Spain, Sep 2016

At the last minute, we arranged to spend the first two seeks of September, 2016, in Spain, primarily so we could take the opportunity of a rendez-vous with a couple of long-lost Dutch friends. Naturally, I was happy for the chance to get in some September Odo hunting. This September trip was a much more successful visit, Odo-wise, than had been our May 2016 visit, which was  so disappointing that I haven’t even bothered to write it up – shame on me!  [If this rain keeps up, I may kick myself up the backside and write it retrospectively.]

This time we put a lot more effort into seeking out new locations. A couple of our new sites were two different spots on the save river, the Riu Serpis. One of the more difficult tasks in Spain, certainly in the area we have chosen to make our Spanish base, is finding a river that actually has water in it. There are several rivers marked on maps near us but they are normally dry, more like a storm drain off the mountains than an actual river. Spotting what a fellow Odo-nutter had done, we tried a river that was a downstream outflow from a mountain reservoir: the Riu Serpis.

A third new location had been on my “to do” list for a while; it is the Parque Natural del Hondo just south of Alicante. We really didn’t know what to expect but it worked out very well indeed. Unknown to us, Hondo provided a completely new type of habitat in the form of dried mud banks beside standing water  which produced our very first encounter with a species completely new to us. Any trip that nets you a new species has to go down as a very successful trip.

We had a further stroke of luck at one of our stand-by sites, the Marjal del Seniller at Moraira.

We also put a little more effort into trying to decipher the locally difficult conundrum of the local Bluetails: are they Common Bluetails (Ischnura elegans) or Iberian Bluetails (Ischnura graellsii), both, hybrids? Having the two overlapping and hybridising species makes life really difficult in this neck of the woods. I really need to be better equipped (with a decent macro lens) and to devote more effort to it. One day, perhaps. For now, they remain Ischnura sp, what I’ve come to refer to as “CoBerian” Bluetails.

Here’s my usual map of numbered locations. Read on. 🙂

Riu Xaló/Gorgos, Jalón, 30/08/2016-06/09/2016 [#1]

Spain, particularly our area of Spain (the Costa Blanca), has been suffering from a drought for about three years now. Consequently, some of my “stand-by” locations have been getting progressively less reliable when it comes to watery habitat for dragonflies. I have been plotting the river running through Jalón as a single point,  though in reality there have been a few separate, but relatively close, locations along the river. I say separate because they have always been pools of water separated by dry river bed that remains dry until a storm hits. One of these pools was where I first saw a Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) in Spain; another produced my first encounter with an Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi). Both these pools, memorable to me, on this occasion were completely dry.

J16_0402 Trithemis kirbyiJ16_0387 Orthetrum chrysostigma femaleThe usually reliable pool near the main ford in town did have a reasonable amount of water and was still quite active, although the habitat size was a little limited and the species count was down. I was very happy, though, to see once again Orange-winged Dropwings, which are spreading very well in Spain. It also gave me my first female Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma), including as a pair in cop followed by her ovipositing.

  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

Marjal de Pego-Oliva 31/08/2016 [#2]

We used to park at Km5 on the CV-678, which bisects this marsh. However, the water channels there had been dredged on our May visit and rice is again being grown (I think that was the original use of the marsh) so that dragonfly habitat is now rather more disturbed than I’d like. There are still some there, though.

J16_0181 Orthetrum trinacria maleJ16_0194 Trithemis annulata maleHowever, we followed signs to another area of the marsh, near its northernmost edge and close to the Riu Bullent, where we found a modest grassed parking area with a walking route along a water channel, which proved quite attractive to dragonflies. In hot weather it is also regrettably attractive to picnickers, bathers and dog walkers. but that’s another story – Joe Public will keep getting in the way. There were two stars of this visit: the always delightful, gaudily pink Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) and, even more exciting because it was only my second encounter, the aggressive Long Skimmer (Orthetrum trinacria), which will feast on a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) given half a chance.

  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

Parque Natural del Hondo, Alicante 01/09/2016 [#3]

This is a new area that has been on my target list for about a year, ever since I learned of it from an e-contact who was just getting into dragonflies and needed some help with identifications. He has a place in Alicante and his photos were taken at the Parque Natural del Hondo.

Somewhat confusingly, in doing my research, I began coming cross commentaries talking about the P. N. del Fondo. I was initially confused but then discovered that Fondo is the Valenciana term for the same place. In an area of Spain complicated by there being two different languages in use, the names vary both on the Internet and on maps but don’t worry, Hondo/Fondo is the same place in different tongues. I have also seen comments about access to Hondo/Fondo potentially being difficult, where timing is concerned – gates locked, etc. Certainly we found a northern entrance, which was barred, but there was good parking at the point I’ve marked on the map, presumably the southern entrance, complete with a boardwalk to get you, or bird-watchers, at least, over some of the marshy areas.

