Sunday, November 22, 2015

180. Polycanthagyna erythromelas (McLachlan, 1896)

Number: 180    
Family: Aeschnidae    
Genus: Polycanthagyna    
Species: Polycanthagyna erythromelas 
Common name(s): Tiger Hawker   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Lowland forest stream  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): November    
Species easily confused with: -

Another trip to Phu Khieo, but at completely the wrong time of year. November. Not really a time to expect to find new species. However, with lots of butterflies zipping around, I had half and eye on finding the elusive Libellago hyalina (a late-season species), which has evaded my camera since I started searching for it there a year ago. There was one report of it being recorded there, though this was quite a while ago and it may not even be there now, or is certainly very rare at least.  Searching the river at the lower reaches of Phu Khieo, I was happily snapping away at a few butterflies, as well as the odd ode. I was really happy to spot a Mortonagrion aborense copula for the first time and was amazed to finally scratch that seven-year itch in the shape of Thrithemis festiva, female. The males are super common, but until now I only had a fleeting glance of a female ovipositing (no chance of a photo). I continued searching and searching, but to no avail. Suddenly, from deep within the bushes I disturbed a large dragonfly which flew straight past me. I was gutted. I knew it was something special, but thought I had missed the chance. Amazingly, it returned and flew back under cover. I crept along on all fours desperately trying not to disturb it. Camera at the ready and my bag was snagged on a twig. I moved. The twig moved. The dragonfly moved ... it was off again. Aaarrrggghhh! Yet, within 30 seconds it was back again and I was still in position. I snapped away happily and managed to get some decent shots. Later in the day, I passed where it had been and amazingly, he was now right at the edge almost in direct sunlight, though he was spooked easily. When I returned home I did a little digging and it turns out to be Polycanthagyna erythromelas, easily one of the most handsome dragonflies I have seen. So, who says it is too late in the year? Over to next weekend ....

Monday, September 7, 2015

179. Macromia moorei Selys, 1874

Number: 179
Family: Macromiidae
Genus: Macromia
Species: Macromia moorei
Common name(s): N/A
Synonyms: N/A
Habitat: Upland forested stream
Province(s) sighted: Phu Hin Rong Kla NP (Phitsanoluk)
Sightings: 3-4 males
In flight (that I have seen): September
Species easily confused with: Macromia cupricincta

At last another species to add to my list. This time in the shape of Macromia moorei. I saw one patrolling the same area of a small, clear and exposed stream. I tried again and again to get a shot in flight, but they were all terrible. Finally, it rested and I managed to get shots of it and even catch it (luckily as I wouldn't have been able to ID it properly otherwise). It's a new genus for me and, thanks to Noppadon, I am now aware that it is also a provincial record! I know that there is a Macromia species that resides at Nam Nao and Phu Khieo. I have seen it numerous times but never got anywhere near it. I now have to catch it to find out. Watch this space.


Now in the hand ...
Note his rather bland face.
 The appendages ... (ventral, then dorsal)

... and the genitalia ...

A Trip to Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park

Location:  Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park,Phitsanoluk Province
Date: Saturday 05 September, 2015 
Areas visited: Small streams (mainly exposed) and one pond

