Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nam Nao: A Year in the Making (July)

Location 1: Helicopter Pad Lake, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 
Date: Saturday,  28th July, 2012.
Weather: Heavily overcast and very windy, but no rain
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): medium
Leech bites: 2 (there were only a few leeches for some reason)

Another month and another load of dragonflies to get my teeth into. With the month of July, usually comes a number of additional species that prefer the rainy season. So, armed with my new monopod, I set of an hour earlier than normal when in my brother's car (3.15 a.m.). I arrived at the lake at 5.00 a.m. and it was still dark. I had a look around for 'resting' odonata, but I could hear elephants in the background, so I was a little nervous about heading to the lake itself. Instead, I waited a short while until it was light enough to see beyond a few feet and headed down the slope towards the lake. 
Early on, the lake was inundated with the micro species Agriocnemis femina, Agriocnemis nana etc. and a few of the usual suspects Brachythemis contaminata and Trithemis aurora. Ohter than that, it was very quiet. 

As the morning grew in light, so did the number of odonata and species. However, there was nothing new to report. I continued round the lake (realising that I hadn't noticed a single Ceriagrion or Rhyothemis species) and eventually reached the rear end of the lake where it is mostly undisturbed and partially shrouded in tree cover. There is a section at the end which becomes like a little canal-like feature when the lake becomes deeper. It was here that I managed to get my first good photos of a female Rhodothemis rufa. I have spotted the male on many occasions around the country, but the females are seldom seen. If you do spot one, they are generally high up in the trees. Continuing round, I was happy to eventually spot a new species for the lake - Agrionoptera insignis, female. I have only spotted this species once before in a similar type lake in Khao Yai (uplands pond, heavily tree-lined/completely covered in parts). I only saw a solitary female, but proves that they are present. Continuing round, more regulars were appearing and I got a second sighting of a male Indolestes inflatus. That's only 2 males and 1 female for the year so far. Number seem lower than last year - and they were scarce then. One worry, is the introduction of a number of fishing platforms (to keep the leeches from biting) and the obvious increase in human activity (rubbish and crude fishing items). Maybe this has affected them. By around 9.30 a.m. the sun was just poking through the heavy cloud cover and many other common species for the lake were present. Strangely, though, I didn't spot a single Ceriagrion species, Rhyothemis species or even Ictinogomphus decoratus for that matter. It was a strange day weather-wise, but these are common species that should be present here at this time of year. With that in mind, I decided to return here once I had visited the stream at the headquarters ... a notion that was blasted out of the sky by torrential rain at about 3.30 p.m. just as I was heading back there. 

Still, it was a pretty good day ... and was about to get even better at the stream. 

Here are my best photos of the day:

Rhodothemis rufa, female - a common species, but really tough to get good photos of the female.

Agrionoptera insignis, female (perching above my head) - a new addition to the lake and possibly a new provincial record.

Here is the best lateral photo I got - she was above my head, so I had to hold a heavy camera, lens and ring flash above my head too. 

Indolestes inflatus, male my 2nd sighting of a male this year to add to the female I saw last time out.

Prodasineura auricolor, female. She was sitting almost right on the lake. Shows they are adaptable and don't just live along streams. 

Agriocnemis nana, male - easily my best photo of the mature male - and it was windy in low light. I am really happy with this photo. Also, I have realised that the black dorsal markings on S8-9 are highly variable.

A new species - Copera ciliatapinkylegs ... Seriously, though, this specimen (taken very early in the morning), shows just how variable the colours are on this species (Copera ciliata, that is!!!)

Mortonagrion aborense, teneral male - I have spotted the female here before, but they are extremely scarce here. 

Nam Nao Helicopter Pad (added species from the last visit, bold; new species for the lake, blue; species not seen from last visit, red)

Note: Numbers were low/absent common species probably due to the heavily overcast conditions.

Fam. Coenagrionidae
Aciagrion tillyardi (Laidlaw, 1919) ♂ ♀ [very common]
Agriocnemis femina (Brauer, 1868) ♂ ♀ [very common]
Agriocnemis nana (Laidlaw, 1914)  [very common]
Agriocnemis pygmaea (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [common]
Argiocnemis rubescens rubeola Selys, 1877) ♀ [♂ common]
Ceriagrion indochinense Asahina, 1967
Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [uncommon]
Onychargia atrocyana Selys, 1865 ♂ ♀ [tenerals extremely common]
Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps (Selys, 1876) ♂ [1]

Fam. Lestidae
Indolestes inflatus ♂ [1]

Fam. Platycnemididae
Coeliccia chromothorax (Selys, 1891)  [1]
Copera ciliata (Selys, 1863) ♂ ♀ [extremely common]
Copera marginipes (Rambur, 1842) ♂ [common]

Fam. Protoneuridae
Prodasineura autumnalis (Fraser, 1922) ♂ ♀ [extremely common]

Prodasineura auricolor ♀ [1]

Fam. Gomphidae
Ictinogomphus decoratus (Selys, 1854)

