The last day of our trip, before the lengthy drag back to Ljubljana airport for our flight home tomorrow, was to be spent on Pag Island, a long, narrow spit of land off the Croatian coast. We piled into the minibus and off over a bridge.
Our first stop revealed little of interest other than hordes of hoppity things [oh, all right, I admit it, I can’t remember the technical name for ground hoppers] that were disturbed with every footstep, their briefly fluttering wings making me wonder if I weren’t missing something more interesting – to me, that is. Everyone kept looking but it seems I wasn’t missing something. Stones seem to be a feature of the Croatian coast; there certainly wasn’t much in the way of trees, mostly baking hot stones. It’s definitely a holiday destination for sun bathers.
Our second stop was more promising with grass, meadows and water. Mr. Butterfly went gleefully stalking the grassy meadows while Francine and I worked at grabbing a few record shots of some damselflies over the water. Back to the butterflies, I was glad to add a Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma) to my personal collection, along with a distant record shot of a Southern Comma (Polygonia egea) for the first time; still it was at least a shot. The most fun I had here, though, was stalking a magnificent and very large Ant-lion (Palpares libelluloides), my third and another new species, while the others waited patiently aboard the minibus. I eventually got a good picture of it, together with a relieved round of applause from the waiting gang.
On we went for a longer stop at a marsh area armed with a bird hide. There were more grassy meadows at the margins and we could see critters cruising, though access here was through inventively fastened gates (barring lengths of wood tied to string – certainly not enough to deter a naturalist). A few stalking attempts revealed more of those large Ant-lions.
Francine and I headed down for the wetland area around the bird hide. Wandering down the track, an unfamiliar-looking large dragonfly headed up the track but I managed to lose track of it in the confusion of grass stems and dry stone wall joints. Things looked up, however, as we entered the reserve area and spotted a board claiming the presence of the Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra). These supposedly exist at Gandia, near Casa Libélule in Spain, but I’d thus far failed to find them. So, potentially adding those to my catalogue was an enticing prospect.
We began wandering to see what we could scare up. My excitement heightened when I spotted a dark-looking dragon settling in a cooperative manner. I sneaked up and snagged it, concentrating more on the photography than on the way the dragon actually looked. In my mind I might’ve been photographing a Black Pennant. As I reviewed my shots, though, realization of my mistake set in. This was the shape of a Scarlet Darter/Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), a female, but it was not the usual colouration; this was a dark olive coloured, elderly female, which the books say exist but which I’d never witnessed. It was something new for me so, though not a Black Pennant, I was still happy.
Pulses climbed again – well, mine did – as Francine spotted a movement which settled on rocks just a short distance ahead. I didn’t recognize it but it was clearly one of the Gomphidae – eyes separated at the top of its head. It was a rather dull colouration, too. This, I suspected, was what I’d lost track of as we approached the reserve down the track. Minding my shadow, I moved gently into position with palpitations making life difficult – just the colour meant it was new to me. As I gained focus through the viewfinder, the distinctive shape of the abdomen told me that this just had to be a rather scarce Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphylla). It was a magnificent male. This one catch alone made my trip entirely worthwhile.
We weren’t quite finished yet, though. As Francine was crouching down, another dragon landed on the ground beside her. She remained crouching, still, as I snagged it before it disappeared. I was pretty sure this was a female Black Pennant, and so it proved to be. I liked this location a lot. 🙂
As we were leaving the marsh area and making our way to the minibus, someone spotted a mantis which, having recently seen one the same in Spain, I recognized as a Conehead Mantis (Empusa pennata). Rather than just hanging in a plant upside down, this one obligingly caught a butterfly while we were watching. It did then drop it but I suspect the damage had been done; O think a wing was missing. Whereas dragonflies can cope with a wing missing, butterflies are less able.
We moved on to a further area where I found more Black Pennants atop stems, their gossamer-like wings fluttering in the stiff breeze. It’s this fluttering of wings which gives them the name pennant. I was slightly disappointed that all my individuals proved to be females and I never did find a male but a couple of “lifers” in one day is no crying matter. 😉
Our lunch was at a modestly sized lake that also threw up a few interesting characters, in addition to being a pleasant spot for a picnic. Once again, there were quite a few Scarlet Darters/Broad Scarlets and I watched as what appeared to be two males – they were both bright red – flew in tandem, ovipositing. Sharper readerrs will notice a bilogical contradiction. 😀 No, I was looking for the first time at an andromorph female Crocothemis erythraea which, again, I’d heard about but not observed until now. On Malta, this is apparently the most common female colour form. This unassuming little lake also gave us only our second encounter with the scarce Dark Spreadwing (Lestes macrostigma), which we had made a pilgrimage to the Île d’Oléron to find a couple of years ago. Dark Spreadwings like a very particular habitat. I was a little bemused that we managed to find only one individual here, though. Fortunately it was cooperative.
The day proved to be a great end to an interesting trip, from my point of view, with two new countries, two new Odonata species and a couple of new colour forms of a familiar old favourite.
Regarding the countries, we certainly were impressed with Slovenia and could envisage visiting it again as tourists. As a touristic holiday destination, though, we had been less impressed with Croatia, which seemed to be visually less appealing – mostly a rock pile for sun worshippers, – but it had been Croatia which delivered much more interesting finds for an Odo-nutter.
Sod the scenery, give me the wildlife. 😀