Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I'm Back (Sort of)

Location: Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Nayok
Date: Wednesday, 10th May 2017
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds/seepage

Just when you thought you had finally got rid of me forever, I am back for good... though not really just yet.
Due to work commitments eating up all my time and a million other things going on in my life, I have had zero opportunity to get out there and hunt and we're already slap bang in the middle of the key part of the season. That said, I did manage to get out a couple of times back in May during a two-location trip to Hua Hin and Khao Yai with my wife, Beau, and were completely contrasting places. Pala-U Waterfall was again my destination in Hua Hin and it was - again - a write-off. My car battery died near the bridge at the entrance and I wasted half a day getting it going again (thanks, old man with a beaten up pick-up truck who had jump leads) and then having to buy a new battery. Then it was a day of ridiculously scorching heat and it seemed as though the dragons had retreated deep under cover. I saw glimpses of a few species, but nothing to write home about (or blog about anyway). I may post a blog on it, but not sure if it is worth it. Towards the end of the trip, we ventured north and stopped off at Khai Yai for a few days (Nakhon Ratchasima entrance). I managed to sneak out for a day here too. However, unlike Hua Hin, is was basically pouring down all day. I managed to sneak in a couple of hours here and there... and I forgot how good the place was. That said, I couldn't locate the natural pond I visited last time I went back in 2011 where I saw a number of new species for my records and really wanted to find it again. However, it wasn't to be. In any case, I was put onto a new species for me deeper into the park, just inside Nakhon Nayok. A fellow dragon hunter known as November Rain Rain in the Dragonflies of Thailand group on Facebook was kind enough to let me in on her find. So, half knowing where the place was but still unsure, I set off met by a number of elephants en route. I reached the place where I thought it was (following GPS) and following a sharp incline, I made it. However, when I walked around the trail, it was nowhere to be found... nor was any water for that matter. However, unperturbed, I made my way to another area and realised that I had visited the wrong bit... it was slightly further down the hill (about 50 metres) as she described... duh! However, very little water anywhere and I still could find anything. I found a little bit of scrub where a number of cars parked and eventually I dropped on a tiny blue damsel... I knew exactly what it was as I seem to spot them wherever I go: Indolestes sp. I also knew that November had spotted Indolestes birmanus there too on her trip. And knew it would be that species. However, even though I had seen this rare species a couple of times at Phu Kradeung, I was really happy to see it, especially as this was the first 'blue' one I had spotted. In the area, there were very few other specimens, though I saw another male, a solitary Indothemis carnatica, male, and Ceriagrion azureum, one male, one female. There were also a few other very common species flitting around. However, it was almost devoid of water anywhere. Eventually, I searched the overflow channel that runs along the road, heavily covered by trees. There were a few tiny puddles in the gloom and I could see a Copera sp. in the distance hovering over mud. Then, in the corner of my eye I saw a more familiar shape moving...  I knew it was Coeliccia. But was it the species I came all this way to see? I took a couple of snaps and it was off. However, the shot was good enough for an ID... YES!!! It was indeed Coeliccia nigrescens, a species known from Nakhon Nayok and one location in the south (if memory serves correct). So, thanks to November, my season was up and running. However, getting decent photos was a different story. It took me an age to get anything half decent, made more difficult by the impending storm that God was whisking up right over my head. The rains came and I dashed for the car. Eventually, it abated and I went in search again. Overall, I found 3-4 males and a solitary female (though it was reported to be common only a week or so earlier). Amazing what dull rainy weather can do! Anyway, moving on I went in search of other odes, but there was nothing rare to mention. Just the usual suspects found in the forested areas at Nam Nao and Phu Kheio (for me). I did manage to spot a few OK looking areas and will return for sure (if I can ever get a break from work). This place has loads to go at and there is a lot to still be uncovered I am sure. However, I am most certainly off to Phu Khieo this Saturday and hope to find something exciting to get me going again  like this trip did.

Best photos of the day:

The rare (but even rarer) blue Indolestes birmanus, male
 New for my records (though only a record shot) Coeliccia nigrescens, male... yup, it does exist, though looks decidedly like Coeliccia didyma from a (very close) distance.
Hmmm... Yes... new species... but not... or maybe... the "blue" Aciagrion saga continues. Likely to be Aciagrion pallidum, but not sure 100%.... female, then male.

The impending rains (and seriously heavy)... time to close those spreadwings (something I see a lot) when it is cold or a storm is coming... young male Lestes praemorsus decipiens.
 A common species in forested areas but hard to find cooperative specimens... Vestalis gracilis, female
 A stunning welcome to any camera lens... Orolestes octomaculata, male (a bitch to get close to )
At a cafe outside the park during torrential rain... Gynacantha subinterrupta, female... though still a nice spot.
I also saw a few bigger living things... a beautiful Red Muntjac deer, hogging the road early in the morning.


How to control your children... it took less than 10 seconds...

 
... and the reason why people DON'T greet by shaking hands with their left....

Next trip: Phu Khieo this Saturday (even if it kills me).