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 an impressively 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 surrounding 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

          Australia, Oct 2017

          After a 3-day stopover in Hong Kong, we began an extended Antipodean adventure with a 3-week visit to Australia. We’ve visited Australia twice before but the latest was 16 years ago and long before any dragonfly obsession had been formed.

          For our Australian visit we remained almost entirely within the state of Victoria, flying into and out of Melbourne. For our first two weeks, we were based in Stanley, close to Beechworth, in Victoria’s “high country” to visit Carol’s brother and sister-in-law. Our third week was spent travelling and staying with a couple of sets of friends, most of the time near Warragul.

          The timing of our being in Australia had been dictated by the next stage of our trip, the main event, which was to be a 4-week campervan trip around New Zealand. In preparation I had made contact with a local fellow odo-nutter who had warned me that little would be around because this was very early in the Australian dragonfly season, it being early spring in the Southern hemisphere. Added to that, we were in the high country of the southernmost state (Tasmania excepted) which made it likely to be cooler still – the vineyards in that area bang on about “cool climate wines”. Stanley is actually at 800m/~2600ft altitude. So, being early and high, my expectations remained modest.

          At Stanley, with visiting relatives as the only other agenda, we were able to devote some time and effort to searching for odonata. Here, we found seven sites with suitable habitat, one of which was actually just over the border in New South Wales at Albury. The twin towns of Albury-Wodonga straddle the Murray River which acts as the state boundary between Victoria and New South Wales, Albury being on the NSW side.

          Once on the road for week #3, heading for Warragul, our only success was a single species at just one site; a pond at our overnight stop at Metung near Lakes Entrance on the south coast. Once at Warragul the Australian spring weather collapsed becoming cool and frequently damp, which ended odo-hunting aspirations;  a pity because I had been looking forward to visiting Bunyip State Park but it wasn’t to be. We contented ourselves by switching to orchids as our target.

          Despite week #3 being a meteorological write-off, I was ultimately quite happy with our results. We bagged 12 species which, although only scratching the surface of Victoria’s 75 species (Australia has 325), was gratifying for a visit with modest expectations in that locality at that time of year. Perhaps surprisingly, the most productive spot was a modest “dam” in Stanley itself, at our highest altitude. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, though, because, being within walking distance of our accommodation, we were able to visit it several times.

          Here’s the numbered location map for what follows.

          Woolshed Falls @ Beechworth, 17 Oct [#1]

          J17_3124 Austroargiolestes icteromelasOur first outing was to Woolshed Falls, Beechworth, where Reedy Creek flows and tumbles down some potentially attractive waterfalls. .Carol’s brother was keen to show it to us. I didn’t know quite what to expect but was happy to give it a try. I was even happier when, as I approached the water for the first time, a damselfly fluttered into a bush in front of me. My first Australian odo turned out to be an immature Common Flatwing (Austroargiolestes icteromelas), though I needed help identifying it from my Ozzie e-contact. The Australian Flatwings (there are about 20, though only three in this vicinity) look very similar and tricky to distinguish, to me.

          J17_3160 Hemicordulia tauI was thoroughly delighted to add two dragonflies to the count, here, when a Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes) basked on a rock and a Tau Emerald (Hemicordulia tau) buzzed by flying constantly over the water. It took an hour or so but somehow, I managed to snag the Tau Emerald in flight.

          • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
          • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
          • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)

          Commissioners Creek @ Yackandandah, 18 Oct [#2]

          J17_3232 Austroargiolestes icteromelas femaleWe were out alone looking at historic Yackandandah – this was gold mining country – where I wasn’t expecting anything. This was intended to be the regular tourism part of the day but I spotted a bridge over a small stream called Commissioners Creek. Here we found quite a few Common Flatwings, including females this time, so it gave me the pair.

          • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)

          Spring Creek @ Beechworth, 18 Oct [#3]

          J17_3254 Orthetrum caledonicumReturning from Yackandandah we’d always intended to call in to Beechworth Historic Park where my e-contact had told me about some more falls that could be good, albeit a little later in the season. We called in not knowing quite where to look but did find a few new friends in Spring Creek just above the falls. Here, we found a couple of now old friends plus another new species, a Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum Caledonicum).

          • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
          • Diplacodes haematodes (Scarlet Percher)
          • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)

          Winton Wetlands, 20 Oct [#4]

          About an hour’s drive away from Stanley lies Winton Wetlands, “a wetlands restoration project of national significance” [it says here]. We’d spotted it just off the Hume Highway as we drove in from Melbourne airport when we’d arrived. It looked like big water so I wasn’t sure what to expect but the word wetland is often a good sign.

          J17_3324 Ischnura auroraWe arrived in very windy conditions so it wasn’t perhaps as good as it might have been; the critters were keeping low and sheltered. It was mostly big water but the margins proved useful, giving us three new species, including the very colourful Aurora Bluetail (Ishnura aurora), which I’d really been hoping to see.

          J17_3450 Anax papuensisWe did eventually find a smaller pond beside a dirt road with a fourth newbie, the Australian Emperor (Hemianax/Anax papuensis), which obliged by pairing and ovipositing in front of us. This proved an interesting lesson, the correct genus causing much debate on Facebook: Hemianax or Anax? Since the eminent Dennis Paulson’s list of World Odonata has it as Anax papuensis, not even recognising Hemianax, then that’s what I’m going with. [The Australian Field Guide by Theisinger/Hawking uses Hemianax.]

          The fourth in this list remained unidentified for a while, having seen only a female.

          • Ischnura aurora (Aurora Bluetail)
          • Anax papuensis (Australian Emperor)
          • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)
          • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)

          Lake Sambell Reserve, Beechworth, 23 Oct [#5]

          J17_3470 Diplacodes bipunctataLake Sambell itself is big water on the edge of Beechworth and didn’t look very promising but there is a water course and smaller pond just below its dam wall which did prove useful. There were three species that were becoming quite familiar plus another small red-bodied dragonfly, a Wandering Percher (Diplacodes bipunctata).