A place I had often thought about visiting but never got round to it finally materialised last weekend. Along with fellow birder, Mark Hogarth, we set out for a day trip at 3am and made it to the foothills for around 6.30. However, it is an extremely arduous climb to the top with about a million sharp turns even before you reach the park itself. I have to say, however, that it is one of the most beautiful places I have visited (including the views on the way to the top). Though the park is famous for being the hideout for the communists, it is also one of extreme beauty. It's also around 1200m a.s.l. and therefore very similar in temperature to Phu Kradeung, in Loei. Everything was set up for the perfect day. The odes, however, had other ideas. They were extremely thin on the ground, with only small numbers showing. I found a largish lake on Google Earth and decided to hit there first. Next to it was a small, clear stream which had been messed around with as there was a section of stream that had been altered with concrete walls. That said, Coeliccia loogali was the first to appear there and was easily the most abundant species throughout the park. Next, I saw several Copera marginipes and Copera vittata at the edges and deeper in the reeds. At the pond itself it was extremely quiet. I saw a large Anax sp. patrolling the edges at great speed and I am fairly confident it is Anax guttatus, though my attempts at photographing it were rather futile. There was a healthy number of male and female Aciagrion tillyardi present, too. Yet, that seemed to be it. 
I moved on to another stream which led to Huai Khamunnoi Waterfall and this one again had high numbers of C. loogali dotted around the edges. Finally I noticed a larger species which kept on patrolling the exact same area at a rapid rate. I knew it was Macromia species, but no idea which. I tried for about 20 minutes to get a shot but I had no chance. Finally it landed and I managed to shoot him and then catch it with a tiny net I had with me. Upon returning home, it turns out to be Macromia moorei, later confirmed by Noppadon Makbun, who also confirmed that it was a provincial record. I later saw another 2-3 specimens at the same stream. The only other species of note was Aristocypha fenestrella and a solitary male Coeliccia chromothorax hiding deep under cover. I moved on. I visited a couple of the waterfalls but were just that: waterfalls. Sounds stupid, but you could only view them and couldn't get anywhere near the stream, so were struck off my visiting again list. Finally, I arrived at where Mark was walking - that main loop where the communist buildings are, which also had lots of tourists. And then the rains came. And boy did it rain. Eventually, at about 2pm it stopped and we decided to go out one more time. It was a beautiful open space with lots of tiny puddles and temporary streams, yet there was literally nothing around and with the looming clouds it was time to give up. Or was it? At the only proper stream (still tiny) I noticed a yellow damsel and I knew what it was straight away: Ceriagrion fallax pendleburyi. A species I bumped into about five years ago at Doi Inthanon and my photos were awful. I tried again and failed. This species is seriously skittish. I moved on, gutted once more. Then the sun came out big time. With it, came a small number of dragonflies. Surprisingly, the first one was Sympetrum hypomelas, a stunning species I have encountered at Phu Kradeung, where it is locally common. I also saw a damaged teneral female damsel which turned out to be Orolestes octomaculata (ID by Noppadon Makbun). Two small blue male dragons then attacked each other and as quickly as they appeared, disappeared again. I am sure they were Palpopleura sexmaculata, though I will try to confirm next time. I also saw briefly, the jaw-droppingly beautiful Anax immaculifrons, orange form, though I didn't get a photo. Finally, I returned to where I saw C. fallax pendleburyi. Amazingly, a female was in the same place. I managed to get decent shots of her before tourists walked past and spooked her. There I then sat for about 45 minutes. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting ... then, from deep inside the bushes a dusky yellow figure emerged. It was a male. I managed to get a decent shot of him just as more heavily-booted walkers arrived and off into the depths it returned. Still, I was happy now. And that was it. Evening had arrived and it was time for the long journey back home. This is a place I will definitely return to ... there are definitely many more goodies to be had here (especially if it stays bright).

Best photos of the day:




Monday, August 17, 2015

Another Trip to Nam Nao

Location: Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun 
Date: Saturday 17 August, 2015 
Areas visited: Suan Son Ban Baek (several natural ponds)

Well, another weekend was fast approaching and it had been pouring down all week. I had to make a decision ... was I going to even bother going anywhere, especially as it was forecast rain all weekend, too. It was forecast heavy rain at Phu Khieo and possible thunderstorms at Nam Nao. Well, being the idiot that I am, I decided to brave it no matter what. Happily, Mark Hogarth - a fellow nature lover and birder - was also mad enough to come along too in search of feathered friends. We decided upon Nam Nao as there was less chance of rain. However, there really is no point in me hitting the helicopter pad lake as I don't think there is much left for me to see (if anything). So, I decided upon a 4 kms trail I went down in January and saw small numbers of teneral Indolestes anomalus. My hope was to find it again, but as fully 'mature' adults. So, I dropped Mark off at the HQ so he could follow the trails inside and I shot off to the entrance to the trail which is about 1.5kms further along heading towards Lomsak. I parked the car near the gate (you can't drive inside) and noticed that the ditch that was tiny in winter, was now slightly swollen. I decided to have a quick look and it was totally devoid of anything. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw my old friend, Indolestes inflatus, male. It was the only thing there at that time, but started my day off perfectly. I then followed the trail. The first couple of kilometres are quiet, only a few male Cratilla lineata calverti were around defending their private puddles along the way. Eventually, I reached the first small but natural pond. There were a few common species knowing around, Lestes elatus and several Ceriagrion indochinense. There is also a strange-looking female, which could be C. olivaceum or even a freaky C. indochinense. I dream of it being C. pallidum, but I didn't see a single male so doubt it. I continued down the trail stopping at all the little ponds and ditches along the way, getting bitten to death by horseflies. I saw a few male and a solitary female Orolestes octomaculata - only my second sighting of the female. Finally, I reached the end of the trail, which has a fairly decent-sized pond surrounded by reeds and trees around that. It is a great place. I waded around the place and it was very quiet. The very first thing I saw was another teneral Indolestes anomalus. I followed it and lost it near the trees at the back. However, looking up there were dozens of mature males in the trees but too high up to photograph. Then, with the appearance of the sun, many specimens started to appear at pond level. There were many male I. anomalus and eventually there were was literally dozens of copula. Large numbers of Ceriagrion azureum appeared (I have never seen so many) and they, too, were copulating, so I saw the female for the first time. Everywhere I looked, they were at it! Possibly as it was the first decent break in the weather for a long time and the were randy! The numbers of specimens was large but only a few species were present. Then, flying straight through the reeds was Lestes praemorsus decipiens. Or was it? I followed it around the pond attempting to take photos but it was seriously skittish. I finally hit lucky and it perched long enough to get photos. The striking difference was the small dorsal patch on unlike the large patch on Lestes praemorsus. It also seemed a little larger and upon closer inspection it seems that the inferior appendages are too short. It could possibly be Lestes dorothea (as it was recorded at Phu Khieo, not too far away), but it is too pruinosed to be sure. So, for now, it will have to stay as Lestes sp. On my way back I visited the same ponds and now they, too were filled with the same species. Copula everywhere. Now including many of the Lestes species too and hundreds of L. anomalus copula everywhere. Even back at the ditch near the car there were several specimens of the same species I had seen along the trail. It really was the right time to go there! However, I think I will have to return to collect specimens of the Lestes species to find out exactly what it is.
Best pics of the day:

How many copula can you get on a stick? ... they were everywhere. Note the white holes created by the females to place eggs.

