Saturday, August 4, 2018

...and Then My Brilliant Season Comes Crashing Back Down to Earth

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Friday 27th July, 2018
Habitat: Forested ponds/swamp and marshy areas

Well, it had to come to an end. My amazing season of seeing new species for my records (22 so far) had to come to an end... and it did... with a bump! Like the previous week, it had been pouring down all week but I was determined to see L. elegantissima again, get a few improved shots and even finally catch the 2-3 species I see almost every time I visit the small streams but they are always whizzing past me and so a net is required (one of which I am sure is Macromidia genialis shanensis, but need to catch one with a net to confirm -- and get shots, of course). But the weather, and the dragonflies, had other ideas. It was pouring with rain and all the streams/river were heavily swollen and not really worth investigating (seriously dark and potentially dangerous). So, I visited the ponds in the hope to see something... but hardly anything was showing. Even the common species had other ideas. There were a few brighter moments in terms of the weather, but was mostly rain. However, there was a little light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of Dysphaea gloriosa, female... my first sighting of a female! Though it was great to see, it was high up on a wire and put my 400mm lens to the test! Other than that, it was just common species and I didn't even take that many. 

So, all good things come to an end... now I have to get back out there and start again. Hopefully, I can see a few more new species before the season is out!

My best photos of the day:

Orolestes octomaculata, hyaline male with a crooked abdomen... I have seen a few hyaline males this season.
Neurothemis fulvia, male
Cratillia lineata calverti, old female
Orthetrum glaucum, male
Trithemis aurora, male (can't remember the last time I photographed this species)
A very hungry female Acisoma panorpoides
Mr Lestes elatus
... Mrs Lestes elatus
Aciagrion hisopa, female... my fist sighting for some time.
Not the best photo in the world, but my first sighting of Orthetrum luzonicum copula
And my (sort of) highlight of the day... Mrs Dysphaea gloriosa toughing it out high up in the rain.
...and a little closer

A few oddities...
Macracantha arcuata... is there a better spider than this? It is so cool!
Any ideas on ID of this cicada?... it was about 2 inches in size at a swampy area

... and a beautiful leafhopper Thagria sp. (ID by Marcus Ng.)
...finally and interesting sign has popped up. This is now located where two motorbikes have been parked every time I have visited the place. I can't read it, but pretty much seems to be about big bears! Any translators out there?

216. Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina Brauer, 1868

Number: 216
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Tetrathemis
Species: Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina
Common name(s): Elf
Synonyms: N/A
Habitat: Forested ponds
Provinces sighted: Khao Yai NP (Nakhon Ratchasima); Krathing Waterfall (Chantaburi)
Sightings: Uncommon
In flight (that I have seen): July
Species easily confused with: Tetrathemis platyptera

Well, I think I can finally put this species into the 'seen' bank. Going all the way back to 2011, I saw what I thought was Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina. Noppadon agreed. However, I think I actually got the two species (T. platyptera) as they were living side by side. In fact, I was so confused that I actually decided to not count it as a record, especially as I didn't think it could be found as high up as Khao Yai. That is until I saw it again seven years later in Chantaburi. Now, I am convinced it is in fact the same species and I should have had more faith in Noppadon's ID (he is never wrong haha).

It is very similar in appearance to its more common cousin but there are subtle differences. The easy way to separate them is through the almost clear (or hyaline) wings as well as the reduced size of the markings on the abdomen. 

Though I don't have photos of the male to hand, I think I may have seen it but need to look back through my ever-growing number of hard drives. For now, I will just add the female pics.

The female
Here is the female from Chantaburi which I saw last month.
... and here is another female I saw in 2011 just outside Khao Yai (in hand).

I will upload any images of the male (if I have any and if I can find them!)

