Spain, Sep 2015

An autumn trip to Spain that was supposed to last five weeks was curtailed by family issues requiring an early return home. However, I did manage a couple of weeks and with some decent weather.

Unusually for me, I had a target species in mind that I really wanted to see. Trithemis kirbyi, the Orange-winged Dropwing, has crossed from Africa into Spain and is working its way up the Mediterranean coast quite successfully. I do not know the current northern limit of its colonization but do know that it is present in a reserve just above Valencia, the Marjal dels Moros. An internet contact kindly sent me information on accessing this reserve and I planned to try a visit as a day trip as and when the opportunity arose. As it turned out, Carol flew back to the UK after a few days and I returned by car, via Bilbao and the ferry, a week and a half after that. Since my route home would take me past Valencia, I chose to call in on the way home.

Other areas I visited were some of my old haunts around Jalón itself, where I am based in Spain. Far exceeding my expectations, the local river running through Jalón was the star of this trip.

Here’s a map of the numbered locations involved.

Riu Jalon-Gorgos, 20-27th Sep [#1]

There had been some rain in August with the result that the river that runs through Jalón had more water in it than I’ve seen (other than videos of famous floods, that is). Most of my experience, admittedly limited, is not so much of a river but of a series of pools remaining in an otherwise dry river bed. It really seems like more of a storm drain for the surrounding mountains, as do all the other river beds in this part of Spain. My first day’s rummage in Jalón town itself revealed good sized pools filled with clean, fresh looking water, rather than stagnant pools often covered in a good deal of scum.

J15B0345 Sympetrum sinaiticum maleMy first observation was of a number of male Epaulet Skimmers (Orthetrum chrysostigma) holding territory and occasionally duelling. Then I spotted a darter and began focussing on it. It looked a little unusual. My brain dared to dream. Sure enough, this proved to be my very first encounter with a Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum), which inhabits exclusively more arid regions. I was thrilled.

J15B0312 Trithemis kirbyi maleI wandered downriver to another pool where I spotted quite a bit of activity, albeit just a small pool. I caught a glimpse of a flash of bright orange on a poolside rock as a bright red male dragonfly flew. My camera revealed the truth: right here on my Spanish doorstep was the quarry I had dreamed of before setting out, an Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi). That was it; I was now ecstatic. 😀

J15B0337 Anax ephippiger ovipOn a second day I went upstream to another favourite pool at a bend in the river. This really was well filled with water and it was being patrolled by a few Lesser Emperors (Anax parthenope). They weren’t playing ball and posing, though. A tandem pair of what I took to be Lesser Emperors settled to oviposit in front of me. I grabbed a shot. I couldn’t believe my luck, they turned out to be the somewhat similar looking Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) [both males have “blue saddles”].

Three new species and all on my doorstep. Brilliant!

  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)
  • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 25th Sep [#2]

J15B0367 Orthetrum trinacria maleAbout 20 minutes away from home base, this is a useful little marsh to keep an eye on – a former rice paddy, I believe. Apart from the usual large crop of Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii), the most intriguing sight when I arrived were several very fast, low flying dragons zooming about – so fast I simply couldn’t get a bead on them. Eventually one did settle relatively close and I realized they were Long Skimmers (Orthetrum trinacria). The males of O. trinacria  develop a very dark coloured abdomen, hence their appearance. I now know they fly fast, too.

This also produced my only damselfly of the trip. Being in an area where overlap occurs, this was either a Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans) or an Iberian Bluetail (Ischnura graellsii) … or a hybrid, which apparently is possible.

  • Ischnura elegans/graellsii (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

Marjal de Gandia 26th Sep [#3]

J15B0380 Trithemis annulata femaleA marsh that originally produced my first (and only, so far) Long Skimmer  (Orthetrum trinacria), this is about 45 minutes from Jalón and somewhere I like to keep an eye on. Last time we were here, the channels were dry with water only in two lakes, so I wondered about now. The answer was the same, the channels were dry and there was water only in the two lakes. It was not a scintillating visit but my first female Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) happened, albeit a little too close for my mounted camera lens. It’s almost a sharp picture. 😯

J15B0404 Trithemis kirbyi femaleAnother better photographed prize came a little later when,, on my way out beside the now dry water channel, I saw movement and snapped away. I’m very glad I did because it was a female Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) to go with my male from Jalón .

  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)
  • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

Las Salinas, 2nd Oct [#4]

J15B0433 Sympetrum fonscolombii femaleThere’s a clue in the name; this is an at least brackish and possibly saline lake in Calpe better known for its Greater Flamingos. I normally expect to see just Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolobii)  here, being at least somewhat salt tolerant and often coastal. I’d spotted nothing on my previous visit and was a little concerned that, through a problem with the water, they may have been wiped out. I was relieved to find them back again with better water levels. I was also surprised to see Lesser Emperors (Anax parthenope) around.

  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

Marjal dels Moros, 4th Oct [#5]

J15B0468 Anax parthenope male

I spent the afternoon here on my way back across Spain heading for the ferry at Bilbao. It is certainly the largest wildlife area I’ve yet seen in Spain but my experience is, as yet, very limited. I found navigating it quite difficult as a first time visitor, there being precious few “you are here” maps and the scale being unknown on the few that I did find. It is a coastal marshland that is clearly mainly a birding area. However, the several water bodies do attract dragonflies and apparently in quite good numbers. Whereas the birders, though, are provided with observation platforms for spotting scopes, distance not being to them a great problem, I found approaching many of these water bodies close enough to actually see the dragonflies they supported quite problematic. There were good old Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii) and Southern Darters (Sympetrum meridionale) in quite good numbers and eventually I did manage to spend some time snapping away at a Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) in flight at one pond that was beside a track and which did provide waterside access.

It took me some time but I eventually found what had originally been my target species and my main reason for visiting this marsh, the Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi). Photographically, though, my Spanish home territory of Jalón had it beaten hands down and I confess to remaining a little underwhelmed. I’m sure,though, that had I not already seen my quarry, I’d have been a lot more positive about it.

I must confess that after a couple of hours walking my main concern was finding my way back out of the marsh and back to my car. Still, worth a visit en route.

  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor) ?
  • Sympetrum meridionale (Southern Darter)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)
Posted in 2015, Spain, Trip reports

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*