The Lestes sp. ... L. dorothea or a variation of L. praemorsus?

... and the copula (even the female looks different than that of Lestes praemorsus)

My bag was being well guarded by a tiny frog ...

if you ever want to go ...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Yet another trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Location:  Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum Province 
Date: Thursday 30 July, 2015 
Areas visited: Marshland, open grassland and a little stream

Well, I think that you have guessed the 'theme' for the season (and next) ... Phu Khieo. It is an amazing place and I know that there are loads of species waiting to be found, though I will settle for one right now. What's more, with a 4-day break upon me, it was impossible not to go somewhere and with my girlfriend, Beau, having to attend a seminar during a national Buddhist holiday (how pathetic is our school?), I had no option but to go to Phu Khieo .. well, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Well, it does for me, so shut it. Ahem. Anyway, it had been raining heavily all week and was forecast to do so that day. So ... I decided to stay at home and watch the telly. Yeah, right. I still went and this time I didn't travel alone. I travelled there with a birder whom I got to know through my brother. His name is Mark Hogarth and, as it turns out, he is the salt of the earth ... even though he is a birder haha. Moreover, his butties are top notch and he is welcome to come again any time ... as long as he makes the sandwiches! Seriously, though, he is a cool guy and very experienced when it comes to birds and nature. So, we arrived at 6am and entered the sanctuary. Straight away there were some colourful chickens knocking about and Mark was in his element. I think there was a sparrow and a pigeon, too. Joking aside, there were seemingly lots of birds and it took a while to reach the top. There, we parted ways. He went in search of birds, me, in search of odes. My only option due to the weather was the open marshy area. I really, really wanted to see that Indolestes gracilis ssp. again ... so, I searched for hours. Making my way slowly. Very slowly, though mud, silt, waist-deep water and enormous leeches. It was hard. With my bag up to 500 metres away (nestled in a dry patch), I always had one eye on the odes and one of the sky ... it was going to rain. Heavy clouds. I kept searching. And searching. I found only small numbers of odonates were present that day, but some were fairly scarce, namely Platylestes platystylus and Lestes praemorsus decipiens in the same location made separating them easy. The usual scarce species Rhyothemis obsolescens was also present in very small numbers, as were a few of the more common 'locals'. Anyway, by 12.15pm I had had enough wading through mud and prepared to return to the meeting point. I thought I would try returning via the trees and bushes as usual. Much harder but sometimes brings rewards. Just as I was getting annoyed with myself for not seeing Indolestes gracilis (4 trips, 1 sighting) again, I noticed a chubby yellow and black female. I knew what it was straight away. Lyriothemis sp. again ... this time a female of the same species I had encountered twice before (1 male and 1 female) ... this time I got decent photos, though I am non the wiser about which species it is. I returned to get my bag and then noticed a damselfly I had seen before in the north ... Pseudagrion pruinosum, a solitary male at a swamp. I was rather surprised to see it here! As I walked back to the top, I briefly caught sight of something take off ... it looked somewhat like a Idionyx sp. in the way it took off, but seemed strange that it was at the swamp. Anyway, that was gone and I can only hope to see it again. I met up with Mark and he was smiling like a Cheshire cat with the numbers of birds he had seen! We then went to a few other places and I didn't see anything new, though I was constantly on the look-out for new species in the grasses ... to no avail. Then down to a small stream. I tackled the stream but noticed a solitary Coeliccia c.f. loogali soaking up the brightest bit of gloom and that was it! Amazingly quiet. Still, looking forward to the next trip there ... 

probably a teneral of the above ...

Two teneral  B. farinosa females ... same location, very different appearance. Very interesting. 

I was very surprised to see this in Chaiyaphum in marshland. Maybe a provincial record. 

Mr. Coeliccia c.f. loogali .... my only sighting along a 1/2 kilometre stretch of a tiny stream ... I thought that there would be several species! Still it was a dull day.

Just when you thought it was safe to back into the water ... there were a few massive leeches hanging around in the boggy swamp. Not the usual little land leeches, these were enormous and even made me nervous. I picked one off my back but three still managed to drink about a litre of blood each from my legs. This one dropped off my leg once it had had its fill. And, yes. It was painful but only when as it released itself ... nice!