Thursday, July 26, 2018

214. Lyriothemis sp. 2

Number: 214
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Lyriothemis
Species: Lyriothemis sp. (possibly yet to be described)
Common Name(s): N/A
Habitat: Open wasteland/scrub
Provinces sighted: Chantaburi environs
Sightings (by me): Abundant (males and females) at one location
In flight: July
Species easily confused with: Lyriothemis elegantissima, Lyriothemis sp.

Right at the end of the last day, there was one last location to visit before heading home. Again, we were lead to the location by a fellow dragonfly hunter on Dragonflies of Thailand (Facebook Group). And, yet again, sadly I don't remember their name... but a million thanks anyway! Once we arrived, I was a little shocked. Just like the farmer's paddy field where there were numerous Mortonagrion falactum, this was just a simple field. Seriously, come one. There are millions like it it Khon Kaen. Boring, featureless fields. No way can a rare species reside there. It was a big field, granted, with a lot of long grass. But just a field like any other all the same. However, a female Lyriothemis species had been spotted there and it looked incredibly like L. pachygastra, the male of which I am desperate to see with its awesome blue markings. But I was not confident of seeing anything here. Not a chance. Anyway, there was lots of broken glass in the field and while some of the others put on more suitable footwear, I dived in... within about 5 seconds I came across a female. Amazing! Then a male. Then two more. In fact, they were everywhere! Loads of Lyriothemis out in the open. Why? How? Who? What? What was going on? Who knows? But, there they were, as happy as anything. Within a very short space of time and with everyone well and truly sated with their shots, it was apparent that it wasn't L. pachygastra. It was something else. L. elegantissima was mentioned as was the species I had seen in Phu Khieo, though I wasn't entirely convinced. Upon returning home (and others also collected a few specimens), I began to compare my photos with the ones from PK. The genitalia was slightly different and there were a few other subtle differences. I am convinced it is NOT that species. Then, upon finding Tom's blog (as usual hehe) I notice that he had already posted wonderful photos of L. elegantissima.. it was very similar and found in a similar habitat but, most importantly, the genitalia is almost identical. So, L. elegantissima it was, yay!... though Noppadon still had his doubts ( he always does, haha).  

Well, not quite. A week later, I returned to PK to find the first Lyriothemis species I found a few years back. They were usually fairly easy to find at this time of year. Amazingly, however, there were none... as was the same with many species. Bad year, bad timing, poor weather (it was dull and had been all week). I go for the latter and will return tomorrow as of writing this blog. However, due to their absence at the very death of a long and tough day, I noticed a largish dragon in the tree branches. I thought it was simply O. chrysis at first (forgive me but I need glasses and it was seriously dull!) but it didn't seem to sit right. So, I moved in a little and there it was... Lyriothemis elegantissima, known from Khao Yai... This was clearly the true form (prominent black markings -- see post 215 when I have actually posted it) and was in the habitat where I would expect to find it... dull and swampy. So, though very happy to see the true L. elegantissima for the first time and a first for PK, it has relegated this species from Chantaburi back to Lyriothemis sp.... roll on someone describing it!

The Male
Very similar to other red Lyriothemis species but the genitalia and markings are slightly different.

The Female
It is similar to the male but more yellowish in colour, though a few of us saw an orangish female.
A slightly older female...
... and a fully matured female?
...and a young female from a different angle...

Mr and Mrs Lyriothemis... something I saw a few times... the male with the female but not copulating. I wonder why? Copulated already and the male is protecting her? She isn't ready and he is waiting? They are just friends? 

