Australia, Oct 2017

After a 3-day stopover in Hong Kong, we began an extended Antipodean adventure with a 3-week visit to Australia. We’ve visited Australia twice before but the latest was 16 years ago and long before any dragonfly obsession had been formed.

For our Australian visit we remained almost entirely within the state of Victoria, flying into and out of Melbourne. For our first two weeks, we were based in Stanley, close to Beechworth, in Victoria’s “high country” to visit Carol’s brother and sister-in-law. Our third week was spent travelling and staying with a couple of sets of friends, most of the time near Warragul.

The timing of our being in Australia had been dictated by the next stage of our trip, the main event, which was to be a 4-week campervan trip around New Zealand. In preparation I had made contact with a local fellow odo-nutter who had warned me that little would be around because this was very early in the Australian dragonfly season, it being early spring in the Southern hemisphere. Added to that, we were in the high country of the southernmost state (Tasmania excepted) which made it likely to be cooler still – the vineyards in that area bang on about “cool climate wines”. Stanley is actually at 800m/~2600ft altitude. So, being early and high, my expectations remained modest.

At Stanley, with visiting relatives as the only other agenda, we were able to devote some time and effort to searching for odonata. Here, we found seven sites with suitable habitat, one of which was actually just over the border in New South Wales at Albury. The twin towns of Albury-Wodonga straddle the Murray River which acts as the state boundary between Victoria and New South Wales, Albury being on the NSW side.

Once on the road for week #3, heading for Warragul, our only success was a single species at just one site; a pond at our overnight stop at Metung near Lakes Entrance on the south coast. Once at Warragul the Australian spring weather collapsed becoming cool and frequently damp, which ended odo-hunting aspirations;  a pity because I had been looking forward to visiting Bunyip State Park but it wasn’t to be. We contented ourselves by switching to orchids as our target.

Despite week #3 being a meteorological write-off, I was ultimately quite happy with our results. We bagged 12 species which, although only scratching the surface of Victoria’s 75 species (Australia has 325), was gratifying for a visit with modest expectations in that locality at that time of year. Perhaps surprisingly, the most productive spot was a modest “dam” in Stanley itself, at our highest altitude. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, though, because, being within walking distance of our accommodation, we were able to visit it several times.

Here’s the numbered location map for what follows.

Woolshed Falls @ Beechworth, 17 Oct [#1]

J17_3124 Austroargiolestes icteromelasOur first outing was to Woolshed Falls, Beechworth, where Reedy Creek flows and tumbles down some potentially attractive waterfalls. .Carol’s brother was keen to show it to us. I didn’t know quite what to expect but was happy to give it a try. I was even happier when, as I approached the water for the first time, a damselfly fluttered into a bush in front of me. My first Australian odo turned out to be an immature Common Flatwing (Austroargiolestes icteromelas), though I needed help identifying it from my Ozzie e-contact. The Australian Flatwings (there are about 20, though only three in this vicinity) look very similar and tricky to distinguish, to me.

J17_3160 Hemicordulia tauI was thoroughly delighted to add two dragonflies to the count, here, when a Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes) basked on a rock and a Tau Emerald (Hemicordulia tau) buzzed by flying constantly over the water. It took an hour or so but somehow, I managed to snag the Tau Emerald in flight.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)

Commissioners Creek @ Yackandandah, 18 Oct [#2]

J17_3232 Austroargiolestes icteromelas femaleWe were out alone looking at historic Yackandandah – this was gold mining country – where I wasn’t expecting anything. This was intended to be the regular tourism part of the day but I spotted a bridge over a small stream called Commissioners Creek. Here we found quite a few Common Flatwings, including females this time, so it gave me the pair.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)

Spring Creek @ Beechworth, 18 Oct [#3]

J17_3254 Orthetrum caledonicumReturning from Yackandandah we’d always intended to call in to Beechworth Historic Park where my e-contact had told me about some more falls that could be good, albeit a little later in the season. We called in not knowing quite where to look but did find a few new friends in Spring Creek just above the falls. Here, we found a couple of now old friends plus another new species, a Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum Caledonicum).

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

Winton Wetlands, 20 Oct [#4]

About an hour’s drive away from Stanley lies Winton Wetlands, “a wetlands restoration project of national significance” [it says here]. We’d spotted it just off the Hume Highway as we drove in from Melbourne airport when we’d arrived. It looked like big water so I wasn’t sure what to expect but the word wetland is often a good sign.

