Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Trip to Pa La-U Waterfall

Location:  A trip to Kaeng Krachan NP 
Date: Wednesday 07 May, 2014
  Areas visited: Pa La-U Waterfall and stream located just below

I recently took a holiday with my girlfriend to Hua Hin and couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the well-known Pa La-U Waterfall which lies approximately 65 kms west of Hua Hin, located inside Kaeng Krachan National Park, Prachaub Kiri Khan. 

Before I visited, I asked a few fellow dragon chasers and I was recommended to a stream near to the entrance of the waterfall by Pattarawich Dawwrueng. I was hoping to spot the stunning Gomphidae Nihonogomphus pulcherrimus. When I arrived, I loved the look of the stream. Extremely shallow and narrow with a sandy bottom. I did manage to see N. pulcherrimus straight away, but was unable to photograph it as every time it flew down from the treetops, it was attacked by numerous Onychothemis testacea and it eventually gave up and retreated. Amongst several commonly seen species, I managed to spot and photograph three new records for my blog: a solitary male Onychothemis culminicola was present, but extremely shy;  a small number of Paragomphus capricornis were present on the sandy and pebbled areas of the stream and I also saw a female Burmagomphus sp. that I was unable to identify, but looks different to the females of other species I have seen in the genus. I moved along the stream and could have spent days there. However, I only had one day and with time ticking, I decided it was time to move on and head to Pa La-U Waterfall. The only thing that annoyed me was that I had to pay "foreigner" price. 200 baht instead of 20. Normally I pay the same as Thais wherever I go as I pay tax in the country (I am a teacher if you didn't know). However, I wasn't going to miss out for 200 baht! Just a short walk from the car park and I had arrived. Quite literally. The place was alive with odonates. Most were common, but I did manage to spot a few more species to add to my collection. The first was a male specimen from the genus Onychogomphus. However, I'm not sure that it has been described yet, so I can only call it Onychogomphus sp. I only saw this male, but did managed to catch sight of a female ovipositing. It managed to evade my camera though. Once I had photographed the Gomphid, I stood up and a tiny female landed between my legs. I photographed it and then noticed a good number of males seemingly 'hopping' from rock to rock. I probably saw around 10 specimens. Upon my return home, it has been identified as Stylogomphus sp. - a species I had seen before. However, that wasn't true as the specimen I saw in Petchabun was much larger and the appendages are slightly different, though my photos are not perfect. Therefore, I would suggest that there are at least two species from the genus waiting to be described. If all that wasn't enough, I then witnessed my first ever full emergence of a Gomphid. It was amazing to see. Unfortunately, as it was extremely fresh and a female, it is almost impossible to ID. Hopefully someone can. For now, I can only call it "Unknown Gomphid". There were many other common species buzzing around and I continued up the waterfall. After several hours, a heavy-looking storm started looming and I was worried that I had no protection for my camera gear (I forgot all my waterproof stuff). I continued but the thunder got louder and it got darker. It was time to give up the ghost. I had been a brilliant day anyway. I started my way back down and as I almost reached the first level a long slender damselfly caught my eye in the gloom. I knew it was a Platystictidae species and upon inspection, knew that it was of the genus Drepanosticta, probably D. sharpi. However, when I returned and posted photos on Dragonflies of Thailand, I was informed that there are some species in the genus yet to be described by science. Therefore, I can only leave it as Drepanosticta sp. Hopefully, someone will describe them all in the very near future. And that was it. All in all, a brilliant day and a place I will return to for sure. 
My best photos of the trip:

 
And just to finish off the trip, I managed to spot a female (that looks like a male) I. senegalensis rather surprisingly at a brackish pond right alongside the coast - this is something I have been looking for for a long time!
Next Trip: probably Chaiyaphum

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

174. Drepanosticta sp.

Number: 174 
Family:   Platystictidae
Genus: Drepanosticta 
Species: Drepanosticta sp. (probably yet to be described)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Rocky forested stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary male
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: Drepanosticta species

