Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Dragonflies to the rescue!

When all's said and done, this last weekend will go down as a bit of a waste of time, really (made more so by the fact it was a long one, with Monday and Tuesday off for the Dragon Boat Festival). For some inexplicable reason, I once more passed on the opportunity to travel and ended up staying in Qi Gu. In previous years, this may well have proved to be not such a bad decision as late May is the peak for Locustella migration. However, I hadn't really banked on just how hard these things would be to find without Area A, and as a consequence did not come across many (despite spending time looking). Friday produced none whatsoever, and furthermore produced only the usual terns out on the sandbar. Only a very small number of Greater Crested Terns Thalasseus bergii seem to be using it this year, and the much anticipated mega has thus far failed to show. Though the odd White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus passing by offshore was not to be sniffed at, I still felt to have gotten little from the day, with the best bird perhaps being the worn Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach (a common resident) I photographed on the way home!

Saturday was even quieter, with nothing in my reserve woodlot nor out on the sand. It took a trip into Area C for me to take my camera out of its bag, this to photograph my first Middendorff's Grasshopper Warbler Locustella ochotensis of the spring. It went directly into cover, but I did find a few Dingy Dusk-darters Zyxomma petiolatum to play with, so not a total disaster!

Sunday was almost a repeat of Saturday, with a few more unshowy Middendorff's Grasshopper Warblers around (rather more than on Saturday) and a few common dragonflies to photograph. Below are Asian Amberwing Brachythemis contaminata and a female Common Bluetail Ischnura senegalensis in (presumably) some kind of transitional phase I haven't seen before.

It took more effort to get out of bed Monday than it had done on the previous three days, perhaps not surprisingly. The sun was out Monday, suggesting that the day might be best spent inland on the trail of dragonflies (which I had been intending to do on the previous three days, only to find them all overcast). As luck would have it, on passing Qi Pi, I happened to notice Da Chiao Lin's car parked up outside, and ventured in to see what was there. A mating pair of Clear-fronted Dusk-hawkers Gyncantha bayadera had been found, a rare treat! Fortunately, when mating, these dragonflies will stay conjoined for up to an hour, giving me plenty of time to set up and get a few shots. I also turned up a much-wanted Black Riverdarter Onychothemis tonkinensis in the afternoon on a nearby stream, but (as usual with this species for some reason) failed to get the kind of shots of it I was hoping for. However, these two dragonflies (especially the Dusk-hawkers) did go a long way towards salvaging what would otherwise have been a disappointing weekend!

It rained all day Tuesday, a fitting end to the spring. With the exception of a single Swinhoe's Minivet Pericrocotus cantonensis, it has to go down as a decidedly average one for Qi Gu, really. True, I put less pressure on my local patch now that there's no Area A to cover, but still I generally turn up more than I have done this year. Just a case of the rough with the smooth, I suppose, and an average year was certainly about due! Above photos taken in Qi Gu and at Qi Pi, Tainan County 26-29/5/17.

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