New Zealand, Nov 2017

And so to the main event of our 2017 extended trip to the Antipodes. Following our 3-week Australian wildlife foray, we made a 4-week campervan trip around New Zealand. This constituted two “lifers” for us being both our first time in New Zealand and our first time in a campervan. We spent one week on North Island, followed by three weeks on South Island. This was primarily a landscape tourism trip for Carol rather than specifically odo-hunting but, though not travelling to specific dragonfly locations, we took every opportunity to see what we could en route. Route, BTW, was 3000mls/5000kms.

First, a word or several about New Zealand odonata. New Zealand has a paucity of dragonflies. Technically the total recorded species in New Zealand is 17 of which 2 are very rare vagrants/migrants: Orange Glider/Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) and Red Glider/Saddlebag Glider (Tramea transmarina). So, realistically we’re down to 15 resident NZ species. A further 2 of those 15 are in strictly limited geographic locations: Chatham Island for the Chatham Redcoat (Xanthocnemis tuani) and the alpine headwaters of the Rakaia River, above Arthur’s Pass, for the Alpine Redcoat (Xanthocnemis sinclairi). So, on a casual trip we’re effectively down to 13 possibles. However, we have to take timing into account as well.

Our trip was right at the beginning of the New Zealand flight season, their early spring, when not all of the 13 possibles would be on the wing. Using information taken from Perfectly Worded, an NZ enthusiast’s site which seemed to contain the most comprehensive information I could find on the Internet, I pruned the 13 possibles according to flight season and developed my hit list of just 8 species that I thought I stood a chance of seeing. Using the New Zealand common names, these were:

Damselflies (Zygoptera)

  • Austrolestes colensonis (Blue Damselfly)
  • Ischnura aurora (Gossamer Damselfly)
  • Xanthocnemis zealandica (Common Redcoat)
  • Xanthocnemis sobrina (Kauri Redcoat)

Dragonflies (Anisoptera)

  • Antipodochlora braueri (Dusk Dragonfly)
  • Aeshna brevistyla (Lancer Dragonfly)
  • Diplacodes bipunctata (Red Percher)
  • Procordulia grayi (Yellow-spotted dragonfly)

Those in bold type are NZ endemics.

We actually saw 6 species in all in New Zealand with 5 of those being in my hit list. The 6th, Hemicordulia australiae (Sentry Dragonfly), was not actually in my list because, it seems, the pre-trip information used to compile my list was less than completely accurate in respect of this species, both in terms of geographic location and flight season. We did see a 7th species, Uropetala carovei (Bush Giant) but just fleetingly, enough to identify (with help) but with no possibility of a photograph. We also suspect that we briefly saw Antipodochlora braueri (Dusk Dagonfly) whilst at Ohakune on North Island; the conditions were correct for the species, i.e. dull and grey, and the habitat was also right, forest edge, but we’ll never know so this one is not included. I was actually very happy with our results and we had a great time to boot. 🙂

Our locations outnumber the species involved by a wide margin, so I’ve taken a different approach on this report. Rather than summarizing by location, I’ve summarized by species, noting for each the location(s) in which they were seen.

Here’s the map of indexed locations, the increasing indexes indicating our route.

Xanthocnemis zealandica (Common Redcoat)

J17_3817 Xanthocnemis zealandicaThis was without a doubt the most widely seen of our target species. A New Zealand endemic, we saw it widely across both North and South Islands. If we encountered just a single species at any location, then this tended to be it.

On day #2 in Gilmour Reserve at Waihi, a tandem pair was the subject of our first encounter with any New Zealand odo. Being at Gilmour at all was fortunate because it was on a side road that the satnav chose as a short cut. There is still some debate in my mind as to the precise identity of these Gilmour Reserve specimens. Chances are that this was probably X. zealandica, based upon habitat. However, there is a suspicion that our friend could have been X. sobrina (Kauri Redcoat) which is a larger critter by about a centimetre. We did form the impression that this Gilmour Redcoat was a good size and the X. sobrina is certainly nearby. However, I did snag an androchrome female at the same location and androchrome females of X. sobrina are not recorded, I’m told. I suppose it is possible that both Redcoats could be at the same location – now there’s a thought.

Seen at: #1, #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23 [i.e. every location but #3.]

Austrolestes colensonis (Blue Damselfly)

J17_4471 Austrolestes colensonisThe second most widely seen of our New Zealand friends was A. colensonis, another New Zealand endemic and again on both islands. It is quite a large damselfly, noticeably larger than the Redcoats. If a site showed two species, they tended to be X. zealandica and this, A. colensonis.

Seen at: #2, #3, #6, #8, #9, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23

Procordulia grayi (Yellow-spotted dragonfly)

J17_4591 Procordullia grayiWidespread NZ suspect number three was Procordulia grayi (Yellow-spotted Dragonfly), another NZ endemic. I was not confident about seeing these before we started so when we spotted a couple flying around on our third day on North Island, I was a very happy camper. I was even more delighted to manage a flight shot, since neither of my suspects ever settled. In fact, though we saw this species several more times at several different locations, we never did see one settle but we did collect a few decent flight shots.

Seen at: #2, #6, #8, #11, #13, #15, #20, #23

Ischnura aurora (Gossamer Damselfly)

J17_3831 Ischnura auroraI had really been hoping to see this diminutive delight which is a mere 1in/25mm long. Actually, by the time we got to NZ we had encountered it at a couple of sites on the earlier Australian leg of our Antipodean trip. It was very satisfying, though, to see it in New Zealand itself at Gilmour Reserve in Waihi on only our 2nd day. It is apparently limited to North Island.

Seen at: #1

Aeshna brevistyla (Lancer Dragonfly)

J17_4741 Aeshna brevistyla[Alternatively, Adversaeshna brevistyla.]

This is another one that we’d encountered on the Australian leg of our trip, where it is known as Adversaeshna brevistyla (Blue-spotted Hawker). The NZ dragonflies site I was using has Aeshna brevistyla (Lancer Dragonfly); quite where Lancer comes from, who knows? Another tireless flier, at our first encounter it did eventually settle for Carol and she snagged a shot amongst reeds. Later in the trip, though, we met it again and this time it was somewhat more cooperative posing where obstructions could be avoided with care.

Seen at: #5, #18

Hemicordulia australiae (Sentry Dragonfly)

J17_4208 Hemicordulia australiaeWe first encountered this confusing character flying over a pond thick with lily pads near the enticingly named Cape Foulwind on South Island. We were unsure what it was at first, the quality of the only in-flight photos I managed being poor shooting against very strong contre-jour lighting over a confusion of vegetation. NZ dragonflies do not seem keen on settling, I’ve noticed. From what I could see, though, this character looked for all the world like Hemicordulia australiae, known as the Sentry Dragonfly in NZ but it’s the same beast as the Australian Emerald back across the Tasman Sea in Australia. However, my pre-trip planning information [see above], suggested that H. australiae was limited to the North Island and that its flight season would not yet have begun.

