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

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