          I didn’t get photographic proof of the Tau Emerald here – flying constantly again – but I saw it clearly enough to be pretty sure that’s what it was.

          • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
          • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)
          • Orthetrum caledonicum (Blue Skimmer)
          • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)

          Stanley Dam, 23-27 Oct [#6]

          _17C6960 Adveraeshna brevistylaThis unassuming water body in unassuming Stanley proved to be our little goldmine. There are actually two water bodies, a larger and a smaller dam, separated by a road and with a narrow stream running between them. Oddly, over four or so visits, we hardly ever saw the same species twice. For example, at our first visit to the larger dam we saw both a Tau Emerald (Hemicordulia tau) and a Blue-spotted Hawker (Adversaeshna brevistyla), which Carol manage to snag when it finally settled, but we saw neither again on any subsequent visit. We did, however, add the [Australian] Common Bluetail (Ischnura heterosticta) and our single occurrence of an Eatern Billabongfly (Austroagrion watsoni) on our last visit.

          The stream was again active with Common Flatwings and the smaller of the two dams added an interesting blue Lestid (the anal appendages looked very like our Lestes), the Wandering Ringtail (Austrolestes leda).

          • Austroagrion watsoni (Eatern Billabongfly)
          • Austrolestes leda (Wandering Ringtail)
          • Austroargiolestes icteromelas (Common Flatwing)
          • Ischnura aurora (Aurora Bluetail)
          • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
          • Hemicordulia tau (Tau Emerald)
          • Adversaeschna brevistyla (Blue-spotted Hawker)
          • Anax papuensis (Ausralian Emperor)
          • Diplacodes bipunctata (Wandering Percher)

          Lagoons @ Albury, 26 Oct [#7]

          J17_3602 Xanthagrion erythroneurumOf all excuses, we’d gone to Albury to buy something. It proved to be a pleasant town for lunch, too. Before leaving and, as it happened, before a storm blew through, we investigated some lagoons along the side of the Murray River where we were delighted to add our most colourful Australian of the trip, the Red & Blue Damsel (Xanthagrion erythroneurum). Conditions were not the best, with a storm front beginning to blow an light fading, and access was not great but we managed a couple of shots of the very colourful male, including a pair in cop, to add to the hitherto unidentified female that we’d snagged at Winton Wetlands.

          This looked an interesting habitat which, in better conditions would have merited a more thorough investigation. As it was, things were a little hurried.

          • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
          • Xanthagrion erythroneurum (Red & Blue Damsel)

          McMillan’s Resort Pond, Metung, 31 Oct [#8]

          J17_3670 Ischnura heterostictaThis was where we stayed overnight en route to Warragul. Conditions had begun to deteriorate, or they were just cooler further south at the coast, so conditions were not at their best. In better conditions, the well vegetated pond could well have proved more productive. As it was, I just saw a Common Bluetail (Ischnura heterosticta).

          • Ischnura heterosticta (Common Bluetail)
            Posted in 2017, Australia, Trip reports

            Hong Kong, Oct 2017

            In autumn 2017, as part of an extended trip to the Antipodes, we made a 2-night stopover in Hong Kong on our way out. I don’t normally “do” cities and was a little apprehensive but happily I enjoyed it.

            The main reason for my enjoyment was that Hong Kong Park, within walking distance of our hotel, proved to be decent habitat for odonata and gave me five new species, together with a few old friends that I’d seen in Singapore on a previous trip –  and this, despite having been warned that October was not a good time for odonata in HK. We made two visits over the first two days.

            On day two, we braved a little public transport (it’s very good) to visit Kowloon Park on the mainland, too. That proved not to be a good habitat but it did add one to my new species count, so it was not a completely wasted journey.

            On day three when were due to depart, a tropical typhoon blew through, adding to our overall experience by disrupting life and transport in downtown HK but we did manage to get to the airport to leave at midnight, as scheduled, with a bag of six new species in all.

            My traditional map:

            Hong Kong Park, 13 & 14 Oct [#1]

            J17_2854 Tramea virginiaIn the afternoon of the day we’d landed in HK, we hopped on the bus to Hong Kong Park from just outside the hotel. Tired from the 12-hour flight and not expecting much, I stupidly took only my lighter weight travel lens (18-300 Sigma). Wrong! That was the only time I encountered a perched male Saddlebag Glider (Tramea virginia). It’s a distant shot but just about works. Lesson learned.

            J17_2920 Trithemis festivaJ17_2996 Trithemis festiva femaleReturning the next day with a more appropriate lens (Canon 100-400), I didn’t get a second chance at a perched male T. virginia, though they were clearly still around because I did get a female on her ovipositing flight. My main delight this time, though, was the wonderful Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva). I was even more delighted to snag a perched female T. festiva, which, I understand, can be tricky to find. Here’s both male and female. This species is in south-eastern Europe and listed in Dijkstra’s book but I haven’t been to the correct areas.

            J17_2972 Ceriagrion auranticumThere was also something captivating about the spectacularly coloured Orange-tailed Sprite (Ceriagrion auranticum), which I could hardly stop watching.

            Here’s the list from Hong Kong Park with my new species in bold.

            • Ceriagrion auranticum (Orange-tailed Sprite)
            • Ischnura senegalensis (African Bluetail)
            • Anax parthenope julius (Lesser Emperor ssp) [edited after publication.]
            • Diplacodes trivialis (Blue Percher)
            • Orthetrum chrysis (Spine-tufted Skimmer)
            • Orthetrum glaucum (Common Blue Skimmer)
            • Orthetrum sabina (Variegated Green Skimmer)
            • Trithemis aurora (Crimson Dropwing)
            • Trithemis festiva (Indigo Dropwing)
            • Tramea virginia (Saddlebag/Virginia Glider)

            Kowloon Park, 13 Oct [#2]

            J17_3043 Pseudagrion rubricepsThere are four or five water bodies showing on the maps of Kowloon Park so, following the interest at Hong Kong Park, I was expecting more. Unfortunately, most of the water bodies are of the wrong type, manicured/decorative with no vegetation. Just one seemed more wildlife oriented and did support odonata but that was it. I had to get home to identify my initially unknown new species as the Orange-faced Sprite (Pseudagrion rubriceps). Neither lighting conditions (shaded) nor access (over large, chunky railings) were good but here the little darling is at the only angle I could get.

