Sunday, July 19, 2015

Another Trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Location:  Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum Province
 Date: Saturday 18 July, 2015 
Areas visited: Marshland and the large river

 This trip really was a case of the good, the bad and the downright horrible! The day started well. I arrived at 6.00am and got in straight away. About 1kms from the entrance, I saw about a dozen birds walking around on the road. One of them was a Siamese Fireback and the others were Jungle Fowl. It was great to see and it increased my excitement for the day ahead. I couldn't wait to get up to the marshland at the top. I arrived and was greeted by several deer, staring at me as usual. The marsh was extremely quiet. I only managed to spot the usual suspects and failed to find my target species, Indolestes gracilis ssp., which I wanted to find and collect for ID purposes (as well as the female if possible). It turned out to be 'teneral day', with hundreds of shiny specimens flitting around as I walked. They must have emerged due to the rains from the previous week. After a couple of hours of searching, I thought it was time to move back down and head towards the river. I stopped at another pond, which my brother mentioned and it looks good for future trips, though it was just a flying visit this time. I continued and saw another path. "Hmmm ... what's up there?" I thought. Big mistake! I got about 100 metres along the path when I decided it was getting worse and worse with thick mud. I decided to turn and stopped at an area where it was possible to do an 8-million point turn. As I started, the wheels started to spin in the mud. It got worse and worse until I knew I wasn't going anywhere. I got out and tried to clear the mud. Nope. Wedged lots of twigs and sticks under the wheels. Nope. Walked back to the entrance with a bag and filled it up with small stones. No chance. I was stuck fast. Now full of mud and being attacked by hordes of leeches, I knew my only option was to walk back up to main area and try to stop somebody. Anybody! It was totally deserted. The poor weather had forced everyone to stay at home. I walked about a kilometre when an angel appeared. Actually, it was a young guy on a motorbike wearing a Man United shirt. I flagged him down and he took me to the ranger station. As if by magic, another guy appeared from nowhere, armed with rope. We jumped in his truck (with the United fan) and we returned to my truck. After numerous attempts (including his truck getting stuck), we eventually got it out. I gave them a reward for their fantastic help. Without them, I would still be there now I think. So, that was it. Straight to the river at the lower reaches. I searched for hours and hours, but only common species could be found. Thankfully, the sun decided to make a brief appearance and with it, so too did around 5-6 specimens of Burmagomphus divaricatus. I have seen this species at several different locations and it appears to be fairly common, in NE Thailand at least. Other than that, nothing showed, except for a female Gomphidia kruegeri donning masses of eggs on her abdomen, and a large Corduliid, which looked most certainly like Epophthalmia sp., though not sure which. I WILL have to remember my net next time. And that was it. I wandered around for a good few hours with nothing really to show for it. Until, that is, I decided to take a look in the gloomy darkened areas. I searched for a good while and was about to give up, when there above me in the gloom, something looked possibly like a resting dragonfly, though it could have been a stick. I had to take a number of pictures with the flash just to see what it was. Amazingly, it turned out to be a new species for me in the shape of Macromidia rapida, a species that has only ever been recorded once before in Thailand (at the same location, too, I believe). So, right at the death I was saved. 

 My best pictures of the day:

(I actually sat - yes, sat - in the stream for this photo ... am I mad?)

Certainly not my first sighting of G. krugeri, but certainly my first female ... check out those eggs! 

Who can resist taking photos of this species?

The marshland was awash with teneral specimens...  

Not commonly seen ... a Brachydiplax farinosa teneral specimen with 7 antenodal crossveins on one wing and 8 on the other. Very strange.

I am certain that there are still plenty more species waiting for me to find at Phu Khieo. Hence the number of trips recently. I believe that there could be at least another 10-12 species waiting for me to find, with possibly one or two more species new to Thailand. Hopefully, I will get to find out!

178. Macromidia rapida Martin, 1907

Number: 178   
Family: Synthemistidae 
Genus: Macromidia   
Species: Macromidia rapida 
Common name(s):Common Shadow Emerald  
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Heavily shaded forest river  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum   
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July   
 Species easily confused with: -
Well, another trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary has yielded yet another species for my personal records and another rare one to boot. Towards the end of a long and tough day following the length of the river without much reward, I decided to traipse further inside a covered stretch along the edge. It was seriously quiet, with only a few robber flies and moths punctuating the silence. Then, right at last knockings (well, about 3.00pm to be precise) as I was contemplating calling it a day as you have to leave by 4.00pm, I saw a small shadowy figure hiding deep under cover. I couldn't even be sure it was a dragonfly at first and had to take 3-4 photos just to see. With that, I knew it was new for me. My nerves got the better of me, and I slipped down the banking and into the water. It had gone. Surely. I gingerly made my way back up the banking to the same place and amazingly, it was still there. This time, I was more cautious. However, I couldn't get the right shot as the appendages were blocked by a massive piece of bamboo. I had to take off all my bags and crawl through the thick bamboo, tearing my clothes and slashing my skin in the process. Even then, it wasn't quite right. I nudged the camera forward, followed by my weary body and I was kind of suspended by bamboo and other plants holding on to me for dear life. Finally, I managed to fire off a couple of decent shots. Surprisingly, once I freed myself once more, I managed to catch him with my fingers and got a few shots of the appendages before releasing him back into the gloom. When I got home, I did a little research and it turns out to be Macromidia rapida, a species only recorded once before in Thailand and was recorded at the same place. So another very rare species indeed for Thailand.