Fam. Libellulidae
Acisoma panorpoides panorpoides (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [common]
Agrionoptera insignis (Rambur, 1842) ♀ [1]
Brachydiplax farinosa (Krüger 1902) ♂ ♀ [♂ common]
Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793) ♂ ♀ [common]
Crocothemis servilia (Drury, 1773) ♂ ♀ [fairly common]
Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [fairly common]
Indothemis limbata (Selys, 1891) ♂ ♀ [♂ extremely common]
Neurothemis fulvia (Drury, 1773)
Orthetrum chrysis (Selys, 1891)
Orthetrum sabina sabina (Drury, 1770)
Pseudothemis jorina Förster, 1904 ♀ [very common]
Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842) ♀ [1]
Rhyothemis triangularis (Kirby, 1889)
Tholymis tillarga (Fabricius, 1798♂ [1]
Trithemis aurora (Burmeister, 1839) ♂ ♀ [extremely common]

Location 2: Stream at the Heaquarters, Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun. 
Date: Saturday,  28th July, 2012.
Weather: Heavily overcast and heavy rain
Expectations of recording additional species (for my list): medium
Leech bites:

So, following a strange, but productive morning at the Helicopter Lake, it was time for a stroll down the stream at the Headquarters. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a large number of birds (lots of species, colours and sizes). Woodpeckers were also present - and very much heard. Some white and brown birds were accompanied by squirrels as they searched through the debris looking for mid-morning goodies. It was amazing to watch, as was the sheer number of species. I moved along the stream and I was in total silence (other than squirrels dropping discarded nut shells around me) and a few noisy people who were netting part of the stream (probably some kind of science thing - but annoyingly loud all the same and totally disrespectful towards nature). Unfortunately, the odonata were quiet too, though this is nothing new here.

As I walked along, I eventullay noticed, among one or two commonly seen species, a male Merogomphus paviei. Then I saw a second, along a very shallow and slow, almost still, section of the river. I managed to creep up along the stream and get some half-decent photos, before the noisy group were shouting and splashing around again and it was off. I walked away from the party people and neared a log (pictured below). Here I noticed in the gloom a smallish damselfly perching directly below the log on a shaded branch. I knew it was something different, but had to get closer to investigate. It turned out to be a Rhinagrion species. I have actually spotted a female here before. It turns out to be Rhinagrion hainanense  - a species I saw once before at Khai Yai.

As I continued on my journey, I saw a number of Coeliccia c.f. loogali. July was obviously the month that they begin their flight. That said, C. didyma had disappeared. Maybe due to the dull conditions they were too lazy to make an appearance. Eventually, the heavens opened and the odonata door closed. I waited under tree cover for it to abate and eventually it stopped and the sun poked through the canopy. This encouraged another Merogomphus paviei, which constantly did battle with another specimen perching higher up, to show itself - in a bright spot of sunshine. Actually, I can spot this species easily now, as it arches its abdomen under its body as it flies, which is a unique characteristic over other similar species I have seen. On the way back I managed to spot a solitary male Gomphidictinus perakensi, which seem territorial and return to the same spot if you hide away slightly. Also, what I have noticed about this species, is that it 'quivers' its wings as you approach. The more it quivers, the more likely it is ready to bolt for the upper branches. If it does, move away and he will probably return. 

I got back to the car in order to return to the Helicopter Pad lake. Unfortunately, the heavens opened, putting an end to my rather fruitful day. Roll on August ... 

My best photos of the day:

Here's the tree where I saw the malRhinagrion hainanense

Rhinagrion hainanense, male

Merogomphus paviei, male - a beautiful and easy-to-recognise species, due to his distinctive arched abdomen as it patrols 'his' area

Gomphidictinus perakensi, male a fairly large and highly territorial species - watch him 'flap' his wings as you near him

Nam Nao Headquarter's stream (added species from the last visit, bold; new species for the stream, blue; species not seen from last visit, red)

Family: Chlorocyphidae
Rhinocypha biforata (Selys, 1859) ♂ ♀ [common]

Family: Euphaeidae
Euphaea ochracea (Selys, 1859) ♂ ♀ [common]

Family: Megapodagriondae
Rhinagrion hainanense, male ♂ [1] 

Family: Gomphidae
Gomphidictinus perakensi (Laidlaw, 1902) ♂ [1]  
Gomphidia k.kruegeri (Martin, 1904)
Merogomphus parvus (Krüger, 1899)
Merogomphus paviei (Martin, 1904) ♂ [4] 

Family: Platycnemididae
Coeliccia didyma (Selys, 1863) 
Coeliccia c.f. loogali (Fraser in Laidlaw, 1932)  [fairly common]
Copera marginipes (Rambur, 1842) ♂ ♀ [very common]
Copera vittata (Selys, 1863) ♂ ♀ [common]

Family: Protoneuridae
Prodasineura auricolor ♂ ♀ [very common]

Family: Libellulidae
Zygonyx iris malayana (Selys, 1869) ♂ [1]

Next trip: August (and a trip to Kanchanburi next week!)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Field Trip: Phu Ruea, Loei

