That’s what I call my little December friend in Jalón: Sympetrum conundrum.
For a few years now, I’ve seen a Darter at a few points on the river that flows through Jalón. The first time I saw it was on 23rd December one year before we had bought Casa Libelule. Since then I’ve seen a red-bodied darter a couple of times in December, once even on 3rd January. Initially, it looked to me most like a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).
After my initial sighting, earlier in the year I’d seen and clearly identified the Desert Darter (Sympetrum sinaiticum). This species looks quite similar to the Common Darter but for a couple of dark markings. I wondered if my suspect might be the Desert Darter somewhat changed, being more advanced in age in December.
Now I’ve seen it again but this time with a different wrinkle – this time I saw a tandem pair ovipositing. I snagged a couple of less than perfect in-flight shots. To me, the male didn’t look quite right for S. striolatum and the female certainly didn’t, being largely grey, Neither looked quite right for S. sinaiticum, either. My so-called brain worked overtime and wondered about the Vagrant Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum), in this case it would have been the Spanish subspecies (S. vulgatum ibericum). There are significant differences between S. v. ibericum and a regular S. vulgatum, in that it’s even more similar to S. striolatum. Very confusing.
Without trapping and examining, particularly the genitalia, differentiation gets quite difficult between some species. After due consideration and consultation with others more knowledgeable than myself, much as I’d like to have snagged a new species, I now think my conundrum is “just” a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum).
Enough scientific mumbo-jumbo, here are my Spanish friends still on the wing and ovipositing on 22nd December.