Monday, July 13, 2020

An Incredibly Quiet Return to Nam Nao

Location: Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun/Chaiyaphum 
Date: 04 July, 2020
Habitat: 'Helicopter Pad' lake, streams at 14 kms trail, temporary ponds

Well, following the hardcore Covid-19 lockdown, things were starting to slowly open back up. Though I was champing at the bit to get out, I was still a little cautious of visiting national parks, even though it was announced that they were open. Therefore, I opted for one of my regular old places, Nam Nao NP. However, I decided to hit the areas that didn't require entry to the actual HQ and so decided upon the 'Helicopter Pad' lake and the 14 kms trail which has a number of small ponds en route. 

From the moment I arrived, however, everything seemed a little eerie. It just didn't feel right. This is one of the places I visit regularly and it was slap-bang in the best part of the season. There should have been dragons everywhere by about 10 am... but there was simply nothing. It was dull, admittedly, but nothing seemed to show. Sometimes the sun emerged from its slumber and poked through the heavy clouds. Nothing. Other times the rain took hold and then abated. Nothing. Only a few seriously common species flitting around. It was the same result at every location. To the point, I am not going to mention dragons in this blog (just show a few pictures). In the end, I started taking photos of other interesting bugs, even though they too were somewhat thin on the ground. It had been raining a lot (though still low compared to normal) and there were clear 'tide marks' from earlier flash floods, but this kind of stuff never usually stops me being incredibly busy all day, having to choose which dragon to chase...

I talked to a few other bug enthusiasts and they seemed to have the same problem. Maybe it is the fact that flights have stopped, borders being closed, self-quarantine is in process and the curfew, but we will never know. Hopefully, by the time I get out, they will be allowed to fly freely again! Haha.

My best photos of the day:

Tetrathemis platyptera, male

Tetrathemis platyptera, another male

Tetrathemis platyptera, and another male... the most common species

Neurothemis fulvia, male

Brachythemis Contaminata, female

Trithemis aurora, male

Other stuff...

When you've just been caught doing something you shouldn't... no idea what beetle this is. 
The world's smallest robber flies? They were seriously tiny! No idea of species
The Black and Golden Cicada (Huechys fusca). ID by Les Day with thanks
The Red Lacewing (Cethosia biblis biblis). Not rare but rarely seen
The Giant Bamboo Weevil (Cyrtotrachelus dux). A beast of a weevil but quite skittish too
Micro weevil (total opposite scale to the one above). This one hanging onto grass in the breeze. No idea of species.
Tachnidae but not idea what species (ID an info by Adrian Plant). Apparently, they are generally parasitoids of Lepidoptera (so I kept him away from the butterfly pics!)

Scorpion fly (Neopanorpa sp.). Cool species. ID by Adrian Plant.
Possibly the Chinese Blister Beetle (Mylabris phalerata), ID by Gerard Chartier with thanks
A Miletis species in terrible condition. Possibly the Unicoloured brownie (but not sure. ID by Dave Eric Sargeant)
A stick insect with a leg missing.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Name: COMSP-19
Date: 25 March - unknown
Location: Khon Kaen (areas within a short radius of my house)

During these horrible times of COVID-19, we are trapped in the house most of the day with nothing to do. I should actually now be in Yala and the surrounding areas but the government has enforced a virtual ban on travelling out of the province and also encourages everyone to avoid crowded areas. However, it is important to still get out a little and get some exercise. Therefore, I am going to try to complete "COMSP-19"... a stupid name I came up with to overcome the boredom where I will attempt to spot and get decent shots of 19 common species of dragonflies and damselflies by walking around where I live during the virtual lockdown. Obviously I can only check the immediate areas around my home and small ponds etc. close by. There are, of course, more species but many are difficult to photograph well. Let's see if I can do it... I will add species as I find them. If you cannot be bothered waiting for me to get better shots (it may take a lifetime haha), please feel free to see more/better shots by clicking "see here". 

Species 1-9 still to find... can I do it? Watch this space!

Species 10 - Crocothemis servilia servilia (see here)
Another seriously common species you can find almost anywhere. Often spotted in the longer grasses or perched on sticks near the edge of ponds, this species usually doesn't disappoint in making an appearance. Though the females are quite dull, the males, on the other hand, are a beautiful red and can be identified by a solid stripe along the abdomen. (male above, female below).

Species 11 - Brachydiplax chalybea chalybea (see here)
This is a beautiful little dragonfly you will often find at tiny ponds up to enormous marshy areas. As it is quite small and a little skittish, it is difficult to get decent shots. When you do, you can only admire his orange flanks, black tip to the abdomen and stunning blue colour along the top of the thorax and abdomen. If you look carefully, you should find the male but the female is difficult to find. Will add a female--if I can find one.

Species 12 - Diplacodes trivialis (see here)
Right up there as the most common species in Thailand, it is still difficult to photograph well. Primarily as it tends to perch on the ground or very close to it and it is also a rapid mover... just as you get into position, it shoots off... probably why I haven't photographed it fr so many years! Anyway, here is a female. Males were present, but they just annoyed me so I gave up on them. You can see this species anywhere... 

Species 13 - Rhyothemis phyllis (see here)
Another common species that is often seen fluttering around the edge of ponds and forests. There are just problems with this species, though. It often hangs out with its closely-related cousin Rhyothemis variegata variegata, which are almost impossible to separate when in the air, except the females. Also, the females of this species are rarely encountered. Fortunately, I managed to spot one at my pond today! Sadly, she was at quite a distance and only managed a record shot... still great to see. (male above, female below).

