Australia, Nov-Dec 2019

For some time I have been considering joining an organized dragonfly hunting tour. In November 2018 I was disappointed not to be able to take part in a tour of Western Australia organized by Phil Benstead of Odonatours due to a clash of dates. Happily I had no such problem joining his 2-week tour of eastern Australia in 2019.

Phil does an impressive amount of research when planning his trips and had compiled an initial itinerary beginning in Brisbane, then heading south into New South Wales before tacking back just north of Brisbane into parts of south-east Queensland. The best laid plans of mice and men were foiled late in the day by an early outbreak of severe wild bush fires which became international news and caused all the NSW National Parks to be closed. Phil did an incredible job of re-planning to stay in Queensland, which was less severely hit by fires, forsaking NSW and heading further north of Brisbane instead. With a huge amount of species under his belt, Phil tends to concentrate on rarer endemics.

J19_2365 PHOXX-II at Platypus BushcampThe kicker for me was that this was one of Phil’s so-called recce trips, which are designed to be investigative with a view to building a more formal tour based on the knowledge gained. His recce trips use a single vehicle with a maximum of four attendees, himself included. In this case there were just three of us. The recce trip format is to travel light and cheap by camping in small tents, which we were to take with us. Phil loves camping. I, on the other hand, hadn’t slept on the ground for more than 35 years so had a little apprehension but I did have fun auditioning small back-packing tents and equipment. I settled on an OEX Phoxx-II  from Go Outdoors, which seemed to be comfortably long enough for a 6-footer and which cost a mere £75. It is billed as a potential 2-person tent but please, get real, though I did find it quite adequate for one, with essential overnight accessories arrayed around me. A self-inflating sleeping mat and a season-2 sleeping bag completed my kit. I actually grew quite fond of my little tent and was sad when it sustained some damage on its very last night.

Australia is a large land with very varied habitats and boasts over 320 species of odonata. My only previous experience with dragons in Oz was in November 2017 and had been very ad hoc – find ‘em as and when you can – since the main purpose of that trip was to visit relatives and friends. Prior to this 2019 trip, my Australian species count was just about 12. I was trusting that this would increase it dramatically. Some Australian species are shared with Southeast Asia, of which I also have some experience, so not all were likely to be new to me but the majority certainly would be.  Since the common names differ between Australia and Asia, I use the Australian vernacular names here.

Before the camping trip proper began, I spent three days in Brisbane with the third tour member, Roy, before Phil arrived. The highlight of these three days for me was certainly the Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. Once the camping trip itself began, as well as surviving sleeping on the ground whilst avoiding bush fires and Australia’s famed poisonous critters, I managed to photograph a total of 55 species, 43 of which were new to me. Given the difficult lighting conditions in some of the forest habitats, some my photographs were less than brilliant but they do, at least, act as a record.

The itinerary was quite full-on. With temperatures often exceeding 35°C, both we and the odos were active early; we began most often by 06:30, spending up to 7 hours a day in the field searching multiple habitats. In most cases, I would have preferred to have been able to spend longer getting a greater number of more varied pictures of each species but time frequently did not allow. Some species were encountered more often and naturally received better treatment. Even though I’d have liked to slow it down a bit, I would certainly consider this format again. I may have a harder time with a larger group of, say, 8 or 10 people, all trying to surround and photograph the same subject.

Given 2+ weeks covering 33 habitats spread over 3000kms of Queensland, this is necessarily a lengthy report. I didn’t really want to split it into chapters, though.

Here’s my usual map of sites visited and species encountered.

Tingalpa Reservoir @ JC Trotter Memorial Park, 17 Nov [#1]

We entered through JC Trotter Memorial Park but the odonata were at the edge of an arm of Tingalpa Reservoir, which is very large though it was clearly shrinking and showing muddy banks. We had to fight our way through a lot of bush to gain access to the water’s edge. J19_1336 Macrodiplax coraOnce at the water’s edge, I found four species including both male and female of Wandering Pennant (Macrodiplax cora), so I was off to a reasonable start. The remaining three were old friends from SE Asia.

  • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Riverdamsel)
  • Macrodiplax cora (Wandering Pennant)
  • Orthetrum sabina (Slender Skimmer)
  • Diplacodes trivialis (Chalky Percher)

Minnippi Parkland, 18 Nov [#2]

J19_1375 Pseudagrion microcephalumWe went here to investigate a stretch of Bulimba Creek but that proved to be difficult to access; all we could see there was Blue Riverdamsel (Pseudagrion microcephalum) though one posed well enough for a macro lens to be deployed. So we wandered further through the park and found a water body which was much more productive. The map point indicates the water body. Cruising around above was a Common Glider (Tramea loewii), which was a new species to me, though all I could get was a fuzzy, distant flight shot from beneath.

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Riverdamsel)
  • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)
  • Macrodiplax cora (Wandering Pennant)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Tramea loewii (Common Glider)

Paradise Road Park, 18 Nov [#3]

J19_1443 Diplacodes haematodes femaleThis was nothing startling, just a small creek we happened across whilst driving about. It did yield my first sighting of a female Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes), though.

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)

Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens, Brisbane, 19 Nov & 03 Dec [#4]

J19_3417 Rhothemis graphipteraFinding much on my first two days in Brisbane whilst waiting for our main tour to begin was a bit of a struggle. That all changed with a visit to these wonderful botanical gardens which were teaming with odonata life. Frankly, for one with only a small collection of Ozzie Odos, this was my favourite pace of the trip. It kept me entertained for the whole day and, I hoped, would do so again at the back end of the trip. Not only did it have great odonata but it also has some of the best coffee I’ve tasted together with decent food and cold Furphy beer. It was a great place for a pair of Rhyothemis species, Yellow-striped Flutterer (Rhyothemis phyllis) and Graphic Flutterer (Rhyothemis graphiptera) which I find captivating.

Tramea loewii-1735We did call in again and it did not disappoint, though I didn’t add to the species count. I did, however, at last manage to get a decent shot of a Common Glider (Tramea loewii).

  • Austroagrion watsoni (Eastern
    Billabongfly)
  • Nososticta solida (Orange Threadtail)
  • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)
  • Crocothemis nigrifrons (Black-headed Skimmer)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Hydrobasileus brevistylus (Water Prince)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum sabina (Slender Skimmer)
  • Orthetrum villosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)
  • Tramea loewii (Common Glider)
  • Rhyothemis phyllis (Yellow-striped Flutterer)
  • Rhyothemis graphiptera (Graphic Flutterer)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)

Albany Lake Park, Sippy Downs, 20 Nov [#5]

J19_1758 Nannodiplax rubra maleFollowing our initial supermarket foraging mission for supplies, I found our first odonata stop on the road trip proper a bit of a surprise in that it was an urban park surrounded by a large development of reasonably well appointed looking houses. Driving though a modern estate to get to our habitat felt a little odd, though I suppose it shouldn’t have. Having had an early start it was certainly worth it as it produced a couple of new species, including the delightfully diminutive Pygmy Percher (Nannodiplax rubra).

  • Austrocnemis splendida (Splendid Longlegs)
  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Diplacodes trivialis (Chalky Percher)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Hydrobasileus brevistylus (Water Prince)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)
  • Nannodiplax rubra (Pygmy Percher)
  • Rhodothemis lieftincki (Red Arrow)

Ewen Maddock Dam, Landsborough, 20 Nov [#6]

J19_1856 Nannophya australisThis was a pilgrimage to try and find the Australian Pygmyfly (Nannophya australis). The margin of the reservoir was marshy and thick with water plants, so Wellington boots were really needed, which I didn’t have. Fortunately my comrades were better equipped and waded in, succeeding in finding our prized quarry. They called me over to a mostly accessible specimen and my walking boots just about sufficed, allowing me to get a few pictures like this one. It was such a delight that I simply couldn’t mind getting wet feet, anyway. I had failed to find a relative, the Scarlet Dwarf (Nannophya pygmaea), in Singapore six years earlier so this was quite a thrill.

  • Nannophya australis (Australian Pygmyfly)
  • Rhyothemis graphiptera (Graphic Flutterer)

Mapleton Falls National Park, 20 Nov [#7]

J19_1919 Austroargiolestes chrysoidesThis was another site on the itinerary because a specific species was being sought, the Golden Flatwing (Austroargiolestes chrysoides). Our first treat, however, was being entertained by a Black Tigertail (Eusynthemis nigra ) which was perching advantageously for photographs. Once we moved on we did find the impressive Flatwing and I was treated to my first glimpse of what would become a firm favourite, a Sapphire Rockmaster (Diphlebia coerulescens).

  • Austroargiolestes chrysoides (Golden Flatwing)
  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diphlebia coerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Eusynthemis nigra (Black Tigertail)
  • Orthetrum villosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)

Yabba Creek, 20 Nov [#8]

After a day visiting three sites, it was time to find a campsite.  Our first attempt turned out to be an interesting-looking bush camp but it was too light on facilities – we needed power and showers. The Kenilworth Showground proved very reasonable and I set about unpacking my tent and pitching it for the first time. A hammer would’ve been useful and a friendly local took pity on us. The site was basically in town, too, so very convenient.

Rhadonosticta simplex-1970We went out on one of Phil’s crepuscular hunts to Yabba Creek. In a lean evening, my highlight here was a teneral Powdered Wiretail (Rhadonosticta simplex).

  • Rhadinosticta simplex (Powdered Wiretail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)

Booloumba Creek, 21 Nov [#9]

J19_2024 Nannophlebia risiWe visited a couple of separate but quite close sites along Booloumba Creek, including the interestingly named Lobster Creek. Rather than complicate things even further, I’ve chosen to combine these into a single list. This area produced a number of attractive highlights including the colourful Gold-fronted Riverdamsel (Pseudagrion aureofrons) and its congener the Flame-headed Riverdamsel (P. ignifer), together with another rather small, intriguing critter, the Common Archtail (Nannophlebia risi).

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Austroagrion watsoni (Eastern Billabongfly)
  • Pseudagrion aureofrons (Gold-fronted Riverdamsel)
  • Pseudagrion ignifer (Flame-headed Riverdamsel)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclytus (Stout Vicetail)
  • Choristhemis flavoterminata (Yellow-tipped Tigertail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Nannophlebia risi (Common Archtail)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

Seary’s Creek, Great Sandy NP, 21 & 22 Nov [#10]

At the end of this day we were heading for a campsite at Rainbow Beach, which proved to be adequate in a very sandy kind of way, though it was always bound to attract groups of youthful sunseekers. On our final approach we called in to Seary’s Creek which proved still to be rather invaded by said sunseekers; it felt like an odd mix of swimming hole and dragonfly habitat.

J19_2128 Hemigomphus cooloolaThis was the so-called wallum habitat peculiar to coastal south-eastern Queensland. We determined to visit again earlier the following morning. Our 2nd visit was much more enjoyable as we had beaten Joe Public to it. Thus it was also more successful; amongst others we found two interesting Gomphids including the local endemic Wallum Vicetail (Hemigomphus cooloola). Great stuff.