Fortunately, I had since made contact with the author of the book on NZ dragonflies, Richard Rowe, and he put me straight on location and timing. He agreed that it was indeed H. australiae.

We subsequently saw them again at Marble Hill in the Lewis Pass, still never settling and we couldn’t get a picture at all, there, against a confusion of reeds.

Seen at: #5, #19

Uropetala carovei (Bush Giant)

This brief, single encounter was both a thrill and a frustration.

On 1st December at Marble Hill in the Lewis Pass, we had just finished failing to photograph H. australiae and were just pulling out of our lunchtime parking space when a large dragonfly first sniffed around the passenger side window of our campervan beside Carol, then briefly investigated her side of the windscreen before disappearing. It was obviously a Giant but I couldn’t tell which. There are two candidates, the Bush Giant (U. carovei) and Mountain Giant (U. chiltoni). I pulled back in to the parking place and went looking, somewhat frantically, but alas, we couldn’t find our celebrity again.

I described our contact and precise location to the master of NZ Dragonflies who studied the habitat and suggested it would have been the Bush Giant (U. carovei). It was at the start of this species’ flight season. It was thrilling but at the same time gutting – so near yet so far.

Seen at: #19

Posted in 2017, New Zealand, Trip reports

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

    Hong Kong, Oct 2017

    In autumn 2017, as part of an extended trip to the Antipodes, we made a 2-night stopover in Hong Kong on our way out. I don’t normally “do” cities and was a little apprehensive but happily I enjoyed it.

    The main reason for my enjoyment was that Hong Kong Park, within walking distance of our hotel, proved to be decent habitat for odonata and gave me five new species, together with a few old friends that I’d seen in Singapore on a previous trip –  and this, despite having been warned that October was not a good time for odonata in HK. We made two visits over the first two days.

    On day two, we braved a little public transport (it’s very good) to visit Kowloon Park on the mainland, too. That proved not to be a good habitat but it did add one to my new species count, so it was not a completely wasted journey.

    On day three when were due to depart, a tropical typhoon blew through, adding to our overall experience by disrupting life and transport in downtown HK but we did manage to get to the airport to leave at midnight, as scheduled, with a bag of six new species in all.

    My traditional map:

    Hong Kong Park, 13 & 14 Oct [#1]

    J17_2854 Tramea virginiaIn the afternoon of the day we’d landed in HK, we hopped on the bus to Hong Kong Park from just outside the hotel. Tired from the 12-hour flight and not expecting much, I stupidly took only my lighter weight travel lens (18-300 Sigma). Wrong! That was the only time I encountered a perched male Saddlebag Glider (Tramea virginia). It’s a distant shot but just about works. Lesson learned.

    J17_2920 Trithemis festivaJ17_2996 Trithemis festiva femaleReturning the next day with a more appropriate lens (Canon 100-400), I didn’t get a second chance at a perched male T. virginia, though they were clearly still around because I did get a female on her ovipositing flight. My main delight this time, though, was the wonderful Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva). I was even more delighted to snag a perched female T. festiva, which, I understand, can be tricky to find. Here’s both male and female. This species is in south-eastern Europe and listed in Dijkstra’s book but I haven’t been to the correct areas.

    J17_2972 Ceriagrion auranticumThere was also something captivating about the spectacularly coloured Orange-tailed Sprite (Ceriagrion auranticum), which I could hardly stop watching.

    Here’s the list from Hong Kong Park with my new species in bold.

    • Ceriagrion auranticum (Orange-tailed Sprite)
    • Ischnura senegalensis (African Bluetail)
    • Anax guttatus (Lesser Green Emperor)
    • Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher)
    • Orthetrum chrysis (Spine-tufted Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum glaucum (Common Blue Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum sabina (Variegated Green Skimmer)
    • Trithemis aurora (Crimson Dropwing)
    • Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing)
    • Tramea virginia (Saddlebag/Virginia Glider)

    Kowloon Park, 13 Oct [#2]

    J17_3043 Pseudagrion rubricepsThere are four or five water bodies showing on the maps of Kowloon Park so, following the interest at Hong Kong Park, I was expecting more. Unfortunately, most of the water bodies are of the wrong type, manicured/decorative with no vegetation. Just one seemed more wildlife oriented and did support odonata but that was it. I had to get home to identify my initially unknown new species as the Orange-faced Sprite (Pseudagrion rubriceps). Neither lighting conditions (shaded) nor access (over large, chunky railings) were good but here the little darling is at the only angle I could get.

    J17_3045 UnidentifiedI did see one Anisopteran which has eluded identification. The poor thing had been captured by another unknown insect so getting any better pictures was not going to be possible.

    Here’s the list, such as it is, minus the unknown dragonfly.

    • Ischnura senegalensis (African Bluetail)
    • Pseudagrion rubriceps (Orange-faced Sprite)
    Posted in 2017, Hong Kong, Trip reports

    Spain, Sep 2017

    For three weeks of September 2017 we were were supposed to be in France. I had planned to visit Provence to search for Banded Darters (Sympetrum pedemontanum). At least, that was our original plan and we had ferry bookings to prove it. However, several things went wrong at the eleventh hour and we re-planned. We delayed France – I still have ferry bookings to be rescheduled next year – and, as a consolation prize, we flew to Spain for a week of sun (hopefully) instead.

    The sun worked out nicely, save a short hiatus of rain at the weekend, and we managed to get some decent Odo-hunting in. We began in the high 20s and low 30s Centigrade. If anything goes someway towards making up for visiting completely new habitats, it is visiting known habitats at different times of year, as this mid-September trip was. This, of course, is because the species can vary throughout the flight season.

    I am thrilled to say that we found a species brand new to us, the Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii). Seeing these for the first time certainly made up for missing out on my originally intended new species in France, the Banded Darter (Sympetrum pedemontanum) which, of course, I might well have failed to find. We’ll save looking for it for another year. 😉

    J17_1495 Black PennantI had two other highlights to round off what I regard as a very successful trip. We finally found a male Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) to go with the females first encountered both in Croatia and Spain during 2016. We also got another chance to see the geographically limited Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum).

    Here’s the numbered sites that we did visit followed by a brief description of each.

    Riu Jalón-Gorgos, Jalón, 12 & 17 Sep [#1]

    I’d been concerned about this, our local (in Spain), habitat following the raging torrents that swept away much of the vegetation beside the river in the winter of 2016/17. We visited in  April-May 2017 and spotted some dragonflies but few species and each in very low numbers – it did not look like a “normal” spring showing. So, I was apprehensive about what I might find now in September.

    J17_1611 Desert Darter maleWe arrived in brilliant sunshine and I was delighted and, I must say, very relieved to see five species in very short order, including the delightfully colourful Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi), an African species spreading widely through Spain. In fact, I believe there has now been a record from France, just over the Pyrenees. I am also always very pleased to see another successfully spreading African species, one that is somewhat ahead of T. kirbyi, the gaudily pink Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata). On our second visit, later in the week, the relatively scarce Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum) also put in the appearance for which I was hoping. This remains the only place I’ve personally encountered it. The habitat appears to have bounced back – phew!

