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Dragonflies+ in Madrid & Extremadura: June 2014 Trip Report (Part 2)

John Muddeman
06/07/2014 22:32:36

The second half of a 4-day tour to maximise the chances of seeing some of Spain's most significant dragonflies and damselflies, as well as a wide variety of other wildlife in the western Sierras of Madrid and in Extremadura

Posted in: Flora, Butterflies and Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies, Reptiles, Birds, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Extremadura, Madrid | Mainland Spain, Western Spain, Central Spain

Dragonflies+ trip report (part 2)

Madrid & Extremadura 28 June – 01 July 2014

Day 3 Grass Snake - Natrix natrix © John MuddemanA fine Grass Snake
Natrix natrix
© John Muddeman

We started with a leisurely, though almost chilly breakfast, at 0830h this time, and around 10 we started on the long trek S, seeing dozens of Black and few Red Kites en route. The temperature rose quickly in the lower areas and the N of Monfragüe was already c. 26ºC in the shade when we arrived. Recently stripped Cork Oaks and a few Woodchat Shrikes had enlivened the route into the park proper, while the dozens of Griffon Vultures –including a now famous leucistic individual–, two adult Spanish Imperial Eagles (the fledgling of the nest here had moved off just a day earlier) and minimum of three White-rumped Swifts cruising around a rock face made our first stop (despite the heat), very worthwhile!

Continuing on produced little else other than a few flying Eurasian Black Vultures, a perched Short-toed Eagle on a pylon, though we stopped for a refreshing drink and bought filled rolls for a ‘picnic’ lunch in the middle of the park. Another stop, this time at Peñafalcón, not only delighted with dozens and dozens of Griffon and a couple of Egyptian Vultures, but three nests of Black Stork too, with two ‘pairs’ of still slightly downy chicks being very cute indeed in the two easily visible platforms! Epaulette Skimmer - Orthetrum chrysostigma © John MuddemanMale Epaulette Skimmer
Orthetrum chrysostigma
© John Muddeman

The rest of the afternoon was punctuated by a series of planned stops at two rivers, plus another impromptu one at a roadside lake, resulting in a series of excellent sightings. At the first, where we stopped as a search on internet had revealed the possible presence of Green Hooktail, a Grass Snake was quickly followed by 2-3 Viperine Snakes and a couple of Spanish Terrapins, though a male Violet Dropwing swung our attention back onto the dragonflies, and a stunning male Green Hooktail was a well-earned result after chasing it around some steep slopes to confirm its ID. Indeed two were observed racing around over a pool in pincertail fashion before disappearing up onto the steep slopes, showing that they can be very fast and active when wanted! The second river was alive with Spanish Pool Frogs, and a few Epaulette Skimmers vied for attention alongside numerous gaudy Broad Scarlets and Violet Dropwings! Small Red-eye - Erythromma viridulum © John MuddemanSmall Red-eye
Erythromma viridulum
© John Muddeman

The lake later on was fascinating. A very shallow-edged reservoir in reality, various rush clumps, alive with mating pairs of Iberian Bluetail and with a good scattering of Broad Scarlets provided shelter from a strong hot wind (32ºC). A few other dragonflies were present including flighty Red-veined Darter, Violet Dropwing and the first of two or three Long Skimmers, with some delightful (albeit flighty) Small Red-eyes and a few Common and Azure Bluets also present. A very worn and large blue skimmer was a very odd male Black-tailed Skimmer, given that it had a pruinose blue tail, while the last was a brightly coloured teneral Red-veined Darter. The birds weren’t bad either, despite hardly being looked at, including Red-veined Darter - Sympetrum fonscolombii © John MuddemanRed-veined Darter
Sympetrum fonscolombii
© John Muddeman
Little Grebes, Little Egrets, Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers. We finally pulled ourselves away and headed to the hotel, passing up on a shower in order to sit outside beside a reservoir whilst enjoying a truly large cold beer! This then just continued into dinner outside by the water, with the bonus of a Lesser Emperor appearing to patrol over the emergent grass until after dark, plus numerous passing Iberian Magpies (one even coming to the tables!) and multiple flight views of a small group of Eurasian Golden Orioles, as well as a few bats. A fantastic evening!
13 species of 35 in total

Day 4 - our last…
A stiff wind overnight was a prelude to a marked change in weather and it was almost chilly outside first thing, with thickening low cloud rolling in. However this held off long enough for a good wander round by the guesthouse and edge of the reservoir. Remarkably, several large Southern Water Voles rushed off left right and centre in the scrubby ditches and banks, but despite intensive searching in the warming sun, not an odonate could be found... But the numerous clumps of a 'frizzy leaved' Chara on the Northern Banded Groundling - Brachythemis impartita © John MuddemanMale Northern Banded Groundling
Brachythemis impartita
© John Muddeman
shallow muddy bottom, plus some oddly familiar floating clover-like leaves meant a few photos were taken. The latter in fact turns out to be my first ever Marsilea, the rather frail M. strigosa, a rather wierd and fascinating fern! A few Iberian Bluetails finally started showing and then, after I spotted a fine Wasp Spider on its web in the emergent grass, a dragonfly whizzed past just over the water, but was barely visible at such speed... It wasn’t until we started walking back, in order to leave, that we discovered it was a fine male Northern Banded Groundling, now sunning itself on the road!

