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Pronged Clubtail in western Madrid and Ávila!

John Muddeman
24/08/2010 23:08:22

Fieldwork for a birdwatching tourism project leads to the pleasant discovery of this scarce species, simultaneously, in the provinces of Madrid and Ávila!

Posted in: Dragonflies and Damselflies, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Castile-Leon, Madrid | Mainland Spain, Central Spain

Pronged Clubtail - Gomphus graslinii © John MuddemanPronged Clubtail
Gomphus graslinii
© John Muddeman
Fieldwork during an ongoing project to develop birdwatching tourism in the Comarca de la Sierra Oeste (Western Sierra region) of the Madrid province, allowed me to (literally!) drop into the river Cofio a couple of times in early July, both to get cool as well as ostensibly looking for Black Storks and perhaps even White-throated Dippers, both of which are recorded from the relevant atlas square.

My first visit on 6th July showed that the river was alive with odonates (and almost devoid of birds), principally Large and Small Pincertails (Onychogomphus uncatus / O. forcipatus) both in the surroundings and along the river, abundant Western Spectres (Boyeria irene) constantly and systematically cruising the edges and searching the banks, plenty of Western and a few Copper Demoiselles (Calopteryx xanthostoma / C. haemorrhoidalis) and numerous White Featherlegs (Platycnemis latipes) with their peculiar bouncing flight.

But a rather confiding yellow-and-black dragonfly soon caught my eye, and despite sallying out frequently either when disturbed or to catch prey (including across the river and so 'over the border' into Ávila!), it fortunately returned repeatedly to perch on the tips of the emergent vegetation allowing close approach. Clearly a clubtail, and with apparently forked appendages, it looked good for possible Pronged Clubtail (Gomphus graslinii) - which was later confirmed from the photos - and the date was of course good too. My limited experience with Western Clubtail (G. pulchellus) reminded me at the time that the male appendages are not dissimilar, hence my reservations in the field. Pronged Clubtail abdomen tip - Gomphus graslinii © John MuddemanAbdomen tip: note lateral tooth on upper appendages
& goblet-shaped yellow mark on S9
© John Muddeman

The dragonflies in Madrid are surprisingly poorly known, though rather hidden data exists in a reasonable number of unfortunately either old or small publications of limited distribution. However, one of the revisions available (GARCÍA-AVILÉS, J. 2002. Biodiversidad de los humedales del Parque Regional del Sureste. II. Libélulas.) does not list the species, despite compiling a provisional list for the Community of Madrid (and including Orange-spotted Emerald Oxygastra curtisii which apparently has similar habitat requirements).

A quick email to Dr. Adolfo Cordero and Mike Lockwood to confirm the identification resulted in a positive response, with AC also kindly attaching a predictive map for the presence of Splendid Cruiser (Macromia splendens) in Spain, the potential range of which includes W Madrid and the comment that the record is of no great surprise, given that “where Macromia occurs, G. graslinii occurs too”. So the search for Macromia is now on (especially given the rumour that it has been cited here, but with the publication – and so location – being witheld)!

I returned on 8th in order to look for more, for exuviae and for Macromia, but despite a couple of hours scouring the innumerable trees and rocks along the banks, and finding many dozens of exuviae (which I still have to try and ID), there was no sign of anything new, despite brief views of a large black-and-yellow dragonfly leaving the river and flying off through the undergrowth... But with Common Goldenring (Cordulegaster boltonii) also present in the region, who knows what it was!

Clearly, with long stretches of the same river supporting very similar habitats, the species ought to be present at various sites, though it’s now (late August) too late to search this year. The region of the W Sierras of Madrid is largely protected as an S.P.A. for Birds, for its Holm Oak woodlands of the Alberche and Cofio rivers (“Z.E.P.A. 56 “Encinar de los ríos Alberche y Cofio” Sierra Oeste de Madrid”) and the presence of Pronged Clubtail can be considered as another indicator of the high quality of the region, including its rivers. As a species on the Habitats Directive, its inclusion in the Respective Regional Red Data books needs imminent consideration.

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