water, had gained enough energy to flutter up into the canopy. Note to self: set up before you enter the park!!!

The other small ponds on the stretch between the entrance and the River Phrom housed the usual suspects and nothing really to report. One of my aims was to scour the river as it was the perfect time. However, upon reaching the river at the bridge, I glanced and quickly moved on. It was heavily swollen and bombing through. There was no chance of seeing anything and it looked rather dangerous. So, a pond day it was. This became the turning point of the day as I am getting familiar with many of the small ponds on the way up. There is one that is set back and I only know it is there from memory. It is hard to find in all honesty and I fell upon it by chance. After following a couple of spreadwings species hoping that one of them was the elusive L. dorothea (which none of them were), I saw two male Ceriagrion indochinense harry a slightly smaller, slimmer and much paler specimen into the reeds. Was it? Could it ... naaa? I checked anyway. And there it was: Ceriagrion pallidum, a species I had been looking for now for two years. It was recorded from the park once previously and is the only known place in Thailand. I was over the moon to say the least. Better still, I saw a second male and then a female. Both of which were happy to pose and were not skittish like most from the genus. Clicking my heels, I searched around the rest of the little pond and I was instantly shocked again. Right before my eyes was the tiniest red dragonfly I had ever seen. Much smaller than I ever imagined, but there it was: Nannophya pygmaea. A real lifer for me. It didn't hang around long so I searched the place for another male or even the female for a couple of hours, but to no avail. So I moved on. Two new species for my records under my belt and I was really happy. I continued up to the top searching for Gynacantha species and any other species I could find. Other than spotting numerous Orolestes octomaculata, a few O. selysi and got decent shots of a Tramea transmarina euryale copula, it was just the usual species. However, I did manage to spot C. pallidum at several other ponds, but were in small numbers, so there seems to be a healthy population. As for N. pygmaea, it is a rare species at the best of times. In NE Thailand it may be even rarer. In terms of seeing it again and its female counterpart, only time will tell.

My best shots of the day:

Tramea transmarina euryale, the female had been invaded by parasites, though it didn't seem to affect performance.


Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Ceriagrion pallidum. Not sure if natural photos have ever been taken of this species in the wild, but here they are now anyway. At first glance, it could look like one of several species.



A lifer for me, gone in a flash. Nannophya pygmaea. Now I know it's here, I WILL find it again and the female.


A few other usual suspects




Sunday, July 3, 2016

188. Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895

Number: 188    
Family: Lestidae    
Genus: Orolestes    
Species: Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895 
Common name(s): N/A   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)   
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July    
Species easily confused with: Oroletes octomaculata

There are times when you have to question all those hours of your life spent being torn to shreds by nasty bushes, wading through treacle-like mud, waste deep in putrid water, bitten to death by leeches, mosquitoes and horseflies, as well as those long, arduous and expensive journeys. There are other times when it makes the bad times simply melt away. And last Saturday was one of them. I finally managed to see the fabled Orolestes selysi - a stunning damselfly that was the stuff of legends as many of the rarer species at Phu Khieo (and the rest of NE Thailand) seem to be. Though it is found in several countries, it seems to be a very rare species in Thailand. When, after all this time, I managed to spot one dangling from a tree overhanging a gloomy and temporary pond I was over the moon. Amazingly, like buses, I then noticed another and another. In fact, I saw three at this pond and two single specimens at other ponds. It must simply be a good year for them. Another thing of note was the fact that Orolestes octomaculata was also very much present (I am confident this species is around all year now) and they co-habit ... I was amazed to spot a male of each species on a branch, but was just too late to get a shot. The question is now whether there are hyaline specimens here too. According to Noppadon Makbun (the man who had said it was reported from Phu Khieo and encouraged me to find it), it is only known from this location in Thailand... hopefully it will be found again soon at a different location. Until then, I can now sleep happily, safe in the knowledge that I have photos of another rare species in Thailand. Roll on next weekend for more torture to my body for moments of true joy!





187. Gynacantha basiguttata Selys, 1882

Number: 187    
Family:  Aeschnidae 
Genus: Gynacantha     
Species: Gynacantha basiguttata
Common name(s):  Spoon-tailed Duskhawker   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July   
Species easily confused with: Gynacantha saltatrix; Gynacantha bayadera

There are definitely several species of Gynacantha that reside in Phu Khieo WS, but they are incredibly difficult to locate. That's why I was really happy to spot three species in one day, one of which is a new species for my records in the shape of Gynacantha basiguttata. It is a large species that I spooked out of his hiding place which was deep inside tall reeds overhanging a temporary pool. Unfortunately, he flew fairly high up into a tree and didn't hang around for long. For now, this record shot will have do. Incidentally, the other two species I saw were G. subinterrupta (a first for me here) and G. saltatrix (another first for the place). According to the records, G. bayadera is also present and Noppadon Makbun believes G. phaeomeria to be there also. Seeing all five species there would be amazing. Hopefully one day, especially if I keep trawling the little swampy ponds all the time.

