Friday, October 26, 2018

Phuket Bound...

Location: Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, Phuket
Date: 17 October, 2018
Habitat: Lowland forested streams/waterfalls

Well, I finally got round to visiting another place in the south, though this was a flying visit on a short trip. I had researched Phuket and, in all honesty, it didn't look up to scratch in terms of nature and wildlife... and it duly delivered. The only national park looked as though it had been raped by man and just didn't seem worthwhile. Therefore, the only real place that was "green" enough was Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary. However, being called a wildlife sanctuary was a very loose term. There were two waterfalls within the "sanctuary". The first one I visited was Ton Sai Waterfall (I got there early... before the attendants and sneaked in without paying). I arrived at 7.00am and, as soon as I arrived, it looked like someone's garden. It was totally manicured and most of the edges of the waterfall/stream were concreted to perfection in order to look nice and provide access -- and a deep pool for the locals to swim in. This may look good but was horrible for a dragon hunter like me or anyone who likes nature for that matter. Still, I was there and thought I may as well have a look. For the first 30 minutes or so, I didn't see any life whatsoever, though I put that down to being early. I was contemplating giving up but the desire to see something new was bubbling at the surface and being in a new location a new species was definitely possible. It seemed like my perseverance paid off. Deep under the trees and in some serious gloom, I saw Copera marginipes. At least it was the first damsel I saw. But, wait! Was it? I crept forward and, like everything else in the world, it just kept moving further and further up the slippery embankment and out of reach of my camera. Eventually, it gave up or got used to me and I closed in... one crappy shot later I knew it was something new! However, getting anything like a decent shot was almost impossible! After a lot of work, I managed to get a few decent shots (considering the conditions) and it turns out to be Drepanosicta species, which, according to Noppadon Makbun could possibly Drepanosicta khaochongensis, a species that seems quite common in the west and the south--though there is more work to be done on the genus! I even managed to get a glimpse of the female, though not for long! Following this, my confidence grew, and I climbed up the waterfall, though I saw hardly anything at all, just a few relatively common species, including Prodasineura laidlawii and Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina. Worse still, back at the bottom kids were now swimming in the pool and throwing stones at me. Great place. It was time to move on. So, good start but then nothing of note. Therefore, I decided to make the short trip to the other waterfall, Bang Pae Waterfall. As soon as I arrived, I felt more at home. There was a large lake at the entrance where I saw numerous common species as well as Pseudagrion williamsonii, which was very common there, though too deep down to get a decent photo. At the based of the stream, there was a lot of scrub and I managed to add a solitary male Echo modesta, which I have only seen for the second time. I also saw 2-3 male Coeliccia albicauda only for the second time but that was about it... though I feel there is more there. Sadly, this is when the heavens opened and put an end to an already disappointing day.

So, not the best, but at least I have one more addition to my list and I managed to pick up a few nice shots along the way. However, would I recommend visiting there? Probably not, unless you have nowhere ese to go! I would be tempted to spend the extra hour and nip over to the mainland... there is a lot more potential around there.

Best photos of the day:

Echo modesta, male... still one of my favourites (though the female annoys me now as I still haven't seen her).
 Prodasineura laidlawii, male... easily the most common species in the sanctuary
Coeliccia albicauda, male... really tough to photograph in the gloom. Pretty much nailed it with this shot, though. 
Tetrathemis irregularis hyalina, female... why do I only see the female!?!
Heliocypha biforata, female... very common everywhere but she just sat up nicely! 
And the beacon in the gloom... Drepanosicta species... Drepanosicta khaochongensis?

Next Up: My trip to Khao Yai (and another interesting species or two!)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Return to Nam Nao...

Location: Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun
Date: Wednesday 10th October, 2018
Habitat: Forested ponds

