Tuesday, November 26, 2013

West Malaysia: A Stop En Route

September 14, 2012, found me in West Malaysia, heading north from Kuala Lumpur with my friends Bing Lim and Mark Ng. We were en route to a place I had wanted to visit ever since an abortive attempt in 1972: Taman Negara, Malaysia's most famous national park.  I'll have more on Taman Negara in later postings, but this one is devoted, instead, to a brief stop we made along the way.

Gua Bama ("Gua" means "cave" in Bahasa) is an isolated limestone outcrop near Kampong Relong, about twenty minutes' drive from the town of Kuala Lipis in the state of Pahang, in the central peninsula.  Tourists visit it to climb the rocks and visit its cave, neither of which we did.  Our intent was, instead, ornithological; Gua Bama holds a few pairs of Dusky Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne concolor), a rare bird in Malaysia (though common enough further north, and in India).  We saw a few birds high above us, far out of photographic range. Ornithology satisfied, I spent the rest of our stopover happily pursuing dragonflies around a small marsh at the base of the outcrop.  Here are some of the results.

Aethriamantina gracilis
Aethriamantina gracilis
None of the species I found here could be described as rare, or, I suspect, even unusual.  I am still, though, very much an odonate beginner, and one was new to me.  This was Aethriamantina gracilis, a dainty little blue insect that I suspect I may have confused in the past with the quite similar, but larger and commoner, Brachydiplax chalybea.

Neurothemis fluctuans
Neurothemis fluctuans was, of course, pretty much unavoidable.

Neurothemis fluctuans
Neurothemis fluctuans
Neurothemis fluctuans
Neurothemis fluctuans
However, I seem to have more luck finding males of this abundant species than females, so I am enjoying, for once, the opportunity to present these shots of the species' other half.

Orthetrum testaceum
Species of Neurothemis and Orthetrum must be the two most common and obvious dragonflies in Malaysia (though there are rarities in each) - the odonatologist's equivalent of a dirt bird.  Orthetrum testaceum is, nonetheless, beautiful.

Rhodothemis rufa
Malaysia is home to a number of bright red dragonflies, and I am just now learning to tell them apart.  Rhodothemis rufa is a particularly rich scarlet, with eyes that just meet over the top of its head.

Urothemis signata
The male Urothemis signata is a startling vermilion, with tell-tale black spots near the tip of his abdomen and cinnamon-brown patches at the base of each hindwing.

Trithemis aurora
Trithemis aurora
Trithemis aurora
Not so much red as day-glo pink: the male Trithemis aurora, named for Homer's rosy-fingered goddess of dawn.

Trithemis aurora
Trithemis aurora
Like many other small dragonflies, Trithemis aurora often adopts an obelisk posture, with abdomen tilted skyward and wings bent to the front.

Rhyothemis phyllis
Rhyothemis phyllis
Finally, the unmistakable and elegant Rhyothemis phyllis, one of my favourite Malaysian dragonflies.

Rhyothemis phyllis
As I said - nothing unusual, but not too bad for a roadside rest stop!

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