    • Calopteryx sp [frustrating – didn’t settle; probably C. haemorrhoidalis but maybe C. virgo]
    • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)
    • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

    Parque Natural del Hondo, Elche, 13 Sep [#2]

    I think it’s fair to say that this has become my favourite habitat in our region of Spain. This is where, in August 2016, that we stumbled across the absolutely enchanting Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita) and in very good numbers, too. I was really hoping to see them again, this time armed with a close focus ring so I could focus successfully at my feet, which is where they tend to sit. Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, we didn’t see a single one. A Spanish contact has since suggested that this species is prone to suddenly disappearing from sites.

    J17_1463 Black Percher maleHowever, there was wonderfully unexpected saving grace. In fact, there were two saving graces. First of all, flitting around low in the reeds beside the boardwalk, we encountered some examples of Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii), which is a brand new species for us. They were a little difficult to access and a bit distant, so not the greatest pictures, but they were there. Secondly, around the mudflats, we found several male Black Pennants (Selysiothemis nigra). We’d seen this species here last year in August but females only. So, our first encounter with the very smart black males.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Diplacodes lefebvrii (Black Percher)
    • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)

    Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 14 Sep [#3]

    Another lovely habitat that I like to visit given half a chance. This had been great in May when it offered several Green-eyed Hawkers (Aeshna isoceles). They would be over at this time of year, being an early Hawker. It would be interesting to see what was here, now.

    J17_1585 Violet Dropwing maleIn fact it was a little more subdued than I really expected both in terms of species and quantity. This was especially true since our visit to Hondo had been buzzing. We did see a single Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii) hanging on in there. By far the greatest specimens in terms of numbers were the common-as-muck Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) and the continually captivating Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata). So, not a great visit but it was perhaps an educational one.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

    Las Salinas, Calpe, 18 Sep [#4]

    Not a specific dragonfly hunting day but we popped in to Calpe and happened to see a Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) – only the second time seen here.

    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

    Marjal del Senillar, Moraira, 19 Sep [#5]

    Again, not a specific day for dragonfly hunting – we were out for a celebratory lunch – but included for the sake of completeness.

    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    Posted in 2017, Spain, Trip reports

    Scotland, Jun 2017

    In relatively recent history, we haven’t been in the UK during June. However, there was a couple of species that I was missing from my UK catalogue that really needed hunting in June and early July. These were the Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum) and Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea), both limited to Scotland in our sceptred isle. So, this year I planned to remain on home turf for June/July and take a camping trip into the highlands of Scotland seeking to plug those gaps.

    I used the NBN Gateway to research locations for both species. Happily, I did so in the first quarter of the year before the NBN Gateway, which I thought to be an excellent tool, was retired in favour of a lesser tool [IMHO], the NBN Atlas. Why is it that other folks’ idea of progress so often seems like a retrograde step to me? Anyway, using the submitted records of more recent years, I picked three locations to use as bases. I planned to give myself three weeks in all, one week at each base, hoping that I would then have half a chance of getting at least some sun in Scotland.  My somewhat extended visit was due to my very limited track record vis-a-vis Scottish weather being pretty dreadful.

    My bases were:

    1. Glenmore Forest, near Abernethy and Loch Garten:  target = Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum)
    2. Loch Maree: target = Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea)
    3. Cannich/Glen Affric: target = Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea),  stretch goal – possibility of a Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica)

    Entirely coincidentally, a friend and fellow odo-nutter, currently the Hampshire dragonfly recorder, Paul and his partner, Sue, had also planned an overlapping trip to the Loch Maree vicinity in search of the Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). This was good news, we could pool information and eight eyes are better than four. The more the merrier. We arranged to hook up when they arrived.

    Summary.

    The weather was, in a word, pitiful. My track record with Scottish weather did not change; the conditions were essentially pants for the 3-week trip. During the whole time, we had one very pleasant day and one reasonable day. Outside of this, we were “treated” to just a couple of individual 1-hour windows of brightness, always in the later afternoon, while we were out odo hunting. These two 1-hour windows proved critical. The  first was on our very first full day near Loch Garten, when we succeeded in finding the Northern Damselfly/Spearhead Bluet (Coenagrion hastulatum). The second of these windows  was almost two weeks later beside Loch Maree when we found the Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) and this was, I’m happy to say, a particularly memorable encounter.

    We never saw a hint of a Northern Emerald but I have seen them in France. I was essentially a happy camper for having found my two targets. I was even happier when I actually drove back out of Scotland and into some decent weather. I have tired of people telling me how wonderful Scotland can be “when the weather is good” since I have never experienced anything like it being good. I’m a realist and was prepared for some rain and wind. What I was not prepared for was rain and wind at a high of 13°C in the middle of summer and, I should note, in the middle of a so-called heat wave 500-miles south, at home, where temperatures were hitting 30°C. Now that is one heck of a temperature gradient. 😉

    I would consider late June and early July to be the height of dragonfly season. The largest number of species we saw at a site was five and numbers of individiuals were generally low. A poor showing, I’d say.

    Here’s my usual map of indexed locations worth mentioning, followed by individual details for each.

    Large Boardwalk Pond, Loch Garten, 19 Jun [#1]

    Our first full day in the Aviemore region staying at the Glenmore Forest campsite beside Loch Morlich. At lunchtime we were “enjoying” 12.5°C and occasional drizzle but we decided to investigate possible locations for the Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum). A very helpful young lady at the Loch Garten Osprey Centre reception directed us to two separate dragonfly ponds. This was the first and larger of those ponds.

    J17_1770 Northern Damselfly maleWe first arrived mid-afternoon and found two other locals on the boardwalk. It was still cool and overcast but they’d seen some damselflies hunkered down in the horsetails, quite distant. Nonetheless, I grabbed a couple of shots. We took a tea break, whereupon conditions brightened a little. We returned between 16:00 and 17:00 to enjoy spells of sunshine and warmer conditions (16-17°C). Now there was more activity, including in cop pairs, and I found a spot where I could get closer for some decent shots. Day #1, target #1 achieved.

    There were a coupe of other odos here to entertain us, as well, but I was very focused.

    • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly/Common Bluetail)
    • Coenagrion hastulatum (Northern Damselfly/Spearhead Bluet)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

    Uath Lochans, 20 Jun [#2]

    This was our good day in Scotland, weather-wise. It having brightened briefly the evening before at Loch Garten, I might have begun to think that my Scottish weather demons had left me. [I would have been very wrong.] A contact had mentioned Uath Lochans as looking “interesting” so we went to investigate.