            J17_3045 UnidentifiedI did see one Anisopteran which has eluded identification. The poor thing had been captured by another unknown insect so getting any better pictures was not going to be possible.

            Here’s the list, such as it is, minus the unknown dragonfly.

            • Ischnura senegalensis (African Bluetail)
            • Pseudagrion rubriceps (Orange-faced Sprite)
            Posted in 2017, Hong Kong, Trip reports

            Spain, Sep 2017

            For three weeks of September 2017 we were were supposed to be in France. I had planned to visit Provence to search for Banded Darters (Sympetrum pedemontanum). At least, that was our original plan and we had ferry bookings to prove it. However, several things went wrong at the eleventh hour and we re-planned. We delayed France – I still have ferry bookings to be rescheduled next year – and, as a consolation prize, we flew to Spain for a week of sun (hopefully) instead.

            The sun worked out nicely, save a short hiatus of rain at the weekend, and we managed to get some decent Odo-hunting in. We began in the high 20s and low 30s Centigrade. If anything goes someway towards making up for visiting completely new habitats, it is visiting known habitats at different times of year, as this mid-September trip was. This, of course, is because the species can vary throughout the flight season.

            I am thrilled to say that we found a species brand new to us, the Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii). Seeing these for the first time certainly made up for missing out on my originally intended new species in France, the Banded Darter (Sympetrum pedemontanum) which, of course, I might well have failed to find. We’ll save looking for it for another year. 😉

            J17_1495 Black PennantI had two other highlights to round off what I regard as a very successful trip. We finally found a male Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra) to go with the females first encountered both in Croatia and Spain during 2016. We also got another chance to see the geographically limited Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum).

            Here’s the numbered sites that we did visit followed by a brief description of each.

            Riu Jalón-Gorgos, Jalón, 12 & 17 Sep [#1]

            I’d been concerned about this, our local (in Spain), habitat following the raging torrents that swept away much of the vegetation beside the river in the winter of 2016/17. We visited in  April-May 2017 and spotted some dragonflies but few species and each in very low numbers – it did not look like a “normal” spring showing. So, I was apprehensive about what I might find now in September.

            J17_1611 Desert Darter maleWe arrived in brilliant sunshine and I was delighted and, I must say, very relieved to see five species in very short order, including the delightfully colourful Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi), an African species spreading widely through Spain. In fact, I believe there has now been a record from France, just over the Pyrenees. I am also always very pleased to see another successfully spreading African species, one that is somewhat ahead of T. kirbyi, the gaudily pink Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata). On our second visit, later in the week, the relatively scarce Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum) also put in the appearance for which I was hoping. This remains the only place I’ve personally encountered it. The habitat appears to have bounced back – phew!

            • Calopteryx sp [frustrating – didn’t settle; probably C. haemorrhoidalis but maybe C. virgo]
            • Chalcolestes viridis (Western Willow Spreadwing)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Sympetrum sinaiticum (Desert Darter)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
            • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)
            • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

            Parque Natural del Hondo, Elche, 13 Sep [#2]

            I think it’s fair to say that this has become my favourite habitat in our region of Spain. This is where, in August 2016, that we stumbled across the absolutely enchanting Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita) and in very good numbers, too. I was really hoping to see them again, this time armed with a close focus ring so I could focus successfully at my feet, which is where they tend to sit. Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, we didn’t see a single one. A Spanish contact has since suggested that this species is prone to suddenly disappearing from sites.

            J17_1463 Black Percher maleHowever, there was wonderfully unexpected saving grace. In fact, there were two saving graces. First of all, flitting around low in the reeds beside the boardwalk, we encountered some examples of Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii), which is a brand new species for us. They were a little difficult to access and a bit distant, so not the greatest pictures, but they were there. Secondly, around the mudflats, we found several male Black Pennants (Selysiothemis nigra). We’d seen this species here last year in August but females only. So, our first encounter with the very smart black males.

            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
            • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
            • Orthetrum trinacria (Long Skimmer)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
            • Diplacodes lefebvrii (Black Percher)
            • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)

            Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 14 Sep [#3]

            Another lovely habitat that I like to visit given half a chance. This had been great in May when it offered several Green-eyed Hawkers (Aeshna isoceles). They would be over at this time of year, being an early Hawker. It would be interesting to see what was here, now.

            J17_1585 Violet Dropwing maleIn fact it was a little more subdued than I really expected both in terms of species and quantity. This was especially true since our visit to Hondo had been buzzing. We did see a single Blue-eye (Erythromma lindenii) hanging on in there. By far the greatest specimens in terms of numbers were the common-as-muck Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) and the continually captivating Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata). So, not a great visit but it was perhaps an educational one.

            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
            • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

            Las Salinas, Calpe, 18 Sep [#4]

            Not a specific dragonfly hunting day but we popped in to Calpe and happened to see a Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea) – only the second time seen here.

            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

            Marjal del Senillar, Moraira, 19 Sep [#5]

            Again, not a specific day for dragonfly hunting – we were out for a celebratory lunch – but included for the sake of completeness.

            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            Posted in 2017, Spain, Trip reports

            Scotland, Jun 2017

            In relatively recent history, we haven’t been in the UK during June. However, there was a couple of species that I was missing from my UK catalogue that really needed hunting in June and early July. These were the Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum) and Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea), both limited to Scotland in our sceptred isle. So, this year I planned to remain on home turf for June/July and take a camping trip into the highlands of Scotland seeking to plug those gaps.