215. Lyriothemis elegantissima Selys, 1883

Number: 215
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Lyriothemis
Species: Lyriothemis elegantissima
Common name(s): Forest Chaser
Provinces sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)
Sightings (by me): Solitary male
In flight: July
Species easily confused with: Lyriothemis sp.; Lyriothemis sp. 2

Well, I had seen this species on numerous occasions... or so I thought. I have come across a number of similar-looking red Lyriothemis species. However, I recently saw the true form of Lyriothemis elegantissima. In fact, I think I only saw it because the more common Lyriothemis species (yet to be described) was absent. Maybe I have noticed it before but overlooked it! Similar to the others in many ways but it has heavy black markings on the thorax and on the end segments of the abdomen. The key, however, seems to be the genitalia. It is possible that the other two Lyriothemis species are, in fact, the same species but they are most certainly not L. elegantissima! It seems to prefer heaily tree-lined swampy areas. Though I only managed to get records shots of it, I know it resides at Phu Khieo now and will most certainly return in better weather next year and hope to get improvement shots These were taken from a good distance in gloomy conditions with a 400mm lens so I am actually quite happy with them!

The male

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Season Just Keeps Going...

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)
Date: Saturday 21 July, 2018
Habitat: Swampy areas and somewhat flooded streams

Well, after an awesome trip to Chantaburi, I had the bit between my teeth and was on a mission to add more species to my list. It had been pouring it down all week and, even though it was raining on the Saturday morning, I managed to prise myself out of bed at 6.00am and get on the road. Once I arrived at the entrance, it was raining. Unperturbed, I entered and started my usual rise to the top, stopping off at as many places as possible en route. I targeted the streams and swampy areas nearer the top. However, it soon became obvious that the streams were going to be no-go areas -- they were heavily swollen and some were belting through. I did notice three Burmagomphus divaricatus (2 males and 1 female) high up in the treetops, obviously staying well clear of river. Several Microgomphus svihleri were also skulking around in the scrub about 50 metres away from the river. It seemed to be the theme of the day as most of the rarities that can be found at this time of year were simply absent. I was at a loss. All the way up, there were just common species that I always see -- through it gave me an opportunity to get in a few improvement shots. I did eventually bump into Orolestes selysi, though they were incredibly skittish and in low numbers. I believe that everything was high up in the tree canopy trying to get as much sun as possible and steering clear of the horrible conditions below (though the leeches were having a field day). However, possibly due to the absence of the Lyriothemis species that I have seen there on numerous occasions that is yet to be described, it possibly opened the door to me seeing another very similar-looking Lyriothemis species. Right at the death, I noticed a solitary red specimen in a tree overhanging a swampy area in the gloom. It was in the other side and out of reach, but I did manage to fire off a couple of record shots into the gloom with a long lens. Looking at the shots, I knew what it was straight away: Lyriothemis elegantissima. A new species for my records!!! A beautiful species that I may have seen before but misidentified it as the other red Lyriothemis species. And that was it. plenty of common species knocking about but nothing to shout about, until I was rescued at the end by a super-special species!

Best Photos of the day: 

Tetrathemis platyptera... a common resident but copulas are hardly ever seen!
Ceriagrion azureum, female... my first photo of it not as part of copula
Orthetrum luzonicum, male... I never see it at this stage... looks so cool too!
cool Euthygomphus yunnanensis, male. A fairly common sighting at PK.
Orolestes selysi, male... rarely seen but very beautiful when it shows
Orolestes selysi, hyaline male and my first sighting of the female
Lestes dorothea, teneral female... a very common species this year
Indolestes anomalus, female ovipositing...
... and there were copula everywhere!
Neurothemis fulvia, male...
... and female...
Shiny! Cratilla lineata calverti, teneral male... probably the most common species in the forest.
Lathrecista asiatica asiatica is a common resident
Always common, but even more so this year... Potamarcha congener, male
Crocothemis servilia servilia, male.. it is years since I last photographed this species
Burmagomphus divaricatus, female...
...and male...
The ever-present Orolestes octomaculata, female...
...and male...
And introducing a new species for my records... Lyriothemis elegantissima (just wish it wasn't just a record shot)

Some other interesting things...

The Water Snow Flat (Tagiades vajuna vajuna
Sleeping like a log... well, on a log anyway
An awesome lantern bug... the first I have seen at PK

Cool beetle...
These trees are lethal and everywhere in the swampy area!

  The Common Posy (Drupadia ravindra boisduvalii)
A very common resident in the temporary ponds...
Stay away from angry animals!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Krathing Waterfall... 3rd Time (Very) Lucky!

