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!