213. Risiophlebia guentheri Kosterin, 2015

Number: 213
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Risiophlebia
Species: Risiophlebia guentheri
Common Name(s): N/A 
Habitat: Forested swampy area
Provinces sighted: Krathing Waterfall (Chantaburi)
Sightings (by me): One male, one female
In flight: July
Species easily confused with: N/A

One of the reasons why the group trip was arranged was to see an incredible species that was recorded for the first time for Thailand just last year. Tiny and black (with yellow markings) and being at home in dull swampy areas, I actually missed it at first. Under heavy tree cover, the other Facebook guys were trying to point it out. They were all firing away and I still couldn't see it! Eventually, on a little stick, there it was: a tiny, dull species known as Risiophlebia guentheri. It is a rather peculiar species that obviously likes swampy areas and so far is only known from the one location in Thailand. Once I managed to get in a few decent photos in the gloom, I could see just how good it looked with its bulbous S1-2 of the abdomen and a curve to the remainder. Fortunately, for me (blind and stupid haha), it was fairly easy to approach. Once we made it back outside the swamp, a couple of the team were already happy in the fact that they, too, had found male and female! Aaarrrgh! They saw the female... and the lighting was much better outside. Amazingly, a second female was found and everyone managed to get in shots of both sexes, although the place was then shrouded in cloud as the rains moved in (you can see the rain on the female as I took photos before dashing for shelter).

The male
Identifiable by its diminutive size and that incredible bulbous section on the abdomen. Knowing how dark it was, I am very happy with these shots. 

The female
Similar to the male but has a more robust abdomen and the bulbous section is even more prominent (you can just see the rain on her abdomen). 

Many thanks to Noppadon Makbun for leading us to this species.

Monday, July 23, 2018

212. Mortonagrion falcatum Lieftinck, 1934

Number: 211
Family: Coenagrionidae
Genus: Mortonagrion
Species: Mortonagrion falactum
Common name(s): Hooked Midget
Habitat: Open paddy fields
Province(s) sighted: Chantaburi environs
Sightings (by me): Abundant at two locations
In flight: July (though I believe all year)
Species easily confused with: Mortonagrion aborense

Mortonagrion aborense is a fairly common species that can be found around the country and is often found in swampy areas, grassy ponds and lakes on the edge of forest and also deep under the protection of foliage. So... the same should be said for Mortonagrion falactum, right? Well, it couldn't be further from the truth! We were led by a Dragonflies of Thailand Facebook group member (sorry, I don't know the name but thank you sooo much) to all I can describe as being a regular farmer's paddy field in the middle of nowhere. It was a place you would most certainly drive straight past and not give it a second's thought. Not only that, one we got our eye in (the Facebook team) and we realised just how small it was, it was easy to spot them everywhere. It was also abundant in another farmer's field not too far away, which suggests any field that is similar in the location could well have many of them. So, once found and in fairly decent light (though was heavily cloudy with a storm brewing in the distance) getting photos shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, you couldn't be further from the truth. Being so small and there was a constant breeze making photography really tough. It was also quite skittish and we all had to wade through the rice fields to follow them. I managed to get a few decent photos in the end (as did everyone). However, I think we all felt a little dizzy in the end. 

The Male
Tiny, but beautiful. A species I didn't think I would ever get to see. The most distinctive feature is its blue patch on the abdomen. The appendages are also distinctive which probably give it its name.

The Female
The female is a lot duller in comparison, though there orange-brown thorax was pretty easy to pick out in the long rice fields. On closer inspection (though tough to see), it has slim blue stripes along the abdomen. There is also a feint patch on the abdomen like the male (though no way near as strong). 

 The Teneral Female
I was also lucky enough to spot a teneral female (Noppadon saw teneral male but I missed it).

211. Brachygonia oculata (Brauer, 1878)

Number: 211  
Family: Libellulidae   
Genus: Brachygonia    
Species: Brachygonia oculata
Common name(s): Pixie 
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Swampy areas and very slow moving swampy streams
Province(s) sighted: Krathing Waterfall (Chantaburi)  
Sightings (by me): I saw two males
In flight (that I have seen): July   
Species easily confused with: None

