Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Matter of lifers and near death... at Phu Khieo WS

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday, 12th November, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds

Well, last week's trip to Phu Phan NP in search of the elusive Amphithemis curvistyla failed me (it had been reported there a week earlier). I was about to give up the ghost on that species for another year, until my weekend plans changed and my wife, Beau, was going out for the day with friends. I knew A. curvistyla had been reported from Phu Khieo WS, but in two years have never seen it. Anyway, I thought I would sign the 'proper' part of the season off with a final flurry at my favourite place. I arrived at about 6.15. a.m. and stopped at the usual pools by the roadside on the way up. However, I soon noticed that there was still a hell of a lot of water around. In fact, there was much more than during the rainy season itself. Places were still flooded, the river was chocolate brown and steaming through and all the permanent pools/ponds were heavily swollen. As a result, there were several species still around that I was surprised to see at this time of year. Other than the usual suspects on the lower reaches, there was nothing to report. I then reached the two large ponds just above the river and thought I would have another look for Paracercion (calamorum) dyeri which I had seen there once before. It seemed as though it wasn't there, but I finally spotted a male warming up in the early morning sun. I was also surprised to see so many Amphiallagma parvum there too. A good year for them I think. I also spotted a male Mortonagrion aborense deep under cover. Pseudagrion australasiae was also abundant throughout the park. Moving on up, everywhere had quietened down, even though the water levels were still extremely high. It had a slightly eerie feeling. Lots of water but little activity. However, even at the quietest of ponds, Lestes concinnus punctuated the silence moving from one dying brown stem to the next. There were hundreds of them everywhere. There were small numbers of Lestes elatus and Lestes praemorsus decipiens breaking up the brown masses of L. concinnus and I managed to spot a solitary Orolestes octomaculata, so they are still around - just. However, I am pretty sure that it is around all year in NE Thailand. I was surprised to clap eyes on a solitary teneral male Platylestes platystylus at the heavily flooded marshland at the top. Indolestes anomalus, too, was present though in lower numbers. The highlights of the day, however, came in the shape of two species: one being the beautiful Agrionoptera insignis insignis - a species I love but rarely see (first time I have seen a male there) - and the second was the species I went there to try and find. After hour upon hour of wading through treacle-like marshy areas, ponds and puddles, ripped to death by bushes that don't want me there, and bitten by everything and anything that wanted lunch... I saw him, a male Amphithemis curvistyla - a rare species that was seemingly happy doing battle with T. aurora at a pond I would never have imagined looking for it. Annoyingly, it was a good distance away and I managed a half-decent record shot of it using a 400 mm lens, heavily cropped. Still, I know it is there now and will search for it again next year (it is right at the end of its flight season now). And after all my ramblings, on to the pictures. Be sure to watch my video at the bottom... I was a little scared to say the least!

Best pictures of the day:

The beautiful Agrionoptera insignis insignis, though the dull, boggy areas he likes aren't ... fortunately, the sun came out for a moment.

A nice, but all too uncommon, species... Paracercion (calamorum) dyeri
Another tiny species. Used to be uncommon for me to see it, but abundant this year... Amphiallagma parvum, male doing his morning stretches
A species that certainly isn't abundant at PK... Mortonagrion aborense
Certainly common, but not easy to approach... the old-first-thing-in-the-morning trick worked this time - Pseudagrion australasiae, male

The sun was just warming the place up, but some of us were still fast asleep. Lestes elatus, male

A surprise sighting at this time of year. I wonder if it is around all year? Platylestes platystylus, a very uncommon species.
Incredibly abundant this year - every open area there were lots of specimens... Lestes concinnus 

Another rare sighting is this female (only my second, but males are always observed flitting around over ponds) and managed to carefully catch her ... Tramea transmarina euryale

 Now resting upon release (she flew high into the treetops soon after)
... and the worst photo of all, but one that made me the happiest... the elusive, the beautiful, the dashing, and the equally annoying Amphithemis curvistyla... only a record shot for now, but you WILL be mine next year.

Even non dragon things of interest popped up yesterday. 
The endangered Elongated tortoise, beautiful in every way ... though I had to stop cars in order to help him cross the road safely.
 ... being annoyed by pesky mosquitoes
Probably my favoute photo I have taken in a long time... no idea why, just everything seems right. I love the way he is clinging on to the top of the stem under his chin. I wonder what he is thinking as he looks up to the burst of light?
... and right at the death, it almost was death... for me. I stopped the car with the windows down to get a sandwich and quickly looked my right as I heard something massive crashing towards me at breakneck speed. I winced as it was about to hit the car... or did it? Watch the vid. I was scared to death...


  1. Very nice tortoise and little frog (both would be quickly bagged for someone's meal in our vicinity.....)
    And just how (asks my son) were you taking the driving video????? And is the road as good as it looks?
    Glad the flying bull (buffalo??) had some other target in mind and didn't take note of the sandwich!

  2. Was that a Gaur?! At any other situation that would be considered a good very good sighting IMO.

    1. Yup... Gaur! A beast of one too. Scared me to death but I am so happy to see this in Thailand!

  3. Glad the flying bull (buffalo??) had some other target in mind and didn't take note of the sandwich!
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