At the end of a long and fruitful day at Pa La-U waterfall, I made my way back down to the first level, acutely aware that a storm was brewing slightly higher up the mountain. Just as I was about to put my camera back into my camerabag, I noticed an extremely long Platystictidae perching on a tree trunk. I knew it was a new species for me, but couldn't tell in the bad lighting whether it was in the genus Drepanosticta or Protosticta. I managed a few poor shots and then a group of tourists walked past and the thing flew away. I searched for a while and then remembered the male Drepanosticta jurzitzai which I had spotted a few weeks earlier. I simply stood back and waited. And waited. And then ... amazingly, he returned to the exact same spot. This time I managed to get a few better shots and with the storm rapidly approaching, I caught the specimen with my fingers. By now I knew it was Drepanosticta sp. and thought it was possibly D. sharpi. I managed a few shots in the hand and while preparing to get shots of the abdomen, I slipped and released it by mistake. It flew straight up and out of sight. I still thought I had enough shots for ID. However, upon my return, I posted my photos on "Dragonflies of Thailand" on Facebook and Noppadon Makbun informed me that there are a number of species in the genus yet to be described. This is likely to be one of them. So ... like many specimens spotted on this trip, I cannot conclude the exact species. It will for now be Drepanosticta sp.

The male.
The male is, like many species in the genus, dull in colouration with a bright patch on the abdomen. This specimen, however, had an abdomen that seemed to go on forever. The other notable thing, is that the thorax has a dull but noticeable green metallic sheen dorsally.

 The best natural shots (in almost darkness):




Now in the hand (notice that stunning metallic green sheen):


 Not a great photo (light had almost gone), but gives an idea of size (and my hideous fingernails):


My best attempt at photographing the appendages, before it escaped:


Thanks to everyone with their help on trying to ID this specimen, especially to Noppadon Makbun.

173. Unknown Gomphid

Number: 173 
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Unknown 
Species: Unknown
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Rocky forested stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: -


Whilst I was at Pa La-U waterfall, I was lucky enough to spot another emergence. This time, it was a medium-sized Gomphid. In the blazing sunshine, the dragonfly emerged rather quickly. Unfortunately, it is a female and at this stage (lacking colour, markings and other attributes) it is extremely difficult to confidently ID. So, though exciting to watch my first ever Gomphid emerge, I am annoyed that I can't ID it. Hopefully, somebody somewhere may know. For now, I can only call it Unknown Gomphid.








 Now fully emerged and stretched.



Appendages (close up) ...


Whilst 'pumping' her abdomen straight, she emitted a clear liquid which came out in rather large quantities.



Hopefully someone can ID this specimen or at least determine the genus (I have no idea).

172. Burmagomphus sp.

Number: 172 
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Burmagomphus 
Species: Burmagomphus sp.
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Sandy shallow stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: Burmagomphus species

During my trip I also briefly saw a female Burmagomphus species, which landed momentarily in front of me. I managed one poor quality snap and it was off. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to spot a male. I do believe it is a different female to the two other species I have seen from the genus. The markings along the abdomen seem somewhat different. However, until I return to the same location and spot the male, I can only say Burmagomphus sp.

The female
The female is typically Burmagomphus-like in appearance. However, the markings along the abdomen are new to me and differ to the two species I have encountered before (B. divaricatus and B. asahinai).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

171. Stylogomphus sp. 2

Number: 171 
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Stylogomphus sp. 2
Species: Stylogomphus sp. (yet to be described)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Forested rocky stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Several males and one female
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: -

Working my way carefully up the beautiful Pa La-U waterfall, a tiny female Gompid landed right between my legs (I almost stood on it). I managed to get some decent photos of it from above and then it flew away. I had no idea what it was and it was easily the smallest Gomphid I had ever seen. Then, I saw a similar-sized male. Then another and another. There were at least 6-7 males present and I was able to get some decent photos of them. When I returned home, I posted my findings on "Dragonflies of Thailand" on Facebook and the feedback was unanimous (Noppadon Makbun, Pattarawich Dawwrueng, Kroolek Reinthong): Stylogomphus sp. (not yet described as far as I am aware). I had actually seem a solitary male once before at Nam Nao NP, but that one was much larger in size, whereas these were tiny. Also, I think the appendages differ slightly too. However, where I can tell the difference from my photos (and not just memory), is through the number of antenodal crossviens. Stylogomphus sp. 2 from Kaeng Krachan has 9-10 antenodal crossveins, whereas Stylogomphus sp. 1 from Petchabun has 15. You can see images of the Petchabun specimen here.

The male
A tiny fellow that doesn't seem to fly far, but instead flies from rock to rock. Though superficially a typical-looking Gomphid, its appendages are unique (which is what gives it is name, I believe).






The appendages are like the stylus of an old record player (hence its name) ...

Wing venation
Here, you can easily compare the crossveins of the species I found at Kaeng Krachan and Petchabun. Somewhat different I think!
... and another specimen with 10 antenodal crossveins ...