One species I have always wanted to see and never really had the opportunity as it was thought to be a southern species finally materialised recently. At a seriously dingy swamp area heavily covered in trees and bushes that ripped you to death and with enormous black clouds looming, I was searching for a little species that Noppadon Makbun had told me could be found there. After searching for about 30 mins and being torn to shreds, I almost gave up. The lighting was just too bad. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny bit of white fluff move a little in the distance. I looked at it for a moment and thought it was my imagination. Then, as I stood up, it moved again. This time I focused on it through the gloom... OMG! That was it! Soooooo tiny I almost missed it! I was looking for something about the size of Brachydiplax farinosa but it was much smaller! I started taking shots of it and, to my horror, my lens and camera had steamed up. Arrrgghhh! I tried everything to clear it, but it just kept on fogging up again. So... I just sat there and waited. And waited. I eventually gave up and went out into the open so it could get a bit of sun which eventually worked. Upon my return, it was gone! Noooo! I had missed it! I searched for ages without success. Then, right in the corner and deep in the gloom, I saw him again. This time I fired off a load of shots. They were all too dark but they were good enough record shots. Then, just as I was about to leave, he flew a little higher and to an area where the sun shone through a little (just enough for a good shot)... I fired off a few shot and knew I had him in the bag! Brachygonia oculata, male! A superb species and a bit of a lifer for me -- though I had no idea it was so small! I returned the next day with a couple of the guys and we found another male. This time, the lighting was a little better and I got a few other shots. 

The Male
Nothing really to say about this male, other than it is awesome!!! It cannot really be confused with any other species with its brilliant orange body with a gorgeous white patch on the abdomen and black end segments... what a cool dude. 
Here is the second male... ever so slightly brighter conditions
 And even closer...

210. Orchithemis pulcherrima Brauer, 1878

Number: 210
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Orchithemis
Species: Orchithemis pulcherrima
Common name(s): Variable Sentinel
Habitat: Forested area
Province(s) sighted:Krathing Waterfall/Khao Kitchacut NP (Chantaburi)
Sightings (by me): Solitary female
In flight (that I know of): July
Easily confused with:

A species that had the Facebook dragon guys scratching their collective heads was a rather plain looking female. It looked a little like a Lyriothemis species until it suddenly dawned on someone... it was Orchithemis  pulcherrima -- a new species for most of our records! Amazingly, one or two members even got a fleeting glimpse of a red male high up in the tree canopy, though I missed it. 

It likes to perch on twigs at the edge of the forest. However, with the weather being so poor, the others weren't showing. 

Though it is only a young female, it can be identified by the abdomen that starts off quite broad and then tapers off towards the end (see the second photo). 

The peculiar shape of the abdomen is noticeable here...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

209. Macromia cupricincta Fraser, 1924

Number: 209
Family: Macromiidae
Genus: Macromia
Species: Macromia cupricincta
Common name(s): N/A
Synonyms: N/A
Habitat: Forested stream
Sightings: Solitary male
In flight (that I have seen): July
Species easily confused with: Macromia moorei

During the death throes of the day's light, I was sitting in a bungalow with my wife, Beau, at Krathing Waterfall, when I suddenly heard a loud thud on the window followed by the distinctive 'clacking' sound of a dragonfly. I jumped into action and saw it on the floor outside trying the get upright again. I grabbed it quickly and knew it was Macromia straight away but not sure which species (there are at least ten in the genus and I have only seen one). I hastily put my gear together (everything was being charged for the following day) and started shooting it. Sadly, the lighting was terrible. So, I waited until the morning when there was more light, though it was still very dull with the pending rains. I managed to snap away and with decent shots I did a little research. I landed on Tom's awesome blog (as I usually do now -- thanks, Tom!) and it was quite easy to work out that it was Macromia cupricincta. The unique curve at the base of the wings near the anal loop as well as the protrusion on S10 make identification possible. Yay! Another species for my records.

The Male
It is similar to other species in the genus but has a few distinctive features.