Now in hand (but armed with a 180mm lens, I couldn't get the full body in)

The distinct yellowish-black appendages

... and the genitalia just for good measure.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Location:  Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chiyaphum Province
Dates: Saturday 4 and Saturday/Sunday 11 & 12 July, 2015
Areas visited: A number of small, forested ponds, lakes / marshland and the large river

So, another trip to the holy grail for Issarn dragonfly hunters ... well, actually two trips. I visited last Saturday with my brother, Paul (he was there for the birds) with the intention of finding out more about the place. I visited a number of ponds and managed to get a few decent shots and even a new species for my records and a new genus at that in the shape of Lyriothemis. However, it is difficult to ID and could quite possibly be a completely new species. I thought it was Lyriothemis elegantissima, but as it turns out that is likely to be an incorrect ID. So Lyriothemis sp. it is for now. I also saw a few uncommon species amongst many common species, such as Rhyothemis obsolescens, Aethriamanta gracilis and Orthetrum luzonicum (which I know is common, but I seldom see in these parts). I then visited the river and the water was belting through at an electric pace and was heavily swollen and chocolate brown. I had a quick look around but access was almost impossible. I later found out that they had opened the gates at the dam to let out lots of water ... I gave up but noted the river's potential (and knowing that there are still many goodies to be found there). So, other than the Lyriothemis species, it was rather quiet, spoiled somewhat by an incredibly strong wind, though I did also manage to spot a few nice butterflies, too.
A week later, I returned, again with my brother, Paul (both of us now armed with a brand new Canon 7D mark ii each ... thanks, r kid) and he left me at the river and shot off to find birds. I walked to the river and couldn't hear it this time as I approached. I studied the ponds and saw the same species as previously (always on the lookout for Ceriagrion pallidum, as it is supposed to reside in the sanctuary but I am yet to spot it). When I arrived at the river it was completely different to the previous week. It was like a stream, slow and graceful with easy access for rock hopping. Brilliant, I would surely find a few new Gomphids ... alas, no. Though there were many common species, I only managed to spot one female Gomphid and got great shots before the card in my camera decided to pack up and I lost all my shots from that day (around 400 including some butts, to be precise). I later saw another but only managed a very poor record shot. I am not sure what it is yet, though I am working on it. Other than that, it was extremely quiet. My brother found me again at around 3.00pm and we ventured up towards the summit once more. He wanted to go in one direction, me the other. So we parted company once more and I decided upon the large marshy area near the helicopter pad. Wading very slowly in thick, sticky mud was torture, but I managed to spot two more species for me in the shape of Platylestes platystylus and a new record for Thailand: Indolestes gracilis ssp. (though which exact subspecies it is isn't known). The following day, I returned to the marsh in search of the Indolestes gracilis ssp. female, but to no avail. However, I did managed to spot and photograph the female of P. platystylus, as well as a copula so all was great. I finally returned to the river to finish of the trip but with heavy rain clouds looming along with imminent darkness, it was time to pack up and head home.
My best photos of the trip:

My cool brother, Paul, 'in action' 

 Next trip: Phu Khieo WS, of course!

177. Indolestes gracilis expressior Kosterin, 2015

Number: 177  
Family: Lestidae  
Genus: Indolestes   
Species: Indolestes gracilis expressior 
Common name(s):N/A   
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Forested marshy lake  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum   
Sightings (by me): Rare
In flight (that I have seen): July  
Species easily confused with: Indolestes inflatus

Just as I was clicking my heels at finding one new species for my records, I noticed another ... Lestes inflatus again. My old friend from Nam Nao which I discovered for Thailand (see above). But, wait. No! Surely this wasn't L. inflatus after all. I could see that the wings were clear (a key feature of L. inflatus is that the wings are a brownish colour), the legs were black and the appendages seemed different. I managed to get the best photos I could in the blustery wind and when I returned home I knew it was a new species for me and it actually turns out to be a new record for Thailand! It is Indolestes gracilis ssp. and was IDd by Noppadon Makbun (with thanks). He told me that Oleg Kosterin had recently described a new Indolestes gracilis subspecies from Cambodia and it is quite possibly that species or another very similar species. However, the only way to truly know is if I collect a specimen ... though that's easier said than done. I am going to return this weekend in search of the female and hopefully another male or two. It could even turn out to be a completely new species yet to be described to science ... watch this space. 

NOTE: Since recording this species, I FINALLY managed to track down a second specimen following around eight further trips and got solid shots of the appendages. It confirms that it is, indeed,  Indolestes gracilis expressior Kosterin, 2015. It also highlights just how rare this species is!