Species 14 - Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops (see here)
This is a beast of a dragonfly and one you are most likely to encounter if you visit any pond or lake. They hang around the edge of ponds and guard "their" area. Strangely, I only saw a female today. Not the best shot but I have only seen the female about a dozen times (compared to literally hundreds of males). Will add a male when I spot one.

Species 15 - Ceriagrion auranticum (see here)
Very commonly seen throughout Khon Kaen, but the females are often overlooked as it tends to hide away in shaded areas. Here are two females. I think the "reddish" female is the mature one and the greenish one is slightly more immature.

Species 16 - Ceriagrion praetermissum (see here)
Not that often seen but quite common when you do find them. The males are quite brightly coloured, the females are not. Worse still, the females tend to hang around shaded areas are are hard to spot. Here is a close-up of a female. Will post photos of the male, if I can get one.

Species 17 - Trithemis pallidinervis (see here)
Commonly found in exposed areas around ditches, ponds, marshy areas and slow-moving rivers. Can easily be spotted on exposed twigs and are fairly easy to approach (male top, female bottom).

Species 18 - Ischnura senegalensis (see here)
One of the most common species of damselfly found throughout Thailand. Hangs around the edges of ponds often in the scrub, but easy to spot its blue end segments of the abdomen as it moves... will add the female when I spot it.

Species 19 -  Brachythemis Contaminata (see here)
Easily the most common species in Thailand and can be found at almost any body of water. Found right at the edge and even often a good distance away from water. The only difficulty is getting shots of them with a creamy background as they perch low down. Commonly known as the ditch jewel, it may be common but still quite stunning. 

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!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Phu Khieo Still Sleeping...

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday, 25 May, 2019
Habitat: Forested streams/Ponds

Though it looks like this is my first trip of the dragonfly season, it isn't. It's actually my third. However, following a ridiculous heatwave that seemed to go on for months (I think it actually did), there was very little showing. No surprise really. On the previous two occasions (one at PK and another at a fairly decent location in Khon Kaen), I didn't even get my camera out. I just walked and looked... and slowly cooked. It was just too hot. Anyway, there had been a little rain before and I was itching to try and get improvement shots of Philoganga loringae but, as always, it never showed. The main river was belting through at an almighty pace and so was avoided, as too were pretty much all the decent ponds (they were all bone dry). Therefore, my only option was to tackle the streams that had any water in them. At the first stream bridge, I noticed that there was a little water and so decided to take a look. Once at stream level, I instantly noticed a rapidly moving Macromiidae moving almost robotically over a certain area, repeating the same pattern over and over. Obviously, it was almost impossible to tell which species it was, especially as it was almost dark. Therefore, I set up my net (secretly) and managed to grab him on my first swipe. A quick look and I knew what it was: Macromia cupricincta, male--a species I saw for the first time last year in Chantaburi. Though it has actually been recorded at the park previously, it is the first time that I have encountered it at the park. So, not a new species, but one I was happy to see all the same. A few photos later, I released him and he instantly few back into the gloom. I also managed to spot two new species for the park, in the shape of Prodasineura auricolor and Prodasineura sp. [nec. verticalis]. They are only record shots (as I already have decent photos) but it goes to show that there is still plenty to be found. I am not surprised to find P. auricolor as it is commonly found on the other side of the mountain at Nam Nao. However, it is the first time that I have found P. sp. [nec. verticalis] in this range. However, that was the end of my success for the day. Other than spotting numerous Rhinagrion viridatum along all the streams and grabbing some decent photos of the not-often-seen female Rhyothemis plutonia, the place was seriously quiet. Therefore, I spent a bit of time getting in a few improvement shots of common species that I have neglected over the years. As it neared 2pm, the heavens opened and it became seriously heavy. To the point, I gave up the ghost and returned home, hoping that this rain will bring out the goodies next time... 

Photos of the Day
Rhyothemis plutonia, female. Unlike the male, females are seldom seen.
Macromia cupricincta, male. My second ever sighting, and a first for me at the park.
Rhinagrion viridatum, male. A very handsome species that is very common along the shaded streams this year.

Only record shots (I have good ones already) but two new additions for the park
Prodasineura auricolor, male. I saw two males for the first time here. 
Prodasineura sp. [nec. verticalis], male. A solitary male was also spotted at the same stream as the species above. 

Common Species (attempts at improvement shots)
Pseudocopera ciliata, male. The best legs in the business.
Copera marginipes, male. Always skulking around in the shade.
Trithemis aurora, male. A very camera-happy species.
Orthetrum chrysis, male. A seriously skittish species. Getting good photos is tough.

Some Other Interesting Things...
I shall NOT be moved. A large Bengal Monitor lizard soaking up the early morning sun and would not budge off the road. I had to almost pick him up (I placed my hands around the back of his front legs and then he--very slowly--moved off). Awesome creature.
The Red Spot Marquis (Euthalia recta monilis). Like the lizard, it too was soaking up the early morning rays. 
A cool snail... there were many like this.
 This amazed me... one small tree stump covered in slime mold.
Close up... tiny but awesome.

Next Trip: Phu Phan National Park
(Plus, a write up on a trip to Khao Yai late last year--had no time to do it until now).