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
4 comments on “Spain, Sep 2017
  1. David March says:

    Hi John,
    Looks as if I have just missed your visit to Spain! We are going out this Sunday for a couple of weeks, would have been good to have met up with you. I think I mentioned before we have a villa in Gran Alacant and hope to be living there full time in 2019. We are about an hours drive, south from Calpe and just under a 30 min drive from the Hondo Parc. Hopefully the mosquito’s were not too bad at Hondo as we have had them more this year than any other year! I think it is because of the very wet winter. I was last out in Spain the last week in June and the first week in July and it was very good for many insects as the wild flowers had lasted longer because of the higher than average rainfall. Thanks again for a great website and it is always very interesting reading your news, I hope to get my website started towards the end of this year. So no doubt I will be asking for you to identify some dragonfly photo’s I have before I publish them.

    Thanks again

    David March

    • JC says:

      Hi David, and thanks for making contact again.

      Yes, unfortunately we seem to have been ships that pass in the night. As you doubtless saw, this last visit was very last minute and mostly unexpected. It would have been good to meet you, as you say; perhaps that will be easier once you are installed full time. I must say, we’re sort of debating our next life move ourselves, now. I’ve been in the same house for the last 30 years and it feels like time for a change. 😉

      Hondo takes us about 90 minutes but I always like to go there since you introduced me to it. Thanks for that, it’s been a great place that’s given me three new species to date. Well, two new species and one new sex, to be completely accurate. Good stuff.

      Have a good trip yourself.

  2. Simon M says:

    Hi John , lovely to read your blog whilst in Provence myself…we arrived on the 16th sept and don’t worry you haven’t missed Banded Darter as I looked hard on the 18th and couldn’t find any at all !!
    I have another week here so look out for an email with pictures then
    Best regards

    • JC says:

      Interesting, Simon. I bought a wonderfully produce new book recently: Les Libellules de Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azure” [a.k.a. PACA]. One interesting feature is a couple of photos of “typical habitat” for each species, some of which can be pinpointed. I was hoping to use it but alas … Maybe next year.

      Good luck for your remaining time.

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