            I used the NBN Gateway to research locations for both species. Happily, I did so in the first quarter of the year before the NBN Gateway, which I thought to be an excellent tool, was retired in favour of a lesser tool [IMHO], the NBN Atlas. Why is it that other folks’ idea of progress so often seems like a retrograde step to me? Anyway, using the submitted records of more recent years, I picked three locations to use as bases. I planned to give myself three weeks in all, one week at each base, hoping that I would then have half a chance of getting at least some sun in Scotland.  My somewhat extended visit was due to my very limited track record vis-a-vis Scottish weather being pretty dreadful.

            My bases were:

            1. Glenmore Forest, near Abernethy and Loch Garten:  target = Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum)
            2. Loch Maree: target = Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea)
            3. Cannich/Glen Affric: target = Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea),  stretch goal – possibility of a Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica)

            Entirely coincidentally, a friend and fellow odo-nutter, currently the Hampshire dragonfly recorder, Paul and his partner, Sue, had also planned an overlapping trip to the Loch Maree vicinity in search of the Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). This was good news, we could pool information and eight eyes are better than four. The more the merrier. We arranged to hook up when they arrived.

            Summary.

            The weather was, in a word, pitiful. My track record with Scottish weather did not change; the conditions were essentially pants for the 3-week trip. During the whole time, we had one very pleasant day and one reasonable day. Outside of this, we were “treated” to just a couple of individual 1-hour windows of brightness, always in the later afternoon, while we were out odo hunting. These two 1-hour windows proved critical. The  first was on our very first full day near Loch Garten, when we succeeded in finding the Northern Damselfly/Spearhead Bluet (Coenagrion hastulatum). The second of these windows  was almost two weeks later beside Loch Maree when we found the Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) and this was, I’m happy to say, a particularly memorable encounter.

            We never saw a hint of a Northern Emerald but I have seen them in France. I was essentially a happy camper for having found my two targets. I was even happier when I actually drove back out of Scotland and into some decent weather. I have tired of people telling me how wonderful Scotland can be “when the weather is good” since I have never experienced anything like it being good. I’m a realist and was prepared for some rain and wind. What I was not prepared for was rain and wind at a high of 13°C in the middle of summer and, I should note, in the middle of a so-called heat wave 500-miles south, at home, where temperatures were hitting 30°C. Now that is one heck of a temperature gradient. 😉

            I would consider late June and early July to be the height of dragonfly season. The largest number of species we saw at a site was five and numbers of individiuals were generally low. A poor showing, I’d say.

            Here’s my usual map of indexed locations worth mentioning, followed by individual details for each.

            Large Boardwalk Pond, Loch Garten, 19 Jun [#1]

            Our first full day in the Aviemore region staying at the Glenmore Forest campsite beside Loch Morlich. At lunchtime we were “enjoying” 12.5°C and occasional drizzle but we decided to investigate possible locations for the Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum). A very helpful young lady at the Loch Garten Osprey Centre reception directed us to two separate dragonfly ponds. This was the first and larger of those ponds.

            J17_1770 Northern Damselfly maleWe first arrived mid-afternoon and found two other locals on the boardwalk. It was still cool and overcast but they’d seen some damselflies hunkered down in the horsetails, quite distant. Nonetheless, I grabbed a couple of shots. We took a tea break, whereupon conditions brightened a little. We returned between 16:00 and 17:00 to enjoy spells of sunshine and warmer conditions (16-17°C). Now there was more activity, including in cop pairs, and I found a spot where I could get closer for some decent shots. Day #1, target #1 achieved.

            There were a coupe of other odos here to entertain us, as well, but I was very focused.

            • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly/Common Bluetail)
            • Coenagrion hastulatum (Northern Damselfly/Spearhead Bluet)
            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
            • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

            Uath Lochans, 20 Jun [#2]

            This was our good day in Scotland, weather-wise. It having brightened briefly the evening before at Loch Garten, I might have begun to think that my Scottish weather demons had left me. [I would have been very wrong.] A contact had mentioned Uath Lochans as looking “interesting” so we went to investigate.

            J17_1851 Common Blue maleWe discovered a small roadside pool with two species, both included in the list below, before taking the correct turning to the car park. On finally  arriving, another visitor asked if we were looking for the Northern Damselfly. “Yes”, I replied, always prepared to see more even though we’d found it yesterday. Thus primed, I was a little taken aback staring through the lens at my first Bluet thinking, “that’s surely a Common Blue (Enallagma cyathigerum)”. And so it was, though it did look somehow different – darker.  There does seem to be more black on these northern Common Blue Damselflies. This was the only species of Bluet we saw here.

            Uath Lochans was a pleasant enough environment with odo-hunters being helped by Wellington boots to cope with the marshy ground at loch-side – you need to get off the main paths, which are substantial, to get close enough to the odo habitat. We wandered a decent distance but saw no more than the following, all three of which we’d seen closer to the car park.

            • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly/Common Bluet)
            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
            • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)

            Small Boardwalk Pond, Loch Garten, 21 Jun [#3]

            The forecast was dreadful but rain held off and a possibility of brightening appeared. We went to check out the second and smaller of the two ponds indicated to us by the young RSPB lady. This pond proved tricky to find, even when you know it’s there, especially when directed to the wrong side of the road. 😀

            J17_1867 White-faced DarterFind it we did, though. It’s actually two very small ponds separated by a very short boardwalk – more of a platform – of about 5m. As we approached, there was a little brightness. A White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) zoomed off, as did the brightness shortly thereafter. We waited and another bright spell brought the White-faced Darters back again. That spell of brightness lasted only about 10 minutes and that was the end of the odo-hunting weather for the day.

            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
            • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
            • Leucorrhinia dubia (White-faced Darter/Small Whiteface)

            Laide Wood, 27 Jun [#4]

            Now staying at the Inverewe Gardens campsite in Poolewe, we used an indifferent morning to wander around Inverewe Gardens itself, offering ourselves as a mobile snack to some of the the west coast midges. I found it a bit like the weather, dull.