    J17_1851 Common Blue maleWe discovered a small roadside pool with two species, both included in the list below, before taking the correct turning to the car park. On finally  arriving, another visitor asked if we were looking for the Northern Damselfly. “Yes”, I replied, always prepared to see more even though we’d found it yesterday. Thus primed, I was a little taken aback staring through the lens at my first Bluet thinking, “that’s surely a Common Blue (Enallagma cyathigerum)”. And so it was, though it did look somehow different – darker.  There does seem to be more black on these northern Common Blue Damselflies. This was the only species of Bluet we saw here.

    Uath Lochans was a pleasant enough environment with odo-hunters being helped by Wellington boots to cope with the marshy ground at loch-side – you need to get off the main paths, which are substantial, to get close enough to the odo habitat. We wandered a decent distance but saw no more than the following, all three of which we’d seen closer to the car park.

    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly/Common Bluet)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

    Small Boardwalk Pond, Loch Garten, 21 Jun [#3]

    The forecast was dreadful but rain held off and a possibility of brightening appeared. We went to check out the second and smaller of the two ponds indicated to us by the young RSPB lady. This pond proved tricky to find, even when you know it’s there, especially when directed to the wrong side of the road. 😀

    J17_1867 White-faced DarterFind it we did, though. It’s actually two very small ponds separated by a very short boardwalk – more of a platform – of about 5m. As we approached, there was a little brightness. A White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) zoomed off, as did the brightness shortly thereafter. We waited and another bright spell brought the White-faced Darters back again. That spell of brightness lasted only about 10 minutes and that was the end of the odo-hunting weather for the day.

    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
    • Leucorrhinia dubia (White-faced Darter/Small Whiteface)

    Laide Wood, 27 Jun [#4]

    Now staying at the Inverewe Gardens campsite in Poolewe, we used an indifferent morning to wander around Inverewe Gardens itself, offering ourselves as a mobile snack to some of the the west coast midges. I found it a bit like the weather, dull.

    Our day brightened when Paul and Sue found us and we shared coffee and lunch. Paul and Sue had been directed by the local tourist information office to Laide Wood as being a likely odonata hunting ground. I was impressed that the tourist information included this speciality wildlife knowledge. Laide Wood is where we spent the latter half of the afternoon. It even has a car park and an information board/map. Sure enough, two ponds were shown. We took a stroll.

    Before hitting either of the ponds we’d spotted a couple of damselflies. These included the ubiquitous-in-Scotland Large Red Damsel (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). Life got more interesting, especially for Paul for whom it was new, when we stumbled across a “Highland” Darter female. These may have been shown by DNA to be a dark form Common Darter but they do look considerably different. Paul immediately noticed the lack of light stripe on the femurs.

    _17C5229 Common Hawker maleWe drew a blank at the first pond but the second was more productive. Keeping us amused in the dull conditions was a hung-up Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii). The sun was beginning to put in a few appearances before dipping back behind clouds. During one such appearance, a Hawker appeared and hawked along a tree line before disappearing along with the sun. Excitement soared – it had a blue appearance. The sun returned and we saw a Hawker again. This time it settled just long enough for Carol, in pole position, to grab a shot. We assumed we’d got our first Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). WRONG! What we’d got was a Common Hawker/Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea). [Admission time: I didn’t actually notice my mistake until much later, studying the pictures more closely.]

    Laide Wood enjoyable habitat with good access and five species, the highest count we achieved in Scotland.

    Here’s the correct list. 🙂

    • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
    • Aeshna juncea (Common Hawker/Moorland Hawker)
    • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)
    • Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens (Highland/Common Darter)

    Beinn Eighe, Loch Maree, 28 Jun [#5]

    [Hardly worth mentioning; I debated leaving this out but relented.]

    J17_1989 Common Goldenring maleNow staying at the Caravan Club’s site in Kinlochewe, we spent another half-day with Paul and Sue, who checked out a couple of sites before meeting us but drew blanks. We met them at the Beinn Eighe visitor centre, a subdued weather stroll and slight climb from which revealed a couple of subdued Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) at a modest pond and a subdued Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) sheltering from the very stiff breeze part way up the mountain.

    We did try another area of Beinn Eighe, the so-called woodland walk, which had suitable habitat but unsuitable weather, and that drew a total blank.

    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
    • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)

    Slattadale, Loch Maree, 28 Jun [#6]

    Continuing from Beinn Eighe with Paul and Sue, the more western end of Loch Maree looked brighter so we headed in that direction. We called in to Slattadale, supposedly good for Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) to see what we could find, if anything.

    J17_1993 Azure Hawker maleDull at first, between 16:30 and 17:30, this became the second of our 1-hour bright windows that I mentioned in the introduction. We began by disturbing a couple more Golden-ringed Dragonflies (Cordulegaster boltonii) beside the small stream. Paul had been told to look for a small glade with logs. Eventually we found something that might have fitted the bill.  I was looking at a it when a Hawker appeared and landed on the end of one log. This was undoubtedly a fine male Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). Bearing in mind that, at this point, I thought Carol had snagged one, I was still thrilled because now I had. This fellow was a showman and delighted us all for almost an hour, even landing on each one of us in turn. We were ecstatic. (There was a second individual about but with a slightly distorted abdomen – a slight curve to the left.)

    We were also very lucky ‘cos this turned out to be our only encounter with target #2.

    Goal achieved despite the blasted weather.

    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
    • Aeshna caerulea (Azure Hawker)
    • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)

    Coire Loch, Glen Affric, 5 Jul [#7]

    Our final move was crossing from the west coast of Scotland into the central highlands at Cannich to investigate Glen Affric, where we stayed at Cannich Woodland Camping. The helpful campsite owner directed us to Coire Loch on a walk from Dog Falls. Then I realized that Coire Loch was mentioned in the Smallshire/Swash field guide as a haunt of the Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora arctica). It hadn’t been one of my considered targets but it would’ve been a great addition since I am yet to snag one, though I have glimpsed one very briefly at Thursley Common.

    _17C5580 Downy EmeraldIt is a delightful spot and wonderful looking habitat. Here, Carol and I spent a reasonably sunny 90-minutes standing in Wellington boots beside the mossy waters edge trying to snag flying Emeralds. Eventually Carol managed a flight shot and one did settle in the heather behind her, face on but a little obscured. It was a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea). Just a little gutted since we were 500 miles from home but have a colony of Downies just 2 miles from home. No matter, it was entertaining.

    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula  (Large Red Damselfly)
    • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
    • Cordulia aenea (Downy Emerald)
    Posted in 2017, Scotland, Trip reports

    Spain, Spring 2017

    Travelling by slow boat (30 hours) between Portsmouth and Bilbao, this was a 6-week visit to our base in Spain at Jalón/Xaló. This being my first early season odonata hunt in Spain, I was looking forward to something fresh.

