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.
This 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.
I 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.
- This individual shows no black dots on the dorsal side of S8&9 , which I’d expect on S. striolatum.
- There are faint dark marks showing on the sides of S2&3 which could indicate S. sinaitcum.
- The thorax side appears quite plain (S. sinaiticum?) but the amount of yellow on the legs is unclear(S. meridionale?).
- 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.
On 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).