            Our day brightened when Paul and Sue found us and we shared coffee and lunch. Paul and Sue had been directed by the local tourist information office to Laide Wood as being a likely odonata hunting ground. I was impressed that the tourist information included this speciality wildlife knowledge. Laide Wood is where we spent the latter half of the afternoon. It even has a car park and an information board/map. Sure enough, two ponds were shown. We took a stroll.

            Before hitting either of the ponds we’d spotted a couple of damselflies. These included the ubiquitous-in-Scotland Large Red Damsel (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). Life got more interesting, especially for Paul for whom it was new, when we stumbled across a “Highland” Darter female. These may have been shown by DNA to be a dark form Common Darter but they do look considerably different. Paul immediately noticed the lack of light stripe on the femurs.

            _17C5229 Common Hawker maleWe drew a blank at the first pond but the second was more productive. Keeping us amused in the dull conditions was a hung-up Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii). The sun was beginning to put in a few appearances before dipping back behind clouds. During one such appearance, a Hawker appeared and hawked along a tree line before disappearing along with the sun. Excitement soared – it had a blue appearance. The sun returned and we saw a Hawker again. This time it settled just long enough for Carol, in pole position, to grab a shot. We assumed we’d got our first Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). WRONG! What we’d got was a Common Hawker/Moorland Hawker (Aeshna juncea). [Admission time: I didn’t actually notice my mistake until much later, studying the pictures more closely.]

            Laide Wood enjoyable habitat with good access and five species, the highest count we achieved in Scotland.

            Here’s the correct list. 🙂

            • Ischnura elegans (Blue-tailed Damselfly)
            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Larger Red Damsel)
            • Aeshna juncea (Common Hawker/Moorland Hawker)
            • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)
            • Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens (Highland/Common Darter)

            Beinn Eighe, Loch Maree, 28 Jun [#5]

            [Hardly worth mentioning; I debated leaving this out but relented.]

            J17_1989 Common Goldenring maleNow staying at the Caravan Club’s site in Kinlochewe, we spent another half-day with Paul and Sue, who checked out a couple of sites before meeting us but drew blanks. We met them at the Beinn Eighe visitor centre, a subdued weather stroll and slight climb from which revealed a couple of subdued Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) at a modest pond and a subdued Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) sheltering from the very stiff breeze part way up the mountain.

            We did try another area of Beinn Eighe, the so-called woodland walk, which had suitable habitat but unsuitable weather, and that drew a total blank.

            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
            • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)

            Slattadale, Loch Maree, 28 Jun [#6]

            Continuing from Beinn Eighe with Paul and Sue, the more western end of Loch Maree looked brighter so we headed in that direction. We called in to Slattadale, supposedly good for Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) to see what we could find, if anything.

            J17_1993 Azure Hawker maleDull at first, between 16:30 and 17:30, this became the second of our 1-hour bright windows that I mentioned in the introduction. We began by disturbing a couple more Golden-ringed Dragonflies (Cordulegaster boltonii) beside the small stream. Paul had been told to look for a small glade with logs. Eventually we found something that might have fitted the bill.  I was looking at a it when a Hawker appeared and landed on the end of one log. This was undoubtedly a fine male Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea). Bearing in mind that, at this point, I thought Carol had snagged one, I was still thrilled because now I had. This fellow was a showman and delighted us all for almost an hour, even landing on each one of us in turn. We were ecstatic. (There was a second individual about but with a slightly distorted abdomen – a slight curve to the left.)

            We were also very lucky ‘cos this turned out to be our only encounter with target #2.

            Goal achieved despite the blasted weather.

            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damsel)
            • Aeshna caerulea (Azure Hawker)
            • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)

            Coire Loch, Glen Affric, 5 Jul [#7]

            Our final move was crossing from the west coast of Scotland into the central highlands at Cannich to investigate Glen Affric, where we stayed at Cannich Woodland Camping. The helpful campsite owner directed us to Coire Loch on a walk from Dog Falls. Then I realized that Coire Loch was mentioned in the Smallshire/Swash field guide as a haunt of the Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora arctica). It hadn’t been one of my considered targets but it would’ve been a great addition since I am yet to snag one, though I have glimpsed one very briefly at Thursley Common.

            _17C5580 Downy EmeraldIt is a delightful spot and wonderful looking habitat. Here, Carol and I spent a reasonably sunny 90-minutes standing in Wellington boots beside the mossy waters edge trying to snag flying Emeralds. Eventually Carol managed a flight shot and one did settle in the heather behind her, face on but a little obscured. It was a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea). Just a little gutted since we were 500 miles from home but have a colony of Downies just 2 miles from home. No matter, it was entertaining.

            • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Blue Damselfly)
            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula  (Large Red Damselfly)
            • Cordulegaster boltonii (Golden-ringed Dragonfly/Common Goldenring)
            • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
            • Cordulia aenea (Downy Emerald)
            Posted in 2017, Scotland, Trip reports

            Spain, Spring 2017

            Travelling by slow boat (30 hours) between Portsmouth and Bilbao, this was a 6-week visit to our base in Spain at Jalón/Xaló. This being my first early season odonata hunt in Spain, I was looking forward to something fresh.

            I had a nagging concern, though. The 2016-17 winter in Spain, our part anyway, was a real winter. After several years of drought conditions, plenty of much needed rain fell and Jalón even had snow which settled for the first time in 30 years. Of greatest interest to me, was the Gota Fria [literally, Cold Drop] of mid-December, 2016, which we’d witnessed on our Xmas/New Year visit. Torrential rain fell and, though the town wasn’t actually flooded by the Riu Xalo-Gorgos bursting any banks, the river, normally just a few pools that hardly flow at all, turned into a raging torrent sweeping away stands of mature bamboo along with part of a road. This short video, shot by a friend, should give an idea of of why I had concerns.

