Thursday, 28 January 2010

Cape Town, South Africa

In Cape Town this week I have visited some likely looking sites checking for Dragonflies.
I started at the hotel at which we were staying, The Lord Charles at Somerset West. There is a small dam in the grounds which has plenty of lily pads and emergent growth around the edges.
First were some Common Bluetails, Iscnura senegalensis. This one was infested with mites.
Orthetrum species seem to abound in Cape Town and I was trying to get a handle on which was which.
Samways gives potentially 5 blue Orthetrum that might occur here and they are all reasonably common.
The individual above was especially dark and I believe this one to be a female.
A Common Citril, Ceriagrion glabrum was a pleasure to find.

The next day found me at Paarl. Very few odonata were present at the bird sanctuary there. The reserve consists of numerous pools, most of which I think, are quite deep. The Berg River which flows close by is said to be risky to visit alone.
A blue dropwing was seen at the edge of a pool and at the outflow to the river. The Navy and the Roundhook Dropwing appear pretty much identical and habitat and elevation should be considered. Pools and ponds for the Roundhook and rocky, shallow streams for the Navy. Above 700m for the Roundhook and below for the Navy. There is overlap, so they must be properly inspected in the hand which I have not yet tried to do.
Make you own mind up if you can.
At a picnic area near Paarl Rock, a small pond and garden kept me entertained for the afternoon.
I think I was high enough to call a Roundhook Dropwing, Trithemis dorsalis. In numbers was an acidic red dragonfly easily identified as the Red-veined Dropwing, Trithemis arteriosa.
Also present in large numbers was a small damselfly, the Swamp Bluet, Africallagma glaucum. Mostly it was found in the grass-like rushes beside a small stream in the gardens.
The late evening found me back at Heldeberg Nature Reserve. A small pond near the café here held my attention for quite some time. Again the Orthetrum proved confusing and the Red-veined Dropwing were abundant.
I managed a decent photo of a Two-striped Skimmer, Orthetrum Caffrum, though strictly speaking it appears to have four stripes. I suspect this may be a young male.
In the lawned area, a tiny pond has grasses surrounding it. Here was another Common Citril.
My favourite find of the week was a Boulder Hooktail, Paragomphus cognatus at Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, It was sitting on a rock beside a fynbos browned stream.It was not co-operative and I took a long while to get this shot. I chose my spot and sat to wait. As I sat, I noticed a Cape Sprite, Pseudagrion furcigerum on a mid-stream rock.
At a shallow pond further up the slope I had to get wet for another shot of a Swamp Bluet. I think that some bracketing is called for. I have been using extension tubes recently to allow super-macro focussing. The results are sometimes a little over-exposed.
Finally a Nomad, Sympetrum fonscolombii rounded out my odonata for Cape Town.
Odonata species; 9
Common Citril Ceriagrion glabrum, Swamp Bluet Africallagma Glaucum, Cape Sprite Pseudagrion furcigerum, Common Bluetail Iscnura senegalensis, Boulder Hooktail Paragomphus cognatus, Two-striped Skimmer Orthetrum caffrum, Nomad Sympetrum fonscolombii, Red-veined Dropwing Trithemis arteriosa, Roundhook Dropwing Trithemis dorsalis,

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Accra, Ghana

I have been languishing in temperate climes for the last month and narry a dragonfly seen.
Accra in Ghana however, is basking in 35C heat and the odonata are active through January.
There is a post on for the bird fanciers and for those who prefer a more detailed commentary.

I am still stunted in my growth as a dragonfly spotter due to a lack of available field guides and would appreciate any assistance in identifying the following odes.
Ode number one looks like a female or a young male. It was in an area of scrub known as Achimota Forest, located in Accra.

Around the African Regent Hotel in Accra, I found these three in a small patch of flowers at the entrance to the reception. Compared to the one pictured earlier from the scrubby area, this one shows a white stripe on the thorax bordered in black. Note the yellow on the upper legs opposed to plain black on the previous insect. The pterostygma is also yellow insted of black. Number three is slightly bluer than it appears in the photo. I wonder if it might be an Epaulet Skimmer, Orthetro Chrysostigma. The pterostigma seem a little elongated and I can see no sign of a yellow base to the hindwing for a perfect match, but the pinched abdomen makes me consider this as a possiblity. If it proves to be so, then no.2 is a good candidate for the female. They were only a few meters apart. Contestant number four shows from two different angles.
There is a wonderful website called which I have just come across. From the pictures of Dirk Motshagen (which put mine to shame), I will stick my neck out and say that no 4 is a Palpopleura lucia, or as Michael Samways would have it, a Lucia Widow. which makes no,5 the Widower.

These last two were in the hills about 35 kms inland in the Aburi Botanical Gardens.Number five was found in a shaded area and the flash has washed out it's blue colour a little. Finally, number six was found close to no. five, but was favouring the dappled sunlit areas.

I have put out a few tentative feelers into the world of web, in the hope that somewhere out there, someone knows.

Here's hoping that someone finds this post and has some ideas.