J16_0245 Brachythemis impartita male_MG_8025 Parque Natural del HondoWe parked then headed for the nearest body of water to the parking area and it’s a very good job we did. This water body had clearly shrunk in size due to evaporation in the summer heat. Consequently, it was surrounded by cracking mud flats that were dry and easy to walk on. These mud flats enthralled us with our first ever encounter with the Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita), which appeared to be relatively swarming on them. There were mature males, immature males and females so we got the complete set. How happy was I? Had we headed for the boardwalk we’d have missed out on the mud and, most probably anyway, the Northern Banded Groundlings, which favour that habitat. They are great fun to watch and are said to “follow large mammals around”. They certainly followed us around, hoping that we’d disturb smaller insects for them to catch. They are quite simply fabulous. I could have done with a closer-focusing lens, though, since my lens’s 1.8m MFD was a bit difficult with dragonflies that insist on sitting at your feet. 😀

J16_0348 Selysiothemis nigra femaleThere was another notable species here. Earlier in the year, in Croatia I’d had my first meeting with a Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) and here, I found it for the first time in Spain. Unfortunately, on both occasions I found only females so I’m still looking for the elusive males. I will have to return here to look harder, and to try the boardwalk area, which we did not get to on this occasion.

I will definitely be back here.

  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)
  • Brachythemis impartita (Northern Banded Groundling)

Las Salinas, Calpe 03/09/2016 [#4]

No trip to our part of Spain would be complete without a visit to see the Greater Flamingos on Las Salinas, Common/Black-winged Stilts, too, if you’re lucky. I was.

For several years all I ever saw here in the Odonata line was the ubiquitous Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolonmbii). Then, in September last year I spotted a Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) zooming about so my species count went up to a staggering 2.

On this trip, I was very surprised to spot three additions to that list giving a slightly more respectable 5 species in total.  My surprise stems form the fact that I’m still not sure about the salinity of the water, which I think varies considerably, and it’s effect on species. Certainly, RVDs have a reputation for being coastal and perhaps tolerate more salinity than others. That and the fact that, for several years, I only ever saw those RVDs. Maybe the water quality is changing. The Flamingos still like it though.

  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

Marjal del Seniller, Moraira, 05/09/2016 [#5]

J16_0445 Anax parthenope maleJ16_0452 Anax imperator maleAnother modestly sized habitat that is close enough for regular monitoring but which, hitherto, has proved very difficult to monitor. It is a small fenced off lagoon, very close to Moraira’s main beach but without public access. Consequently, all previous observations of ours have been made from outside the perimeter fence so are necessary limited. We were dong our normal perimeter walk again this time when a man commented on our cameras and asked if we were looking for birds. We told him our particular quarry was dragonflies but that we couldn’t see far into the area and [articular not to its central watery domain. He worked with volunteers that maintain the environment and offered to let us in. We bit his arm off, naturally. Now we could identify the small shapes we could see zooming about in what had always previously been the middle distance. Here were two species of Emperor, Blue Emperor (Anax imparator) and Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope), both of which cooperated by hanging up for photographs.

What a stroke of luck.

  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

Riu Serpis, Beniarrés, 08/09/2016 [#6]

_MG_8146 Riu Serpis, BeniarresThis was our first attempt at locating useful habitat by following the course of a river that emanates from a barraged reservoir, in the hope that it might actually have some water in it in the summer. Finding water in Spain can be tricky. Our chosen river was the Riu Serpis below the reservoir at Beniarrés. Distances away from the coast in Spain can be deceptive because of circumnavigating the intervening mountain peaks. This didn’t look far on the map but because it is two valleys away, the road distance to get there is more than might be expected. It was a little more than an hour away. Having arrived at the reservoir, we began by heading east from Beniarrés along the road which more or less follows the river, both river and road running down the same valley. Shortly, we came a cross a sign beside the road pointing to a Zona Recreativa, which seemed worth a try, and so it was.

J16_0512 Erythromma lindenii maleThe recreation area was only about 100m off the road and we found it blissfully deserted. There were picnic tables with a little shade for lunch, after which we went and found the banks of the river, which looks delightful habitat. The one slight downside is that you are facing south, into a strong sun, so photography can be awkward against the light. However, we found 8 species including 5 species of damselfly, which, in my experience, seem to be less easy to find in Spain, for some reason.

  • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
  • Lestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
  • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

This is definitely worth another visit earlier in the season to try and add to the species count.

Riu Serpis, L’Orcha, 08/09/2016 [#7]

_MG_8148 Riu Serpis, L'Orcha5 kms further along the valley from Beniarres is L’Orcha, also on the banks of the Riu Serpis. Studying Google Earth had revealed another parking and recreation area along a track just out of town. We combed the area on one side of the main bridge but time did not allow us to find a way over to the other side of the bridge, where we had seen suspects flying about. We’ll leave that for another visit because it certainly looks worth it. Again, it would be interesting to see what a visit earlier in the season might produce.

J16_0554 Orthetrum brunneum maleWorthy of note on this occasion were the always captivating Copper Demoiselles (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) and Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum).

  • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura sp (Common/Iberian Bluetail)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
  • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
  • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)
Posted in 2016, Spain, Trip reports

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