Sunday, February 27, 2011

23. Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps (Selys, 1876)

Number: 23
Family: Coenagrionidae
Genus: Pseudagrion 
Species: Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps
Common name(s): Saffron-faced Blue Dart, 
Orange-Faced Sprite, Red-Headed Sprite
Thai name(s): แมลงปอเข็มบ่อหน้าส้ม
Habitat: Exposed ponds, lakes & drains (uplands & lowlands)
Province(s) sighted: Widespread (Khon Kaen); Nam Nao NP/environs (Petchabun); Khao Kitchakut (Chantaburi); Widespread (Chiang Mai); Khao Yai NP (Nakhorn Ratchasima).
Sightings (by me): Extremely common
In flight (that I have seen): February-December (probably year-round)
Species easily confused with: None

The first Pseudagrion species I ever saw and managed to get photos of, was Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps. It is a very common species and in certain parts of Khon Kaen, there are many, many of them in localised areas. The males are very commonly seen, but the females tend to hide away in nearby bushes, grasses or trees. Unfortunately, they are really difficult to get near and photograph. It has taken me a few years to get photos like the ones below.

The male
It's easy to see why the male is instantly recognisable... it's got a bright, orange head that makes it look a bit like Paul Scholes! The thorax is azure blue and green dorsally and the abdomen is blue with black markings and bright blue end segments.

Hmmm ... I'm getting hungry

What's that ... ?

Naaa ... just a tasteless moth

In the hand ...

The (almost) adult male
This male I saw at Nam Nao recently and it is the first I have seen that is in-between the young brownish specimen and the full adult.

The sub-adult male
The young male has all the hallmarks of the adult, but the colours have not yet developed.

The female
The female is often seen in bushes, grasses and trees up to 200 metres from the water's edge. Only when it is ready to mate does it reach the water. The colours of the female are similar to that of the young male.  The end segment marking can also sometimes look like a "pacman". 

A 'very old' female I saw recently in Khon Kaen...

The fully mature female ... 
in action (fending off a male Aciagrion tillyardi ... the purple splodge in the background)

Caught in the act...
I managed to catch this female with my fingers and it gives an idea of size. She returned to her tree afterwards, unharmed. And, yes, I need to cut my fingernails!

The copula
I managed to take a photo of a copula in the "tandem" position. 
The copula stayed inter-locked for long periods of time. Note the damage to the female's eye - probably caused by an over-eager male.

You will find this species pretty much throughout the country all year, but take care not to confuse the female with other Pseudagrion females. Though they are common, they are also very shy and it takes a lot of stealth and dedication to get close to them.

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