Sunday, July 8, 2012

Field Trip: Phu Ruea, Loei


Location: Small stream behind Phuruea Resort, Phu Ruea, Loei. 
Date: Saturday,  7th July, 2012.
Weather: Heavily overcast, but little rain
Expectations of finding a new species: Very high, then zero

As a sidetrack from visiting Nam Nao NP, I decided to take a break with my girlfriend, Beau, and visit Phu Ruea, Loei - a place I had once visited before with great success. Obviously, I had a secret dragonfly session up my sleeve. I persuaded her to visit the national park. It's small, but beautiful, I said. We arrived a little before 8.00 a.m. and I saw a sign for a waterfall I hadn't seen on my previous visit. We pulled up and asked a ranger how to get there. "Just a 2.5 kms walk from here." Sounded O.K. for onwards we marched. Once we got into the main trail, it instantly went really dull and I could hardly see anything. Then the mosquitoes and other flies arrived in their masses. We walked and walked for almost two kms, stopping at little water sources, but not a single dragonfly in sight. Unperturbed we carried on. Now Beau was getting cranky. The flies were getting to her, but I managed to persuade her to continue. Around 300 metres to the waterfall, the pathway became slippery (aided by a sign that said "slippery" - thanks for that!). As we descended, I noticed that the path suddenly stopped. Something had happened. Right on the steepest slope and about 3 metres long, bamboo had toppled over, completely blocking the pathway. Muddy, steep and blocked, I could have managed to get through somehow. With Beau, not a chance. I looked around for another route, but there wasn't any other way. Awesome. Great. Super. Smashing ... you could say I was a little bit p*ssed off to say the least. So. Back we walked. It was sheer hell, especially knowing Beau wasn't enjoying it one bit. Eventually we returned to the car. Tired, sweating and hungry. And not one photo taken. Probably the worst day I've have searching for dragonflies. Still, it was only 10.30 a.m. There was time. I then drove to another point where I had seen Vestalis smaragdina (orange form) and Noguchiphaea yoshikoae amongst many others on my previous trip. My girlfriend stayed in the car (surprise surprise). I saw a number of Orthetrum glaucum at the top of the trail. However, after one hour of walking along the stream, stopping at various points, I realised it wasn't going to be my day. I hadn't spotted a single specimen of any species along the stream. There was simply nothing there. Not even common species. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Now't (as we say in Manchester). It was dull, yes. It was cool, too. But nothing? It was JULY! Where are you? So. That was it. Back to the car I went. 

We checked in to the resort we were staying at that night and I then saw a stream out of the window. Brilliant. Chucked the bags in the room and walked, almost ran, to the stream. I could even see dragonflies as I neared. It was shallow (knee deep and brown in colour). Parts seemed to disappear into the rocks and re-appear further along. I wasn't expecting any new species, but it did throw up a few surprises. I managed to get photos of female, Rhyothemis plutonia for the first time and I also saw Onychothemis testaceaDysphaea gloriosa was present (I didn't photograph the male, but I think I have a teneral female - need confirmation). Many Zygonyx iris malayana were present and I saw a male Epophthalmia frontalis. I almost caught him in my net, but he just evaded me. This, however, is a rough guess and could be wrong. There was a new species present. However, I was never going to get a photo. There were about 30 specimens about 20 metres up in the air. They were circling the skies amongst the treetops and were working alongside Rhyothemis plutonia. The only thing I could make out is that they had a slight brown tinge to the wings and they were about the same size and shape as Zygonyx iris malayana. Other than that, I have no idea. 

So, in the end, it turned out OK. I also enjoyed a nice meal with Beau and even visited Chiang Khan on the river Maekong, before returning home. I will return to Phu Ruea, but not until later in the year when I know dragonflies will be present.

Here are my best photos:

Rhyothemis plutonia, female - my first ever photos of the female. Made the trip worthwhile!


Libellago lineata, male - still one of my favourite little damsels.



Libellago lineata, female 




Onychothemis testacea, male - only the second time I have ever seen this species


Vestalis gracilis, male - common, but I still love them! 



Trithemis aurora, male - a macro photographer's dream. The colours don't look real 



Dysphaea gloriosa, teneral female ??? - you can see the exuvae it has just crawled out of. Euphaea masoni was also present, but this seemed larger than other females of that species I have seen. Can anyone help with ID?



22 species recorded at the "Phuruea Resort" stream, Phu Ruea, Loei in just under 4 hours. Most common:

Family: Calopterygidae

Neurobasis chinensis
Vestalis gracilis

Family: Chlorocyphidae
Libellago lineata

Family: Euphaeidae
Dysphaea gloriosa
Euphaea masoni

Family: Platycnemididae
Copera ciliata
Copera marginipes

Family: Protoneuridae
Prodasineura autumnalis

Family: Corduliidae
Epophthalmia frontalis (possible - though not totally sure)

Family: Gomphidae
Ictinogomphus decoratus

Family: Libellulidae
Acisoma panorpoides
Brachydiplax farinosa
Brachythemis contaminata
Crocothemis servilia
Diplacodes trivialis
Onychothemis testacea
Orthetrum chrysis
Orthetrum glaucum 
Rhyothemis plutonia
Trithemis aurora
Trithemis festiva
Zygonyx iris malayana