Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Trip to Pa La-U Waterfall

Location:  A trip to Kaeng Krachan NP 
Date: Wednesday 07 May, 2014
  Areas visited: Pa La-U Waterfall and stream located just below

I recently took a holiday with my girlfriend to Hua Hin and couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the well-known Pa La-U Waterfall which lies approximately 65 kms west of Hua Hin, located inside Kaeng Krachan National Park, Prachaub Kiri Khan. 

Before I visited, I asked a few fellow dragon chasers and I was recommended to a stream near to the entrance of the waterfall by Pattarawich Dawwrueng. I was hoping to spot the stunning Gomphidae Nihonogomphus pulcherrimus. When I arrived, I loved the look of the stream. Extremely shallow and narrow with a sandy bottom. I did manage to see N. pulcherrimus straight away, but was unable to photograph it as every time it flew down from the treetops, it was attacked by numerous Onychothemis testacea and it eventually gave up and retreated. Amongst several commonly seen species, I managed to spot and photograph three new records for my blog: a solitary male Onychothemis culminicola was present, but extremely shy;  a small number of Paragomphus capricornis were present on the sandy and pebbled areas of the stream and I also saw a female Burmagomphus sp. that I was unable to identify, but looks different to the females of other species I have seen in the genus. I moved along the stream and could have spent days there. However, I only had one day and with time ticking, I decided it was time to move on and head to Pa La-U Waterfall. The only thing that annoyed me was that I had to pay "foreigner" price. 200 baht instead of 20. Normally I pay the same as Thais wherever I go as I pay tax in the country (I am a teacher if you didn't know). However, I wasn't going to miss out for 200 baht! Just a short walk from the car park and I had arrived. Quite literally. The place was alive with odonates. Most were common, but I did manage to spot a few more species to add to my collection. The first was a male specimen from the genus Onychogomphus. However, I'm not sure that it has been described yet, so I can only call it Onychogomphus sp. I only saw this male, but did managed to catch sight of a female ovipositing. It managed to evade my camera though. Once I had photographed the Gomphid, I stood up and a tiny female landed between my legs. I photographed it and then noticed a good number of males seemingly 'hopping' from rock to rock. I probably saw around 10 specimens. Upon my return home, it has been identified as Stylogomphus sp. - a species I had seen before. However, that wasn't true as the specimen I saw in Petchabun was much larger and the appendages are slightly different, though my photos are not perfect. Therefore, I would suggest that there are at least two species from the genus waiting to be described. If all that wasn't enough, I then witnessed my first ever full emergence of a Gomphid. It was amazing to see. Unfortunately, as it was extremely fresh and a female, it is almost impossible to ID. Hopefully someone can. For now, I can only call it "Unknown Gomphid". There were many other common species buzzing around and I continued up the waterfall. After several hours, a heavy-looking storm started looming and I was worried that I had no protection for my camera gear (I forgot all my waterproof stuff). I continued but the thunder got louder and it got darker. It was time to give up the ghost. I had been a brilliant day anyway. I started my way back down and as I almost reached the first level a long slender damselfly caught my eye in the gloom. I knew it was a Platystictidae species and upon inspection, knew that it was of the genus Drepanosticta, probably D. sharpi. However, when I returned and posted photos on Dragonflies of Thailand, I was informed that there are some species in the genus yet to be described by science. Therefore, I can only leave it as Drepanosticta sp. Hopefully, someone will describe them all in the very near future. And that was it. All in all, a brilliant day and a place I will return to for sure. 
My best photos of the trip:

 
And just to finish off the trip, I managed to spot a female (that looks like a male) I. senegalensis rather surprisingly at a brackish pond right alongside the coast - this is something I have been looking for for a long time!
Next Trip: probably Chaiyaphum