Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nam Nao: A Year in the Making (January)

Location 1: Helicopter Pad Lake, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 
Date: Saturday,  19th January, 2013.
Weather: Freezing cold, then eventually mild
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): Less than zero
Leech bites: 

To say the journey on my final trip to Nam Nao NP was freezing cold is an understatement. When stationary, it was simply cold. When travelling at 70-80 kms/h on the bike at 4.00 a.m. it was unbearable. I had to stop every 10 kms and I was wearing a large coat, jumper and even gloves but it wasn't enough. Eventually, a large double truck trundled along at about 65-70 kms/h. I tucked in behind it and it was almost windless in the slipstream. It was like heaven. I followed it all the way to Chumpae. Hot coffee and a puff pastry at 7/eleven and I was off again - truckless. It was freeeeeeeeeeeeeezing once more. Worse still, when I eventually reached the entrance to Nam Nao NP and started going uphill then temperature plummeted once more. It took over 3 hours to get there and I couldn't stop shivering. When I arrived at the Helicopter Pad lake, it was well and truly light, but freezing cold and the lake looked like it was on fire there was that much mist. It was that cold even the leeches couldn't be bothered biting me. Still, at least I have now completed my year-long project. Who would have thought it?

For hours I searched for odonates, but there were none. Eventually - a bit like Noah's Ark - they started to appear. Though, even by midday, it was still very quiet and cold. There were a few damsels but the dragons were really thin on the ground. Here were the specimens brave enough to make an appearance.

Welcome to a freezing, new world. A newly emerged male Prodasineura autumnalis has just crawled up this stick. I just missed his emergence. 

... and close up

Nam Nao Helicopter Pad (added species from the last visit, bold; new species for the lake, blue; species not seen from last visit, red)

Fam. Coenagrionidae
Aciagrion tillyardi   [common]
Aciagrion borneense ♂ [uncommon]
Aciagrion pallidum   [uncommon]
Agriocnemis femina femina ♂ ♀ [common]
Agriocnemis nana ♂ [uncommon]
Agriocnemis pygmea ♂ ♀ [common]
Argiocnemis rubescens rubeola  [fairly common]
Ceriagrion indochinense   [1]
Ischnura aurora
Ischnura senegalensis ♂ ♀ [uncommon]
Onychargia atrocyana
Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps ♂  [1]
Fam. Platycnemididae
Copera ciliata ♂ ♀ [extremely common]
Copera marginipes  [common]
Fam. Protoneuridae
Prodasineura autumnalis ♂ ♀ [very common]
Fam. Libellulidae
Acisoma panorpoides panorpoides ♂ ♀ [uncommon]
Brachydiplax farinosa 
Brachythemis contaminata ♂ ♀ [common]
Crocothemis servilia ♂ ♀ [fairly common]
Diplacodes nebulosa 
Diplacodes trivialis ♂ ♀ [common]
Indothemis limbata (Selys, 1891) ♂ [uncommon]
Neurothemis intermedia atalanta ♂ [very common]
Orthetrum pruinosum neglectum ♂ [uncommon]
Neurothemis tullia tullia ♂ ♀ [uncommon]
Orthetrum sabina sabina ♀ [very common]
Trithemis aurora ♂ ♀ [common]

Location 2: Stream at Headquarters, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 

Date: Saturday,  19th January, 2013.
Weather: Freezing cold, then eventually mild
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): Less than zero
Leech bites: 
I didn't expect to see much here and it truly delivered. For my last visit here, I knew it was going to be tough. Though I did expect to see some odonates. All I did see was very little water and very few things flying around. It was simply too cold and dull. I spent only an hour there before I gave up and moved on. I didn't even get my camera out of the bag!
Nam Nao Headquarter's stream (added species from the last visit, bold; new species for the stream, blue; species not seen from last visit, red)

Family: Chlorocyphidae
Rhinocypha biforata  [1]

Family: Euphaeidae
Euphaea ochracea  [2]

Family: Platycnemididae
Coeliccia chromothorax ♂ [1]
Copera vittata ♂ ♀ [common]

Location 3: Exposed stream 15 kms from Headquarters, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 

Date: Saturday,  19th January, 2013.
Weather: Sunny and warm (by now)
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): Less than zero
Leech bites: 

Unperturbed by the silence at the HQ stream, I asked the Rangers if there were any other streams. They pointed me in the direction of a stream I hadn't visited - or even knew existed - before. It was an arduous dirty and bumpy 15 kms trip along a dirt path to get there, but well worth it. Upon arrival I instantly got my second wind. A nice looking river that had lots of exposed areas. Great. I could even see what looked like a new species hovering above the stream. There were about 10 yellowish males carrying out battles in the sky. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch one of them in my net. They looked a little bit like Pantala flavescens, but they seemed too small, and too acrobatic. They were also extremely fast movers and never seemed to stop moving. Hopefully I can find out what they were next time I visit. 
That said, it was busy with activity all the way along the stream and it was January! I'm hoping to return in the rainy season and I may even be lucky enough to spot a few new species - it just feels right there. 

Here are the best photos of the new location:
This female is only the second I've managed to photograph and is an improvement over the last, even though it's still not the best. She was hanging around a tiny ditch along the forest path to the stream.

These were commonplace.

Even the females made a showing ... this one is ovipositing with a male guarding her and his territory (a floating branch)

One of 3 species of Chlorocyphidae I saw in the short time I was there.