Location: Krathing Waterfall and environs (Chantaburi)
Date: 13-15 July, 2018
Habitat: Forest swamp, waterfalls, open farmland and scrub

Well, I think the number is 10... it took me 10 years to reach 200 photographed species and 10 years to finally get to meet Noppadon Makbun! As a wonderful bonus, I got to meet the entire admin of Dragonflies of Thailand, Facebook Group (and few other great guys) -- some of which I have known for 7 or 8 years but only through the group. Finally, I can put a face to everyone... though I am old and will forget soon meaning there will have to be many more trips so that I can remember!

The venue was Krathing Waterfall in Chantaburi, a place I had visited on two other occasions but in April and December. They were decent trips, but quiet on the ode front. This trip, however, had everything for me... missing a few vital shots, seeing a few incredibly rare species, being waist deep in pond (as usual), having a wonderful time and, of course, seeing the guys! I was invited by Noppadon to tag along and, for the first time, I was actually free to join them! So, along with Beau -- who also wanted to meet everyone -- we set off at 3.30 am on the Friday morning. It took around 9 hours to get there including a few stop-offs. I was informed by Noppadon that there was a hidden swamp just outside the entrance where Brachygonia oculata could be found (a lifer for me)... but he failed to mention how hidden it was! It took me about 20 minutes to find it! So, in I went with my camera, Beau waiting in the car. I searched for what seemed an eternity being ripped to shreds by savage bamboo... why is it always where great dragons are? Anyway, I almost gave up... but finally I saw a white wisp... and there it was. I managed to get decent shots of it after a calamity with my lens (serious fogging) and almost dark with heavy cloud cover setting in. And that was the theme of the trip... terrible weather, tough conditions, and still those dragons appeared -- eventually. These included Macromia cupricincta (crashed into my bungalow window at dusk), Orchithemis pulcherrima, female (though some saw a male) which was a total surprise, Risiophlebia guentheri, the reason for the trip... and an awesome species, as well as two species found outside the park and in farmer's fields of all places including Mortonagrion falactum and another Lyriothemis species (similar to others... see earlier posts). There were also many species I had seen before but many I rarely see like Nannophya species a species I saw once at Phu Khieo WS (probably to be described)! So photo opportunities ahoy!

Overall, I saw 6 new species for my records and had countless other photographic opportunities... I will hopefully be meeting up with them again very soon indeed!

 The gang... (Lyriothemis sp. field in the background). Can you see me?
And eating... 
 My bungalow... very cute... deep discussion about Yingsak's 'yellow damsel' if memory serves correct!
A couple of 'action shots'...
Best shots of the trip...

Not new but sooooo cool, the micro Nannophya species... abundant in a paddy field...
 ...but the female is even more handsome and my first sighting...
Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina, female... I am now happy that I have seem in at Khao Yai. However... I saw about 5 males and walked past them all. What an idiot!!!
Certainly not rare anywhere... but they don't come much more beautiful than this. Rhyothemis plutonia, male.
And not to leave out his cousin... Rhyothemis obsolescens, male
and finally I have a full wing shot of Neurothemis fluctuans, male... not common where I live, but very common here. 
Not that common in Issarn, but seemingly so here... Agrionoptera insignis insignis, male.
Probably the most common of all that I photographed but who cares? Copera marginipes, female 'ghost form' ... or just a teneral to most of us!
 Blue is the colour... why do I never see the blue males near home (they are green) and only here... Ceriagrion cerinorubellum, male

 And now the 'newbies'...
A lifer for me, the minuscule, Brachygonia oculata... what an awesome species that sparkled in the darkness!
...and one even knocked on the door to visit me... Macromia cupricincta, male
The 'surprise' of the trip... Orchithemis pulcherrima, youngish female. Known from more southerly reaches... shame I missed the male!
and abundant in a paddy field or two and in the same fields as the Nannophya species, Mortonagrion falcatum, male... weirdest location ever?
...and the female...
The 'reason' for the trip... Risiophlebia guentheri, male in seriously dull conditions in swamp...
 ...and the female...
... and the potentially new Lyriothemis species abundant in scrub... possibly the strangest location ever to find such a rarity! Though the other field will give it a run for its money!
The male...
...and the female...
Finally, Noppadon may not like this but I don't care hahaha... 10 years in the making....
I would just like to thank everyone for making it such a wonderful experience... even though it was weird hunting for dragons in a group (my first time as I have done 10 years alone) and it was awesome... roll on the next trip!