  • Pseudagrion ignifer (Flame-headed Riverdamsel)
  • Austrogomphus ochraceus (Jade Hunter)
  • Hemigomphus cooloola (Wallum Vicetail)
  • Nannophlebia risi (Common Archtail)
  • Orthetrum villosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)

Poona Lake, Great Sandy NP, 22 Nov [#11]

J19_2163 Austrolestes miinjerriba maleIn the continued heat after Sandy’s Creek, temperatures hitting the mid 30sC, we made A 2+km trek up to a Poona Lake with the exciting prospect of a Dune Ringtail (Austrolested minjerriba). Not wishing to leave any valuables in our vehicle, I had to do the trek with my cargo vest and rucksack mounted. The Brownwater Skimmer (Orthetrum boumiera)  was new to me as well. Interesting habitat.

  • Austrolestes minjerriba (Dune Ringtail)
  • Orthetrum boumiera (Brownwater Skimmer)

Teewah Creek, Great Sandy NP, 22 Nov [#12]

We called in here after returning from Poona Lake. It produced just a single species.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)

Lagoon Creek, 23 Nov [#13]

J19_2189 Ceriagrion aeruginosum in tandemThis was mostly a chunky travel day. We left Rainbow Beach and the sunseekers behind and called in on Lagoon Creek bound for an interim campsite at Rockhampton. Rockhampton did the job when it came to pitching tents and had a very basic fish and chip shop on site, so cooking after a long day could be avoided. It proved to be a very limited habitat with little moisture but, besides a poisonous Red-bellied Snake, it netted me a tandem pair of Redtails (Ceriagrion aeruginosum).

  • Ceriagrion aeruginosum (Redtail)

St Lawrence Wetlands, 24 Nov [#14]

Brachydiplax denticauda-2208After a 1-night stop at Rockhampton we were heading for the intriguingly named Finch Hatton Gorge area. En route we made a short detour to have a gander at the St Lawrence Wetlands. This is a mainly birding wetland but there was an access point that got us close to the water, after the birders had moved on (we didn’t want to disturb their quarry), and it netted us our only meeting with a Palemouth (Brachydiplax denticauda). It was otherwise unremarkable.

  • Brachydiplax denticauda (Palemouth)
  • Diplacodes trivialis (Chalky Percher)
  • Anax papuensis (Australian Emperor)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)

Ford @ Platypus Bushcamp, 24 & 25 Nov [#15]

Platypus Bushcamp turned out to be one of the camping highlights of the trip, though at first it could have been said to look a bit scary, with “bush showers” (i.e. open to the bush on one side). Actually, things were a tad worse than normal in that there was a total fire ban (because of the horrendous outbreaks of wild fires in Eastern Australia) and Wazza, the proprietor, heated water solely with a wood fire … normally. So, cold showers it was to be. Still, at 35°C, who needs a hot shower? We were to stay for three nights and there really are Duck-billed Platypuses on site. We all loved the place and Wazza, 80 if he’s a day, is a real character.

Diphlebia coerulescens-2225Just a few yards down the approach road is a ford over a rock-strewn river which we visited twice. I now got a really good chance to play with the delightful Sapphire Rockmasters (Diphlebia coerulescens) that were taking their name to heart.

  • Diphlebia coerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Nososticta solitaria (Fivespot threadtail)

Finch Hatton Gorge, 24 & 25 Nov [#16]

I was in my element: Denys Finch-Hatton, played by Robert Redford in Out of Africa, is one of my cinematic heroes and here we were at the Finch Hatton Gorge near the small town of Finch Hatton. My bubble was burst when, not only did no one in town know of Denys but they didn’t really seem to know of the movie – only the 2nd best film in history. It seems there is no connection between Denys and the town.

Episynlestes intermedius-2320We were on the doorstep of the gorge itself and made two visits. It’s another quite steep waterway falling over large, smoothed boulders. So, the Rockmasters were in their element once again but the star find here has to be a teneral Intermediate Whitetip (Episynlestes intermedius) with its unbelievable anal appendages, which eagle-eyed Phil spotted in some side vegetation. He really was quite remarkable at seeing things.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diphlebia coerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Episynlestes intermedius (Intermediate Whitetip)
  • Nososticta solitaria (Fivespot Threadtail)
  • Eusynthemis nigra (Black Tigertail)
  • Orthetrum villosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)

Dalrymple Heights, Eungella NP, 26 Nov [#17]

J19_2494 Austroaeshna eungellaAustralia is lousy with Austroaeshna species; there are 21 of them, all endemic, or so I presume given the “Austro-” prefix. We drove up through a series of hairpin bends into Eungella National Park towards Dalrymple Heights with Phil largely in search of one in particular, the locally endemic Eungella Darner (Austroaeshna eungella). He found it but it took a netting job to prove it since they are not keen on settling.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Diphlebia caerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Austroaeshna eungella (Eungella Darner)
  • Eusynthemis nigra (Black Tigertail)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Orthetrum villosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)

Cattle Creek, 27 Nov [#18]

J19_2620 Diphlebia coerulescens teneralWe left Wazza and his delightfully rustic Platypus Bushcamp heading for our next stop at Emerald. On the way we checked out a few rivers, the first of which was Cattle Creek. We came up with 7 species, though nothing new. I did enjoy seeing a teneral male Sapphire Rockmaster (Diphlebia coerulescens) though.

  • Diphlebia coerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Riverdamsel)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclytus (Stout VIcetail)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Rhyothemis graphiptera (Graphic Flutterer)

Pioneer River, 27 Nov [#19]

Ictinogomphus australis-2659This was quite a large river on the edge of Mirani; again, an unremarkable location but good to see a few familiar suspects again, including one of my favourites, an Australian Tiger (Ictinogomphus australis) looking as mean as ever.

  • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Riverdamsel)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Rhyothemis graphiptera (Graphic Flutterer)

Dysart, 27 Nov [#20]

Bound for Emerald, this was a relatively unproductive stop beside a long, straight road at Dysart where we spotted a small pool and some watery reed habitat, as well as several ex kangaroos that were falling victim to the road trains piling up and down the road. We saw a Black Kite with a damaged wing that had clearly fallen victim to road traffic too, having been attracted to a carcase. Sad!

J19_2681 Orthetrum caledonicumThis serves as an opportunity to show the almost ubiquitous Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum); this must have been our most prevalent species which we encountered almost everywhere.

  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

Emerald Botanic Garden, 27 & 28 Nov [#21]

After about 300kms of driving south from the delightful, if very rustic, Platypus Bushcamp we arrived at Emerald, a stopping point chosen mainly, I think, for its convenience en route to Carnarvon Gorge. It certainly wasn’t chosen for the appeal of its campsite, which seemed the least enjoyable of our trip. The site appeared to be home to quite a few itinerant workers but my main issue with it was that no attempt whatsoever had been made to softening its landscape, or provide much shade. Again we suffered from iron-hard ground and no hammer. Roy actually pitched his tent across a concrete hard-standing slab. I resolved to pick up a handy rock when we moved on which happily we would the following morning.

Hemicordulia intermedia-2743Dire though the Emerald Tourist Park – it has 4-star reviews, BTW – felt to me, our visits to the nearby Emerald Botanic Garden were quite productive, a feature I have come to expect of botanic gardens in general. We called in twice, once on the late afternoon of our arrival and again the following morning, before my much anticipated departure. A swell as seeing the colourful Orange Threadtail (Nososticta solida)  again, and a second Powdered Wiretail (Rhadinosticta simplex), I was very happy to spend a considerable amount of effort snagging our only sighting of an Ozzie Yellow-spotted Emerald (Hemicordulia intermedia) in flight, since it refused steadfastly to settle. [I say Ozzie because this is nothing like our European Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata).]

  • Nososticta solida (Orange Threadtail)
  • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Riverdamsel)
  • Rhadinosticta simplex (Powdered Wiretail)
  • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)
  • Crocothemis nigrifrons (Black-headed Skimmer)
  • Hemicordulia intermedia (Yellow-spotted Emerald)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

Pool @ Wyseby Road, 28 Nov [#22]

Ischnura aurora-2810We were en route to a campsite near the Carnarvon Gorge. When travelling, anything that looks like possible habitat causes Phil to break and pull over. This was a mostly dry pool in the middle of countryside. There was a little water, though and some vegetation in which we found some colourful Aurora Bluetails (Ischnura aurora). I also found a very handy palm-shaped rock to double as a hammer for smacking in tent pegs. With the temperature at 35+C, when I picked the rock up it burnt my hand.

  • Ischnura aurora (Aurora Bluetail)

Stream @ O’Briens Road, 28 Nov [#23]

Austrolestes aridus-2838Continuing towards our Carnarvon Gorge campsite, this, a simple stream crossing, was our next distraction. It soon caused whoops of joy from those that know; we had found the Inland Ringtail (Austrolestes aridus) in the company of a congener, Wandering Ringtail (Austrolestes leda) which I was familiar with from my 2017 trip.

  • Austrolestes aridus (Inland Ringtail)
  • Austrolestes leda (Wandering Ringtail)

Takarakka Ford, 28 Nov [#24]

Our chosen campsite near the Carnarvon Gorge was Takarakka Bush Resort. This really exists purely for the Carnarvon Gorge and was quite simply a marvellous campsite with wallabies, ‘roos and bettongs, hopping around the pitches, echidnas rummaging through the undergrowth and fruit bats flying over the camp. The staff were charming and we could even get tent pegs in the ground. I can’t recommend it highly enough and was very happy that we had three nights here. I could have stayed longer. One section of the site has been colonized by an estimated 20,000 Fruit Bats, those that were flying over each evening, refugees from a fire-threatened cave where they used to live in Carnarvon Gorge itself. Despite part of the campsite having been put out of action by them – you do not want to camp beneath 20,000 Fruit bats – the owners, to their credit, are leaving them in peace.

Pseudagrion ignifer-2860Just outside the camp on the approach track was a ford over a river, once again with a few rocks strewn about. As well as introducing me to a second Rockmaster species, the Arrowhead Rockmaster (Diphlebia nymphoides), this ford gave decent views of the colourful Flame-headed Riverdamsel (Pseudagrion ignifer).

  • Diphlebia nymphoides (Arrowhead Rockmaster)
  • Pseudagrion ignifer (Flame-headed RIverdamsel)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclytus (Stout Vicetail)

Carnarvon Gorge (Moss Garden Trail), 29 Nov [#25]

At Takarakka Bush Resort I was in heaven; I awoke to ‘roos with pouches full of joeys grazing in the loop of our camping area. The campsite puts on a brief introductory video of the spectacular Carnarvon Gorge itself and today, that’s where we were heading. A full gorge walk is a tiring 20+ kilometres and not something you’d want to attempt in the 40°C that might’ve been expected in the gorge on this day (it can be 5°C hotter than outside the gorge). We headed into Carnarvon Gorge itself. There are many side trails, all of which head up the gorge sides. Our target was the Moss Garden Trail, happily just a couple of kilometres into the gorge. We made an early start to avoid the midday heat but our return was still quite hot enough.