            2017-05-18 14.55.272017-05-18 14.55.44On arrival this time, the river had mostly returned to its normal, calm self, though it was still flowing a little more than we considered normal. These pictures are taken from within the river course itself, the river being nowhere near its banks, and the couple of fords were useable, as is usual. Examining a few stretches along the river showed that new shingle banks had appeared in places, changing the [placid] water course slightly, and a  few large stone blocks that must weigh as much as a modest car had been relocated, washed off the tops of a couple of dam structures. Actually, when this happened about 10 years ago, a car was relocated downstream towards Xábia/Jávea. What would have been the effect of such a powerful flow be on any odonata larvae, I wondered? With two weeks at the end of April and three weeks in May, I had the opportunity to find out.

            We did, of course, visit several of my other favoured odonata haunts to see how they were doing. Largely because this was a lengthier visit and earlier in the season than our norm, we encountered four species for the first time in Spain. The Spanish refer to a first-timer, I’m told, as a Bimbo. How delightful is that? [I’ve come across the term lifer applied in the UK.] So, all in all, a very positive trip, despite the winter weather concern. Read on. 😉

            Here’s my usual map and summary.  [Aside: my maps are back on Google Maps, Mapbox having changed their interface and ruined it, IMHO – no longer an easy click to add points to maps.]

            Marjal de Pego-Oliva, 14 & 30 Apr, 16 May [#1]

            J17_0976 Aeshna isocelesThis has become the most interesting place local to our base in Spain, being a mere 20 minutes away, being a pleasant, normally quiet environment for a nature ramble and, of course, having a good spread of odonata. This time, we visited it on three separate occasions and introduced it to a friend who was also interested in photography. Our three visits netted us three new species for the site: Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg), Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker) and Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail). These were our first encounters in Spain of the Hawker and the Clubtail.

            J17_1289 Trithemis annulata maleThe Green-eyed Hawkers were active and quite numerous, our count reaching six. The Clubtail seemed like a lucky encounter because we saw just one and only once. The season was just beginning, evidently, for Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing) and Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet), which were present in low numbers. It did present me with a beautifully fresh male Violet Dropwing, though, so different from the gaudily pink mature adult. We saw only one of the normally numerous Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter), too.

            All of which brought tour site total to 15 species. I would have to say that, although we saw a total of 11 species here this time around, the individual numbers of most species seemed to be low. Maybe it was just early in the season for some. We did, though, solve our on-going Ischnura sp question – at least one of these was clearly I. elegans and not I. graellsii.  Shame! 🙂

            This is what we saw this time around.

            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
            • Erythromma lindenii (Blue-eye)
            • Platycnemis latipes (White Featherleg)
            • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor) ?
            • Gomphus pulchellus (Western Clubtail)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
            • Trithemis annulata (Violet Dropwing)

            Aula Natura Marjal de Gandia, 16 Apr [#2]

            J17_0712 Crocothemis erythraeaThis site is normally relatively peaceful. However, normally does not include an Easter weekend sunny day, even in Spain. Although it is tagged a marsh, there is a lot of grassy area for folks to set up tables and chairs. On this day, the site was absolutely heaving with large family groups picnickinhg, kicking balls around, playing badminton, etc. It did not make for good Dragonfly spotting. Around the first of the two lakes, we saw just a pair of Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetails) and, of course, several hundred Homo sapiens. I was on the point of giving up completely but thought we might as well exit with a circuit of the second lake. JUust as well; we found there some patrolling Anax imperator (Blue Emperor) and a very teneral Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet) which had clearly just emerged and had taken its first tentative flutter.

            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)

            Marjal del Seniller, Moraira, 20 Apr [#3]

            On one occasion we have been allowed access to this normally closed off site. We’ve seen five species here. This time, we just wandered past on our way to lunch, not really being here for dragonflies, but did spot a single Anax imperator (Blue Emperor) as we did so.

            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)

            Parque Natural del Hondo, 23 Apr, 14 May [#4]

            This site, new to me in August 2016, instantly became one of my favourites when I found not only Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant) but also, brand new to me, Bracythemis impartita (Northern Banded Groundling). ‘T was certainly too early in the season for either of those but I was keen to visit again and see what I could find at the start of the season.

            J17_0805 Anax ephippigerOur first visit was rather spoiled when Carol was descended upon by too many mosquitos for her to bear. She retired from the field of battle and left me to swiftly find what I could before driving her to safety. My main find was good numbers of patrolling, mating and ovipositing Emperors, both Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor) and Anax ephippiger (Vagrant Emperor). Both males having a blue saddle, they are a little tricky to distinguish in flight. One, though netted me what I feel must be my best ever dragonfly picture, a male in flight, ahead on – the wind, which they tend to fly into, was in exactly the right direction.

            J17_1217 Sympetrum striolatumWe returned for a second visit, Carol now equipped against mosquitos, and added a couple of new species for our site list: Erythromma viridulum (Small redeye) in good numbers and an emergence of Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter) with individuals clearly rising up on their maiden flights.

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

            Fonts d’Algar, 2 May [#5]

            Hitherto, we had visited this site only once but it was in May and we saw the delightful Calopterx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle) in good numbers. This visit was about a week earlier in the year but I was keen to see the beauties again, if possible.

            J17_1049 Onychogomphus uncatusFor me, it was not possible but Carol did see one which regrettably fluttered off before I got to it, never to return. I was surprised by the lack even of an Anax imperator (Blue Emporor), though we did once again encounter a single Onychogomphus uncatus (Large Pincertail) sunning itself on the rocks. On our way out, an immature Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer) put in a last minute appearance, which was new to us for this site.