Location: Small stream behind Phuruea Resort, Phu Ruea, Loei. 
Date: Saturday,  7th July, 2012.
Weather: Heavily overcast, but little rain
Expectations of finding a new species: Very high, then zero

As a sidetrack from visiting Nam Nao NP, I decided to take a break with my girlfriend, Beau, and visit Phu Ruea, Loei - a place I had once visited before with great success. Obviously, I had a secret dragonfly session up my sleeve. I persuaded her to visit the national park. It's small, but beautiful, I said. We arrived a little before 8.00 a.m. and I saw a sign for a waterfall I hadn't seen on my previous visit. We pulled up and asked a ranger how to get there. "Just a 2.5 kms walk from here." Sounded O.K. for onwards we marched. Once we got into the main trail, it instantly went really dull and I could hardly see anything. Then the mosquitoes and other flies arrived in their masses. We walked and walked for almost two kms, stopping at little water sources, but not a single dragonfly in sight. Unperturbed we carried on. Now Beau was getting cranky. The flies were getting to her, but I managed to persuade her to continue. Around 300 metres to the waterfall, the pathway became slippery (aided by a sign that said "slippery" - thanks for that!). As we descended, I noticed that the path suddenly stopped. Something had happened. Right on the steepest slope and about 3 metres long, bamboo had toppled over, completely blocking the pathway. Muddy, steep and blocked, I could have managed to get through somehow. With Beau, not a chance. I looked around for another route, but there wasn't any other way. Awesome. Great. Super. Smashing ... you could say I was a little bit p*ssed off to say the least. So. Back we walked. It was sheer hell, especially knowing Beau wasn't enjoying it one bit. Eventually we returned to the car. Tired, sweating and hungry. And not one photo taken. Probably the worst day I've have searching for dragonflies. Still, it was only 10.30 a.m. There was time. I then drove to another point where I had seen Vestalis smaragdina (orange form) and Noguchiphaea yoshikoae amongst many others on my previous trip. My girlfriend stayed in the car (surprise surprise). I saw a number of Orthetrum glaucum at the top of the trail. However, after one hour of walking along the stream, stopping at various points, I realised it wasn't going to be my day. I hadn't spotted a single specimen of any species along the stream. There was simply nothing there. Not even common species. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Now't (as we say in Manchester). It was dull, yes. It was cool, too. But nothing? It was JULY! Where are you? So. That was it. Back to the car I went. 

We checked in to the resort we were staying at that night and I then saw a stream out of the window. Brilliant. Chucked the bags in the room and walked, almost ran, to the stream. I could even see dragonflies as I neared. It was shallow (knee deep and brown in colour). Parts seemed to disappear into the rocks and re-appear further along. I wasn't expecting any new species, but it did throw up a few surprises. I managed to get photos of female, Rhyothemis plutonia for the first time and I also saw Onychothemis testaceaDysphaea gloriosa was present (I didn't photograph the male, but I think I have a teneral female - need confirmation). Many Zygonyx iris malayana were present and I saw a male Epophthalmia frontalis. I almost caught him in my net, but he just evaded me. This, however, is a rough guess and could be wrong. There was a new species present. However, I was never going to get a photo. There were about 30 specimens about 20 metres up in the air. They were circling the skies amongst the treetops and were working alongside Rhyothemis plutonia. The only thing I could make out is that they had a slight brown tinge to the wings and they were about the same size and shape as Zygonyx iris malayana. Other than that, I have no idea. 

So, in the end, it turned out OK. I also enjoyed a nice meal with Beau and even visited Chiang Khan on the river Maekong, before returning home. I will return to Phu Ruea, but not until later in the year when I know dragonflies will be present.

Here are my best photos:

Rhyothemis plutonia, female - my first ever photos of the female. Made the trip worthwhile!

Libellago lineata, male - still one of my favourite little damsels.

Libellago lineata, female 

Onychothemis testacea, male - only the second time I have ever seen this species

Vestalis gracilis, male - common, but I still love them! 

Trithemis aurora, male - a macro photographer's dream. The colours don't look real 

Dysphaea gloriosa, teneral female ??? - you can see the exuvae it has just crawled out of. Euphaea masoni was also present, but this seemed larger than other females of that species I have seen. Can anyone help with ID?

22 species recorded at the "Phuruea Resort" stream, Phu Ruea, Loei in just under 4 hours. Most common:

Family: Calopterygidae

Neurobasis chinensis
Vestalis gracilis

Family: Chlorocyphidae
Libellago lineata

Family: Euphaeidae
Dysphaea gloriosa
Euphaea masoni

Family: Platycnemididae
Copera ciliata
Copera marginipes

Family: Protoneuridae
Prodasineura autumnalis

Family: Corduliidae
Epophthalmia frontalis (possible - though not totally sure)

Family: Gomphidae
Ictinogomphus decoratus

Family: Libellulidae
Acisoma panorpoides
Brachydiplax farinosa
Brachythemis contaminata
Crocothemis servilia
Diplacodes trivialis
Onychothemis testacea
Orthetrum chrysis
Orthetrum glaucum 
Rhyothemis plutonia
Trithemis aurora
Trithemis festiva
Zygonyx iris malayana