J19_2961 Austrocordulia refracta maleDiphlebia nymphoides male-2938There were a couple of highlights here, including both male and female Southern Whitetips (Episynlestes albicauda). The Arrowhead Rockmasters (Diphlebia nymphoides) also put a grand display, posing very well. The star find, though, has to be an Eastern Hawk (Austrocordulia refracta), though it did make photography tricky hanging in deep shade beneath a frond.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
  • Austrogomphus amphiclitus (Pale Hunter)
  • Episynlestes albicauda (Southern Whitetip)
  • Diphlebia nymphoides (Arrowhead Rockmaster)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Austrocordulia refracta (Eastern Hawk)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclytus (Stout Vicetail)
  • Tramea loewii (Common Glider)

Mickey Creek, 30 Nov [#26]

Mickey Creek was the first of two creeks outside Carnarvon Gorge itself. It had clearly suffered from flood water due to a recent deluge  and care was needed along the margins of the gulley.

J19_3156 Hemicordulia australiae maleI spent a long time with a relatively cooperative in-flight Australian Emerald (Hemicordulia australiae), here, as well as snagging a female Yellow-tipped TIgertail (Choristhemis flavoterminata) ovipositing.

  • Austroargiolestes icteromela (Common Flatwing)
  • Choristhemis flavoterminata (Yellow-tipped Tigertail)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclytus (Stout Vicetail)

Rock Pool, 30 Nov [#27]

On the opposite side of the road from Mickey Creek  we drove into the parking area for Rock Pool. After a short walk we found the rocky stream which fed into a wide area which was obviously a swimming hole. Fortunately, the interesting habitat was upstream of Joe Public’s recreation area but we were the only folks around, anyway.

Austrogomphus cornutus male-3197There were a couple of good-to-see species here, notably Common Archtail (Nannophlebia risi), as well as a couple of ubiquitous old friends, but for me the star attraction was a Unicorn Hunter (Austrogomphus cornutus). I had to totter my way into the stream using many rounded rocks as stepping stones but eventually got some decent, if rather distant shots including a very impressive obelisk demonstration.

  • Nososticta solida (Orange Threadtail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Nannophlebia risi (Common Archtail)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Austrogomphus cornutus (Unicorn Hunter)

Northbrook Creek @ Red Cedar Park, 02 Dec [#28]

On 1st Dec my companions had made a second trip up to the Moss Garden spur in Carnarvon Gorge but I had chosen to enjoy a relaxing morning enjoying the Takarakka campsite instead. In the afternoon we headed for an overnight stop at Chinchilla Tourist Park to tick off half of the 500km drive back to the environs of Brisbane.

J19_3243 Austroagrion watsoni in copOn 2nd Dec, with about 250km left to get to Brisbane, we called in at a couple of Northbrook Creek sites, Red Cedar Park area being the first. When Northbrook Creek is flowing, it flows into Lake Wivenhoe. It wasn’t; the river bed around the car park was as dry as a bone and looked as if it had been for some time judging by the vegetation growing in the stream bed. Downstream, though, Roy did find a pool with water and odo activity. On the far side of the pool, inaccessible to me, here was what I think was a Unicorn Hunter (Austrogomphus cornutus) but much of the remaining life was commonplace. Tandem Eastern Billbongflies (Austroagrion watsoni) were a little more notable, though their situation was very messy.

  • Austroagrion watsoni (Eastern Billabongfly)
  • Austrogomphus cornutus (Unicorn Hunter)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

Northbrook Gorges, 02 & 03 Dec [#29]

We moved about 3km east up the road to an area known as Northbrook Gorges (according to Google Maps, anyway). The precise location that Phil wanted proved tricky to find but we eventually did spot the parking area tucked away around a tight hairpin bend. Clambering over the Armco barrier, our descent into the gorge to the water was steep but reasonable well trodden. In a very rocky habitat there was water here in several large rock pools as the creek tumbled its way down. Both Roy and Phil worked a longer stretch than did I but I was having fun where I was without straying too far from where the track emerged, as can be seen from this list. We made two visits here, the second being early the following morning.

J19_3271 Choristhemis flavoterminata maleProbably the best photo opportunity from both visits here was a very smart looking male Yellow-tipped Tigertail (Choristhemis flavoterminata).

  • Austroargiolestes chrysoides (Golden Flatwing)
  • Diphlebia coerulescens (Sapphire Rockmaster)
  • Austroagrion watsoni (Eastern Billabongfly)
  • Austrogomphus ochraceous (Jade Hunter)
  • Choristhemis flavoterminata (Yellow-tipped Tigertail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Eusynthemis nigra (Black TIgertail)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Hemigomphus heteroclcytus (Stout Vicetail)

Green Falls, Mount Glorious, 02 Dec [#30]

After puffing and panting back up the slope from Northbrook Gorges, we called in on Green Falls at Mount Glorious. With engineering works in progress closing the main car park, the first challenge was finding a parking place. That sorted we wandered down a track towards the eponymous falls.

J19_3352 Austrophlebia costalis maleThis was a single species site but oh, what a species. On the track descending towards the falls, Phil spotted a highly prized Southern Giant Darner (Austrophlebia costalis) hanging up beneath a frond. Getting a picture of it in the very gusty conditions, causing the beast to wobble around and leaves to flap across the line of sight, was frustratingly difficult and was responsible for the utterance of several oaths. Contrast was high with bright backlight, too; I needed flash. Eventually attempts were successful and the frustrations vanished.

  • Austrophlebia costalis (Southern Giant Darner)

Yugarapul Park, Brisbane, 04 Dec [#31]

The term “park” could be seen as a little misleading in that there aren’t really any public paths through the area. One has to fight ones way through sometimes marshy bush to see anything. The big draw here was the magnificent and scarce Coastal Petaltail (Petalura litorea). My companions fought their way in on the late afternoon of 3rd Dec while I remained outside. The boys apparently found at attractively named Fat-bellied Emerald (Hemicordulia continentalis) so I should’ve braved it. Bother! Having failed to find the main quarry, we returned on the morning of 4th Dec when I did throw caution to the wind and follow them in. I collected a tick for my troubles but such is the lot of a dragonfly hunter. Happily the tick didn’t attach.

Tramea stenoloba male-3546We still found no Coastal Petaltail but we did find the following, the only common species being the Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum), though this was a very helpful female, and the Australian Emerald (Hemicordulia australiae). The Pale Hunter (Austrogomphus amphiclitus) was exciting and cooperative and unusually, the Narrow-lobed Glider (Tramea stenoloba) posed very advantageously. Coastal Flatwing (Griseargiolestes albescens) was new, too.

  • Griseargiolestes albescens (Coastal Flatwing)
  • Austrogomphus amphiclitus (Pale Hunter)
  • Hemicordulia australiae (Australian Emerald)
  • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
  • Tramea stenoloba (Narrow-lobed Glider)

Stretton Recreation Reserve @ Karawatha Forest, Brisbane, 04 Dec [#32]

We continued our last day with a visit to Karawatha Forest. There was a good looking piece of habitat but access to the margins was less than brilliant so all of my time was spent watching from the pedestrian bridge that crossed over the water.

J19_3586 Hydrobasileus brevistylus maleThere were a few species, most of which I ignored ‘cos there was nothing new. I did snap an Australian Tiger (Ictinogomphus australis) because I just can’t resist them, though looking down on it from the bridge was never going to produce anything very useful. I spent almost all my time watching and photographing a flying Water Prince (Hydrobasileus brevistylus) which did produce something useful.

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Hydrobasileus brevistylus (Water Prince)
  • Ictinogomphus australis (Australian Tiger)

Wembly Road @ Karawatha Forest, Brisbane, 04 Dec [#33]

This, a creek we had spotted driving around the edge of Karawatha Forest,  would round off my trip to Queensland, apart from a very decent curry with Phil and Roy in the evening. The first of my flights home was in the morning and my night was spent in an Ibis Budget Hotel near the airport.

Diplacodes melanopsis male-3618It rounded it off quite successfully. Visiting both sides of the road, which crossed the creek, we found six species, some of which played nicely, but the most interesting of which was my only Black-faced Percher (Diplacodes melanopsis), a rather immature and somewhat hard-to-access individual. A good end to the trip, nonetheless.

  • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
  • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
  • Diplacodes melanopsis (Black-faced Percher)
  • Orthetrum vollosovittatum (Fiery Skimmer)
  • Rhyothemis graphiptera (Graphic Flutterer)
  • Rhyothemis phyllis (Yellow-striped Flutterer)
Posted in 2019, Australia, Trip reports

France, July 2019

This wasn’t actually a trip in its own right but was a single week tacked onto the end of our trip around Germany. Having gone out to Germany through Belgium and experienced a dreadful campsite, we were anxious to avoid that route. We decided to take a slightly more southerly route back through Germany to cross into France at Saarbrucken. That put us in a good position to do some emotional sightseeing and odo-hunting along what was the Western Front in 1914-18. As soon as we crossed the border into France, the wildlife began to increase over Germany’s meagre offerings and prospects improved.

Since the two countries appeared to differ markedly, I didn’t want to lump them together as one trip. So, France is getting its own report.

Les Étangs de Longeau, 06 Jul [#1]

Somatochlora metallica, France-0824Staying at a small, aire naturelle style campsite in an orchard at Saint-Maurice-sous-les-Côtes, we spent a few pleasant days searching the surrounding area. In terms of odonata, this was a very productive little pair of lakes (there’s another which we didn’t visit) that yielded an impressive list of 17 species in just a little over an hour. Especially satisfying was a chance to snag some flight shots of a Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica). I never have seen one settled.

  • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
  • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Aeshna cyanea (Blue Hawker)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Onychogomphus forcipatus unguiculatus (Small Pincertail)
  • Cordulia aenea (Downy Emerald)
  • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)
  • Libellula fulva (Blue Chaser)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

Lac de Madine, 08 Jul [#2]

Anax parthenope, Lac de Madine-0905On our campsite at Saint-Maurice-sous-les-Côtes [see #1], we met a German/English couple with a boat nearby on Lac de Madine. They mentioned seeing a dragonfly there. I had low expectations because it is big water with a lot of leisure activity. However, at a second location around its edge that we tried, not only were there a lot of kids enjoying a rope course strung through trees but there were also quite a collection of dragonflies. I was pleasantly surprised and especially happy to catch an in-flight Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope).

  • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
  • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
  • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
  • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)
  • Libellula fulva (Blue Chaser)

Les Étangs du Vélodrome, Albert, 09 Jul [#3]

Anax parthenope ovipositing, France-0969Moving further up the Western Front from the bloody Battle of Verdun to the even bloodier Battle of the Somme, We stayed at Camping le Vélodrome in Albert. Outside the campsite literally 50m away were Les Étangs du Vélodrome to provide some relaxation after our drive. Probably the most notable thing here was that it supported all three European Erythromma species. Photo opportunities weren’t great but best was a pair of ovipositing Lesser Emperors (Anax parthenope).

  • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
  • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
  • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
  • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

Vaux-sur-Somme, 10 Jul [#4]

Libellula fulva, Vaux-sur-Somme-1016We tried to find a few bits of habitat along the Somme that the maps would have us believe were there but without success. We finished up at a very productive smaller stream immediately beside the Somme itself at Vaux-sur-Somme. I now know that Vaux-sur-Somme’s claim to fame is that it is the place where the Red Baron was shot down and killed.

  • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle) – Pleisse River
  • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
  • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
Posted in 2019, France, Trip reports

Germany, Jun 2019

    We’d been invited to visit friends in former East Germany and were going to fly but were scuppered by Ryan-bloody-Air when they cancelled the Stansted-Leipzig route completely. So, we turned it into a 3-week caravan trip.

    It was our first trip to Germany in 31 years. Things have changed. Our route out went through Belgium and the eastward journey was fine. The westward return was made a little further south, to avoid Belgium and hit France at Saarbrucken, on what I can only describe as nightmarish autobahns with dreadful delays caused by multiple sets of long-term road works, mostly at autobahn junctions to cause maximum disruption to the astounding amount of trucks using that particular route. We won’t be in a hurry to repeat the experience.

    We did enjoy the most incredibly good weather with three weeks of unbroken clear blue skies. In fact, the temperature was getting a little uncomfortable at >35°C on a couple of occasions. We were quick struck by how apparently empty the German skies were of birds as well as clouds. Flowery meadows seemed scant and insect life on the margins of fields seemed very meagre – we scared up very few butterflies or other flying insects. It was bizarre; we don’t know what Germany has done to its wildlife.

    Having said that, we did succeed in finding 25 species of odonata in Germany. Originally I had a distant hope that I might see an early Ophiogompus cecilia (Green Snaketail) or Sympetrum vulgatum (Moustached Darter) but no such luck. This was probably a combination of being a little too early and/or not finding the right kind of habitat – they are a little particular and you really need to know where to look.

    What I did find at almost every site – there were just two exceptions – was  Blue Featherlegs/White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes). This was a bit of a surprise since, according to the BDS:

    In recent years there have been increasing concerns that this elegant species is disappearing from some parts of the UK.

    It seemed to be doing very well in Germany which, as far as other wildlife was apparently concerned, might be less than ideal. Interesting.

    Here’s my map with indexed locations.

    Eisenbachtal, 15 Jun [#1]

    Calopteryx virgo, female, Germany-0303Our first camping experience in Germany for 31 years at Herr Wolf’s Campingplatz Eisenbachtal,  near Montabaur, was a sheer delight – hedged pitches with all facilities and a very friendly, welcoming owner who spoke English but graciously allowed me to practice my very rusty and poor German. little gem . He mentioned a lake, I mentioned Libellen, he said “ja”. It wasn’t a stunning collection but it was a relaxing and enjoyable start. This female Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) has a silted abdomen so has been ovipositing – job done.

    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)

    Holzappel Ponds, 16 Jun [#2]

    Somatochlora metallica, Holzappel, Germany-0413This was our first star find on a day trip from Herr Wolf’s to Limburg an der Lahn. On our return we stumbled across a series of descending ponds beside the road on a hill. With a handy-dandy pull in, I couldn’t resist. I’m glad I didn’t because I got my second and very unexpected photographic opportunity with a Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica).

    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
    • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
    • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)
    • Libellula fulva (Blue Chaser)

    Stausee, Hohenfelden, 17 Jun [#3]

    This, our second campsite, was much larger and more of a shock with many static units and a frankly scruffy, crammed area beside the lake. (We set up further away on some real grass.) Being on a lake, it did have a few dragonfly species but a rather uninteresting, small collection, was all I found.

    Platycnemis pennipes, Hohenfelden, Germany-0422The most interesting feature was that Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes) was beginning to be something of a feature, having been at all three sites thus far.

    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)

    Haselbacher Teiche, 20 Jun [#4]

    Chalcolestes viridis, Haselbach-0449Our primary purpose near Leipzig was to meet with some friends we had met in New Zealand 18 months earlier. Knowing I was an odo-nutter, they took us on a bike ride to Haselbacher Teiche where we found a reasonable collection. I must say I was very surprized to see many recently emerged Western Willow Spreadwings (Chalcolestes viridis) – this seemed very early for them, though perhaps they are earlier in Germany, I thought. Then I was even more surprised to be shown a photo of one that had emerged at the same time in the UK. An early year, then.

    • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle) – Pleisse River
    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
    • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

    Starkenberg Reserve, 21 Jun [#5]

    J19_0477 Calopteryx splendens, GermanyWe were spending 6 days a little south of Leipzig with our friends. They seemed keen for me to see as many dragonflies as possible in their area, knowing it was my main interest, and took us to a very nicely done small nature reserve with two modest lakes and good vegetation. I don’t know if it has an official name so I refer to it as Starkenberg Reserve.  I got what I considered to be a great photo opportunity with a Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens).

    Unfortunately it was also good habitat for Ticks so more protective clothing would have been helpful. Ticks are a real problem these days.

    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle) 
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

    Pahnaer See, 23 Jun [#6]

    Pahnaer See was home to the campsite we had chosen for the duration of our 6-day visit to friends. It went from feeling spacious, through crowded at the weekend, and back to spacious as other campers left. We were having some difficulty adjusting to camping in Germany.

    J19_0554 Libellula fulva, GermanyThe campsite was beside a large lake but there was a smaller lake favoured by dragonflies and naturists. This represents a combined list from both lakes – minus the naturists. 😀

    • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
    • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
    • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
    • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
    • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
    • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
    • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
    • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
    • Libellula fulva (Blue Chaser)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

    Grosse Teich, Eschefeld, 23 Jun [#7]

    J19_0539 Sympetrum fonscolombi, GermanyThis was just a short distance from Pahnaer See. I wouldn’t normally have bothered including this site since we spent only a few minutes there and saw little but it was our only encounter with a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombi), so I thought I should.

    • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
    • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
    • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

      Bad Kostritz, 24 Jun [#8]

      Our friends had booked us on a brewery tour after I expressed interest in a biergarten (I think). It was a large brewery, really more of a beer factory with a computer acting as brew master. 2+ hours of trying to fathom fast, intense German did my head in. The tasting was refreshing, though.

      Much more relaxing was a walk in the local park complete with a small lake where we once again came across a Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) and our now common friends, Blue Featherlegs (Platycnemis pennipes). Since I wasn’t expecting odonata, I didn’t take my camera.

      • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
      • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
      • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
      • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)
      • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)

      Stadtsteinach, 25 Jun [#9]

      Back on our own time, we moved on to Campingplatz Stadtsteinach. This was a perfectly pleasant campsite, if not full, but was probably the smallest pitch that I’ve ever been on at just about 64m2 – just about room for van and car but no more.

      J19_0598 Orthetrum brunneum, GermanyWalking towards the local town we crossed a small, well vegetated stream finding just three species, including good ol’ Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes) but most interestingly Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum), our only encounter on this trip.

      • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
      • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
      • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)

      Kronach, 26 Jun [#10]

      J19_0619 Onychogomphus forcipatusFrom Campingplatz Stadtsteinach we made an excursion into Kronach again, not particularly after dragonflies. However, we did find one notable 60m (ish) stretch of river which was home to a dozen or so Small Pincertails (Onychogomphus forcipatus). Not being able to see the sub-terminal knobs, I can’t be certain but I strongly suspect this is ssp forcipatus, based mainly on the amount of black on the thorax and the location. Most notably, this short stretch seemed unique since we looked further along the same river and found absolutely nothing; the habitat on this restricted stretch must’ve been just right.

      • Onychogomphus forcipatus forcipatus (Small Pincertail)

      Pegnitz-Hirschbach Valleys, 28 Jun [#11]

      We moved on to Camping Pegnitz which, although without marked pitches, seemed to be controlled by the lady in charge. It was a delightful aire naturelle style campsite and great for escaping from the weekend crush.

      J19_0675 Libellula depressa, PegnitzFrom here we made a short excursion up the Pegnitz valley, then across and back down the Hirschbach valley. We made four stops at habitat of the way, none of which were particularly interesting but one did produce our only encounter with Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) in Germany.

      • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
      • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
      • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
      • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
      • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
      • Libellula  depressa (Broad-bodied Chaser)

      Dinklesbühl Lake, 1 Jul [#12]

      A blast from the past – I visited Dinklesbühl 51 years ago on a school cycling trip. It’s on the so-called Romantische Straβe and we stayed at Campingpark Romantische Straβe on the edge of  itself. We went this time only because Carol was interested to see it.

      J19_0801 Aympetrum sanguineum, GermanyThe campsite was on a lake which was, like most lakes in Germany, used for bathing. There were, however, vegetated margins and we did find a handful of dragonfly species including our first encounter with Ruddy Darters (Sympetrum sanguineum).

      • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
      • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
      • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
      • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
      • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
      • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)

      Wachenheim, 4 Jul [#13]

      We were quite looking forward to escaping Germany but, to keep the nightmare steps back along the autobahn a reasonable length we made a final stop at Wachenheim on the Deutsche Weinstraβe. The campsite was close to a manufactured lake, complete with a large fountain, and produced a trio of species including the almost ubiquitous Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes), which is about the only reason I include it.

      • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
      • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
      Posted in 2019, Germany, Trip reports

      Sri Lanka, Mar 2019

      In late March, 2019, we joined an Explore! 12-day photographic trip to Sri Lanka. It was a general trip designed to cover many subjects, including a couple of wildlife parks, but also many cultural subjects. No specific odonata habitat was on the menu but I acquired a copy of A Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Sri Lanka (by Amila Prasanna Sumanapala) and packed photographic equipment in the hope that opportunities would arise as we travelled around.

      Sri Lanka has a rich collection of odos, 129 identified species of which some 49 are endemic, so I had no shortage of target species. Naturally, for many of these, specific habitats would have to be targeted and, with most stops being for a single night only followed by much of the day travelling, that was not going to be possible. Nonetheless, though we didn’t encounter huge numbers of odonata, I did come away with a haul of [22] 23 species including 9 “lifers” [shown in bold below], three of which were Sri Lankan endemics. In some respects this really only scratches the surface of Sri Lanka’s species but, given the ad hoc nature of my opportunities, I was quite happy. The Sri Lankan people were fantastic and it would certainly warrant a repeat visit.

      The common names used in Sri Lanka tend to differ from some common names I had become familiar with in other Asian locations where the same species may occur. Here I have used the common names assigned by the Sri Lankan publication mentioned above.

      Here’s my map of locations relating to the narrative following.

      Kurunegala Lake, 25 Mar [#1]

      J18_2816 Brachydiplax sobrinaHaving arrived and stayed our first night at Negombo, just north of Colombo airport, our itinerary began by heading for Wilpattu National Park. Our route took us into Kurunegala for, first a coffee stop and, a little later following a side trip to a temple (the first of several), a longer lunch stop. The cafe/restaurant stood right beside Kurunegala Lake where a man was harvesting lotus plants. In and around the shallower margins of the lake I notched up five species including three lifers, though I didn’t realize at the time, so this was a great start. Two were old friends from our Singapore/Cambodia trips.

      • Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Amberwing)
      • Orthetrum sabina (Green Skimmer)
      • Potamarcha congener (Blue Pursuer)
      • Brachydiplax sobrina (Sombre Lieutenant)
      • Ictinogomphus rapax (Rapacious Flangetail)

      Ridee Viharaya, 25 Mar [#2]

      J18_2849 Diplacodes trivialisThis was our side trip mentioned in #1 above, to the so-called Silver Temple. I’m not a great fan of piles of old stones in any shape or form so I spent most of time, rather than walking around barefoot and bare-headed (as required by the Buddhist tradition), watching butterflies on an adjoining patch of grass. Since I saw no water body in evidence close by, I was surprised to also find a very smart looking lone Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher) lurking in the grass. [Apologies for slightly fuzzy picture – lose 10 points.]

      • Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher)

      Wilpattu Collective, 26 & 27 Mar [#3]

      Our first major stop was to spend two days on safari in Wilpattu travelling in 4x4s. Wilpattu is home to elephant, leopards and crocodile so, quite naturally, officials are not keen on visitors getting out of their vehicles – if it happens, the vehicles get banned. During our excursions, we managed to spot [six] [seven] eight species, some from the safety of our jeep but some also at a bona fide picnic spot beside a lake. To simplify many distinct GPS locations, I’ve grouped all the Wilpattu sightings together under one heading.

      J18_3156 Ceriagrion coromandeliumThis list includes another two lifers, one of which was the first damselfly, Ceriagrion coromandelium (Yellow Waxtail). Again, initially, I thought the Tramea species was an old acquaintance until I noticed my suspect wasn’t recorded in Sri Lanka so this was a new one for the collection, Tramea limbata (Sociable Glider).

      • Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Sprite) [post-publication addition]
      • Ceriagrion coromandelianum (Yellow Waxtail)
      • Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher)
      • Indothemis limbata (Restless Demon)
      • Tramea limbata (Sociable Glider)
      • Trithemis pallidinervis (Dancing Dropwing)
      • Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Amberwing)
      • Ictinogomphus rapax (Rapacious Flangetail) [post-publication addition]

      Anuradhapura Lakeside, 27 Mar [#4]

      J18_3523 holymis tillarga femaleAfter the second morning in Wilpattu we headed off to Anuradhpura and the Lakeside Hotel. Lakeside sounded promising but when I saw the lake it looked less promising, being very large. I did make two visits to a couple of different spots on its edge, both close to the hotel, and notched up eight species. I added a ninth when I returned to the hotel and found a Tholymis tillarga (Foggy-winged Twister) female in one of the hotel corridors.

      J18_3417 Ictinogomphus rapaxNow is a good time to mention a confusion regarding the Ictinogomphus I’d been seeing. We first encountered them in Sri Lanka at Kurunegala Lake [#1 above] and I thought/assumed that I was looking at Ictinogomphus decoratus (Common Flangetail), which I’d met in Singapore and Cambodia. This character looked superficially the same, to my then untrained eye. Only when I bothered to check in a small field guide, did I notice that I. decoratus was not recorded in Sri Lanka and that this must’ve been the very similar looking I. rapax (Rapacious Flangetail). I struggled to find any description as the differences but have since been given a copy of a recent paper from India containing an explanation. Here’s my comparison diagram for those who care.

      • Ceriagrion coromandelianum (Yellow Waxtail)
      • Ictinogomphus rapax (Rapacious Flangetail)
      • Crocothemis servilia (Oriental Scarlet)
      • Trithemis pallidinervis (Dancing Dropwing)
      • Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Groundling)
      • Acisoma panorpoides (Asian Pintail)
      • Neurothemis tullia (Pied Parasol)
      • Rhyothemis variegata (Variegated Flutterer)
      • Tholymis tillarga (Foggy-winged Twister)

      Mihintale Temple, 28 Mar [#5]

      J18_3552 Rhyothemis variegata 600hHere was a day the main purpose of which was to visit not one but two Buddhist temples. At the first I chose to remain outside, keeping my shoes and SPF 50 hat on, where, mercifully, there was a small rock pool that produced three species. Included in these were the very exciting, though not excitingly coloured, Bradinopyga geminata (Indian Rockdweller or Granite Ghost in India) with, swarming above, clouds of Rhyothemis variegata (Variegated Flutterer), both being additional lifers.

      J18_3600 Tramea limbataA little lower than my surprising rockpool, the trees contained examples of Potamarcha congener (Blue Pursuer), including a female, and a settled Tramea limbata (Sociable glider).

      • Orthetrum sabina (Green Skimmer)
      • Rhyothemis variegata (Variegated Flutterer)
      • Tramea limbata (Sociable Glider)
      • Bradinopyga geminata (Indian Rockdweller)
      • Potamarcha congener (Blue Pursuer)

      Nawayalatenna, 29 Mar [#6]

      J18_3702 Brachythemis contaminata 600hThis was a suburb of Kandy, where our premium accommodation in the Mahaweli Reach Hotel was located. The “reach” involved is a stretch of river. It was actually a very wide river but there appeared to be some decent habitat at the sides. We did see three species (plus an unidentified damselfly) but access was so restricted that no there was little hope of any decent pictures, which was a shame because several males of male Tholymis tillarga (Foggy-winged Twister) were flying about. My best chance was of Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Groundling) from the hotel boat dock.

      • Tholymis tillarga (Foggy-winged Twister)
      • Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Groundling)
      • Neurothemis tullia (Pied Parasol)

      Devon Falls, 30 Mar [#7]

      J18_3731 Diplacodes trivialisA chance meeting with a single individual when we stopped for a photographic opportunity at this waterfall. I include it for the sake of completeness, though having said that it is a very good looking female specimen.

      • Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher)

      Farm Resorts, Dickoya, 31 Mar [#8]

      J18_4088 Elattoneura centralisThis is a tea plantation where we were blessed with a 2-night stop. It was beside a large reservoir which looked quite low and very sterile – no emergent vegetation at all. A photo shoot with four tea pickers had been arranged after which I was delighted to find a small stream running down the tea slopes ultimately into the reservoir. The stream was very narrow and could be stepped over without getting feet wet. Small though it was, it produced three species including another lifer and Sri Lankan endemic, Elattoneura centralis (Sri Lanka Dark-glittering Threadtail). The more familiar species were very welcome, too, being only my second encounter with both Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing) and Orthetrum glaucum (Asian Skimmer). Excellent!

      • Elattoneura centralis (Sri Lanka Dark-glittering Threadtail)
      • Orthetrum glaucum (Asian Skimmer)
      • Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing)

      Athgira River Camp, 101 Apr [#8]

      Another stay beside a river made me very hopeful. This time I was not disappointed, the river was a manageable size though slightly forested along its banks. Our camp (and the room was, indeed, partly tent) was right on top of it. The water was quite swift but the bed was gravel and it was shallow enough for me to walk through in water- tolerant shoes so I could gain access to the wilder side opposite.

      J18_4307 Microgomphus wijayaThere were two stars here;two Sri Lanka endemics. The first was the Demoiselle-like Euphaea splendens (Sri Lanka Shining Gossamerwing) of which, regrettably, I messed up the photo – it’s useable but only just. The second, for which I had to work very hard given its inaccessibility, was clearly a Gomphid and turned out to be the endangered Microgomphus wijaya (Sri Lanka Wijaya’s Scissortail). Very happy camper, apart from the messed up photo, and a great note to end on.

      • Euphaea splendens (Sri Lanka Shining Gossamerwing)
      • Microgomphus wijaya (Sri Lanka Wijaya’s Scissortail)
      • Trithemis aurora (Crimson Dropwing)
      • Brachythemis contaminata (Asian Amberwing)
      • Neurothemis tullia (Pied Parasol)
      Posted in 2019, Sri Lanka, Trip reports

      Spain, Winter 2018-19

      We chose to escape an irritating British Xmas and, hopefully, the worst of and the British winter for a second year running. Once again we planned to arrive in Spain on 21st December with a return ferry booked for 16th March.

      Last winter in Spain, I had seen only Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) and it became a game to see how long we could continue to find them. The answer was that  Common Darters persisted throughout January, our last sighting being on 30th January. (I believe further south, others were seeing them in February, too.)

      I was expecting much the same format this year. I was wrong. First of all, We spotted Common Darters into and almost to the end of February, our last date being 23rd February. Secondly, probably due to a very dry and seemingly mild Spanish winter, a few species began emerging earlier than is normal at the beginning of March. These included Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans) and I was very surprised to see Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus).

      The winter was also notable for an influx into Europe of Vagrant Emperors (Anax ephippiger); an influx which included not only Spain but several sighting in the UK during bizarrely summer temperatures in February. Given the correct climatic conditions, thus species can turn up at almost any time from Africa.

      I was also excited to discover the existence of Winter Damselfly (Sympecma fusca) at one location. A local has suggested that this may have been the first record of the species at that site. Spanish recording being pants, I’ll probably never know.

      There weren’t too many locations producing the goods but here’s the map.

      Riu Jalón-Gorgos, Jalón, throughout [#1]

      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first sighting here was the day after we arrived, 22nd December. On 24th of December, since the good weather and the Common Darters both continued, I pushed my luck by trying one of the tricks up my new camera’s sleeve: in-camera focus-stacking. I must’ve been very lucky because, almost unbelievably, my first attempt worked a dream.

      • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)

      Vall d’Ebo, [#2]

      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first visit was on New Year’s Day. We called in just because it was on our way back from a trip out. Surprisingly, there was a considerable amount of water in the river; more than I think I’ve ever seen before. I’m not sure why because I didn’t believe that Spain had had a wet autumn. The sun felt quite strong and the position quite sheltered. I really didn’t expect to find anything but the first suspect we spotted was an ovipositing female at the downstream side of the bridge. Upstream we found a couple of males basking on rocks.

      We returned on 26th January and found a male again basking on the rocks. That was our last successful visit.

      • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)

      Jardin de L’Albarda, 20 Feb [#3]

      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a complete surprise. Carol wanted to visit this Mediterranean garden. I, of course, was along for the ride. On arrival, we were presented with a map which showed a few water features. As expected, as is often the case in gardens, some were sterile and decorative. A so-called heron pond was more promising but quite shaded – nothing. We found a slightly larger pool, off piste, which was clearly work-in-progress and a Common Darter zoomed past and settled on the ground for pictures. My new latest record.

      • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)

      Parque Natural el Hondo, 23 Feb [#4]

      I always enjoy visiting this place; it’s just a nice day out and usually relatively quiet. It’s a 90-minute run south of Jalon so we arrived just before midday, then headed out along the boardwalk. INitially, birds were the only interest but they were entertaining. We got to the end of the boardwalk odo-free. I’d turned to return when what must have been a Vagrant Emperor zoomed by me just above the water. I didn’t see it again. I did, however, see what proved to be a Common Darter flutter and settle in the reeds, too far away for any picture. It eventually moved to some grass where I did manage an identification shot (but not one I’d reproduce here).

