Sunday, October 28, 2012

Field Trip: Phu Kradueng NP, Loei

Location: Phu Kradueng NP, Loei. 
Date:  24-26th October, 2012.
Weather: Bright sunshine and hot, occasionally cloudy (especially mornings)
Expectations of finding a new species: High

Now I can't walk. It's two days since I returned from Phu Kradueng and my legs are unbelievably stiff ... I think I'm getting too old for that place! Anyone who has visited will know just how much of an ordeal it is to get to the top. A steep and arduous walk/crawl up 5.7 kilometres, from 0-1316 metres. Even once you reach the top, you have a further 3.2 kilometre walk in baking sunshine just to get to the camp site. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Once I get to the top, my eyes are darting all over the place looking for odonata. My weary legs will have to wait. 

Phu Kradueng takes the form of a mesa and is 60 km² in size. It is very cool in the evenings. There are many waterfalls and you can follow a trail that travels along the stream. There are also a couple of natural ponds you can visit. I always think that three days is needed to visit the place - one day up, one day to discover and finally, one day down. 

So, what did I manage to see? Well, the first thing I noticed was how dry the place was compared to last December and October two years earlier when I visited. It has been a strange rainy season this one. Still, I did manage to find my quarry: Rhinocypha arguta (see last post). I only saw a handful for males, but I was really pleased to finally spot them! The other species I was desperate to see managed to evade me - maybe I am too late in the year for them - was Amphithemis curvistyla.  I know Noppadon has spotted that species there. I will return for it next year. Probably the biggest surprise for me was spotting a solitary male Rhinagrion viridatum basking in glorious sunshine. I'm not sure if that species has been recorded there. Indolestes birmanus were surprisingly very common, as were the usual suspects, including Vestalis s. smaragdina and Sympetrum hypomelas. There were three species I managed to spot visually, but not record photographically as they were either on the move constantly or just out of range of the camera. One was Ceriagrion fallax pendleburyi (I saw a solitary male rest momentarily as I was just about to shoot the camera at R. arguta at the stream. He vanished as quickly as he appeared. Secondly, I saw a male Gynacantha sp., possibly Gynacantha phaeomeria (I know it has been recorded there and it had a whitish part on its appendages). The third species I saw, never seemed to stop flying around the stream. It was a large Corduliidae which had bright green shiny eyes and a distinctive oval-shaped yellow mark dorsally on the latter segments of the abdomen (S7-9 I think). It could have been Macromidia genialis shanensis, due to the distinctive dorsal markings on the abdomen. However, I will never know for sure. 

Here are my best photos of the trip:

Rhinocypha arguta, male - a rare montane species

Indolestes birmanus, male - another rare species that is fairly common here

Indolestes birmanus, female

Rhinagrion viridatum, male - strangely basking in the sunshine! Possibly a new record for the Phu Kradueng.

Sympetrum hypomelas, male - an uncommon species that likes temperate climate. Extremely common at Phu Kradueng and Noppadon Makbun has found this species also in Chiang Mai.

Sympetrum hypomelas, female

Vestalis s. smaragdina, male - an uncommon montane species that is a dominant species here. They guard their territory even if a large dragonfly appears. 

Vestalis s. smaragdina, male - keeping an eye out for intruders approaching his patch.

Vestalis s. smaragdina, female (hyaline) - this is the first time I have ever seen a hyaline female.

Vestalis s. smaragdina, female (orange winged) - I previously saw males and females of this type at Phu Ruea NP. This was the only specimen I saw like this here.

Palpopleura s. sexmaculata, male - an uncommon uplands species and a beautiful one at that.

Mortonagrion aborense, male - not commonly seen, but there were several specimens at a tiny rivulet 

Mortonagrion aborense, female

Rhinocypha fenestrella, female (I'm pretty confident this is correct.