Well, it has been a while, but my brother and I decided to return to one of our old haunts in the shape of Nam Nao National Park. Paul was searching for birds and me dragons, though neither of us expected much in terms of finding something new. Still, armed with my new 100mm L macro lens (thanks, our Paul!), I was champing at the bit to get out there and give it a whirl. We set off at 4 am and decided to tackle the HQ first, followed by the 4 kms trail and finally the 14 kms trail. At the HQ, it was seriously quiet on my part, though not surprising as it was so early. However, there were a number of moths, cicadas and other bits trying thaw out in the early morning light. Following the HQ that doesn't seem the same nowadays since the rangers have "cleaned it up" for tourists. Still, we moved on to the 4 kms trail and were even given the key to open the gate so we could drive down which was cool and reduced the worry of massive elephants getting us. We stopped off all the way down stopping at little ponds and marshy areas. However, it was seriously quiet with only a few common species dotted around. We hit the pond at the bottom and it was soooo quiet. I managed to spot a few teneral Indolestes anomalus flitting from leaf to leaf. However, the most impressive sighting was spotting a solitary male Vestalaria smaragdina smaragdina part way back up the trail. It seemed to be lost as I am unaware of any stream close by and the altitude is around 900 a.s.l. so I was very surprised to see it there. More searching is needed there, me thinks! After a quick search we headed to the main trail that goes deep into the forest and actually into Chaiyphum to Phu Khieo on the other side (though it gets a little tricky beyond the standard 14 kms trail. I stopped at the hidden pond/trickle that is mostly hidden away by tree cover and decided to take a look. I had spotted a few good species there before but thought it was too late in the year to see anything. I saw a male Coeliccia didyma straight away. Then, after a little more searching, I saw two male Prodasineura auricolor, which I hadn't seen for a while, but that was it so we moved on. I tried to stop at as many different ponds as I could, many of which I hadn't spotted before (I sat on top of the ice box in the back and kept my eyes peeled. Sadly, most of the ponds only threw up species I see regularly. Lestes elatus, Agriocnemis approximans, and Ceriagrion azureum, to name a few. Then, I saw a small pond a bit deeper and banged on the side of the truck for my brother to stop.I worked my way over and could see that it was just a standard pond. There was a solitary Pantala flavescens patrolling the pond and a few common species hanging around. The opposite side of the pond was in the shade and looked devoid of life. However, just as I was about to leave a large dragonfly flew out of the shade and was instantly attacked by ALL the males. It quickly retreated to the same place and was able to approach it and get in a few decent photos though was hampered by the sun blasting through the bush where it was perched. It turned out to be the rather rare (for Thailand, at least) Polycanthagyna ornithocephala -- and number 24 for my personal records this season! So, a great day after all, which was improved right at the death while waiting for my brother, Paul. As I sat there, two tiny mouse deer tip-toed out from the gloom and made their way across the path... I have never seen them before and they were simply stunning! I only managed to get a terribly blurred shot so won't add one.. but hope to see them again in the future!

My best photos of the day (in no particular order):

Prodasineura auricolor, male close-up...
...and full shot.
Another close-up of another cool species in the shape of a male Ceriagrion azureum.
All that glistens isn't gold... Agriocnemis approximans, male still fast asleep early morning. 
 A young Lestes elatus, female
A solitary male Coeliccia didyma was spotted.
Introducing Vestalaria smaragdina smaragdina to Nam Nao and the entire range for that matter... including Phu Khieo on the other side!
But the highlight of my day coming the shape of Polycanthagyna ornithocephala.
I took lots of photos of other bugs early on before the dragons got going so will add just a few (and don't really know what species they are yet... any takers on ID?)

I visited Phuket recently and managed to get out for the day so will add that ASAP, but off to Khao Yai first! Watch this space!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

217. Polycanthagyna ornithocephala (McLachlan, 1896)

Number: 217
Family: Aeschnidae
Species: Polycanthagyna ornithocephala
Common name: Beak-tailed Hawker
Synonyms: Aeshna ornithocephala McLachlan, 1896
Habitat: Forested pond
Provinces sighted: Nam Nao NP (Petchabun)
Sightings: Rare (solitary male)
In flight (that I have seen): October
Species easily confused with: Polycanthagyna erythromelas

I recently visited Nam Nao NP in Petchabun for the first time in over two years. However, I have kind of done the main bits to death, as too has my brother Paul (for birds). Therefore, we decided to search a little deeper and try to find a few more areas. Though limited on where to visit at the park, there were numerous ponds and ditches along the 14 kms trail to the ranger station I hadn't visited before (I used to just drive quickly along the trail as it seemed to by dry and devoid of life all the way). Anyway, at one small pond that was part exposed to baking heat and the other part in shade, it looked like a typical pond and didn't seem to offer much. However, I suddenly noticed a large dragonfly fly out from the shaded area and into the bright sunshine where it was instantly attacked by several smaller dragonflies. Amazingly, it returned to the same shaded area and I was able to creep across the pond and get in some shots pretty easily, though I was hampered by the sun blasting through the trees making photograhpy difficult. Once I had got enough shots, I wasn't sure if it was a new species or not. It was likely to be Polycanthgyna erythromelas as I had once seen it at Phu Khieo, which is not too far away. Anyway, upon processing the photos I noticed that it had a blue head instead of green and some of the markings were slightly different, though I just put it all down to variation. Anyway, upon posting it on the Facebook dragonfly group, Noppadon Makbun thought it was actually a different species, Polycanthagyna ornithocephala, a species that had only been recorded from one location in Kanchanaburi back in 2000. Noppadon's suspicion was confirmed by Wen-Chi Yeh. So, amazingly, it turns out to be a rather rare and special species indeed! I hope to return soon and search for the female as it looks so cool!

The male
They don't come much more stunning than this. 

 Slightly nicer shot from a different angle as I could eliminate the annoying sun.

The appendages
Rather interesting appendages, I think.
Many thanks to Noppadon Makbun for correcting my initial ID and Wen-Chi Yeh for the confirmation.

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!