J17_3324 Ischnura auroraWe arrived in very windy conditions so it wasn’t perhaps as good as it might have been; the critters were keeping low and sheltered. It was mostly big water but the margins proved useful, giving us three new species, including the very colourful Aurora Bluetail (Ishnura aurora), which I’d really been hoping to see.

J17_3450 Anax papuensisWe did eventually find a smaller pond beside a dirt road with a fourth newbie, the Australian Emperor (Hemianax/Anax papuensis), which obliged by pairing and ovipositing in front of us. This proved an interesting lesson, the correct genus causing much debate on Facebook: Hemianax or Anax? Since the eminent Dennis Paulson’s list of World Odonata has it as Anax papuensis, not even recognising Hemianax, then that’s what I’m going with. [The Australian Field Guide by Theisinger/Hawking uses Hemianax.]

The fourth in this list remained unidentified for a while, having seen only a female.

  • Ischnura aurora (Aurora Bluetail)
  • Anax papuensis (Australian Emperor)
  • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)
  • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)

Lake Sambell Reserve, Beechworth, 23 Oct [#5]

J17_3470 Diplacodes bipunctataLake Sambell itself is big water on the edge of Beechworth and didn’t look very promising but there is a water course and smaller pond just below its dam wall which did prove useful. There were three species that were becoming quite familiar plus another small red-bodied dragonfly, a Wandering Percher (Diplacodes bipunctata).

I didn’t get photographic proof of the Tau Emerald here – flying constantly again – but I saw it clearly enough to be pretty sure that’s what it was.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)

Stanley Dam, 23-27 Oct [#6]

_17C6960 Adveraeshna brevistylaThis unassuming water body in unassuming Stanley proved to be our little goldmine. There are actually two water bodies, a larger and a smaller dam, separated by a road and with a narrow stream running between them. Oddly, over four or so visits, we hardly ever saw the same species twice. For example, at our first visit to the larger dam we saw both a Tau Emerald (Hemicordulia tau) and a Blue-spotted Hawker (Adversaeshna brevistyla), which Carol manage to snag when it finally settled, but we saw neither again on any subsequent visit. We did, however, add the [Australian] Common Bluetail (Ischnura heterosticta) and our single occurrence of an Eatern Billabongfly (Austroagrion watsoni) on our last visit.

The stream was again active with Common Flatwings and the smaller of the two dams added an interesting blue Lestid (the anal appendages looked very like our Lestes), the Wandering Ringtail (Austrolestes leda).

  • Austroagrion watsoni (Eatern Billabongfly)
  • Austrolestes leda (Wandering Ringtail)
  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Ischnura aurora (Aurora Bluetail)
  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)
  • Adversaeschna brevistyla (Blue-spotted Hawker)
  • Anax papuensis (Ausralian Emperor)
  • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)

Lagoons @ Albury, 26 Oct [#7]

J17_3602 Xanthagrion erythroneurumOf all excuses, we’d gone to Albury to buy something. It proved to be a pleasant town for lunch, too. Before leaving and, as it happened, before a storm blew through, we investigated some lagoons along the side of the Murray River where we were delighted to add our most colourful Australian of the trip, the Red & Blue Damsel (Xanthagrion erythroneurum). Conditions were not the best, with a storm front beginning to blow an light fading, and access was not great but we managed a couple of shots of the very colourful male, including a pair in cop, to add to the hitherto unidentified female that we’d snagged at Winton Wetlands.

This looked an interesting habitat which, in better conditions would have merited a more thorough investigation. As it was, things were a little hurried.

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)

McMillan’s Resort Pond, Metung, 31 Oct [#8]

J17_3670 Ischnura heterostictaThis was where we stayed overnight en route to Warragul. Conditions had begun to deteriorate, or they were just cooler further south at the coast, so conditions were not at their best. In better conditions, the well vegetated pond could well have proved more productive. As it was, I just saw a Common Bluetail (Ischnura heterosticta).

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
    Posted in 2017, Australia, Trip reports
    One comment on “Australia, Oct 2017
    1. JC says:

      A post-publishing update.

      I just identified a sub-adult damselfly that we snagged on our last visit to Stanley Dam as being an Eastern Billabongfly (Austroagrion watsoni).

      It wasn’t the best of photographs but I’ve now added it to the report and map.

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