    I had a nagging concern, though. The 2016-17 winter in Spain, our part anyway, was a real winter. After several years of drought conditions, plenty of much needed rain fell and Jalón even had snow which settled for the first time in 30 years. Of greatest interest to me, was the Gota Fria [literally, Cold Drop] of mid-December, 2016, which we’d witnessed on our Xmas/New Year visit. Torrential rain fell and, though the town wasn’t actually flooded by the Riu Xalo-Gorgos bursting any banks, the river, normally just a few pools that hardly flow at all, turned into a raging torrent sweeping away stands of mature bamboo along with part of a road. This short video, shot by a friend, should give an idea of of why I had concerns.

    2017-05-18 14.55.272017-05-18 14.55.44On arrival this time, the river had mostly returned to its normal, calm self, though it was still flowing a little more than we considered normal. These pictures are taken from within the river course itself, the river being nowhere near its banks, and the couple of fords were useable, as is usual. Examining a few stretches along the river showed that new shingle banks had appeared in places, changing the [placid] water course slightly, and a  few large stone blocks that must weigh as much as a modest car had been relocated, washed off the tops of a couple of dam structures. Actually, when this happened about 10 years ago, a car was relocated downstream towards Xábia/Jávea. What would have been the effect of such a powerful flow be on any odonata larvae, I wondered? With two weeks at the end of April and three weeks in May, I had the opportunity to find out.

    We did, of course, visit several of my other favoured odonata haunts to see how they were doing. Largely because this was a lengthier visit and earlier in the season than our norm, we encountered four species for the first time in Spain. The Spanish refer to a first-timer, I’m told, as a Bimbo. How delightful is that? [I’ve come across the term lifer applied in the UK.] So, all in all, a very positive trip, despite the winter weather concern. Read on. 😉

    Here’s my usual map and summary.  [Aside: my maps are back on Google Maps, Mapbox having changed their interface and ruined it, IMHO – no longer an easy click to add points to maps.]

    Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 14 & 30 Apr, 16 May [#1]

    J17_0976 Aeshna isocelesThis has become the most interesting place local to our base in Spain, being a mere 20 minutes away, being a pleasant, normally quiet environment for a nature ramble and, of course, having a good spread of odonata. This time, we visited it on three separate occasions and introduced it to a friend who was also interested in photography. Our three visits netted us three new species for the site: Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg), Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker) and Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail). These were our first encounters in Spain of the Hawker and the Clubtail.

    J17_1289 Trithemis annulata maleThe Green-eyed Hawkers were active and quite numerous, our count reaching six. The Clubtail seemed like a lucky encounter because we saw just one and only once. The season was just beginning, evidently, for Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing) and Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet), which were present in low numbers. It did present me with a beautifully fresh male Violet Dropwing, though, so different from the gaudily pink mature adult. We saw only one of the normally numerous Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter), too.

    All of which brought tour site total to 15 species. I would have to say that, although we saw a total of 11 species here this time around, the individual numbers of most species seemed to be low. Maybe it was just early in the season for some. We did, though, solve our on-going Ischnura sp question – at least one of these was clearly I. elegans and not I. graellsii.  Shame! 🙂

    This is what we saw this time around.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
    • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
    • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
    • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor) ?
    • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

    Aula Natura Marjal de Gandia, 16 Apr [#2]

    J17_0712 Crocothemis erythraeaThis site is normally relatively peaceful. However, normally does not include an Easter weekend sunny day, even in Spain. Although it is tagged a marsh, there is a lot of grassy area for folks to set up tables and chairs. On this day, the site was absolutely heaving with large family groups picnickinhg, kicking balls around, playing badminton, etc. It did not make for good Dragonfly spotting. Around the first of the two lakes, we saw just a pair of Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetails) and, of course, several hundred Homo sapiens. I was on the point of giving up completely but thought we might as well exit with a circuit of the second lake. JUust as well; we found there some patrolling Anax imperator (Blue Emperor) and a very teneral Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet) which had clearly just emerged and had taken its first tentative flutter.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

    Marjal del Seniller, Moraira, 20 Apr [#3]

    On one occasion we have been allowed access to this normally closed off site. We’ve seen five species here. This time, we just wandered past on our way to lunch, not really being here for dragonflies, but did spot a single Anax imperator (Blue Emperor) as we did so.

    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)

    Parque Natural del Hondo, 23 Apr, 14 May [#4]

    This site, new to me in August 2016, instantly became one of my favourites when I found not only Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant) but also, brand new to me, Bracythemis impartita (Northern Banded Groundling). ‘T was certainly too early in the season for either of those but I was keen to visit again and see what I could find at the start of the season.

    J17_0805 Anax ephippigerOur first visit was rather spoiled when Carol was descended upon by too many mosquitos for her to bear. She retired from the field of battle and left me to swiftly find what I could before driving her to safety. My main find was good numbers of patrolling, mating and ovipositing Emperors, both Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor) and Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor). Both males having a blue saddle, they are a little tricky to distinguish in flight. One, though netted me what I feel must be my best ever dragonfly picture, a male in flight, ahead on – the wind, which they tend to fly into, was in exactly the right direction.

    J17_1217 Sympetrum striolatumWe returned for a second visit, Carol now equipped against mosquitos, and added a couple of new species for our site list: Erythromma viridulum (Small redeye) in good numbers and an emergence of Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter) with individuals clearly rising up on their maiden flights.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

    Fonts d’Algar, 2 May [#5]

    Hitherto, we had visited this site only once but it was in May and we saw the delightful Calopterx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle) in good numbers. This visit was about a week earlier in the year but I was keen to see the beauties again, if possible.

    J17_1049 Onychogomphus uncatusFor me, it was not possible but Carol did see one which regrettably fluttered off before I got to it, never to return. I was surprised by the lack even of an Anax imperator (Blue Emporor), though we did once again encounter a single Onychogomphus uncatus (Large Pincertail) sunning itself on the rocks. On our way out, an immature Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer) put in a last minute appearance, which was new to us for this site.

    Three species but a measly three individuals, in early May, two-thirds of the way down Spain. It didn’t feel right, somehow. Was this apparently poor showing a result of the effects of a cooler, longer and wetter winter than normal, possible with the waterfalls and waterways becoming torrents? Speculation time. 😉

    • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
    • Onychogomphus uncatus (Large Pincertail)
    • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)

    Riu Serpis @ Beniarres, 8 May [#6]

    The Riu Serpis emanates from a reservoir near Planes. It was another new discovery for us in 2016. Finding water in this part of Spain for dragonfly habitats can be a challenge and run offs from reservoirs seems to be a useful tactic.

    J17_1116 Platycnemis acutipennisSince this was a different part of the season, I was again keen to see what species we could add to our site list. Here’s the four that we did identify, which included our first Spanish encounter with Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg) and took us up to 10 at the site; reasonable for a couple of visits, I think. It got me my sight of Copper Demoiselles, too, having missed the one Carol saw at the Fonts d’Algar [#5].

    This visit also clarified the Bluetail question that prevails around here – there were also Ishnura elegans (Common Bluetail), so I’m still to find that elusive I. graellsii (Iberian Bluetail), regrettably. There was actually a fifth species, red darter-ish which we saw just fleetingly and failed to id.

    • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)

    Riu Serpis @ L’Orcha, 8 May [#7]

    We continued along to to this second site along the same river. Here, we got a bit of a surprise. This site had clearly been hit hard by floodwaters during the winter. Here, the course of the river had changed slightly and there were gravel banks where water used to be, save for a cut off remaining pool or two. Even the parking area was now more of a gravel tip. At first we saw absolutely nothing, apart from scaring up a few Plovers clearly nesting on the stony ground; we gave them a wide berth). We did eventually find three individuals. Again, like the Fonts d’Algar story, these were three separate individuals of three species – just one representative of each. Perhaps indicatively, all three were located around the pool remaining from the original water course, now changed.

    Much of the ground where larvae would have been was now dry. I think this site will need some recovery time.

    • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
    • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer?)
    • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

    City of Arts & Sciences @ Valencia, 9 May [#8]

    J17_1167 trithemis kirbyiThis was an unexpected surprise. We had a trip to photograph the artistically architected buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences on the eastern side of Valencia. We knew they were surrounded by reflecting pools of water but I suspected these pools would be utterly sterile – and so they were. Behind the (on the northern edge) the buildings was a fairly pleasant park area with water but that also looked sterile. Until we got to the section beneath the road bridge, that is, a section which buts into a permanent source of water complete with reeds. To our surprise, we found this impressive list of seven species flitting about, again, not in great numbers – just one or two of each – but at least they were there.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

    Castell de Castells, 13 May [#9]

    J17_1205 Pyrrhosoma nymphulaA low count (1 or 2) of a single species hardly qualifies this as an odonata site but technically it is and I’ve included it because it is notable as being our first ever encounter with this particular species in Spain, Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly).

    Castell de Castells is a popular walking area. We’d been up on an orchid hunt and were returning through Castell, which has a very modest stream running through it, one you can almost literally step across. Scouring the streamside vegetation in overcast conditions, we found one, possibly two (one disappeared and another appeared but could’ve been the same specimen) Large Reds. Modest but exciting because of its significance.

    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)

    Riu Jalon-Gorgos [#10]

    And so to my main concern, the river flowing through Jalón itself. Bearing in mind that I had at least four weeks to observe and look for odonata here, to cut a long story short, my fears seem to be well founded. This site had been my leading Spanish site in terms of number of species witha count of 14. It had also been good in  terms of numbers of individuals. Despite checking here on a regular basis during the 4-5 weeks of this stay, all we could come with as identifiable specimens were three cruising Anax imperator (Blue Emperor), a lone Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter ) and a lone immature Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer), this last being at our final attempt. The RVD was actually on a higher stretch of the river at Alcalalí.

    To complete the picture fairly, earlier in the trip, towards the end of April and before we hit the road to play tourist, I believe I saw a red-looking darter-sized dragonfly, possibly Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet) but it was fleeting and never seen again. Later in the trip I saw another darter-sized individual fleetingly, not red, but again it was unidentified and never seen again.

    So, up to 20th May, 1000 miles further south than my home base in England and in a noticeably better climate, in 5 weeks we had notched up five confirmed individuals, three of which had been Emperors.

    Fully formed Emperor larvae are large and strong. Is it possibly that a few of these might have survived the torrents where other lesser individuals might not have? What of lesser formed Emperor larvae? They do, after all, take a few years to develop fully. All other larvae of the species I’ve seen here are smaller and less strong. Five individuals, seven with the two uids, simply cannot be good. I honestly believe that the torrential river flow caused by the Gota Fria of December 2016 has taken its toll on the odonata population in the river at Jalón.

    Nature will bounce back but it’ll take a while given what we saw this time.

    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

    Riu Duero @ Soria, 23/05/2017 [#11]

    Mercifully I can end on a brighter note. Travelling by car, we stayed for two nights at Soria  a mountainous area about 3 hours south of Bilbao. Soria is at an altitude of about 2000ft. It’s apparently one of the coldest places in Spain, with 90 days of frost every year. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, it is also near the beginning of the Duero river which finally becomes the Duro and flows out into the Atlantic at Porto, Portugal. When we arrived we were delighted at what we saw, a well maintained river with well constructed and managed walkways beside it. We had originally intended to play tourist in the car but the river was irresistible and we just walked locally in fabulously clear weather.

    _MG_8416 Sympecma fuscaWe were very glad we did. Damselflies don’t seem quite so easy to find in Spain as dragonflies but here we found four species. Not only that, but two of them were firsts for us in Spain.

    Our Spanish firsts included good ol’ Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly) which, on a sizeable river, was a bit of a surprise. My biggest delight, though, was Sympecma fusca (Common Winter Damselfly) which was present in large numbers along every part of the river we examined. We’d seen them before in small numbers in France but here they were teaming. I did wonder if their over-wintering as adults made them well suited to surviving those 90 days of frost but it seems they like dead/dying reeds, of which there were plenty.

    It was also only our second encounter in Spain with Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly). So, all in all, three out of four species were pretty special – a very welcome spot of success on our way home.

    • Sympecma fusca (Common Winter Dasmelfly)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
    Posted in 2017, Spain, Trip reports

    Namibia, Feb 2017

    In February 2017 we joined an Explore! safari around northern Namibia, their Namibian Lodge Safari. It was a mixture of culture and wildlife but wildlife in the form of big game. I had no control over the itinerary, which was very full-on, so what is contained below is a commentary of those dragonfly encounters which just happened along the way. This, by the way, was Namibia’s wet season and it was having a very wet wet season.

    There is a brief slideshow of the species we did see.

    Below is my usual indexed map of locations followed by details for each.

    Rehoboth Service Station, 21st Feb [#1]

    As unlikely as it seems, when we called in to a filling station in Rehoboth in preparation for losing the tarmac road and heading further west on dirt roads, there were numerous dragonflies cruising tirelessly back and forth over the station forecourt. They were difficult to see but I fancied they were largely light tan with a faint red blush on the dorsal side of the abdomen. I formed a suspicion as to what they might be but daren’t hope. They got nowhere near settling and the background was too confused for a flight shot. Frustrating!

    Later, I proved that they were the iconic Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens).

    • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

    Zebra River Lodge, 22nd Feb [#2]

    J17_0096 Massai SpritesThis was a fabulous guest house that was in the middle of nowhere, well off the beaten track. It was used to playing host to wandering zebras  and was absolutely teeming with butterflies and moths, the latter of which insisted on trying to steal drinks from ones wine and/or beer.

    My highlight was its ornamental pond and small water hole (which also had paving around its edge). Here I encountered three dragonflies, two of which were clearly resident (I spotted exuviae) and one damselfly which I observed ovipositing. Unfortunately, the two resident dragonflies were nothing new to me, Orange-winged Dropwings (Tithemis kirbyi), spreading well in Spain, and Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombi) breeding even in the south of the UK, now.  The damselfly, Massai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum), was both colourful and new, so I was delighted to have encountered that.

