Spain, Aug 2013

Other than a worrying warning light the shape of which resembled our engine block, we completed our 1200mls/1900kms road journey from Calais, over the Pyrenees and on to Jalón (near Calpe on the Costa Blanca) smoothly. It has to be said that driving to Spain is not particularly cost effective. The diesel alone costs about £500 and, on top of that, there’s the ferry (~£80) and recovery insurance (~£80), together with accommodation and meals (~£400) en route to take into account. The more rational way would be a low cost airline such as easyJet (~£300 the pair) plus a rental car to get independence of travel while at the Spanish end. I quite like long drives, though, and the journey was basically fun, despite a few traffic jams (Bordeaux was far and away the worst) and that worrying warning light.

The last 50kms or so driving down the autopista felt distressingly like coming home. Distressing because the house we were staying in belongs to someone else. 🙂 We’d been invited out to help friend Chris celebrate his birthday and to get a flavour of the Spanish fiestas but, this being our first visit to Spain in the height of summer, I was hoping for some decent Odo action.

I tried to do some research before leaving but it seemed rather difficult to get any detailed information about very many Odo sites. Previously, I’d had difficulty identifying sites myself using maps and good ol’ Google Earth so perhaps there really is a paucity of them. Alternatively and, I suspect, more likely, Spain is a rather under recorded country when it comes to Odonata. This was certainly the opinion expressed by a contact at UKDragonflies who visits Spain both regularly and frequently. Certainly, there aren’t many detailed dragonfly websites available. I did get one pointer to the area from one David Chelmick at Macromia Scientific which proved useful, especially so because I found a new (for me) species, though not the species that David had mentioned I might find.

Actually, we found two new species but one was not acting on information received.

View Dragonfly Sites, Spain in a larger map

Las Salinas, Calpe: 7 Aug, 2013

J01_3711 Immature RVDBack in May, I had been a little surprised to find a pair of Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombii) at this salt water lagoon. I was no longer surprised since I’d since learned that S. fonscolombii is often associated with coastal regions. I was keen to return to see firstly if this had been a fluke and secondly if anything else might be present. The answer to the first question was no, my May sighting was no fluke; now the side of the lagoon was playing home to many RVDs of both sexes. The answer to the second question was also no, I saw no other species.

  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter )

Riu Xaló-Gorgos, Jalón: 6/8 Aug, 2013

J01_3723 Epaulet Skimmer[BTW: Xaló is Valencianan for Jalón.]

The river that flows through Jalón is a little confusing in that there is usually water in the river bed at Jalón and much further downstream at Xavier but in between, round about Lliber, the river bed remains confusingly dry. The river, I’m told, disappears underground. Weird! Where there is usually water, I’d been a little surprised not to find any evidence of dragonflies back in May. This time I looked harder and in more places and found a decent haul including, most notably, a new species to me, the Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma). New species are always a thrill but also a little confusing so I verified my id with a contact familiar with Spanish dragonflies. Another species I was delighted to see here, particularly given the lighting conditions for photography, was the Violet Dropwing/Violet-marked Darter (Trithemis annulata).

  • J01_3689 Violet DropwingIschnura elegans (Common Bluetail/Blue-tailed Damselfly) 1
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor/Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet/Scarlet Darter)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

Riu Xaló-Gorgos, Lliber: 9 Aug, 2013

Though the riverbed of the  Xaló-Gorgos seems utterly dry both above and below Lliber, we did wander and found a few sizable pools of water. Unfortunately, the sizable pools of water outnumbered the dragonflies considerably, there being only one species that I spotted.

  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)

Pego-Oliva Marsh Nature Reserve: 10 Aug, 2013

One of my attempts at research prior to the trip was to contact a birder with the Jalón U3A. Though he did not have any specific dragonfly sites knowledge, he did point me at the Parque Natural de Marjal de Pego-Oliva, a mixture of marshes and rice paddies. I had actually tried it before but failed to find somewhere that I was happy to park for fear of infringing the law. My contact straightened me out and we tried again with much more success.

  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail/Blue-tailed Damselfly 1
  • Erythromma viridulum (Small Red-eyed Damselfly)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)

La Vall d’Ebo: 12 Aug, 2013

J01_3824 Southern SkimmerThis was quite an interesting find for us, not to mention quite an interesting drive. To get up to La Vall d’Ebo we drove up over the coastal range of hills/mountains round some classic hairpin bends. Our idea was to have a tapas lunch at a restaurant that had been recommended but there’s also a small river running beside the village. Our approach took us over a river bridge but the river’s bed looked bone dry, rather like the river at Lliber. However, we did find decent pools of water and a good haul of dragonflies. The star turn was undoubtedly one particularly cooperative make Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum).

I’m pretty sure we spotted a Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) flying about but it didn’t settle and I can’t be sure it wasn’t a Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) which has a similar blue saddle.

  • Erythromma lindenii (Goblet-marked Damselfly)
  • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor) – ?
  • Orthetrum coerulescens (Keeled Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)

Aula Natura De La Marjal De Gandia

J01_3839 Long SkimmerThis was the reserve suggested to me by David Chelmick at Macromia Scientific. The site is apparently known for the Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) which was the main reason for our visit but which, even though our timing looked good compared to its flight season, we did not find. However, the trip was very worthwhile because we did find a new species to add to our catalogue, the Long Skimmer (Orthetrum trinacria). What a happy bunny!

  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail/Blue-tailed Damselfly) 1
  • Erythromma viridulum (Small Red-eyed Damselfly)
  • Anax imperator (Emperor Dragonfly)
  • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Scarlet Darter)
  • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

[1] – There is an Iberian Bluetail (Ischnura graellsii) whose recorded range theoretically overlaps here with the Common Bluetail (I. elegans) though here, the map shows it as something of an outpost. Separating these two painfully similar species requires either hand examination or a detailed photograph. My id of I. elegans is based upon my thinking I can see the upstanding edge of the pronotum on two of my suspects. It’s probably also more likely.

Here’s a spreadsheet of species by location:

Technorati Tags: travel,Spain,Jalon,nature,wildlife,odonata,dragonflies,damselflies,photography

Posted in 2013, Spain, Trip reports
One comment on “Spain, Aug 2013
  1. JC says:

    Since writing this post, David Chelmick has stepped into the breach and become chairman of the BDS. Thank you and well done, David, and it was great to meet you in person at the annual meeting.

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