Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two short trips around Khon Kaen

Location (1):  In and around the River Chi, Khon Kaen  
Date: Monday 21 April, 2014 
  Areas visited: Tree-lined dirt track along the River Chi

Recently, I have been itching to get out there and take lots of photos. Unfortunately, the weather is seriously hot and the streams in the local national parks are dry. Therefore, I tried the River Chi once more. It is a wide, chocolate-brown coloured river that is deep in many areas. Getting to the water's edge is also very difficult with deep vegetation and extremely steep banking. Using my gps I searched new areas for me. All were the same ... dense scrub and impossibly steep banking. Eventually, I made my way along a dirt track towards a new section and it was fairly well covered on either side, making it cooler than elsewhere. To my surprise there were lots of specimens residing there and it was a good distance from the river or any known water body. Several Epophthalmia frontalis frontalis were patrolling along the path, but not one rested. Ever! Nothing new there. There were a few other species hiding from the sun, though nothing special. Even here, the heat soon got to me and I retreated to my also boiling house. Here are the best photos I took.

Location (2):  Phu Wiang National Park, Khon Kaen province
Date: Saturday 26 April, 2014
Areas visited: Small, almost dry lowland stream and small forested pond
Almost burning to death in the heat during my last trip, I decided to bite the bullet and go a little further afield in an attempt to keep out of the sun. Phu Wiang NP is a decent place but hardly has any water. The waterfalls come late in the year and I'm hoping this year to see if the odonates arrive late too. Maybe I can pick up one or two new records for KK province. As I made my way gingerly along a rough tree-lined dirt track, I came across a tiny stream, that was almost dry. It had just a few very small puddles. I thought I'd have a quick look, though thought it would be devoid of life. I couldn't have been further from the truth. I instantly spooked a male Zygonyx iris malayana which I have seen here before. Then I noticed two male Copera vittata lurking just above the mud on a twig as usual. This gave me the impetus to investigate further. I didn't realise it at the time but, even though C. vittata is a common species throughout Thailand, it is the first time I have recorded it in the province of Khon Kaen. Searching through the surrounding undergrowth, I noticed a large black and yellow damsel from the family Platycnemididae in the distance. "Yes! I new species for me," I thought. As I approached it, I had already concluded that it was a young Indocnemis orang. Even then, it is a second new record for Khon Kaen province in one day. That said, on closer inspection, the antehumeral stripes are narrow, also noted by Noppadon Makbun when I posted a photo of it on Facebook. I managed to spot one male and 2-3 females.Vestalis gracilis was also very much present. This is a place I will most definitely re-visit when the water finally arrives. Hopefully, it is a dragonfly haven. Maybe not. I also visited a small pond where the water had receeded heavily and was almost swampy in parts. Here, it was mainly common species, except there were literally hundreds of Rhyothemis plutonia. I have recorded this species at Phu Wiang before, but always in single figures. I saw more here than I have probably seen elsewhere, put together. One thing I noticed was that they had more of a green metallic sheen, as opposed to the pinky-green I usually see. However, did any land? Nope. They just glided in the breeze. Actually, probably more likely to be heat currents in this weather. As my head started to pulsate, I gave up on them and headed for my motorbike. I did actually manage to spot a copula of the 'blue' Aciagrion pallidum. I have only seen this colour in Chiang Mai and Chantaburi before.

Here's are my best photos of the day (though very few were taken):

 I have now personally recorded 73 species in the province of Khon Kaen. Many are rather thin on the ground, mainly because of Khon Kaen's lack of upland, forested streams or even lush green areas. Khon Kaen is the 'dustbowl' of Thailand. However, over the coming years, I aim to continue my search especially at Phu Wiang NP and Phu Pha Man. I'm sure that with the rains, I may find a few more species. Hopefully, I can reach 80 species one day. Until then ...