      J19_2417Carol spotted the real excitement as I was studying the Common Darter in the grass. In some sparse reeds on the same side of the boardwalk, she saw a damselfly. I could hardly believe it but then I always forget about Winter Damsels spanning the winter. Eventually I found them – there were at least four including an ovipositing pair – and grabbed some recognisable pictures. A chap on a Spanish Dragonfly Facebook group thought this might be the first record of Common Winter Damsel (Sympecma fusca) at Hondo. We’ll never know but it was a thrill anyway.

      • Sympecma fusca (Common Winter Damsel)
      • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor)
      • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)

      Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 2, 4, 7, 11 Mar [#5]

      J19_2432 Newly EmergedOur first visit produced two sightings, a Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger) and a suspected Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus), but nothing on pixels. I returned on 4th March, alone, and was drawing another blank on the pixels front when, almost back at the car, a delightful pair of very shiny wings alighted on a bush near me and to the left. It was, indeed, a teneral Western Clubtail. This really must be a very early record. I was delighted.

      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn 7th March I returned with Carol when she spotted a Demoiselle land in the reeds on the opposite side of the track from the river. This was also thrilling because it was a Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis), a new species to me for this site. It was a male, They really are a delightful damselfly anyway. We also found a handful of fresh Common Bluetails (Ischnura elegans) on stems in the river itself.

      We returned again on 11th March and saw nothing until we investigated a stretch of habitat new to us and found a single fresh female Copper Demoiselle.

      What a terrific haul from one site for the first week of March.

      • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
      • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor)
      • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
      Posted in 2019, Spain, Trip reports

      Spain, Oct 2018

      One of the delights of owning a modestly sized condominium-like property in Spain, is attending the yearly AGM of the owners organization. The Spanish “horizontal property law” requires that a committee exists for such “shared living” properties and that AGMs are held yearly. Though it is possible to skip attending and vote on resolutions by proxy, we generally attend to show willing. Last year we were off on our extended Antipodean trip and missed it but this year we were free and went along for three weeks. Naturally, it is a good opportunity to see who is still flying later in the season.

      The weather began quite well but was essentially a little changeable with a fair amount of rain. It’s the time of year when I hope to see Desert Darters (Sympetrum sinaiticum) and I was not disappointed; it seems perhaps to be strengthening its hold in Spain though is still not widespread. During the last two weeks of October we racked up a respectable count of 18 species. Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker) appeared to be ubiquitous – we saw many flying across the roads – as it is in the UK at this time of year.

      Here’s my map of locations indexed to the entries below.

      Riu Jalón-Gorgos, Jalón, 16, 18, 24 Oct [#1]

      J18_2182 Sympetrum sinaiticumThis list is a combination of two locations along the river in Jalón. One is the ford opposite Casa Aleluya and the other, just 250m upstream, is what I refer to as “dead cat alley”, for reasons that I imagine I don’t need to explain. [Said cat has long been cleared up.] Although the two locations are just 250m apart, it is normal to see a different mix of species at both locations. Both locations have some shallow water flowing over concrete/rocks but Sympetrum striolatum  (Common Darter) seems to favour the upstream site whilst Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter) apparently favours the ford downstream, which is also favoured by Trithemis  kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing).

      J18_2100 Trithemis kirbyi maleWe spotted two of my seasonal favourites at the ford on the day we arrived, Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmers) and the colourfully stunning T. kirbyi . Both species are now doing very well indeed in Spain and they seem to have become reliable in Jalón at this time of year, particularly at the local ford. At least one Anax imperator (Blue Emperor) was still cruising and I did spot a lone Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet).

      • Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker)
      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
      • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
      • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
      • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter) 
      • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
        • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

        Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 17 Oct, 03 Nov [#2]

        A combination habitat of river, rice paddies and reed beds, this is one of my favourite locations, especially as we often seem to have some parts of it to ourselves.

        J18_2271 Anax ephippiger femaleWe typically visit three different specific areas in the marsh. The first provided two of the very few damselflies that we saw (it is late in the season, after all), Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail) and Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye).  Apart from anything else, it’s a pleasant walk in a rural setting with (usually) few noisy members of Joe Public to suffer. Our third spot netted me, albeit somewhat distant, my first ever perched female Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor).

        • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
        • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
        • Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker) 
        • Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor)
        • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
          • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
          • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

          Parque Natural el Hondo, 17, 29 Apr [#3]

          This is one of my favourite locations in the region because it does support or has supported have a few species that I’ve never seen elsewhere, notably Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant), Diplacodes lefebvrii (Black Percher) and Brachythemis impartita (Northern Banded Groundling), though the latter now seems to have been absent for a couple of years. So were the other two, on my visit this time but I suspect I was simply too late and that their flight season had come to a natural end.

          J18_2262 Orthetrum cancellatum maleSo, exciting it wasn’t but I was quite surprised to see several individuals of Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer) on the wing (even if the picture is on the ground). The most notable feature on this occasion, though, was the absolutely incredible number of pairs of Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darters) flying in tandem and ovipositing; there were quite literally hundreds of pairs doing their level best for the next generation.

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

          Vall d’Ebo, 25 Oct [#4]

          How things change. This was one of the first sites I visited for dragonflies when we first came familiar with the area inland of the Costa Blanca and it was very good on that occasion. On subsequent visits following that, it seemed to suffer badly from a lack of water and life quietened alarmingly. This year, I found more water than ever before and several new species for the location. I had trouble dragging my self away but we were heading for another location (see below).

          J18_2204 Sympetrum sinaiticum in copMost exciting for me here was a Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter) pair in cop because it was my first sighting of a female for this species.

          • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
          • Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker)
          • Aeshna cyanea (Blue Hawker)
          • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer) 
          • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter)

              Riu Serpis @ Beniarrés, 25 Oct [#5]

              J18_2239 Platycnemis latipes in copOften the trick in Spain is finding rivers that actually have water in them. This being the outflow from a reservoir, we’ve always found water here and it has been good for Damselflies. This time was no exception and I was delighted to see a Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg) pair doing their bit trying to ensure a next generation.

              • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
              • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
              • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
              • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
              • Aeshna mixta (Migrant Hawker)
              • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter)

              City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, 04 Nov [#6]

              J18_2331 Orthetrum chrysostigma maleWe made a return trip to the City of Arts and Sciences for its spectacular architecture on a completely different photographic mission. Whilst there is quite a lot of water there, most of it is completely and utterly sterile but there is one area where there are plants and reeds that attract some dragonflies. Well, it’s worth another pin in the map.

              As well as the two below that I did manage to identify, there was an Emperor of sorts but it didn’t pause enough for identification.

              • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
              • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)
              Posted in 2018, Spain, Trip reports

              France, June 2018

              After a 3-year break, we finally managed to return to France. We had something of an agenda meeting various people so we were partly playing tourist and partly odonata (and orchid) hunters. We knew we would visit our favourite dairy sheep farm at Fanjeaux, so I’d be able to monitor its recovery progress since the devastating effect of a Koi Carp farmer using the lake a few years ago, happily since departed. I also planned to stay in La Brenne again, about  half way south, so that we could get a dose of both odos and orchids. Here I was particularly interested in trying to track down the Lilypad Whiteface (Leucorrhinia caudalis).

              2018 is being a very unusual year for weather. England enjoyed a blistering spring and uncharacteristically good summer – so good that May and June reminded me of the famous standpipe summer of 1976, that everyone remembers. Conversely, France had had a dreadful spring and the Costa Blanca of Spain, usually very predictable, was also suffering some unsettled conditions, though not as bad as those in France.

              One of our agenda items was meeting some Australian friends with a holiday retreat in Marseillan, a favoured area of ours on the Languedoc Mediterranean coast. Both near there and near to Fanjeaux, I had found a few sites where the enigmatic Splendid Cruiser (Macromia splendens) had been reported a few years earlier. If fortune favoured the brave, maybe I could catch a glimpse of that, though I wasn’t holding my breath. Working back north, as conditions were unusually fine by late June, we spent three days at the Parc des Volcans, high in the Auvergne [830m/2700ft], which proved to be most interesting.

              Longstanding arrangements having been made, we set off on 31st May to return on 1st July. For a change, we sailed on the Transmanche Ferries  Newhaven-Dieppe route, now operated by DFDS. I liked it.

              Here’s the map of locations.

              Neufchatel-en-Bray, Normandy, 31 May [#1]

              Disembarking the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry in the early afternoon, we covered the mere 30kms, arrived and were established at our campsite early enough to check out the local plan d’eau. One previously good pond was now very overgrown but the main lake was still good. This is not a terrifically exciting site but these increased the species count to more respectable levels (8):

              • J18_0490-Black-tailed-Skimmer_thumbBeautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)
              • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
              • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
              • Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes)
              • Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
              • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

              Rosnay, La Brenne, 01-05 Jun [#2]

              Our previously favoured stopping place at Bellebouche in La Brenne looked as if it were being spoiled on our last visit with a couple of fishing lakes, formerly grand for odonata, having been drained; it seemed as if a development for equestrian events was in progress. We had seen a potentially pleasant camping municipal a little further south at the village of Rosnay, complete with a small étang on site, so decided we’d give that a try. It was, indeed, very pleasant, and we would definitely head straight there were we to go again.

              J18_0625 Dewy FeatherlegOur weather was relatively pleasant, albeit with a few evening thunderstorms. We were soon finding odos, most numerous of which were the extensive population of Blue Featherlegs/White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes). My highlight was most definitely a misty morning which, being literally on top of the population and knowing their evening roost, gave us the chance to snag some shots of dew-covered damsels after many years of hoping for such an opportunity.

              • Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)
              • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
              • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
              • Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes)
              • Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
              • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
              • White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum)

              J18_0660 Migrant Spreadwing3kms down the road south of Rosnay was a very flowery meadow containing masses of Tongue Orchids (which we also had on site and which were impressively protected from the mower) and Lesser Butterfly Orchids. Here we also found the following scattered odos:

              • Migrant Spreadwing (Lestes barbarus)
              • Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum)
              • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
              • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)

              Terres de Picodon, La Brenne, 2 Jun [#3]

              J18_0721 Lilypad WhitefaceThis marvellously rich but compact little site was really the reason I wanted to come to La Brenne; it’s  a treasure. I had been introduced to it by a fellow odo-nutter, Nick Ransdale, several years ago when we notched up a very respectable species list including our first ever Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis). However, we had missed out on the much sought-after Lilypad Whiteface (Leucorrhinia caudalis), there being a known colony here. This time visit was at the front end of the Whiteface’s flight season so I was hopeful. Happily, not only did we find some but we found one in particular which was alighting on a floating leaf not too far from the bank. Joy unbounded! There were several present that I could see but most were at a distance in the middle of the sizeable pond.

