New Fire, New Habitats

J16_0495 firefighting chopper

J16_0490 fire in the valleyFor the third time in as many days, the water bombing helicopter pilots have been at it again in our valley. The first warning we had was seeing a helicopter trailing an empty water bucket past our balcony towards the deposito at Alcalalí. Shortly, we saw it hastening back from whence it had come, this time with water spray streaming out behind the bucket. I strained my neck and looked up the valley towards Lliber and spotted the tell-tale  plume of smoke rising from a hillside close to a road further down our valley. Flames could be seen within the smoke. A second helicopter joined the first. Fortunately the fire was modest and the aerial assault soon had it under control.

The first and worst of the fires, the one in Jávea/Xàbia which made the BBC news, was deliberately started by mental degenerates. Whilst I fail completely to understand their motives, I do understand the mechanism. I haven’t heard how the subsequent two began, though. It’s a bit of a puzzle. I don’t think spontaneous combustion is the answer,despite the heat nearing 40°C, and, in the case of this smaller, moist recent fire, I can’t see that its source was near enough to the road for a cigarette discarded by a careless passing motorist to be the cause. Walkers, maybe? A spot of nice fresh air polluted by tobacco smoke, perhaps? “I’ll just chuck the butt down here”. [Crackle, crackle! “Oh bugger!”] Who knows?

After our morning excitement, with the roads looking for the moment as if they would not be swept by flames, we headed off to investigate pastures new on the old Odonata front. We’d seen a couple of likely looking spots a couple of valleys away on a previous ride round. This was the start of a new tactic for us.Finding fresh water in Spain at any time can be a challenge but it’s particularly hard in the middle of  summer. We decided, given a clue from a fellow dragonfly enthusiast, to try to find rivers that flow down from barraged reservoirs. These, perhaps, would actually contain water whereas most of the rivers mapped close to us are bone dry – more like natural storm drains, really.

A handy-dandy study of Google Earth with its Street View had shown than parking a car followed by access on foot should be possible. Distances on Spanish maps can be a bit deceiving since, what looks a relatively modest distance as the crow flies, is usually not as the car drives. Cars cannot follow crows over mountain peaks and wander up and down valleys looking for suitable points to cross to the next valley.

_MG_8146 Riu Serpis, BeniarresThe crow’s 30kms to our first point, a zona recreativa beside the Riu Serpis at Beniarrés, took our car a little over an hour. This was a very successful find. Not only were we the only people using the official car park, but there were shade trees for our picnic lunch, too. [Temperatures were up around 35°C.] We wandered the 100m or so to the banks of the river an, lo, there was water in it; plenty of water. There was also a lot of dragonfly activity. I say dragonfly but 5 of the 8 species we saw were damselflies, which normally seem less than abundant in Spain.

_MG_8128 Trithemis annulata maleJ16_0522 Anax parthenopeFrancine managed to snag a male Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) doing a particularly impressive obelisk, with its abdomen pointing vertically into the sky. There were also many Lesser Emperors (Anax parthenope) flying about. I did see a pair ovipositing and I did grab a shot but they were largely obscured by foliage. I did finally manage to get a half way clear shot of a perched male but even that has one wing tip obscured. Still, beggars can’t be …

_MG_8148 Riu Serpis, L'OrchaJ16_0543 Trithemis kirbyiAbout 5kms further down the valley was our second new target area, another stretch of the Riu Serpis, this time at L’Orcha. This proved to be much more open habitat with rocks and pebbles, so I wasn’t surprised to see Orange-winged Dropwings (Trithemis kirbyi) in residence – they love to perch on rocks beside water courses.

_MG_8158 Calopeteryx haemorrhoidalisOther notable appearances were put in by a couple of Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum) and the ever-delightful Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis), though the strikingly coloured males of the latter were proving frustratingly camera shy. Francine did manage to capture a female ovipositing, though.

Both these habitats will be worth further visits, preferably at different stages of the season, just to see what else they might produce.

All in all, a successful final day to our trip.

Posted in 2016-05, Spain

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