I learned of this spot just a spit south of Alicante from an e-contact who was just getting into dragonflies and needed some help with identifications. He has a place in Alicante and his photos were taken at the Parque Natural del Hondo. It has been on my hit list ever since. Anywhere that boasts decent looking habitat complete with fresh water in a Spanish summer is of interest, after all.
Somewhat confusingly, in doing my research, I began coming cross commentaries talking about the Parque Natural del Fondo. I was initially confused but a fellow Spanish enthusiast on a Spanish dragonfly page explained that Fondo is the Valenciana term for the same place; Hondo is the Castilian term. In an area of Spain complicated by there being two different languages in use, the names vary both on the Internet and on maps but Hondo/Fondo is the same place in different tongues. The Parque is a drive of about 90 minutes from our Spanish home. Since high temperatures were forecast, we set off relatively early, i.e. about 10:00 AM.
I have also seen comments about access to Hondo/Fondo potentially being difficult, where timing is concerned – gates locked, etc. Certainly we found a northern entrance, which was, indeed, barred but there was good parking at what I believe is the main entrance about a kilometre further south. Here, there is a map and a boardwalk to get you, or bird-watchers, at least, over some of the marshy areas.
We ignored the boardwalk and headed for the nearest fresh water to the car park and I’m very glad that we did. Our route to the water’s edge took us over baked dry mud flats. after a couple of the usual suspects Francine, who was ahead of me, called out excitedly. She’d seen something that was very clearly different. I hot-footed [literally] it over to her. Zooming about low over the mud a frequently settling on it were two – well, three, I suppose, though two were very similar – different looking dragonflies. I recognised one immediately as the mature male form of the Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita). The dark bands on its wings were quite unmistakeable.
Though the book (Dijkstra/Lewington) talks about some females having banded wings, too, I didn’t find any here. All our females seemed to be unbanded. The lighter banded jobs were immature males. To be fair, though, the book is perhaps a little out of date since it talks of Brachythemis leucosticta which is the African species and which has now been separated out. So, maybe there is some difference there? [Here endeth the anorak bit.] Suffice to say that I was ecstatic at having my first encounter with a new species.
The Northern Banded Groundlings were a delight to watch. They were said to “follow large mammals about” in search of disturbed insects to prey on. We were their large mammals in this habitat and on several occasions as we walked our legs were being circled by up to half a dozen of the fluttering little darlings. Though for once I didn’t have to chase them, landing at my feet made photography a tad difficult with a lens whose minimum focus distance is 1.8m. We managed some shots, though.
It’s difficult to follow a brand new species. However, I did get excited again a little later when I realised that I was looking at a somewhat similar Black Pennant (Selysiothemis nigra). These we’d encountered for the very first time in Croatia earlier this year. I got even more excited when I thought I’d found a male – all I’d seen thus far were females. However, subsequent study proved tat this, too, was a female so I’m still missing that elusive male. [It’s usually the females that prove hard to get.]
Francine had a little more fun before we called our visit to a close. She followed and snagged, albeit at a distance, a colourful and different looking butterfly. This was another new species for us, a Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus), related to the delightful Monarch/Milkweed (Danaus plexippus). Having snagged her valuable pictures, though, Francine declared that this specimen’s wing was considerably damaged. She was quite right, half its right hind wing was missing. Now, I wouldn’t normally do this but it was the only one we’d ever seen and I just couldn’t resist fixing it up a little in Photoshop. It may not stand very close scrutiny but it ain’t bad and it’s better than not having a picture of one. Here’s the before and after.
What a great visit to the Parque Natural del Hondo/Fondo.