Sunday, July 3, 2016

184. Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895

Number: 184    
Family: Lestidae    
Genus: Orolestes    
Species: Orolestes selysi McLachlan, 1895 
Common name(s): N/A   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)   
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July    
Species easily confused with: Oroletes octomaculata

There are times when you have to question all those hours of your life spent being torn to shreds by nasty bushes, wading through treacle-like mud, waste deep in putrid water, bitten to death by leeches, mosquitoes and horseflies, as well as those long, arduous and expensive journeys. There are other times when it makes the bad times simply melt away. And last Saturday was one of them. I finally managed to see the fabled Orolestes selysi - a stunning damselfly that was the stuff of legends as many of the rarer species at Phu Khieo (and the rest of NE Thailand) seem to be. Though it is found in several countries, it seems to be a very rare species in Thailand. When, after all this time, I managed to spot one dangling from a tree overhanging a gloomy and temporary pond I was over the moon. Amazingly, like buses, I then noticed another and another. In fact, I saw three at this pond and two single specimens at other ponds. It must simply be a good year for them. Another thing of note was the fact that Orolestes octomaculata was also very much present (I am confident this species is around all year now) and they co-habit ... I was amazed to spot a male of each species on a branch, but was just too late to get a shot. The question is now whether there are hyaline specimens here too. According to Noppadon Makbun (the man who had said it was reported from Phu Khieo and encouraged me to find it), it is only known from this location in Thailand... hopefully it will be found again soon at a different location. Until then, I can now sleep happily, safe in the knowledge that I have photos of another rare species in Thailand. Roll on next weekend for more torture to my body for moments of true joy!

Here is the incredibly rare hyaline male. I managed to spot two males at a small pond and one shot each and they made a dash for the top of the tree canopy. Until next year, my friend, when I will get improvement shots!

183. Gynacantha basiguttata Selys, 1882

Number: 183    
Family:  Aeschnidae 
Genus: Gynacantha     
Species: Gynacantha basiguttata
Common name(s):  Spoon-tailed Duskhawker   
Synonyms: N/A    
Habitat: Forested pond (temporary)  
Province(s) sighted: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary (Chaiyaphum)  
Sightings (by me): Rare 
In flight (that I have seen): July   
Species easily confused with: Gynacantha saltatrix; Gynacantha bayadera

There are definitely several species of Gynacantha that reside in Phu Khieo WS, but they are incredibly difficult to locate. That's why I was really happy to spot three species in one day, one of which is a new species for my records in the shape of Gynacantha basiguttata. It is a large species that I spooked out of his hiding place which was deep inside tall reeds overhanging a temporary pool. Unfortunately, he flew fairly high up into a tree and didn't hang around for long. For now, this record shot will have do. Incidentally, the other two species I saw were G. subinterrupta (a first for me here) and G. saltatrix (another first for the place). According to the records, G. bayadera is also present and Noppadon Makbun believes G. phaeomeria to be there also. Seeing all five species there would be amazing. Hopefully one day, especially if I keep trawling the little swampy ponds all the time.

A great day at Phu Khieo WS

Location: Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Chaiyaphum
Date: Saturday 2nd July, 2016
Habitat: Mid- to upland forested ponds (many temporary)

The saying goes, it never rains but it pours. If you had visited Phu Khieo WS on Saturday, I think you would have really understood what that meant - on two levels. The first level was literally the weather. It had been pouring down every day during the week; so heavily floods abound throughout Thailand which cast doubt over my trip. However, with a little persuasion from my brother (not that I needed much), it was game on. At the sanctuary, though it had been clearly ravaged by the rains, it only rained slightly all day. The second level were the dragons themselves. Though in small numbers, I still managed to find two new species for my records (along with a possible third). Something I haven't managed to do in NE Thailand for a long time. So, why am I spotting additional species now that I didn't spot last year? Simply, it's all about location. Previous trips took me to some of the more obvious locations: enormous marshy areas, rivers and streams and other easy to spot ponds. This trip, however, was all about hunting for new areas as much as it was spotting any dragons themselves. My brother even led me to a great-looking stream which runs deep under canopy cover which he told me has a decent and exposed waterfall along it. I will be visiting there the next time the weather picks up and isn't so dull. Other than that, it was stopping en route to the top every few hundred meters whenever I saw a pond or ditch (no matter how small) or even if I could make out tall grassy reeds further back I would investigate. Did it pay off? You bet it did, though I tore my body and clothes to shreds and was bitten heavily by mosquitoes and horseflies. I missed the first few ponds at the bottom  (there are so many all the way up) and decided to start about half way. It was still early and the initial ponds were quiet, especially as there was light drizzle. As the weather picked up, so did the sightings of the regular species, though numbers were very small. About 3/4 of the way up, I noticed a temporary pond that looked devoid of life and was about to drive on when in the corner of my eye I spotted something with black wings. I knew what is was straight away: Orolestes selysi, a simply stunning species I had been told had been seen at the sanctuary, but after many trips I thought it was a mythical creature (in Thailand anyway). It is known from several countries, which now includes Thailand. I am not the first person to see it here, but had to see it to believe it was here, if you get what I mean. Amazingly as I photographed the first specimen, I noticed a second. I investigated the rest of the pond searching for the female, but only managed to spot a third male and a young female Gynacantha subinterrupta for the first time at the sanctuary, boosting the species list even more. I moved on, clicking my heels as I went. As I reached the road, I caught up with my brother who was having a very quiet day on the bird front. He photographed O. selsyi specimen too just for good measure. Moving on, I hit many more ponds without seeing much. Then, at one pond, I was following a Lestes copula, I must have disturbed a large Aeshnid, which flew out from where it was resting and flew up into a tree. It was large and I knew straight away it was one of the two Gynacantha species there that had eluded me after all this time. It turned out to be Gynacantha basiguttata and I was extremely happy (the other species is G. bayadera). Moving on, I visited many more ponds without success and eventually reached to top. Instead of searching the top, I simply turned around and worked my way back down doing the same thing. I didn't manage to see any more new species - or did I? One species I have been looking for since the day I first came here was Ceriagrion pallidum, a rare species known from PK and a location in Laos. Until now it has avoided me. That said, I saw a small dirty yellowish specimen that was too small to be C. indochinense (I have seen hundreds of specimens though it could be that species). Could it be the elusive C. pallidum? Probably not, as the abdomen should be olivaceous, but I can dream. Hopefully it is a completely different species. Even then, to finish the day, I found another Gynacantha species, which is new for me at the sanctuary: Gynacantha saltatrix - a species I see on occasion in Khon Kaen I now wonder whether this species was mistaken for G. bayadera as it is a very similar-looking species. I hope not. Anyway, the sanctuary is really hitting top form and I am getting out there again next week ... hopefully I will see even more species and get a better shot of G. basiguttata.

My best shots of the day:

There are so many males this year, but the females are thin on the ground. I was happy to see this one first thing in the morning
Phu Khieo's mythical damselfly that is not so anymore, Orolestes selsyi
 Another new encounter for me - and a beast of one too, Gynacantha basiguttata
 Not rare in Khon Kaen, but the first time I have seen it at PKWS, Gynacantha saltatrix
 The day's conundrum. Is it? Isn't it? It could be a freakishly small Ceriagrion indochinense, but it could be C. pallidum or even a new species entirely.  I must find more of them to prove it.