Day one of the big Dragonfly hunt with Steve Jones from the UK.
Today actually started yesterday when I picked Steve Jones up from Malaga airport just after 23:00 and we drove down to Jimena, by the time we got there it was well into today and we settled down to try and get some sleep roughing it in the car. This did not happen, with the traffic and people walking around at all hours we were woken up regularly, so at 06:30 we got kitted up and started what I had thought from descriptions give would be a hard slog out to the site.
I was pleased that it had been made to sound much harder that it was and we were soon at the spot we needed to be, on the way we heard a fantastic chorus of song which included many Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and as we reached the spot one of a good number of Iberian Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Ibérico / Phylloscopus brehmii) was calling loudly.
We had a good search around the bushes and trees in the very very out side chance of finding one of the target Splendid Cruisers (Macromia splendens) hanging from the vegetaion before having a chance to warm up enough to fly. We did see a single Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) and a female Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) during this first search. Whilst down in a small opening in the river between all of the Oleander (Nerium oleander) bushes I found just two spikes of the uncommon Summer Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis) which I was very pleased with as it was only the second site I had found them at. Steve continued searching the bushes and trees on the far side of the river and I checked out a couple of clearings on the original side and then made my way down to a pool at the far end of the main area. After some time I picked up a smallish dragon moving along the far bank which I soon worked out was a very smart male Orange-spotted Emerald (Oxygastra curtisii) and was the first of around half a dozen seen during the day. Whilst I was enjoying the Emerald another larger insect flashed through my bins and even though I had never seen one before I instantly knew it was out target species the Splendid Cruiser, I quickly relocated it and confirmed my first thoughts as well as identifying it as a male. This magnificent insect then continued to fly from one end of this pool to the other for the next 6 hours, it disappeared for a few minutes every now and then but never landed as far as we could tell which was hellishly frustrating when you want to get some photographs but it was such a privilege just to see this extremely rare dragon (thanks Steve). We both tried and Steve succeded in getting some flight photographs of the Cruiser, I did rather better with the Emeralds but only managed a dodgy shot of the Cruiser.
At times we both went and checked out the clearings when the insect disappeared and during the walks we added Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Orphean (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis), Subalpine (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) and Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) to the bird list. Once it warmed up a bit Butterflies started to fly and they included False Ilex Hairstreak (Querquera / Satyrium esculi), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Small (Artogeia rapae) and Large White (Pieris brassicae), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) and Southern Brown Argus (Aricia cramera). Back at the main pool and in the clearings we also saw a good number of other dragon and damselfly species which included Orange Featherleg (Platycnemis acutipennis), Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathinerum), Iberian Blue-tail (Ischnura graellsii), Blue-eye / Goblet-marked Damselfly (Erythromma lindenii), Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator), Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope), both Large (Onychogomphus uncatus) and Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus), Pronged (Gomphus graslinii) and Western Clubtails (Gomphus pulchellus), Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi) and Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma). Late on in the afternoon the Cruiser disappeared as did most of the insects so we decided to make our way back during this walk we found a couple of Darter type Dragons which looked as though they may be teneral Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridionale) but still need to confirm this, however we did have a couple of definate Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum) and a very fresh Large Pincertail.
Other species seen during the day along the river included Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta) and Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto).
Once back at the car we went and checked another area al little up stream which we had crossed on the way in last night, here we only added White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes) and Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) to the dragon list but also saw White Stork (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). After last nights bad attempt at roughing it in the car we decided to book into a bungerlow on a camp site just out side the town, on the way there we saw a couple of Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and a group of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus). We checked in at the site and dropped the kit off before photographing a Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) cattapillar on the wall of the cabin and then went and had an evening meal in Jimena.
Photographs from the top: Orange-spotted Emerald (Oxygastra curtisii) x2, Summer Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis), Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), unnamed Beetle, Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens), Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus), Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) and Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) cattapillar.