              • Common Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa)
              • Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
              • Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum)
              • Large Redeye (Erythromma najas)
              • White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes)
              • Blue Emperor (Anax imperator)
              • Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
              • Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
              • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)
              • Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea)
              • Lilypad Whiteface (Leucorrhinia caudalis)
              • Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)

              Maison du Parc, La Brenne, 04 Jun [#4]

              J18_0768 Dainty BluetThis is essentially a visitor centre for La Brenne. It has a restaurant and, of course, ice creams but most importantly a good sized pond at its rear. Unfortunately only two sides of the pond are publically accessible but it is worth a visit. I was particularly happy to see a mating pair of Dainty Bluets/Dainty Damselflies (Coenagrion scitulum). We used to see these at Fanjeaux (see below) but sadly no longer.

              • Southern Emerald (Lestes barbarus)
              • Dainty Damselfly (Coenagrion scitulum)
              • Blue Emperor (Anax imperator)
              • Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
              • White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum)
              • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)

              Les Brugues, Fanjeaux, 05-18 Jun [#5]

              This is normally our favourite dairy sheep farm camping site. I say normally because this year it was experiencing extremely unsettled weather. We drove into a doozy of a thunderstorm as we approached Fanjeaux and conditions were frankly rubbish for hunting odonata for the entire two weeks of our stay. We’d hoped that conditions would settle and improve but this proved not to be the case. We experienced frequent heavy downpours. There were just a few brighter intermissions which enabled just one old familiar site to be checked plus one new site. Without our preset agenda of catching up with friends, we would probably have left. The meagre two sites (not including Les Brugues itself) we did visit in this area are listed below.

              This site includes its own irrigation lake, a lake whose originally prolific odonata population numbered 20 species, was knocked for six about 5 years ago when a Koi Carp farmer began using it to raise Koi intensively. Koi Carp are voracious feeders and will eat anything and everything. Grass Carp had also been introduced to eat [a.k.a. clear] the vegetation which added to the devastation, there being greatly reduced choices for most damselflies to oviposit. The odonata population plummeted. Three years ago when we last visited, several species were hanging on but in very low numbers. I was interested to see how, if at all, things were recovering, though clearly this years atrocious weather did not help.

              J18_0858 Migrant SpreadwingThe species count for the time of year was about what we had encountered three years ago. Individual species numbers were perhaps a little higher though nowhere near their former levels. Most surprising was what appeared to be a brand new species, Migrant Spreadwing/Southern Emerald Damselfly (Lestes barbarus), a species which I had not personally observed here before. I don’t recall seeing it near here, either, so I have no idea of its potential origin. Clearly it’s not called a migrant for nothing. A new species may be a positive sign for re-colonization, though.

              • Common Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum)
              • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
              • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
              • Small Redeye (Erythromma viridulum)
              • Migrant Spreadwing (Lestes barbarus)
              • Western Willow Spreadwing (Chalcolestes viridis) – 10/06/2018
              • Blue Emperor (Anax imperator)
              • Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus)
              • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)
              • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

              Lac de Lenclas, 08 Jun [#6]

              This is one of my favourite odonata spots in the Fanjeaux area. It is a municipal lake created by a dam and surrounded by a curving arm of La Rigole, the engineering masterpiece of a small canal that feeds water into the much larger Canal du Midi. With multiple habitats, lake and canal, on one site, it supports a varied array of odonata species.

              J18_0955 Western DemoiselleOn a single afternoon that provided a relatively bright intermission to our distressingly unsettled 2-week period, this is what we found. I was particularly interested to note that the immature male Western Demoiselles Calopteryx xanthostoma) emerge with essentially uncoloured wings. This is a useful contrast to Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) whose immature males already show the wing band, albeit slightly fainter, and Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo), whose immature males have decidedly brown tinted wings. The books mention this but it was fun observing it.

              • Western Demoiselle (Calopteryx xanthostoma)
              • Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis)
              • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
              • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
              • Blue Featherleg (Platycnemis pennipes)
              • Orange Featherleg (Platycnemis acutipennis)
              • Blue Emperor (Anax imperator)
              • Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus)
              • Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
              • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)
              • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
              • White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum albistylum)
              • Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii)

              Ladern-sur-Lauquet, 09 Jun [#7]

                This was a new site which I was keen to to visit because I found records of Splendid Cruiser (Macromia splendens) here. It’s about 35kms east of Fanjeaux and proved to be an apparently sleepy village – sleepy until we parked near an old camper van surrounded by strange individuals playing loud, even stranger noises that pass as music to some. [OK, I know, I sound like my parents did.]

                J18_0988 Common ClubtailThere were intermittent spells of sunshine for our brief visit and we found five species though not, of course, the elusive M. splendens. We were still probably a little too early for it anyway; the records of it that I found were mostly for very late June/early July. The sight of several Common Clubtails (Gomphus vulgatissimus) was pleasing, though.

                • Western Demoiselle (Calopteryx xanthostoma)
                • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
                • Orange Featherleg (Platycnemis acutipennis)
                • Common Clubtail (Gomphus vulgatissimus)
                • Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus)

                Lac de Sesquier, Loupian, 20 Jun [#8]

                J18_1052 White FeatherlegThis was a newly discovered water body on this, our second stay at the friendly little camping municipal at Loupian. It appears to be mostly a fishing lake, judging by the surrounding club signs, but there were a few species of odos in decent numbers on the lake, most notably the White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes). Most numerous, though, were Small Red-eyes (Erythromma viridulum).

                • Western Demoiselle (Calopteryx xanthostoma)
                • Small Redeye (Erythromma viridulum)
                • Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii)
                • White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes)
                • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
                • Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii)

                Marais de la Grande Palude, nr Sete, 23 Jun [#9]

                We wondered if there might be some Dark Spreadwings (Lestes macrostigma) here – it’s a near coastal marsh, which seems about right, and according to the distribution map in Dijkstra/Lewington, they are in the general area. We didn’t find any, sadly.

                J18_1122 Southern Darter femaleFreshly emerged Southern Darters (S. meridionale) and Blue-eyed Hawkers/Southern Migrant Hawkers (A. affinis) were good to see, though.

                • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
                • Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis)
                • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
                • Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridionale)
                • Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea)

                  Lac de l’Estivadoux, Auvergne, 26-28 Jun [#10]

                  Lac de l'EstivadouxThis is one of the most amazing pieces of habitat I’ve ever seen. We didn’t even see that it was a lake initially, so richly vegetated is it; it looks more like a very flat field as one drives past on the road heading south. Carol spotted it as a lake as we drove past a second time in the opposite direction, when more is visible behind the roadside trees. It is a modestly sized shallow lake, maybe half a metre deep at most, filled with vegetation, dense in places. It is a high altitude lake sitting at 1200m/3900ft.

                  We were here specifically in search of the Crescent Bluet/Irish Damselfly (Coenagrtion lunulatum), which I’m assured is present. I’m desperate to avoid having to visit Ireland to see it.  Sadly, we failed to find any in our three days of searching, even using my Salomon Aquatech shoes (now called Techamphibians) to wade into the shallow water. Maybe the damsels had finished early this year with the very bad weather that preceded our visit. I’ll just have to try Belgium next time. 🙂

                  J18_1312 immature Yellow-winged DarterThe lake was teaming with life, though, including several difficult to see (for some of us) specialist species that prefer shallow, well vegetated waters that may be seasonal and dry out: Robust Spreadwing/Scarce Emerald (Lestes dryas) and Spearhead Bluet/Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum). It also netted us a new addition to our catalogue, another specialist of this habitat type, the Yellow-winged Darter (Sympetrum flaveolum), all freshly emerged so not yet red. This last was wonderful compensation for missing out on my initial target species; difficult dragonflies are harder than difficult damselflies, IMHO.

                  • Robust Spreadwing (Lestes dryas)
                  • Common Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum)
                    • Spearhead Bluet (Coenagrion hastulatum)
                    • Azure Bluet (Coenagrion puella)
                    • Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)
                      • Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
                      • Blue Emperor (Anax imperator)
                      • Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata)
                      • Yellow-winged Darter (Sympetrum flaveolum)

                      Lac de Bourdouze, Auvergne, 27 Jun [#11]

                      J18_1358 Brilliant EmeraldLac de BourdouzeAnother more picturesque, more conventional lake high in the Auvergne not far from Estivadoux, this proved to be Emerald City with no less than three Emerald (dragonfly) species in residence: Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea), Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata) and Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica), one of my few missing UK species. The wind was high, too, and the observation point faces the sun, which seemed intense in the clear air at this altitude (1170m/3840ft), but we did what we could.

                      • Common Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum)
                      • Large Redeye (Erythromma najas)
                      • Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans)
                      • Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata)
                      • Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica)
                      • Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea)
                      • Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
                      • Blue Emperor (Anax imparator)
                      • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthterum cancellatum)

                      Lac Montcineyre, Auvergne, 28 Jun [#12]

                      J18_1432 Yellow-spotted EmeraldThe third in the triumvirate of high altitude (1180m/3870ft) Auvergne lakes that we visited in our 3-day stay, this looked a little tedious at first but that changed dramatically as we were getting ready to leave. A swarm – 20 or so – of what turned out to be Yellow-spotted Emeralds (Somatochlora flavomaculata) were zooming over a small patch of nettles beside a stand of trees, feeding. The heavily vegetated background was far too confused for attempting any flight shots but then, to my surprise, they began landing on the nettles at relatively frequent intervals. They didn’t seem to be devouring anything once settled so maybe they really were just resting, taking a break? Alternatively, as Downy Emeralds are known to do, they were time-sharing the airspace. What a lucky break.

                      • Common Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum)
                      • Robust Spreadwing (Lestes dryas)
                      • Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)
                      • Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
                      • Yellow-spotted Emerald (Somatochlora flavomaculata)
                      • Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

                      Posted in 2018, France, Trip reports

                      Spain, Apr 2018

                      The crappy cold grey weather that some may think passes for spring in the UK was getting us down so much that we booked a return trip to Spain for 2½ weeks of respite care. This was, of course, a flying trip. SqueasyJet had flight prices that we could hardly resist.

                      We’d be in Spain for the last two weeks of April and a few days at the beginning of May. I was aware that in doing so I would probably miss the first Large Red Damselflies of the new Bedfordshire year but if the current weather trend were to continue I rather doubted it. Besides, why not go and try to see something more interesting at the start of the Spanish year? I did miss them, of course, ad the weather naturally changed so I missed the two or three days of unseasonably warm weather that would undoubtedly constitute spring in the UK and probably summer, too. That remains to be seen and let’s hope I’m wrong.

                      Things began quite slowly. I’m always a little surprised that the start of the Spanish doesn’t seem that far ahead of the UK considering that the end of their season can extend throughout January and into February in the more southern areas – a decent two months longer than the UK. Sightings soon picked up though, with 10 species, 9 of which were Anisopterans, being recorded before May began.

                      We tried to find two new locations, one successfully and one less so. This is explained below after the locations map.

                      Riu Jalón-Gorgos, Jalón, 14, 22, 27 Apr [#1]

                      J18_1965  Trithemis kirbyiOur local river in Spain so quite closely watched. The valley floor is a shade over 200m so we have a bit of altitude keeping us cooler, longer. Hence, I think, the quite slow start. The first thing we saw on 14th April was the Blue Emperor (Anax imperator) and we didn’t see it again. Curious. The later appearance of an Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) cheered the spirits, though, even if it was less than completely cooperative.