Zygonyx iris malayana, male - commonly spotted darting around waterfalls. Rarely seen resting

Orthetrum t. triangulare, male - a big, bold uplands species that likes nothing more than sunbathing

What I saw during my trip:

   Family: Calopterygidae
Vestalis smaragdina (Selys, 1879)

   Family: Coenagrionidae
Aciagrion tillyardi (Laidlaw, 1919)
Ceriagrion fallax pendleburyi (Laidlaw, 1931)
Ceriagrion indochinense (Asahina, 1967)
Mortonagrion aborense (Laidlaw, 1914)

   Family: Chlorocyphidae
Rhinocypha fenestrella (Rambur, 1842)
Rhinocypha biforata (Selys, 1859)
Rhinocypha arguta (Hämäläinen & Divasiri, 1997)

   Family: Lestidae
Indolestes birmanus (Selys, 1891)

   Family: Megapodagrionidae
Rhinagrion viridatum (Fraser 1938)

   Family: Platycnemididae
Coeliccia chromothorax (Selys, 1891)
Coeliccia poungyi (Fraser, 1924)
Copera marginipes (Rambur, 1842)
Copera vittata (Selys, 1863)
Indocnemis orang (Förster in Laidlaw, 1907)

   Family: Aeschnidae 
Gynacantha sp. (possibly Gynacantha phaeomeria)

   Family: Corduliidae
Macromidia sp. (possibly Macromidia genialis shanensis)

   Family: Libellulidae
Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842)
Orthetrum chrysis (Selys, 1891)
Orthetrum glaucum (Brauer, 1865)
Orthetrum pruinosum (Burmeister, 1839)
Orthetrum t. triangulare (Selys, 1878)
Palpopleura sexmaculata (Fabricius, 1787)
Pantala flavescens (Fabricius, 1798)
Sympetrum hypomelas (Selys, 1884)
Trithemis aurora (Burmeister, 1839)
Trithemis festiva (Rambur, 1842)
Zygonyx iris malayana (Selys, 1869)

So, 28 species in one short trip. I know that there are many more species their to be seen ... hopefully, next time I visit.

153. Rhinocypha arguta (Hämäläinen & Divasiri, 1997)

Number: 153
Family: Chlorocyphidae
Genus:  Rhinocypha
Species:  Rhinocypha arguta
Common name(s): N/A
Thai name(s): แมลงปอเข็มน้ำตกท้องส้ม, แมลงปอเข็มน้ำตกสั้นขีดคู่
Habitat: Montane streams (in bright areas)
Province(s) sighted: Phu Kradueng National Park (Loei)
Sightings (by me): 6 males, 1 female
In flight (that I have seen): October
Species easily confused with: None

A beautiful and rare montane damselfly I set out to see, almost evaded me once more. Then, third time lucky and at the exact location where Noppadon Makbun led me (when I visited last time), I saw a solitary male Rhinocypha arguta basking in glorious sunshine. Unfortunately, he wasn't reading the script as he simply moved from rock to rock as I tried to position myself to get a good photo. I managed to get a couple of record shots, but nothing spectacular. On the second day, I spotted a further 5 males along the stream at various points - all in bright sunspots. Though difficult to get anywhere near, I eventually got some half-decent shots. 

According to the IUCN website [] website, it states about R. arguta: "It is widely found in northern Thailand (in the Phu Kradung mountains (National Park), Loei Province, and Pee Pan Nam mountain range (Jae Sawn National Park)". It is also found at two sites in Vietnam. The female is yet to be described.

The male
The male is easily recognised as it is the only species in its genus to have orange colouration. 

This specimen moved away from the river and sat in the nearby bushes - getting as much out of the sun as possible. 

Unfortunately, though I managed to spot a solitary female, she flew straight up into a tree and I could see her peering dow at me from a safe height. Her blue eyes really stood out, but she was out of reach of my camera. Until the next time ... 

Many thanks to Noppadon Makbun for leading me to this beautiful creature.