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 ...

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