Fortunately, the nearly hour-long drive to the south to our final stake-out meant we were constantly heading towards finer weather, and the broken cloud meant dragonflies were more likely to be active, despite the air temperature only being in the mid-20s ºC. A Green Hooktail in the scrub almost beside the car was a fine start, but then nothing was visible other than noisy pairs of Black-winged Stilt and Little Ringed Plover which were apparently nesting on the gravel banks in the riverbed. Water-clover sp - Marsilea strigosa © John MuddemanThe peculiar Water-clover sp.
Marsilea strigosa
© John Muddeman
A couple of flighty Epaulette Skimmers gave brief views, but despite walking quite a distance through dry grass, prickly scrub and rushes, across gravel and sandbanks and the lower parts of the steep slopes, just a single male Violet Dropwing was scant reward. Four Red Deer spooked from some scrub, a few Spanish Terrapins, dashing Spanish Psammodromus and noisy Spanish Pool Frogs showed there was life, but we basically gave up and started the now hot walk back.

However, one last look from the bridge over a bulrush-edged pool saw both a Violet Dropwing and another bright orange dragonfly in flight... The latter simply disappeared and though I was certain it was our quarry, when we walked back and found an adult Broad Scarlet, doubts naturally entered my mind. I decided to cross and go onto a sand bank and there, after several anxious minutes waiting, and to my great relief, a stunning male Orange-winged Dropwing sunning itself on a patch of gravel suddenly lifted and became visible. Martyn and Gillian were on the opposite bank though and couldn’t see it, and when it flew towards some scrub and suddenly disappeared again, things weren’t looking good. Fortunately, Gillian relocated sat on the tip of a twig, and thanks to some more cloud, it remained settled for some time, even allowing me to return for photos when the battery in Male Orange-winged Dropwing - Trithemis kirbyi © John MuddemanMale Orange-winged Dropwing
Trithemis kirbyi
© John Muddeman
Gillian’s camera suddenly died!

With Madrid still a long way away and it being 2:30 pm we had to run. The remarkably good roads cutting N across C Badajoz meant we made good time though, and despite three stops en route in the end (food, coffee and fuel), plus slowing slightly for a young Spanish Imperial Eagle circling beside the motorway, we finally made it to downtown Madrid for 8 p.m. to round off a remarkable trip!
8 species of 37 total

Species lists

Western Demoiselle Calopteryx xanthostoma
Copper Demoiselle Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis
Robust Spreadwing Lestes dryas
Migrant Spreadwing Lestes barbarus
Common Winter Damsel Sympecma fusca White Featherleg - Platycnemis latipes © John MuddemanWhite Featherleg
Platycnemis latipes
© John Muddeman

Iberian Bluetail Ischnura graellsii
Common Bluet Enallagma cyathigerum
Azure Bluet Coenagrion puella
Dainty Bluet Coenagrion scitulum
Mediterranean Bluet Coenagrion caerulescens
Small Red-eye Erythromma viridulum
Blue-eye Erythromma lindenii
Small Red Damsel Ceriagrion tenellum
Orange Featherleg Platycnemis acutipennis
White Featherleg Platycnemis latipes
Blue Emperor Anax imperator
Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope
Western Spectre Boyeria irene
Pronged Clubtail Gomphus graslinii
Western Clubtail Gomphus pulchellus
Yellow Clubtail Gomphus simillimus
Large Pincertail Onychogomphus uncatus Male Blue-eye - Erythromma lindenii © John MuddemanMale Blue-eye
Erythromma lindenii
© John Muddeman

Small Pincertail O. forcipatus unguiculatus
Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei
Orange-spotted Emerald Oxygastra curtisii
Splendid Cruiser Macromia splendens
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum
Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens
Epaulette Skimmer Orthetrum chrysostigma
Long Skimmer Orthetrum trinacria
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum
Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea
Violet Dropwing Trithemis annulata
Orange-winged Dropwing Trithemis kirbyi
Northern Banded Groundling Brachythemis impartita

BUTTERFLIES (only recorded by leader 'in passing') Long Skimmer - Orthetrum trinacria © John MuddemanTeneral male Long Skimmer
Orthetrum trinacria
© John Muddeman

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris
Lulworth Skipper Thymelicus acteon
Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae
Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius feisthamelii
Wood White Leptidea sinapis
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni
Small White Pieris rapae
Bath White Pontia daplidice
Cardinal Argynnis pandora
Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia
Lesser Spotted Fritillary Melitaea trivia
Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius
Southern White Admiral Limenitis reducta
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera
Southern [Small] Heath Coenonympha [pamphilus] lyllus
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
Oriental Meadow Brown Hyponephele lupina
Southern Gatekeeper Pyronia cecilia
Iberian Marbled White Melanargia lachesis Green Hooktail - Paragomphus genei3 © John MuddemanAnother lovely Green Hooktail!
Paragomphus genei
© John Muddeman

Rock Grayling Hipparchia alcyone
Great Banded Grayling Kanetisa circe
Spanish Purple Hairstreak Laeosopis roboris
False Ilex Hairstreak Satyrium esculi
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
Spanish [or Sooty] Copper Lycaena [tityrus] bleusei
Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus
Lang's Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
Black-eyed Blue Glaucopsyche melanops
Spanish [Brown] Argus Aricia [agestis] cramera
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus

Big Grasshopper sp - Truxalis nasuta © John Muddeman& the rather wierd and wonderful large grasshopper
Truxalis nasuta
© John Muddeman

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