No, not for us this time, this is for the dragonflies.
On 2nd March, having checked out the Vall d’Ebo and failed to find any surviving Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum), we poked our noses into the Marjal de Pego-Oliva. Fairly quickly, Francine spotted a large dragonfly zoom away down the river. From her description, I had to assume the most likely suspect, a Vagrant Emperor (Anax ephippiger). Given favourable conditions, this species can turn up from Africa at almost any time. Indeed, several have been reported from the UK in February and I had spotted one down at the Parque Natural el Hondo recently. Try as we might, we couldn’t find our suspect in the marjal again.
However, on our return wander, another dragonfly, which we both saw this time, flew along the far side of the stream and into the bushes. I couldn’t track it and failed to find that one again, too. I’d had a reasonable look at it, though, and suspected a Clubtail (Gomphus). I know the marsh supports Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus) and, it being Europe’s earliest Gomphid, that was the clearly the most likely suspect.
On 4th March, with Francine out with our Monday walking group, I returned to Pego-Oliva to try my luck again. As soon as I arrived, a large dragonfly zoomed down a dead-end arm of the river and flew away. It was not colourful and had to be a Vagrant Emperor again. I wandered, hung around the area we’d seen the Clubtail, wandered again, all without success. I was almost back at the car when I saw the familiar fluttering shiny wings of a teneral dragonfly settle in the bushes immediately to my left. It was intent on drying off and posed brilliantly. It was indeed a softly coloured, recently emerged Western Clubtail.
A park ranger cycled up to me and wondered what I was staring at in the bushes. “Una Libélule”, I explained, in perfect Spanish. He dragged himself and his bicycle closer and scared it away. Professionals, eh? No matter, I’d got my proof. I spotted a Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) circling quite close and lower than my recent previous encounters. I managed to snag a half-way reasonable shot of that, too, albeit against a completely featureless sky.
Today, on 7th March, we both went back to the marsh at Pego-Oliva wondering if we might find a more matured specimen of our Clubtail. What I was never expecting to find, especially as it was a new species to me for this site, was a delightful male Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis). It was Francine who spotted it in the reed bed on the opposite side of the track to the river. It is, of course, tempting to keep eyes fixed on the water but sometimes it’s wise not to. That put the sun behind the subject so it wasn’t the best of photographic situations but it’s just about recognisable. The book has this species flight season starting in May, so it seemed very early, though the Malaga area in the far south does have records in March. This new find took the site’s species count to 17.
Returning to the water, I was almost as surprised to see what was obviously a Bluetail (Ischnura) fly into some waterside vegetation. My eyes lost it. we both searched and watched and eventually Francine found it, or another, again. She snapped, then I snapped. What we had is a female Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans). This is the rufescens colour form. Technically, I think the Iberian Bluetail (Ischnura graellsii) would be possible at this location, this being an area of overlap for the two closely related species, but I’ve never managed to prove it.
So, counting the Vagrant Emperor which is most likely an immigration from Africa, four species in the first week of March. An good early start to the season in Spain, methinks.