2016 specimen playing dead:

The appendages (added 2016):


176. Platylestes platystylus (Rambur, 1842)

Number: 176
Family: Lestidae 
Genus: Platylestes  
Species: Platylestes platystylus 
Common name(s):N/A  
Synonyms: N/A  
Habitat: Forested marshy lake 
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum  
Sightings (by me): Rare
 In flight (that I have seen): July 
Species easily confused with: Lestes praemorsus decipiens; Lestes elatus

Well, things just seem to be going well for me this year. Another trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum yielded yet another species for me ... this time in the shape of Platylestes platystylus. It is a species that I have been searching for now for a long time (I think I saw it once in Chiang Mai and the search was on from then). Every time I thought I saw it, on closer inspection it turned out to be either L. praemorsus decipiens or most often L. elatus. It is clearly an uncommon species but even more so in NE Thailand (but then most things are). I decided to search an area I visited last October, which is an extremely claggy and marshy area that is difficult to walk through and even though I nearly died of exhaustion, it was well worth it. There deep in the reeds was another specimen from the Lestidae family ... surely ... it was ... yes! Finally, I saw it and got a few decent photos though the wind was terrible and made photographing twig-sized bugs on reeds rather challenging indeed. I managed to spot 4-5 males in a small area and was also extremely happy to not only spot, but get some great shots, of the female 'in action'.
The male

The female (ovipositing)

The copula (close up) ...
... and in tandem ... 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

175. Lyriothemis sp.

Number: 175    
Family: Libellulidae 
Genus: Lyriothemis 
Species: Lyriothemis sp. 
Common name(s): N/A 
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Exposed muddy pond in uplands forested area 
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum) 
Sightings (by me): Rare     
In flight (that I have seen): July     
Species easily confused with: All Lyriothemis sp.

A decent trip to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary with my brother, Paul, left me with the biggest smile on my face. I had seen a number of dragonflies and a few butterflies whilst on a stakeout to spot the best locations for a longer trip next weekend (to be added). Suddenly at an almost featureless mud hole used by mammals to drink, there was a red dragonfly sitting there, hanging on to the weeds in what seemed like gale force winds. I crept towards it (actually getting stuck in the thick, gooey mud with my attempts) and I realised that it was yet another new species for my records. I managed to get several decent shots even though it was the windiest day in the world, ever! Doing a little research when I got home and it turns out to be Lyriothemis elegantissima (may not be true - see NOTE) - likely a new provincial record and a very rare species to boot. In fact, it is the first time I have seen a specimen from this genus. Amazingly, I even managed to find the female at another location there (I am 99% confident) and tried to photograph it. However, the wind got stronger and stronger and it literally blew the female off the grass and far away! I was gutted, but still happy that I have found the male. Until the next time, female!

NOTE: Since attempting to ID this species, I have come to realise that it may not be L. elegantissima after all. It could be a different species known to Thailand, or even a species yet to be described to science ... so, for safety reasons, I will change it to Lyriothemis sp. for now. Hopefully it can be resolved soon (though I will leave the names on the photos as I am too lazy to do it all again). 


174. Onychargia priydak Kosterin, 2015

Number: 174  
Family: Platycnemididae 
Genus: Onychargia 
Species: Onychargia priydak 
Common name(s):N/A 
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Uncertain (though I saw it at an upland farmer's pond during a storm) 
Province(s) sighted: Nam Nao town (Petchabun)
Sightings (by me): Rare   
In flight (that I have seen): July   
Species easily confused with: Onychargia atrocyana

So, the day after spotting a new species at school yesterday, I managed to spot another rare species, all from the comfort of my living room ... I think I may stop looking! A species I had photographed a good few years ago has finally been separated from Onychargia atrocyana. Onychargia priydak, is a species that looks like O. atrocyana, but differs superficially and is easily distinguished by having heavy white pruinesence on the thorax instead of the usual purplish-black. It has just been described by the amazing Oleg Kosterin, who described the species from Cambodia. Anyway, it is also present in Thailand and I believe in Hong Kong as well ... so if you come across a white wisp floating around take a closer look, you never know. 

173. Asiagomphus xanthenatus xanthenatus (Williamson, 1907)

Number: 173 
Family: Gomphidae 
Genus: Asiagomphus 
Species: Asiagomphus xanthenatus xanthenatus 
Common name(s):N/A 
Synonyms: N/A   
Habitat: Upland forested stream 
Province(s) sighted: Kaeng Krachan 
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): April   
Species easily confused with: All Gomphids

Whilst visiting Kaeng Krachan, I managed to spot a number of species I had come across before. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed and ended up concentrating on butterflies. No idea why, but I could have been a few weeks early for the rarer species. That said, as I was about to cross one of the streams that cross the road, a Gomphid landed momentarily. I managed only a record shot before it, too, shot off. I researched it when I returned home and I was confident it was Asiagomphus xanthenatus xanthenatus, confirmed later by Noppadon Makbun. So I did get a new species after all, but it was a poor shot ... until the next time we meet!