            Three species but a measly three individuals, in early May, two-thirds of the way down Spain. It didn’t feel right, somehow. Was this apparently poor showing a result of the effects of a cooler, longer and wetter winter than normal, possible with the waterfalls and waterways becoming torrents? Speculation time. 😉

            • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
            • Onychogomphus uncatus (Large Pincertail)
            • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)

            Riu Serpis @ Beniarres, 8 May [#6]

            The Riu Serpis emanates from a reservoir near Planes. It was another new discovery for us in 2016. Finding water in this part of Spain for dragonfly habitats can be a challenge and run offs from reservoirs seems to be a useful tactic.

            J17_1116 Platycnemis acutipennisSince this was a different part of the season, I was again keen to see what species we could add to our site list. Here’s the four that we did identify, which included our first Spanish encounter with Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg) and took us up to 10 at the site; reasonable for a couple of visits, I think. It got me my sight of Copper Demoiselles, too, having missed the one Carol saw at the Fonts d’Algar [#5].

            This visit also clarified the Bluetail question that prevails around here – there were also Ishnura elegans (Common Bluetail), so I’m still to find that elusive I. graellsii (Iberian Bluetail), regrettably. There was actually a fifth species, red darter-ish which we saw just fleetingly and failed to id.

            • Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis (Copper Demoiselle)
            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)

            Riu Serpis @ L’Orcha, 8 May [#7]

            We continued along to to this second site along the same river. Here, we got a bit of a surprise. This site had clearly been hit hard by floodwaters during the winter. Here, the course of the river had changed slightly and there were gravel banks where water used to be, save for a cut off remaining pool or two. Even the parking area was now more of a gravel tip. At first we saw absolutely nothing, apart from scaring up a few Plovers clearly nesting on the stony ground; we gave them a wide berth). We did eventually find three individuals. Again, like the Fonts d’Algar story, these were three separate individuals of three species – just one representative of each. Perhaps indicatively, all three were located around the pool remaining from the original water course, now changed.

            Much of the ground where larvae would have been was now dry. I think this site will need some recovery time.

            • Platycnemis acutipennis (Orange Featherleg)
            • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer?)
            • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

            City of Arts & Sciences @ Valencia, 9 May [#8]

            J17_1167 trithemis kirbyiThis was an unexpected surprise. We had a trip to photograph the artistically architected buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences on the eastern side of Valencia. We knew they were surrounded by reflecting pools of water but I suspected these pools would be utterly sterile – and so they were. Behind the (on the northern edge) the buildings was a fairly pleasant park area with water but that also looked sterile. Until we got to the section beneath the road bridge, that is, a section which buts into a permanent source of water complete with reeds. To our surprise, we found this impressive list of seven species flitting about, again, not in great numbers – just one or two of each – but at least they were there.

            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
            • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
            • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
            • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

            Castell de Castells, 13 May [#9]

            J17_1205 Pyrrhosoma nymphulaA low count (1 or 2) of a single species hardly qualifies this as an odonata site but technically it is and I’ve included it because it is notable as being our first ever encounter with this particular species in Spain, Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly).

            Castell de Castells is a popular walking area. We’d been up on an orchid hunt and were returning through Castell, which has a very modest stream running through it, one you can almost literally step across. Scouring the streamside vegetation in overcast conditions, we found one, possibly two (one disappeared and another appeared but could’ve been the same specimen) Large Reds. Modest but exciting because of its significance.

            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)

            Riu Jalon-Gorgos [#10]

            And so to my main concern, the river flowing through Jalón itself. Bearing in mind that I had at least four weeks to observe and look for odonata here, to cut a long story short, my fears seem to be well founded. This site had been my leading Spanish site in terms of number of species witha count of 14. It had also been good in  terms of numbers of individuals. Despite checking here on a regular basis during the 4-5 weeks of this stay, all we could come with as identifiable specimens were three cruising Anax imperator (Blue Emperor), a lone Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter ) and a lone immature Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer), this last being at our final attempt. The RVD was actually on a higher stretch of the river at Alcalalí.

            To complete the picture fairly, earlier in the trip, towards the end of April and before we hit the road to play tourist, I believe I saw a red-looking darter-sized dragonfly, possibly Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet) but it was fleeting and never seen again. Later in the trip I saw another darter-sized individual fleetingly, not red, but again it was unidentified and never seen again.

            So, up to 20th May, 1000 miles further south than my home base in England and in a noticeably better climate, in 5 weeks we had notched up five confirmed individuals, three of which had been Emperors.

            Fully formed Emperor larvae are large and strong. Is it possibly that a few of these might have survived the torrents where other lesser individuals might not have? What of lesser formed Emperor larvae? They do, after all, take a few years to develop fully. All other larvae of the species I’ve seen here are smaller and less strong. Five individuals, seven with the two uids, simply cannot be good. I honestly believe that the torrential river flow caused by the Gota Fria of December 2016 has taken its toll on the odonata population in the river at Jalón.

            Nature will bounce back but it’ll take a while given what we saw this time.

            • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
            • Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

            Riu Duero @ Soria, 23/05/2017 [#11]

            Mercifully I can end on a brighter note. Travelling by car, we stayed for two nights at Soria  a mountainous area about 3 hours south of Bilbao. Soria is at an altitude of about 2000ft. It’s apparently one of the coldest places in Spain, with 90 days of frost every year. Unbeknownst to us beforehand, it is also near the beginning of the Duero river which finally becomes the Duro and flows out into the Atlantic at Porto, Portugal. When we arrived we were delighted at what we saw, a well maintained river with well constructed and managed walkways beside it. We had originally intended to play tourist in the car but the river was irresistible and we just walked locally in fabulously clear weather.

            _MG_8416 Sympecma fuscaWe were very glad we did. Damselflies don’t seem quite so easy to find in Spain as dragonflies but here we found four species. Not only that, but two of them were firsts for us in Spain.

            Our Spanish firsts included good ol’ Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly) which, on a sizeable river, was a bit of a surprise. My biggest delight, though, was Sympecma fusca (Common Winter Damselfly) which was present in large numbers along every part of the river we examined. We’d seen them before in small numbers in France but here they were teaming. I did wonder if their over-wintering as adults made them well suited to surviving those 90 days of frost but it seems they like dead/dying reeds, of which there were plenty.

