Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Trip to Phu Phan National Park

Location: Phu Phan National Park (Kalasin & Sakon Nakhon)
Date: 01 June 2019
Habitat: Forested Streams/Pond

Another trip out last Saturday didn't yield any new species for my records but I did pick up a few interesting species and grab a few decent shots. Phu Phan is a fairly small national park which is based primarily in Sakon Nakhon but also sneaks into Kalasin. It boasts some almost pristine forest but is incredibly difficult to stop anywhere as it is simply one windy and dangerous road that cuts right through it. There are very few places to stop and, in all honesty, most of the drivers on this rather busy road drive like maniacs. Though it is a dangerous place to drive, if you take it slowly, there are a few points of interest. There is a waterfall with an exposed river and a tiny stream (which virtually dries up). There is also a pond that has thrown up a few goodies in the past. However, I am now becoming increasingly interested in the areas on the other side of the national park and much further into Sakon Nakhon (which I will be attempting this weekend). However, it will become a 3-hour trip and so I will have to set off even earlier.
Back onto this trip and it started off fairly quietly and seemed to pick up pace as the day went on. I started at the car park of a waterfall which is just inside Kalasin. I was informed by Yingsak Paweempermsuk that there was a miracle pond and a little overflow area at the car park. Well, he was right... there was! However, I am unsure as to why it is known as a "miracle" pond (though the sign says otherwise). It is basically a small manmade concrete area that holds water from the overflow/stream. That said, the tiny stream itself (though was virtually dry in many areas) looked decent. I walked a few hundred metres along it (at around 8.00am) and it was devoid of life. It did spook a medium-sized dragonfly which I have no idea what it was and that was about it. On the way back along the trail, the sun decided to awaken and I instantly noticed two male Orthetrum chrysis battling it out for the best position on a stick. I then noticed a female Vestalis gracilis gracilis hop from one leaf to another in the gloom. Though both are very common species, my levels of confidence increased. More of the two species began to appear as the sun increased in intensity and a lovely male Tetrathemis platypera also decided to see what was going down at the stream. Attempting (very badly) to get a decent photo of it, I noticed a fairly large damsel hover above a frond before dashing higher up and out of sight. I was pretty sure it was a Coeliccia species but it was too quick to assess. Further along, I spotted another. This time I got to see what it was: Coeliccia nigrescens. I had already seen this species a few kilometres further up the road but in total gloom and photography was incredibly difficult (see here). It was great to see again and now getting a great shot would be easy, right? Wrong. Though I eventually saw 6-7 males (and a copula caught in a web high up), they were incredibly skittish. Shot after shot, I tried but each time the breeze picked up or the damsel moved, often flying straight into the gloom. Eventually, after much work and a million billion mosquito bites, one specimen seemed a little happier to let me snap away (though I was literally sat in the stream, hiding as best I could behind a rock). From there, I managed to get in a few shots of other species and moved on. This time, I decided not to hit the river/waterfall as I wanted to seek new areas. I first visited a pond I had been to before at the Phu Phan Protection Unit. Though it was low in terms of different species, Camacinia gigantea was everywhere. In fact, I would estimate that there were well over 100 specimens almost in constant flight, battling it out with each other for prime position. The pond is fairly small and is currently 95% covered in reeds. However, there were a few small holes where the water's surface was exposed. In awe of the number of specimens on the wing (you usually only see one or two males perched--if you are lucky!), I decided to sit and watch them for a while. Last year, there were 20-30 on the wing, but many of these would also perch, so not many would be in the air. Many seemed to be waiting for the females to arrive. As soon as one did, all hell broke loose over the tiny opening in the pond. I even managed to get some decent photos of the mayhem (see below). It was an amazing spectacle to behold and one I will remember for some time. That said, it is new species that I am after, so I eventually--and somewhat begrudgingly--moved on. But where was I to go? There was a large pond/lake further along but it only had common species the last time I visited. I looked on Google Maps and decided to head further long (just outside the park) to a stream. It could have been amazing... or a waste of time. As I approached, there were roadworks everywhere and I almost gave up the ghost. However, I decided to look anyway as I was almost there. I managed to park the car on the bridge over the stream and looked down using my bins. Nothing. A shallow sandy stream. Probably polluted. Then, a gomphid whizzed from one side to the other and land on a stick over the stream. I took one look at it and knew straight away that it was a Macrogomphus species. Yes! I almost fell over myself getting down. Even then, halfway down to the stream I saw another male. I fired off a few shots and could now give it a positive ID: Macrogomphus matsukii. It is a species that I bumped into once before at my school in Khon Kaen (or, rather, it bumped into my school - see here). However, I had no idea of its habitat. I managed to spot a few more males and even saw a solitary male Paragomphus capricornis soaking up the afternoon sun on the sand. My eyes were then diverted to another specimen bombing it along the edge of the stream and being attacked by everything in sight. Once it settled, I could see straight away that it was Onychothemis testacea testacea, a brutish dragonfly that is very territorial. There were also several common species noted. I decided to walk through the stream and eventually saw a medium-sized Macromiidae species whizzing up and down a section of the stream. No chance of identifying it, so I raced back for my net. When I returned, it had vanished! Arrrgh! Walking a little further along, I then saw it resting. I managed to fire off some shots and it turned out to be Macromia cupricincta AGAIN! I saw this species the previous week at Phu Khieo WS. It seems to be a good year for this species. I searched a little more and only a few other common species were noted. However, this stream is well worth another visit and will return next Saturday. I moved on to another stream. This one, however, had been raped by man... all the banks were destroyed and fishing nets were set up everywhere. Only a few very common species were present, so I decided to give it a miss. Sadly, as I returned to the car, the heavens opened and with it, my day closed.

Best Photos of the Day:

The beautiful Macrogomphus matsukii, male -- an awesome species.
Coeliccia nigrescens, male -- very difficult to photograph well.
Macromia cupricincta, male -- seems fairly common this year.
Vestalis gracilis gracilis, male -- common but very camera shy
Lathrecista asiatica asiatica, male -- very common, but who could resist taking that photo?
Onychothemis testacea testacea, male -- ruler of the stream edges
Paragomphus capricornis, male -- supposed to be very common, but I rarely see it.

Let Battle Commence...

Here are a few shots of Camacinia gigantea on the wing.
...and in battle (over a tiny area of pond).
 ...female arrives and mayhem (you can see her just above the water)...
 ...the battle continued...
 ...and continued...
...until one male grabbed her and off they went...
Next Trip: Phu Phan National Park again!

No comments:

Post a Comment