Here's what I saw at the new stream (P. congener, C. lineata calverti and D. trivialis I saw in forested area en route to the stream):

Neurobasis chinensis (common)
Rhinocypha fenestrella (fairly common)
Rhinocypha biforata (fairly common)
Rhinocypha perforata limbata (common)
Copera marginipes (common)
Prodasineura autumnalis (common)
Cratilla lineata calverti (uncommon)
Diplacodes trivialis (very common)
Neurothemis fulvia (uncommon)
Neurothemis intermedia atalanta (very common)
Orthetrum chrysis (common)
Orthetrum glaucum (common)
Orthetrum pruinosum neglectum (common)
Orthetrum sabina sabina (uncommon)
Potamarcha congener (common)
Trithemis aurora (common)
Trithemis festiva (common)
Zygonyx iris malayana (uncommon)
Unidentified sp. (there were about 10 individuals soaring high above the stream)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

157 Gomphidia abbotti abbotti (Williamson, 1907)

Number: 157
Family: Gomphidae
Genus:  Gomphidia
Species:  Gomphidia abbotti abbotti
Common name(s): N/A
Synonyms: N/A
Habitat: Slow-moving uplands streams
Province(s) sighted: Mae Sa Waterfall (Chiang Mai); Khao Yai NP (Nakhorn Ratchasima); Small stream in Chaiyaphum province; Khao Soi Dao Waterfall (Chantaburi)
Sightings (by me): Uncommon
In flight (that I have seen): March-April
Species easily confused with: Gomphidinctnus perakensis; Gomphidia kruegeri kruegeri; Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops; Ictinogomphus rapax

Sitting at home in my underpants and the new species keep on coming! Almost 3 years ago, I went on a dragonfly hunt around Chiang Mai for 2 months. Unfortunately, I was a complete novice, with Noppadon Makbun being my only aide. Now I am far better at IDing species and thought I would look back at my old shots from field trips of yesteryear. Eventually a new species popped up in the shape of Gomphidia abbotti abbotti. I only managed to take one record shot (I probably thought it was  Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops back then). Anyway, it's still a new species and another off my checklist ... roll on 200 species. Moral of the story ... keep all your photos and check through them from time to time. Just found an old photo of a male of this species from my old shots at Khao Yai ... unfortunately it's a rubbish shot and not worth showing. Since then, I have seen this species a few more times. However, it is extremely difficult to get near and flies away at the slightest movement.
The male
The male likes to perch over slow-moving rivers and cam be identified from others due to its unique markings on the thorax. It has what look like 4 teardrops. 

Here's the first male I ever saw in Chiang Mai.

Hopefully, I will see this species again soon and I will find a more cooperative specimen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

156. Macrodiplax cora (Kaup in Brauer, 1867)

Number: 156
Family: Libellulidae
Genus:  Macrodiplax
Species:  Macrodiplax cora
Common name(s): Coastal Glider, Cora’s Pennant, Wandering Pennant
Synonyms: Diplax cora (Kaup in Brauer, 1867)
Habitat: Large, exposed ponds, lowlands
Province(s) sighted: Nam Phong NP & Khon Kaen environs
Sightings (by me): Rare
In flight (that I have seen): January-May
Species easily confused with: Crocothemis servilia serviliaRhodothemis rufaUrothemis signata signata
A new year and a new species already! On a very short afternoon trip around Khon Kaen environs (basically near home), I stopped at an area with a series of open lakes I hadn't bothered with before, as it looks like every other lake in Khon Kaen. Surrounded by cultivated farmland and land which is under housing development - and being January - and you could forgive me for not holding out much hope. Except I couldn't be further from the truth. A few kilometres from where I was stunned to see Ceriagrion cerinorubellum, I bumped into a species I couldn't work out quite what it was. With the world's brightest sunshine blinding me, all I could see was a red dragonfly. It looked like Urothemis signata signata, yet it seemed to perch very near the water's edge and low down (not high up on twigs). When disturbed, it would hover for long periods - another characteristic unlike U. signata. So I tried to get a photo. Eventually, I managed just about to get a record shot and knew what it was straight away ... Macrodiplax cora. The prominent stripe along the abdomen reminds me of a human backbone. I tried and tried to get good shots, but with the horrible lighting and the fact that the specimen was extremely skittish, I moved on. There were several other males and I also saw a copula. So they are well and truly established there. I had heard that the species doesn't go any higher than Bangkok (it is supposed to like areas along the coast), so I was pleasantly surprised to see the species living happily in a lake in Khon Kaen. 

I returned the following day at 10.30 a.m. and unlike the previous day, it was dull and windy. AND devoid of any specimens. I decided to visit a few other lakes and then returned at 1.00 p.m. They were still absent ... well, almost. I managed to spot a solitary male and he was very cooperative, unlike the previous day when they would fly away even if I breathed. I have since spotted a solitary female at Nam Pong National Park, though I am not sure it is an established species there,

The male
The male looks like many other similar red pond species, but can easily be distinguished by its unique 'human backbone' dorsal stripe along the abdomen.

Here you can clearly see the 'backbone' dorsal stripe, which helps distinguish the species.

The female

The female looks almost identical to the male (if you can find it!) and has the same prominent dorsal 'backbone' stripe along the abdomen. However, it is more of a yellow-orange colour and can be separated easily (except for the young male which is very similar in colour). I had spotted 1 or 2 females previously, but they were always part of a copula and I couldn't get anywhere near them. Then, following many hours of searching, I saw an extremely skittish female perching high up in the branches of a sparse tree set back from the same ponds where I have spotted many males. She was extremely difficult to approach and it took almost an hour in baking sunshine for me to get close enough to get half-decent shots. If you do see a female, approach with extreme caution ... or you could miss out!