            It was also only our second encounter in Spain with Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly). So, all in all, three out of four species were pretty special – a very welcome spot of success on our way home.

            • Sympecma fusca (Common Winter Dasmelfly)
            • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
            • Coenagrion puella (Azure Damselfly)
            • Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Large Red Damselfly)
            Posted in 2017, Spain, Trip reports

            Namibia, Feb 2017

            In February 2017 we joined an Explore! safari around northern Namibia, their Namibian Lodge Safari. It was a mixture of culture and wildlife but wildlife in the form of big game. I had no control over the itinerary, which was very full-on, so what is contained below is a commentary of those dragonfly encounters which just happened along the way. This, by the way, was Namibia’s wet season and it was having a very wet wet season.

            There is a brief slideshow of the species we did see.

            Below is my usual indexed map of locations followed by details for each.

            Rehoboth Service Station, 21st Feb [#1]

            As unlikely as it seems, when we called in to a filling station in Rehoboth in preparation for losing the tarmac road and heading further west on dirt roads, there were numerous dragonflies cruising tirelessly back and forth over the station forecourt. They were difficult to see but I fancied they were largely light tan with a faint red blush on the dorsal side of the abdomen. I formed a suspicion as to what they might be but daren’t hope. They got nowhere near settling and the background was too confused for a flight shot. Frustrating!

            Later, I proved that they were the iconic Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens).

            • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

            Zebra River Lodge, 22nd Feb [#2]

            J17_0096 Massai SpritesThis was a fabulous guest house that was in the middle of nowhere, well off the beaten track. It was used to playing host to wandering zebras  and was absolutely teeming with butterflies and moths, the latter of which insisted on trying to steal drinks from ones wine and/or beer.

            My highlight was its ornamental pond and small water hole (which also had paving around its edge). Here I encountered three dragonflies, two of which were clearly resident (I spotted exuviae) and one damselfly which I observed ovipositing. Unfortunately, the two resident dragonflies were nothing new to me, Orange-winged Dropwings (Tithemis kirbyi), spreading well in Spain, and Red-veined Darters (Sympetrum fonscolombi) breeding even in the south of the UK, now.  The damselfly, Massai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum), was both colourful and new, so I was delighted to have encountered that.

            • Pseudagrion massaicum (Massai Sprite)
            • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)
            • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
            • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)

            Carp Cliff (-ish), 23rd Feb [#3]

            Another most unlikiely place for a single encounter with an apparently lone dragonfly. We’d stopped in the middle of the desert, just after climbing out of a gorge, and pulled in behind a green tour bus. Cruising back and forth behind and to the side of the bus, was yet another Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), though I still didn’t then know what it was. The really curious thing is that it vanished completely moments after the green tour bus drove off. Station forecourts, buses … what was the attraction?

            • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

            Toshari Lodge, 26th Feb [#4]

            Yet another location where we saw a few of the constantly cruising suspects. This time, with a good deal of patience and manual focus to avoid the confused background, Carol snagged a couple of distant flight shots. Suspicions increased and did eventually prove to be Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens).

            I did catch a single glimpse of another, smaller dragonfly but, alas, it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. “Bother!”, said Pooh, crossly.

            • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)

            Namutoni – Etosha NP, 28th Feb [#5]

            _17C1869 Diplacodes deminutaI was sick in camp (an ailment from food at our previous stop) so this one was down to my ever-vigilant missus. 🙂 Out on a day’s game drive, more in search of Elephants than Odos, at Namutoni camp during lunch she spotted a very small dragonfly perching close to the ground. It turned out to be a female of the very appropriately named Little Percher (Diplacodes deminuta). Hoorah, another new species.

            Well done, Carol.

            • Diplacodes deminuta (Little Percher)

            Waterberg Resort, 1st & 2nd Mar [#6]

            J17_1091 Little Skimmer maleThe Waterberg Plateau is an extensive rock plateau rising alone out of a large tract of otherwise flat, wild countryside. There’s a clue in the name: it rains quite a bit here. We arrived shortly after a downpour but now the early evening sun was out and we stepped out of our Landcruisers to be immediately greeted by another new species of dragonfly. They were sunning themselves on the red sandstone rocks strewn about the place. I got a full set: male, female and immature male. Joy! These were Small Scarlets (Crocothemis sanguinolenta).

            The next day we went on a walk up the Waterberg. On the way down, after the day had warmed up, dragonflies were about and we snagged a few more new species, including two Orthetrums which, in Africa, need very careful identification. With grateful thanks to K-D Dijkstra himself, I’m now very confident of these two Skimmer ids.

            • _17C2012 Shadow-bridge Widow maleOrthetrum julia falsum (Julia Skimmer)
            • Orthetrum abbotti (Small Skimmer)
            • Crocothemis sanguinolenta (Small Scarlet)
            • Palpopleura portia (Shadow-bridge Widow)

            Klein Windhoek River, 3rd Mar [#7]

            Going full circle, we ended back where we’d begun, at the Klein Windhoek Guest House. Klein Windhoek is a suburb of Windhoek itself. Behind the guest house is a river which occasionally flows; it’s actually connected to a reservoir. At the start of our trip, I saw just birds over the river. At the end of our trip it had rained and there was more water present.

            J17_1186 Pantala flavescensThis was the stop that solved my constantly-cruising-dragonfly puzzle.  I observed them oviposting here, too. Banging off ~110 shots, both on manual and autofocus (I now had a clear background, I could see beyond doubt that these were indeed Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens). My susoicion had been born out. Unbounded joy.

            Oh, there was one Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi), too. 😉

            • Trithemis kirbyi (Orange-winged Dropwing)
            • Pantala flavescens (Wandering Glider)
            Posted in 2017, Namibia, Trip reports
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