    • Pseudagrion massaicum (Massai Sprite)
    • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

    Carp Cliff (-ish), 23rd Feb [#3]

    Another most unlikiely place for a single encounter with an apparently lone dragonfly. We’d stopped in the middle of the desert, just after climbing out of a gorge, and pulled in behind a green tour bus. Cruising back and forth behind and to the side of the bus, was yet another Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), though I still didn’t then know what it was. The really curious thing is that it vanished completely moments after the green tour bus drove off. Station forecourts, buses … what was the attraction?

    • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

    Toshari Lodge, 26th Feb [#4]

    Yet another location where we saw a few of the constantly cruising suspects. This time, with a good deal of patience and manual focus to avoid the confused background, Carol snagged a couple of distant flight shots. Suspicions increased and did eventually prove to be Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens).

    I did catch a single glimpse of another, smaller dragonfly but, alas, it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. “Bother!”, said Pooh, crossly.

    • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

    Namutoni – Etosha NP, 28th Feb [#5]

    _17C1869 Diplacodes deminutaI was sick in camp (an ailment from food at our previous stop) so this one was down to my ever-vigilant missus. 🙂 Out on a day’s game drive, more in search of Elephants than Odos, at Namutoni camp during lunch she spotted a very small dragonfly perching close to the ground. It turned out to be a female of the very appropriately named Little Percher (Diplacodes deminuta). Hoorah, another new species.

    Well done, Carol.

    • Diplacodes deminuta (Little Percher)

    Waterberg Resort, 1st & 2nd Mar [#6]

    J17_1091 Little Skimmer maleThe Waterberg Plateau is an extensive rock plateau rising alone out of a large tract of otherwise flat, wild countryside. There’s a clue in the name: it rains quite a bit here. We arrived shortly after a downpour but now the early evening sun was out and we stepped out of our Landcruisers to be immediately greeted by another new species of dragonfly. They were sunning themselves on the red sandstone rocks strewn about the place. I got a full set: male, female and immature male. Joy! These were Small Scarlets (Crocothemis sanguinolenta).

    The next day we went on a walk up the Waterberg. On the way down, after the day had warmed up, dragonflies were about and we snagged a few more new species, including two Orthetrums which, in Africa, need very careful identification. With grateful thanks to K-D Dijkstra himself, I’m now very confident of these two Skimmer ids.

    • _17C2012 Shadow-bridge Widow maleOrthetrum julia falsum (Julia Skimmer)
    • Orthetrum abbotti (Small Skimmer)
    • Crocothemis sanguinolenta (Small Scarlet)
    • Palpopleura portia (Shadow-bridge Widow)

    Klein Windhoek River, 3rd Mar [#7]

    Going full circle, we ended back where we’d begun, at the Klein Windhoek Guest House. Klein Windhoek is a suburb of Windhoek itself. Behind the guest house is a river which occasionally flows; it’s actually connected to a reservoir. At the start of our trip, I saw just birds over the river. At the end of our trip it had rained and there was more water present.

    J17_1186 Pantala flavescensThis was the stop that solved my constantly-cruising-dragonfly puzzle.  I observed them oviposting here, too. Banging off ~110 shots, both on manual and autofocus (I now had a clear background, I could see beyond doubt that these were indeed Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens). My susoicion had been born out. Unbounded joy.

    Oh, there was one Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi), too. 😉

    • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)
    • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)
    Posted in 2017, Namibia, Trip reports

    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

    Slovenia-Croatia, Jun 2016

    From 25th June, on the morning following our disastrous referendum [nailing colours firmly to the mast], to 2nd July, we joined a group of friends on a mixed wildlife tour organized by Ecotours visiting Slovenia and neighbouring Croatia, I was looking forward to doing something completely different and seeing two new countries. Our group, 10 in all, was made up of a mixed bag of interests including birds, butterflies, reptiles and plants as well as, of course, ourselves seeking dragonflies and damselflies. Being a mixed tour, we were due to visit a variety of habitats only some of which would be odo-friendly, so it was never going to be dragonfly intensive but I was cautiously optimistic.

    Once travel days were excluded, we had three days in Slovenia followed by three more in Croatia. To summarize, we found Slovenia to be a delightful country – quite similar in feel to Austria, I thought, but then it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire – but, while it seemed less interesting touristically, it was Croatia that made the trip worthwhile in relation to our previous Odonata experiences.

    Against all odds with my camera GPS failing, I’ve managed to locate the main sites of interest and plotted them on one of my (hopefully) familiar maps.

    Lake Bohinj, 26/06/2016 [#1]

    We began our trip by spending our first three nights at a very pleasant hotel about 15 minutes walk from the shores of picturesque Lake Bohinj. Day #1 of the wildlife watching itself began around the shores of Lake Bohinj, which is a large lake with little in the way of emergent vegetation, so I wasn’t expecting much. I got excited when we spotted a Darter perched on some lakeside vegetation and our guide suggested it might be a Vagrant Darter/Moustached Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum), which I have yet to see, but, alas, it proved to be a familiar old friend, a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii).

    The lakeside track produced several Blue Featherlegs/While-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes), which cooperated well enough, and several individuals of what was clearly an Emerald Dragonfly, none of which cooperated in the slightest. These were clearly green so probably not a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) but rather one of the Somatochlora species. Given the habitat and behaviour, I’m inclined towards the Brilliant Emerald (S. metallica).

    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
    • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)

    Lake Cerknica, 27-28/06/2016 [#2]

    J16_1346 Orthetrum albistylumOr Cerkniško Jezero, in Slovene, is a karst lake “characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves”. So there! It is a seasonal lake but we found plenty of water. This may be because there was still quite a bit of water in the sky, too. the Though there are supposedly some 30 species of Odonata recorded here, our first visit was accompanied by poor weather conditions and we found only four. Fortunately, the following day was much improved and our guide was professionally flexible, reacting to his audience’s desires when he could, and we made a brief return visit to get our species count up to a more respectable 11. These included our first non-UK species, a White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum abistylum), together with other notables such as a Green-eyed Hawker/Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isoceles) and a tandem pair of Lesser Emperors (Anax parhenope).

    • Lestes sponsa (Common Spreadwing)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
    • Orthetrum albistylum (White-tailed Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)

    Plitvice Lakes National Park, 29/06/2016 [#3]

    Or Plitvička Jezera, as they say locally, was “declared a National Park in 1949”. Unfortunately, that meant it was now a honey pot that was absolutely heaving with thousands of people. Our guide, who was contracted by Ecotours to take us there as part of the itinerary, admitted that it would not have been his choice. It is really a much more touristy destination with scenic lakes and waterfalls than it is a wildlife destination. Most visitors’ idea of wildlife here stopped at Mallard duck. The area is highly developed with vast stretches of boardwalk complete with electric boat rides and road train transportation to get the swarming people around the extensive area. Not our idea of fun and we suggested it would be better removed from the itinerary in future.