A great day at Phu Khieo WS



Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 2nd July, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds (many temporary)

The saying goes, it never rains but it pours. If you had visited Phu Khieo WS on Saturday, I think you would have really understood what that meant - on two levels. The first level was literally the weather. It had been pouring down every day during the week; so heavily floods abound throughout Thailand which cast doubt over my trip. However, with a little persuasion from my brother (not that I needed much), it was game on. At the sanctuary, though it had been clearly ravaged by the rains, it only rained slightly all day. The second level were the dragons themselves. Though in small numbers, I still managed to find two new species for my records (along with a possible third). Something I haven't managed to do in NE Thailand for a long time. So, why am I spotting additional species now that I didn't spot last year? Simply, it's all about location. Previous trips took me to some of the more obvious locations: enormous marshy areas, rivers and streams and other easy to spot ponds. This trip, however, was all about hunting for new areas as much as it was spotting any dragons themselves. My brother even led me to a great-looking stream which runs deep under canopy cover which he told me has a decent and exposed waterfall along it. I will be visiting there the next time the weather picks up and isn't so dull. Other than that, it was stopping en route to the top every few hundred meters whenever I saw a pond or ditch (no matter how small) or even if I could make out tall grassy reeds further back I would investigate. Did it pay off? You bet it did, though I tore my body and clothes to shreds and was bitten heavily by mosquitoes and horseflies. I missed the first few ponds at the bottom  (there are so many all the way up) and decided to start about half way. It was still early and the initial ponds were quiet, especially as there was light drizzle. As the weather picked up, so did the sightings of the regular species, though numbers were very small. About 3/4 of the way up, I noticed a temporary pond that looked devoid of life and was about to drive on when in the corner of my eye I spotted something with black wings. I knew what is was straight away: Orolestes selysi, a simply stunning species I had been told had been seen at the sanctuary, but after many trips I thought it was a mythical creature (in Thailand anyway). It is known from several countries, which now includes Thailand. I am not the first person to see it here, but had to see it to believe it was here, if you get what I mean. Amazingly as I photographed the first specimen, I noticed a second. I investigated the rest of the pond searching for the female, but only managed to spot a third male and a young female Gynacantha subinterrupta for the first time at the sanctuary, boosting the species list even more. I moved on, clicking my heels as I went. As I reached the road, I caught up with my brother who was having a very quiet day on the bird front. He photographed O. selsyi specimen too just for good measure. Moving on, I hit many more ponds without seeing much. Then, at one pond, I was following a Lestes copula, I must have disturbed a large Aeshnid, which flew out from where it was resting and flew up into a tree. It was large and I knew straight away it was one of the two Gynacantha species there that had eluded me after all this time. It turned out to be Gynacantha basiguttata and I was extremely happy (the other species is G. bayadera). Moving on, I visited many more ponds without success and eventually reached to top. Instead of searching the top, I simply turned around and worked my way back down doing the same thing. I didn't manage to see any more new species - or did I? One species I have been looking for since the day I first came here was Ceriagrion pallidum, a rare species known from PK and a location in Laos. Until now it has avoided me. That said, I saw a small dirty yellowish specimen that was too small to be C. indochinense (I have seen hundreds of specimens though it could be that species). Could it be the elusive C. pallidum? Probably not, as the abdomen should be olivaceous, but I can dream. Hopefully it is a completely different species. Even then, to finish the day, I found another Gynacantha species, which is new for me at the sanctuary: Gynacantha saltatrix - a species I see on occasion in Khon Kaen I now wonder whether this species was mistaken for G. bayadera as it is a very similar-looking species. I hope not. Anyway, the sanctuary is really hitting top form and I am getting out there again next week ... hopefully I will see even more species and get a better shot of G. basiguttata.

My best shots of the day:

There are so many males this year, but the females are thin on the ground. I was happy to see this one first thing in the morning
 
Phu Khieo's mythical damselfly that is not so anymore, Orolestes selsyi
 Another new encounter for me - and a beast of one too, Gynacantha basiguttata
 Not rare in Khon Kaen, but the first time I have seen it at PKWS, Gynacantha saltatrix
 The day's conundrum. Is it? Isn't it? It could be a freakishly small Ceriagrion indochinense, but it could be C. pallidum or even a new species entirely.  I must find more of them to prove it.