                      So, this list of three species may be a little misleading in that we saw just one Blue Emperor once, one Orange-winged Dropwing once, and, I think, three Common Bluletails once. No consistency over a two week period, then.

                      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
                      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
                      • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

                      Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 15, 28 Apr [#2]

                      J18_1985  Aeshna isoceles30 minutes from “home”, this is definitely the star local location. Apart from anything else, it’s a pleasant walk in a rural setting with (usually) few noisy members of Joe Public to suffer. It’s a reliable location for Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) and Violet Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi), together with, at the right season, Green-eyed Hawker/Norfok Hawker (Aershna isoceles). I had been wondering if the latter would appear before we headed home and so they did, in good numbers – we counted at least 10. None of ‘em stopped, though. 😉

                      J18_1862 Gomphus pulchellus femaleWe were also very lucky to see the maiden flight of a a Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus) which, I’m told by a local Spaniard, is quite rare in the Alicante region.

                      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
                      • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
                      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
                      • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
                      • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
                      • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
                      • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

                      Parque Natural el Hondo, 17, 29 Apr [#3]

                      J18_1995  Ischnura elegansNormally one of my favourite locations, albeit about 90-minutes distant, this proved disappointing this time around over two visits. Mind you, we did suffer high winds so I think most critters were hunkered down.

                      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
                      • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
                      • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

                      Las Salinas, Calpe, 17, 24 Apr [#4]

                      J18_1959  Sympetrum fonscolombii maleBeing what I suspect is, at best, a brackish lagoon, this is never a species-rich environment but it is reliable for Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombi) so we keep an eye on it. Only our later visit produced any. [The resident Flamingos can be fun, too.]

                      • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
                      • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

                      Clot de Galvany, 17 Apr [#5]

                      [No, I have no idea what a clot is.]

                      J18_1882 Orthetrum cancellatum maleCarol spotted this new location on our map as we were searching for another [see below]. We found it relatively easily and road parking immediately outside the reserve was plentiful – at least, it was plentiful out of holiday season though that may change in the height of the season given the amount of apartments beside the road. We had a little difficulty finding our way in  but once in the paths were great.

                      Unfortunately from a dragonfly enthusiast’s viewpoint, the two smaller water bodies are completely enclosed and obscured by high fencing, apart from a single bird hide at each one. Thus, unless a dragonfly chooses to fly in front of the hide, you don’t see much. So, god for birders, less good for odo-nutters. 😉

                      Here’s what we did see.

                      • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
                      • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
                      • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
                      • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

                      Lagunas de Rabasa, 29 Apr [black pin]

                      This was basically a failure, so I’ve left it unnumbered, but I wanted to mention it to explain.

                      I learned of this from a Spanish contact and the site supposedly supports a population of Common Winter Damselfly (Sympecma fusca), hence my interest. We tried to access the site on both trips down to Hondo [#3]. On the first attempt we got tied up in a maze of residential streets with no way through and bailed out. Our second attempt got us to the correct location BUT this is essentially an old industrial wasteland.There are three permanent lagoons, quite deep, created by clay extraction for use in the manufacture of ceramics. In appearance, it is decidedly unattractive, not at all a welcoming sight (or site), requiring either driving down some very rough dirt/rock tracks to gain access to the three water bodies, or abandoning ones vehicle at some more suitable point followed by a lengthy walk. Given our brand-spanking-new rental car with little ground clearance, I really didn’t want either to abandon it to walk [the area looked less than salubrious] or to risk knocking out its sump trying to drive in.

                      A ready beaten up SUV with decent ground clearance might be another matter. If I’m ever here with a suitable vehicle, I may try again, now I know where it is. Until then, though, it’s off my list.

                      Posted in 2018, Spain, Trip reports

                      Spain, Winter 2017-18

                      This is another post that seems to require a slightly different format.

                      Finally being footloose and fancy-free, we took the opportunity to run away from both the British Xmas and the British winter by trying an extended trip to Spain. Previously, we have really only escaped Xmas and the New year. This time, we arrived in Jalón on 21st December, 2017. Our planned departure date is 11th March, 2018, so it will have been a 3-month trip all bar the shouting.

                      Unsurprisingly, my late season encounters have always been with Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum). S. striolatum is the latest flying species in the UK where it can been seen into November, even into December if milder conditions permit. In 2017, the latest UK record seems to have been 28th November in Hampshire, again unsurprisingly.

                      I have seen dragonflies in Spain’s winter on earlier trips, initially when we were still in our house-sitting-for-friends phase. That was in December. On a later brief visit, I spotted a couple just into January. Those sightings, I’ve included for the sake of completeness. Now I would be here longer, my intrigue was now with just how late they might be around, particularly since the Jalón 2017-18 winter was enjoying very clement weather.

                      So, the reason for a different format report is that only a single species, Sympetrum striolatum, is involved.

                      Here’s the locations map.

                      23rd Dec, 2013

                      2013-12-23 Common-DarterThis was my first late season encounter. I wrote it up in Odo-natter, Spain, Xmas 2013.

                      On a sunny day we looked over the wall at a part of the river bed (the river flows only occasionally) in Jalón [#1] and I was then surprised to see a red Darter basking on a poolside rock. There was even some ovipositing going on. I tagged them as Sympetrum striolatum.  At the time it rated as the latest I’d ever seen a European odo.

                      3rd Jan, 2016

                      2016-01-03 Common DarterAnother pleasantly warm winter’s day that would rate as a decent spring or summer day in England, and I found a couple of Common Darters at a nearby but slightly different point along the Jalón river [#1].

                      We’d pushed the boundary into early January.

                      22nd Dec, 2017

                      J17_1656 Sympetrum conundrum ovipositingThis showed some consistency, at least. This time we saw at least half a dozen individuals at three different locations, again along the Jalón river [#1]. At the third location, a pair began ovipositing and I managed to snag them in the act. They made me question my initial identification. My doubts were caused both by the look of the female in this pair (very light and with few black markings) and by the fact that I had now found, earlier in the season, males of Desert Darters (Sympetrum sinaiticum) at this location. I was unfamiliar with females of S. sinaiticum, though. I even began wondering about the Spanish subspecies of the Vagrant Darter (S. vulgatum), which does not show a distinct “moustache”. Inwardly, I began referring to S. conundrum. 😉

                      Friends on a Spanish Facebook odonata group were pretty sure S. striolatum was correct, however, so my confidence returned.

                      28th Dec, 2017

                      J17_1698 Sympetrum striolatum maleIn continuing good weather and since I had been finding odos at Jalón at an altitude of 200m, I thought I’d try one of my favourite nearby locations, the Marjal de Pego-Oliva [#2], down at sea level. At first things looked quiet but soon a female Darter zoomed by us along the river, too fast to identify and with no chance of a picture.

                      Conditions were quite windy. We saw nothing more until we got to a boardwalk which was more sheltered, winding its way through some bamboo plantations. There, as Common Darters are fond of doing, were several individuals basking on the wooden boardwalk. We did see a tandem pair fly by, too.

                      4th Jan, 2018

                      J18_1722 Sympetrum striolatum 2018I studied the river in Jalón [#1] again, all three locations that had previously produced results. The first two produced nothing. The third did likewise until I had given up and was on my return loop, then I encountered a solo male Common Darter posing wonderfully in the strong sunshine.

                      I’d beaten my latest date.

                      12th Jan, 2018

                      _18C0528 Sympetrum striolatum 12 JanWe’d been doing a bit of more serious walking but on this day we were out for a more casual walk. I had no camera but Carol had hers, armed with a short lens, in search of almond blossom plantations. To my complete surprise, passing through a wooded, sheltered glade in Jalón [#3], at some distance from any water (that I knew about, that is), we spotted a lone male Common Darter flitting about. I borrowed Carol’s camera to record it.

                      My season had gone out by a little over a week.

                      16th Jan, 2018

                      J18_1744 Sympetrum striolatum ovipBack on the river in Jalón [#1]. One of the pools is difficult to access but the difficulty makes it more sheltered. Here, we found three individuals, one of which was posing quite nicely, though the light was against me.

                      I was a happy camper already but things improved. On our return, as we were passing a shallow ford, a pair of Common Darters again began ovipositing. Now I was on the correct side of the light, switched to manual, Captain Kirk, and got one decent shot out of a whole bunch of near misses.

                      17th Jan, 2018

                      2018-01-17 12.34.53 New PoolWe were out on one of our more serious walks with the Costa Blanca Mountain Walkers group. We’d started in Tormos, a village in the neighbouring Vall de Laguar. Heading back down a zigzag stony track, I rounded a corner and startled a dragonfly. Shortly afterwards, we spotted the pool [#4] from which it had undoubtedly come and where a couple more were flying. Once again, we were not equipped for wildlife photography but a phone camera captured the habitat.

                      Not only was this my new latest date but it was also a new location that would bear investigation at an earlier part of the season. The phone camera also marked its GPS location so it must be added to the map, though I’m not yet sure how to reach it without walking a couple of kilometres. 😀

                      22nd Jan, 2018

                      Very nearly no dragonflies and definitely no picture. However, as we were once again backing out of our sheltered Jalón river pool [#1] after having drawn a blank, a lone male Common Darter finally appeared, hovered very briefly, then zoomed off not to be seen again. He was there, though.

                      25th Jan, 2018

                      J18_1770 Common Darter 25 JanBurns Night. Well, Burns Day, anyway.

                      A hazier day but still basically sunny and relatively calm. We found one lone male Common Darter in Jalón [#1] with, apparently, a problem with one of its eyes – looks a bit like the odonata equivalent of a cataract.

                      30th Jan, 2018

                      After spending a long weekend with friends about 250kms north in Peñíscola, on our return journey we hopped off the autovia just south of Valencia to check out potential landscape line-ups in part of the albufera, specifically the rice paddies near Silla [#5]. Wandering along one section, Carol scared up a Common Darter. Landscape lenses didn’t help us get a picture but it was there.

                      Almost February but not quite.

                      Posted in 2017, 2018, Spain, Trip reports

                      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. Before our trip, the total number of recorded species in New Zealand was 17, 2 of which are very rare vagrants/migrants: Orange Glider/Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) and Red Glider/Saddlebag Glider (Tramea transmarina). So, realistically we were 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 were effectively down to 13 possibles.

                      [
                      Modification after posting.
                      However, unbeknownst to me in 2017, two 2014 and 2016 scientific papers documenting new studies had combined three species into one; New Zealand had lost its Kauri Redcoat and Alpine Redcoat as distinct species – both were now considered to be the Common Redcoat (Xanthocnemis zealandica). Thus, my resident species had dropped to 13.
                      ]

                      Now I had to take season 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 residents 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] 7 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) – removed as a distinct species]

                      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, i.e. 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.

                      [
                      Now changed by reclassification.
                      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 stop flying 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? An almost 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 into 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
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