    J16_1599 Somatochlora meridionalisHaving said that, given all that crystal clear fresh water, there were damselflies and dragonflies present in good numbers, though, with the hundreds of pairs of feet constantly tromping past you on the boardwalk, photographing them well was a constant challenge. I have to say that I’m glad I went there, though, because it snagged me a great new prize in the form of my very first Balkan Emerald (Somatochlora meridionalis). Not only was it there, but it was perched, as well. Incredible! The other species of note here was the Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus).

    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
    • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Onychogomphus forcipatus (Small Pincertail)
    • Somatochlora meridionalis (Balkan Emerald)

    Paklenica National Park, 30/06/2016 [#4]

    J16_1737 Orthetrum brunneumPaklenica is a mountain park accessed via a canyon and is more of a birding and reptile venue, when it comes to wildlife. Actually, it seems to be mainly a rock climbing venue. It was a very pleasant walk, too. I wouldn’t normally have bothered to include it here but on the way back down we did stop by the river that flows out of the canyon and found a couple of Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum), so it was worth a line or two. Actually, on the way up the canyon, we had a brief glimpse of a large dragonfly, which was probably a Goldenring  cruising above the river but, there being two kinds here (C. boltonii and C. bidentata), sans photograph we don’t know which it might have been. So, just one confirmed sighting.

    • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)

    Jezero Velo Blato, Pag Island, 01/07/2016 [#5]

    On our final day of wildlife hunting, we crossed onto Pag Island, a long, thin strip of land close to the Croatian coast. It proved to be quite rocky and all but tree free, other than some impressively ancient olive trees. A first stop at some meadows with fresh water netted us two damselfly species but the first stop of any significance was at Jezero Velo Blato, which seems to translate as Lake Big Mud.

    J16_1829 Lindenia tetraphyllaJ16_1842 Selysiothemis nigra femaleLake Big Mud is an apt description and the big mud in question was overlooked by a bird hide. On the track down towards the mud I briefly saw a large Odo but soon lost it in the confusion of tall grass stems and dry stone wall joints. As others headed to the hide, Carol and I started skirting the mud. A board advertised the presence of Black Pennants (Selysiothemis nigra), which would be a new species for me, so I was on high alert. It was while we were looking for these that what was probably the biggest prize appeared. A large, grey-ish dragon settled on the ground and posed. This was what I glimpsed but lost on the way in. It was a wonderful male Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphyla). Soon afterwards we added our second prize of a Black Pennant, though only the female of the species.

    J16_1806 Crocothemis erythraeaThe other noteworthy find here was an elderly olive-form female Broad Scarlet/Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea).

    Despite a modest species count, with two exciting lifers, Lake Big Mud was the star of the trip.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Lindenia tetraphylla (Bladetail)
    • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)

    Unnamed lake, 01/07/2016 [#6]

    J16_1907 Crocothemis erythraeaWe weren’t quite done yet after Lake Big Mud; we made a further stop at a small lake beside the road for lunch. This little place was buzzing with activity, particularly with Broad Scarlets/Scarlet Darters (Crocothemis erythraea) but also, less excitingly being one of the home team, with Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum). Once again, the other instance being Jezero Velo Blato, we saw a very interesting female colour form Broad Scarlet, an androchrome bright red female.

    J16_1957 Lestes macrostigmaThe most noteworthy resident of this little lake, though, was only our second ever encounter with the wonderful Dark Spreadwing (Lestes macrostigma), though we found only a single male, curiously. Still, very nice to have found one of our own without being guided to them. 😉

    • Lestes macrostigma (Dark Spreadwing)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
    • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)
    Posted in 2016, Croatia, Slovenia, Trip reports

    Spain, Xmas 2015

    This was definitely not intended as an Odo hunting trip. This was a planned escape from the desperately depressing, unadulterated commercialism of a British Christmas. I went, however, suspecting that I might find a late darter or two basking in the early winter rays of the Jalón sun because I’d seen some there in December on a previous year. I hoped so, because I wanted to get a definitive identification which was hitherto missing. I was more surprised by my other find. So, albeit with very limited late-season content, here’s a brief report.

    Marjal del Senillar, Moraira 27/12/2015 [#1]

    There is the so-called Marjal del Senillar [marjal = marsh] on the coast at Moraira and I do mean on the coast – it is quite literally on the other side of the boardwalk from the beach. We had seen a late Odo there, a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) a few years ago but, because I had failed to find anything else since, I never added the marjal to my Spanish locations map.

    Since then, we added a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) to give us a list of two.

    _15C4348 December Epaulet SkimmerThis year, we visited Moraira just after Christmas Day and, not expecting any dragonfly encounters, were poorly equipped photographically. However, Carol did have her full frame camera (so no 1.6X APC sensor advantage) armed with her 24-105mm general walkabout lens. Just as well she had something because, to my complete surprise, an Odo flitted about to begin sunbathing. Carol managed to snap it from a distance and, though not a close shot, this is clearly an Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma). I was even more surprised. This was an interesting date: records show it flying in southern Turkey to the end of August and November in north-west Africa, though there it is suspected to be active year round [according to Dijkstra/Lewington].

    I’ve added the marjal to my Spanish locations map.

    Riu Jalon-Gorgos, 16/12/2015 & 3/01/2016 [#2]

    This is Spanish home turf. I’d first seen darters in late December here (23rd, to be precise) in 2013 and I unthinkingly assumed them to be Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum), largely because that’s what I’m used to seeing in December, if anything. However, given my recent discovery of Desert Darters (S. sinaiticum) at the same location, I’d become uncertain as to their identity. So, I was hoping for a repeat showing with an opportunity to get a more definitive picture.

    J15_3262 December Confusing DarterI found a handful of suspects flitting about on 16th December but, once again, I was on the wrong side of the light at a poor angle and uncertain about their identification, the main possibilities being Common Darters (S. striolatum), Desert Darters (S. sinaiticum) and even Southern Darters (S. meridionale). Here’re the reasons for my confusion.

    1. This individual shows no black dots on the dorsal side of S8&9 , which I’d expect on S. striolatum.
    2. There are faint dark marks showing on the sides of S2&3 which could indicate S. sinaitcum.
    3. The thorax side appears quite plain (S. sinaiticum?) but the amount of yellow on the legs is unclear(S. meridionale?).
    4. The underside of the eye isn’t clear (S. sinaiticum vs. S. striolatum)  and there even appears to be some colouration on the major wing veins (?).

    The jury is still out, in my mind.

    J15_3339 January Common DarterOn 3rd January, 2016, to my relief and delight – this was the latest I had ever seen a dragonfly in Europe – I found a couple more red-bodied darters again. This time I managed to get a close macro shot on the correct side of the light. This individual does have dark marks on the dorsal side of S8&9 and a clearly brown underside to the eye – I’m comfortable that this was a Common Darter (S. striolatum).

    Posted in 2015, 2016, Spain, Trip reports
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