Day one of our Dragon chasing trip with Sue.
Jayne and I set off on our way over to visit our friend Sue and her son Sam for a couple of day near Grazalema over on the Cadiz / Malaga border. On the way we passed by Laguna Dulce but did not stop but even from the car we managed to pick out Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Greater Flamingo (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Gull-billed Tern (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica) and Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra). We made good time and fairly soon we found our selves driving down the rough track to there house where we picked up the first Dragonflies of the trip, these were a couple of Common Golden Ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii subsp algirica) chasing each other along a fast flowing ditch at the side of the track and several Copper Demoiselle’s (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) which fluttered up from the brambles near the start of the drive to their house. We parked up and spent some time chatting with Sue and catching up with what has been going on in the garden and nearby. After a while the lure of her fantastic garden could not be resisted any longer so I grabbed the bins and the camera and headed out. As soon as I was out of the house the air was filled with the calls of several Golden Orioles (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), a noisy rabble of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) and singing Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla). After a short walk I was down on the wooded banks of the river which passes along the one edge of the garden and within seconds had encountered my first of quite a few Western Spectre’s (Boyeria Irene) which was flying low hugging the darker more shaded stretches of bank amongst the large rocks. I watched this insect of almost an hour and not once in that time did it touch down once to give me a chance of a shot. Whilst sat on the rock watching this cracking Dragon I also saw several of the larger faster moving Common Golden Rings, masses of Copper Demoiselle’s and a couple of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) before I waded further down stream to the next pool. Here I got the first new species for the trip when what looked like an all dark dragonfly came up the river and spent a minute or so skimming around me at knee level, I soon realized that this was one of the rare Orange-spotted Emeralds (Oxygastra curtisii) Sue had been seeing. It did not land and that was to be my only encounter with this beautiful chap. Continuing on down stream I came across several more Spectre’s one of which stayed perched long enough for a couple of shots but it was in a very dark spot so they are not great, a very well behaved Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia Quercus) which allowed me to get some nice shots, several more Common Golden Rings and the first of the many Small Pincertails (Onychogomphus forcipatus). Birds were constantly moving through the dense cover along the banks, a family party of Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) flew up from the water flashing their Rufous tails as they went, Blackcaps seemed to be every where and a cracking adult Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) nearly gave me a new parting (well it would have if I had any hair), it came in so low over my head I felt a draft. I then came up out of the river and had a walk back down the drive way where I got views and some nice shots of a female Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus). In the garden butterflies were every where and included Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis cramera), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), False Ilex Hairstreak (Querquera / Satyrium esculi), Holly (Celastrina argiolus), Common (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Lang's Short-tailed (Leptotes pirithous) and Long-tailed Blues (Lampides boeticus), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). As I walked back up towards the house a party of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) flew over nosily, a calling Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) made its way up one of the large Walnut trees and a couple of screeching Jays (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) burst up from the bushes next to the track. Once back at the house we had some lunch and then later Sue and I headed down to the world famous STEVE’S BRIDGE looking for more dragonfly species whilst Jayne relaxed for a while back at the house with a book. As soon as we were on the river we picked up several Orange-winged Dropwings (Trithemis kirbyi) males, females and teneral insects all in the same area but as usual with this species they are very flighty and difficult to get shots of. A little further up stream we came across several Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum), a couple of Epaulet Skimmers (Orthetrum chrysostigma) and several White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes) along with many more of both Large and Small Pincertails. We turned around and headed off down stream, the first thing of interest was a newly emerged female Large Pincertail which sat in an Oleander drying its wings which allowed us to get some nice shots, next came the a Bush Cricket called Steropleurus andalusius, followed by several females and a single male of the colourful Wasp Spider (Arana Tigre / Argiope bruennichi) and all along the river we flushed Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi) which splashed into the water at regular intervals. Sue and I then made our way back to the house picked up Jayne and went up into Grazalema to collect Sam and to have a chat with Clive at the visitor’s centre on the main car park in the town. We had a look through the locally made crafts and bought a couple of bees wax candles which we found out were made by Sue. It is a cracking centre with lots of useful books and is a place full of information about the local area and is a must visit place when your in the town. Whilst there we saw Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and had brief views of a Great Banded Grayling (Kanetisa circe) as I shot through the car park.
We later headed back down to the house where I was taken out for a walk around the garden by the renowned wildlife guide and Photographer Sam. We spent an hour or so working our way along the drive, out onto the track and along the smaller stream before returning through the garden. On our way around we had some brilliant views of Western Spectre, Golden Ring and Copper Demoiselle. In the garden there were Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica).
We got back to the house and had our evening meal, a little later I popped back out onto the stream and just sat on a large boulder and spent 40 minutes watching a beautiful Western Spectre cruising up and down its territory. Also seen were lots of Pond Skaters which ranged in size from tiny ones about the same size as my little finger nail up to ones that were the size of a big serving spoon and looked as though if the got coordinated they could pull you under. We spent the rest of the evening entertaining Sam and chatting to Sue. A brilliant day.
Photographs from the top: Common Golden Ringed (Cordulegaster boltonii subsp algirica), Western Spectre (Boyeria Irene), Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia Quercus), female Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus), Sue at Steve's bridge, Me at Steve's bridge, Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum), Small Pincertails (Onychogomphus forcipatus), Bush Cricket (Steropleurus andalusius), teneral male Large Pincertail and Wasp Spider (Arana Tigre / Argiope bruennichi).