 The female
The female is difficult to ID. However, it was also tiny making life easy for me (I only managed photos from this angle as it was perching directly between my feet).


170. Onychogomphus sp.

Number: 170 
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Onychogomphus 
Species: Onychogomphus sp. (possibly yet to be described)
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Forested rocky stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary male
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: Many Gomphids

As I made my way up Pa La-U Waterfall, a medium-sized Gomphid plonked down right in front of me. I managed to position myself and get some decent photos. However, as I tried to capture it, the thing flew off at great speed. I didn't get another chance to photograph or capture any further specimens. I wasn't sure what it was, but thought it was of the genus, Onychogomphus. This was confirmed by Kroolek Reinthong, following me posting it on Facebook. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to fit with any know species of the genus and is therefore probably yet to be described by science. Hopefully one day I can put a name to this beautiful creature.  For now, I will simply call it Onychogomphus sp
The male
A typical-looking meduim-sized male, but with enormous appendages. I think they could be used to grab teddy bears in those silly arcade games. 


169. Paragomphus capricornis (Förster, 1914)

Number: 169
Family:   Gomphidae
Genus: Paragomphus 
Species: Paragomphus capricornis (Förster, 1914)
Common name(s):Yellow-banded Hooktail
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Forested sandy stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan), Ched Sao Noi Waterfall (Sara Buri)
Sightings (by me): Small number of males
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: N/A

A second species I saw for the first time recently, is a supposedly fairly common Gomphidae - but one which has eluded me in over five years. Paragomphus capricornis is a medium-sized Gomphid with terrifically gruesome appendages. Its unmistakable appendages make it easy to ID. However, it is extremely skittish and is also difficult to spot as it perches on sandy areas or small pebbles on the ground. I saw 3-4 males early in the morning at the same location where I saw a solitary O. culminicola. By the time the sun was at full heat, most of them had vanished. I did also spot an ovipositing female, but the photos are too poor to show.
One the way back to Khon Kaen I made a quick stop-off at a forested stream in Sara Buri province, called Ched Sao Noi waterfall (or seven young girls waterfall). No idea why. The place was packed with hundreds of locals escaping the blistering heat (it was free to enter). I walked along the stream away from swimmers and eventually saw another Gomphid - you guessed it, another P. capricornis. So, none in over five years and then several at two different locations within a week. 

The male
Easily recognised by its appendages and position on the ground ...  if I were a female, I wouldn't want to be collard by those appendages anyway.  Would you?





168. Onychothemis culminicola Förster, 1904

Number: 168
Family:   Libellulidae
Genus: Onychothemis 
Species: Onychothemis culminicola Förster, 1904
Common name(s):N/A
Synonyms: N/A 
Habitat: Forested sandy stream
 Province(s) sighted: Pa La-U Waterfall (Pratchup Khirikhan)
Sightings (by me): Solitary male
In flight (that I have seen): May (2014) 
Species easily confused with: N/A
At last, I have spotted a new member of the Libellulidae family. It is well over a year since I spotted my last new record species from the family. This time, it is in the shape of Onychothemis culminicola, a beautiful and bold species, easily recognised by its bright red abdomen and brown thorax boasting strong yellowish stripes. I have spotted its relative, O. testacea testacea, on several occasions and they were also clearly the dominant species at a very shallow and sandy stream situated just below Pa La-U waterfall. I was actually there to try and locate Nihonogomphus pulcherrimus, which I was guided to by Pattarawich Dawwrueng. Amazingly, I did see a solitary male. However, it was unable to land as it was attacked by numerous  O. testacea every time it arrived at the water's edge. It was obviously spooked by them and just flew around before finally flying up high into the treetops. I was annoyed that I didn't photograph it, but happy at the same time as I managed to see it for the first time. I moved on along the stream and then I saw it. A solitary male O. culminicola hanging on to a branch on the opposite side of the stream (also constantly bombarded by O. testacea). It was extremely skittish and took me almost an hour to get the shots I have. I am extremely pleased and, according to Kroolek Reinthong - a fellow odonologist - it is a provincial record. Obviously it is scarce there. I couldn't find any other specimens during my visit. 
The male
The male is easy to ID with its bold red abdomen and strong markings on the thorax. However, should you see one, approach with caution. They fly away at the slightest movement (but often return if you retreat).


Many thanks to Pattarawich Dawwrueng for letting me know about this location.