Monday, April 7, 2014

A trip to Chantaburi

Location(s):  Khao Soi Dao waterfall and Khao Kitchacut NP, Chantaburi province  
Date: Tuesday - Thursday, 01-03 April, 2014 
  Areas visited: Waterfalls, forested ponds and stream areas

Back in December 2011, I visited two well-known places in Chantaburi. The first place, Khao Soi Dao waterfall, is lesser-known as it is a little more difficult to get to. However, it is worth the visit as it is very quiet on the tourist front and if you camp there for a night (I strongly suggest that you do), you can see all kinds of wildlife. Khao Kitchacut NP satisfies the needs of Bangkokians looking for a weekend retreat. However, it is still a wonderful place to visit. This time, I went just before the rainy season and was in search of one species: Protosticta khaosoidaoensis, which I found quickly on the first day. Both places are well-equipped for camping (though I would take your own) and they have nice little restaurants. I particularily liked the one at Khao Soi Dao. On both days, it was still fairly quiet on the odonata front. However, I did manage to spot 3 new record species for me and get a decent number of photos. 

Here are my best photos of the trip:

The first time I have managed decent shots of this species

Female of the 'blue' variety ... even though the abdomen is very reddish

My first 'blue' male. all northern specimens seem green.

 My first decent photo of the male ...very common, but are so hard to get near and photograph in darkness.

 The strangest-looking Urothemis signata I have seen ... completely red face and no dorsal markings.

165. Drepanosticta jurzitzai Hämäläinen, 1999

Number: 165 
Family:  Platystictidae
Genus: Drepanosticta
Species: Drepanosticta jurzitzai Hämäläinen, 1999
Common name(s):Jurzitza's Shadowdamsel
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Deep forest area of upland streams 
 Province(s) sighted: Khao Kitchacut NP (Chantaburi)
Sightings (by me): 2 males
In flight (that I have seen): April (2014) 
Species easily confused with: N/A
Towards the end of a very fruitful trip, I was making my way back down the nicely laid out path of the waterfall at Khao Kitchacut NP. Really tired with burning legs from 2 /12 days of walking in and around streams and slippery boulders, I almost fell into an old hollowed out log between levels 7-8. Amazingly it spooked a damselfly I had missed on the way up. I knew straight away that it was a new species. I also knew it was a new genus for me though I wasn't sure of the species. I saw him land about 5 metres away. I edged forward and set myself up. Perfect ... ready ... focus ... bollocks! A female P. khaosiodaoensis spooked it and it seemed to fly away. I searched four about 20 minutes in really dull territory and almost gave up. Then I thought, "Maybe he has returned to that log." Amazingly, there he was. Inside his log. Now he was happy for me to snap away though the lighting was terrible and it took me a long time to get anything different. Once I was happy I had got good enough photos I said goodbye to him and went in search of his girlfriend. I didn't find her, but I did spot a second male at another log close by. When I returned home, I did a little research and it was clearly Drepanosticta jurzitzai, a species that seems to be only known from that location (though this may have changed). According to Noppadon Makbun, it is also early for the species ... maybe why there where no females to be found. 
The male.
It is instantly recognisable with its blue dorsal patch covering S9-10. They are easy to get near and photograph too.

 I will return one day in search of the female, though I will probably go a little later in the year when they may well  be more abundant.

164. Phaenandrogomphus sp. (possibly P. asthenes Lieftinck, 1964)

Number: 164 
Family:  Gomphidae
Genus: Phaenandrogomphus
Species: Phaenandrogomphus sp. (possibly P. asthenes Lieftinck, 1964)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Exposed area of upland forested streams 
 Province(s) sighted: Khao Soi Dao waterfall
Sightings (by me): Common at this location 
In flight (that I have seen): April (2014) 
Species easily confused with: N/A

An extremely nice surprise was to see a newly emerged Gomphid. I was even fortunate enough to see it fill out, though I wish I'd arrived 15 minutes earlier to see the complete emergence. Still, I am happy to see yet another species for my personal list. It is clearly of the genus Phaenandrogomphus. However, it is too difficult to tell at this stage which exact species. Research points towards Phaenandrogomphus asthenes Lieftinck, 1964. However, the epipoct (lower appendage) seems too straight. This could be simply because it had just emerged. Unfortunately, I will probably never know, unless someone has witnessed an emergence of the same species. So, for the time being, I will leave it as Phaenandrogomphus sp.

The male.
With enormous accessory genitalia, it is clearly Phaenandrogomphus sp. However, lacking thoracic markings and colour, it is too difficult to be sure. 

 Now fully extended (and turned ready for his maiden flight high up into the trees).

His appendages ...

and his 'massive' accessory genitalia ... any dad would be proud haha

 ... and his old home.

If anyone can ID the species I will owe you one.