 One is the curved wing near the anal loop...
 ... then there is that dull brownish face to go with its awesome emerald eyes...
... and, of course, that protrusion on S10...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Phu Phan National Park: Part 2

Location: Phu Phan National Park (Kalasin)
Date: Saturday, 30 June 2018
Habitat: Lowland forest (waterfall, small pond, dry and dingy riverbed) 

Well, following my recent visit to Phu Phan National Park (Kalasin end), there were a number of questions left unanswered. Therefore, I had to return. However, being so busy with teaching, proofreading and now doing a ton of coursework for my teacher's licence with trips to Bangkok you would be forgiven or thinking that I simply did not have the time. Well, I simply had to find time. 

So, I returned... though I didn't arrive until almost 10 am. I decided to hit the pond where I previously saw a few decent species, including around 25 Camacinia gigantea. Now, the pond/marsh was starting to fill up with water. It was much more difficult to get around and I always got that sinking feeling with almost every step... quite literally. So, I had to tread carefully. Being later did have its advantages as it was already super bright and hot. Again, Camacinia gigantea were everywhere. And there were even more of them. It was an amazingly cool spectacle watching them whiz around the  marshy area diving into incredibly short mid-air battles with other males. I then was drawn to a small blue copula... a species that I saw on the previous trip... was it, in fact, the species that I quickly dismissed as Indolestes anomalus? Well, turns out it was. Not long after, another Anax guttatus turned up like it did last time... but then it got me thinking: "Was it A. guttatus?" With the blinding sun beating down and right in my face (like last time) it was difficult to tell and so my only option was to (secretly) get out my net. I bombed it passed a few times coming closer with each passing. Then, I just went for it and YES! I got it. Even through the net, I realised that I was incorrect with my initial ID. It was, in fact, Anax indicus! Certainly not the rarest of species, but the first time I have seen in it Kalasin. Provincial record? Who knows?

Well, that was about it for the pond, but I will return there later in the year. I needed to hit the bone dry stream -- or overflow from the pond. This time I wasn't attacked by bees or wasps and the walk was painless enough. Once I reached to dry stream it looked the same as last time. Quite a few Vestalis gracilis still watching me from afar but that seemed to be it. I finally saw a glimmer of blue in the gloom and knew what it was... but thought I would leave it til later. I decided to search for the Gynacantha species I saw last time. However, being a snip brighter this time round left the place devoid of life. Nothing, now't, zip... not a sausage. There were rangers doing something about 50 meters away and maybe they had scared them off, but I think they had moved much deeper into the undergrowth due to the light. So, back to that blue dot. Like last time, there was only one Coeliccia species there. And there was only one specimen. Being so dark and the specimen being as skittish as hell I was none the wiser. So, I moved along a little and at another junction, I saw a further three males and a solitary female. 

Also, with slightly better light I finally managed to get improvement shots, though I still want better. Now, I am pretty sure that it is, in fact, Coeliccia nigrescens. I also managed to collect a solitary male and I am sending it to Noppadon so hopefully will have 100% confirmation an time now. So, that was it. Quiet, but still has bags of potential when the water finally arrives. It has also opened my mind to searching more 'dead' dry stream beds as it seems that I may have been wrong about them after all...

Best shots of the day...

Indolestes anomalus, copula -- a first for Kalasin? Anyway, nice to see all the same. 
 Anax indicus, male -- a beautiful beast of a dragon. I would love to catch them all to compare!
... and upon release. One shot and he flew straight up into the trees!

Coeliccia nigrescens, male. Pretty sure this is correct now... but could be a sub-species, possibly? The appendages scream C. nigrescens, but those thoracic markings don't add up.

Another angle...

And I even got a fleeting glimpse of the female!

 Camacinia gigantea, male... these were very common at the one pond! Brilliant to see so many.
 Acisoma panorpoides, female. I cannot remember the last time I took a photo of this species!
Lathrecista asiatica asiatica, male -- first sighting of the year. There were several males in the sidelines.
I already have cracking photos of the wheel, but how could I resist? Ceriagrion indochinense, copula.

Next trip: Khao Kitchacup National Park, Chantaburi (13-15 July), all being well.