Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nam Nao: A Year in the Making (February)

      One of my favourite places to visit, is Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. I particularly love the large, natural lake at the helicopter pad, which is located a snip under 3 kms from the headquarters entrance (coming from Chumpae). I have visited on numerous occasions over the years, and I have spotted a number of rare and uncommon species.  I have probably spotted more species at this one location than anywhere else.
For me, many people visit beautiful places all over the country, taking excellent photos of dragonflies. However, most only seem to visit these places during the peak season. So what happens during the quieter times? Are there simply no specimens there at all? Well, my plan is to find out. For a complete year, I will be visiting the lake (as well as the river at the headquarters) at least once every month. This will allow me to build up an accurate account of what species are around and at what times, covering a whole year.

I will be listing all species recorded (including the common ones) and how often they were spotted each time. This will be built up over the year, with my final trip being at some point next January.

Am I dedicated to odonata or simply stupid? (bearing in mind it's a 300 kms round-trip on my tiny scooter from Khon Kaen). It's a fine line.

So, why is it called Nam Nao Helicopter Pad lake? Well, it isn't. It's just what I have called it. Though, it's easy to see why:
This is the view from the roadside. There's also a lookout post (for spotting animals).

It's a large, open lake, but the weather always seems rather cool. Hence its name Nam Nao: water cool (or cool water, as we'd say). It's located around 900-1000 metres above sea level, though this is a tentative level, as it was a guess by the rangers at the park. I will try to get an exact reading at some point in the future.

A typical view of the lake. It large, open and has lots of dead trees punctuating the silver-grey surface.

Location 1: Helicopter Pad Lake, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 
Date: Saturday, 4th February, 2012.
Weather: dull, cool and overcast with the occasional rain
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): Zero
Leech bites: 9
Equipment used: Canon 60D, Canon 100 Macro Lens, Canon Macro Ring Flash.

      Since my last visit, back in September last year, a few things have changed. There is the additional of a small bamboo jetty. No idea why. Maybe to launch a boat, or simply for people to escape being bitten by scores of leeches. Here's what it looks like:

The jetty: gives the lake a new look (and allows me to rest, avoiding leeches)

     The other change - and a slightly more worrying one - is the fact that someone has tidied the place up at the section nearest the roadside. Everything looks manicured (look at the top two pictures). The grasses and reeds were previously up to about 1.5 metres in height. It was home to scores of rare and uncommon species. This grooming may be done annually. However, I think maybe a Thai V.I.P. of some description made a visit. Hence it being tidy and the addition of the jetty. Fortunately, the rear side of the lake is untouched. Will it affect species population? Watch this space (well, this blog anyway).

     Anyway, to the job in hand. Dragonflies. Was February awash with millions of critters flying about the place. Er... no. Were there many species. No, also. Were there many individual specimens. Once again, no. I saw less than 100 specimens in total. Is it a direct result of the changes? I have no idea. Hopefully not and only time will tell. When I arrived (5.45 a.m.), it was still dark and extremely misty and cold. I could also hear large cracking sounds in the distance (probably wild elephants) and I wasn't about to find out. I waited until there was sufficient light (around 6.25 a.m.) until I walked down to the lake. I was hoping to see several new emergences, but there were simply no dragonflies anywhere to be seen at first light.

So what did I see. This time of year here, really is battle of the mini species. I didn't spot any new species. However, there were one or two species there that I thought wouldn't be around at this time of year. One, being Agriocnemis nana. I didn't think that they were around at this time of year. However, I saw specimens at all stages, and therefore I am confident that this species is alive and well here throughout the year. Also, I saw my favourite mini damselfy, Ischnura aurora. I saw two males and a female. 

Ischnura aurora, male - my favourite "mini" damsel
Ischnura aurora, female
Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps, mature male - these are usually a nightmare to get near
Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps, sub-adult male - this is the first time I have spotted  a male on the verge of adulthood

Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps, caudal appendages of the sub-adult male (above) - I think they look great

Agriocnemis femina, male

Agriocnemis nana, sub-adult male (he will turn bright green and blue)

Agriocnemis nana, a much younger male than the one above

Aciagrion tillyardi dorsal view of the caudal appendages.

So, all in all, a very quiet day, but gave me the chance to practice with my new equipment ... and what a difference the flip screen makes! There were a few species present, but mostly were in very small numbers. Here's what I saw during the day:

Family: Coenagrionidae
Aciagrion tillyardi (Laidlaw, 1919) ♂ [3-4]
Agriocnemis femina (Brauer, 1868) ♂ ♀ [common]
Agriocnemis nana (Laidlaw, 1914) ♂ ♀ [common]
Ischnura aurora (Brauer, 1865) ♂ ♀ [2,1]
Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [fairly common]
Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps (Selys, 1876) ♂ [3-4]

Family: Platycnemididae
Copera ciliata (Selys, 1863) ♂ ♀ [common]
Copera marginipes (Rambur, 1842) ♂ [1]

Family: Protoneuridae
Prodasineura autumnalis (Fraser, 1922) ♂ ♀ [common]

Family: Libellulidae
Acisoma panorpoides panorpoides (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [1,2]
Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793) ♂ ♀ [fairly common]
Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [1,2]
Neurothemis fulvia (Drury, 1773) ♀ [1, wings completely filled in, probably v. old]
Trithemis aurora (Burmeister, 1839) ♂ ♀ [1,1]

Location 2: River at the headquarters, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 
Date: Saturday, 4th February, 2012.
Weather: dull, cool and overcast with the occasional rain - vision was very poor
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): Less than Zero
Leech bites: 0
Equipment used: Canon 60D, Canon 100 Macro Lens, Canon Macro Ring Flash.

If you think that the helicopter pad lake was quiet, then the headquarter's river will send you to sleep.
It was the quietest time I have ever had in the field. Extremely low light and cool and the river was slow, almost plodding. The dragonfly sightings were even slower. The At the entrance to the river, I saw a female Lestes elatus. This was follwed by 5-6 male and female Aciagrion pallidum. And that was basically it. I walked for over two hours to no avail. Evenutally, I spotted 1 male Coeliccia poungyi, followed by a female about a kilometre away. I also 3-4 teneral specimens, which I am convinced were the same species. And that, literally was it, apart from a few individual Copera species disturbing an otherwise silent walk. It surprised me just how quiet the place is at this time of year ... roll on October!

Here's what I saw during the day:

Family: Coenagrionidae
Aciagrion pallidum (Selys, 1891) ♂ ♀ [5-6 individuals]

Family: Lestidae
Lestes elatus (Hagen in Selys, 1862) ♀ [1]

Family: Platycnemididae
Coeliccia poungyi (Fraser, 1924) ♂ ♀ 1,1 and 3 teneral specimens I am sure are C. poungyi]
Copera marginipes (Rambur, 1842) ♂ [fairly common]
Copera vittata (Selys, 1863) ♂ ♀ 2, copula]

Here's a couple of things I spotted along the way:

A newly emerged ... er ... bug? drying out.  May take some time as it was dull and cold

A cool little frog (about 1 inch). Great colours
To say I have recorded well over 50 species from these two locations combined, it was a rather quiet time ... I wonder why those cameras are packed away at this time of year??? Hmmm ... 

Next visit: March 2012.