Around five years ago, I decided to seriously attempt to learn the Odonata - the order that contains suborder Zygoptera (damselflies) and infraorder Anisoptera (dragonflies) - of British Columbia. I had attempted to learn them several times over in years before that, but those efforts were fairly lackluster. I would see a bluet or a darner and think it was impossible to identify. On my serious attempt, however, I realized the process was just as calculated as birds but the diagnostic features were just significantly less "macro". After that, all the pieces fell together and I was hooked! It is now standard practice for me to attempt to photograph any odonates that cross my path on my travels.
I had never been out of the Americas before landing in Thailand in February last year, so I was completely unprepared for how different the odonates were going to be and I was absolutely floored by the different colours, patterns, and morphologies. The first two days were definitely geared towards birds, but that all changed when I got to Kaeng Krachan National Park and wandered down a stream near the campground where I was staying. Sitting on a rock surrounded by slow-moving water was a damselfly with its wings held together above its body, similar to dancers (genus Argia) in the New World, except it was bulkier and had a short abdomen. To top it off, the thorax had brilliant violet and blue markings, the latter extending onto the abdomen. Fractured sunlight trickling through the canopy reflected off cells in the dark-tipped wings of hovering males, creating a shimmering display for the females. I think my knees wobbled at the sight. The photo below doesn't do these little gems justice.
I realized then that I needed to make time for the country's Odonata and I made a point of keeping my head down around water bodies and my camera at the ready. I am quite pleased with the collection covering more than 30 species that I managed over the course of my trip. Once again, all of these were more exciting in nature but I hope the photos give you an appreciation of Thailand's dragonflies and damselflies.
That was way more amazing than I was anticipating! When I first started this little flashback, I thought it would be refreshing to review the exotic odonates from my three weeks in Thailand. I now realize, however, it will be nearly three months before I see the first dragonfly here in Victoria, which will likely be a California Darner (Rhionaeschna californica). That's almost depressing! Luckily that trip to Panama is lurking in the not-too-distant future. Since I've seen a decent cross-section of the country's birds, I'll be able to shift some of the focus over to odonates and the herpetofauna.
I am by no means an expert on Thailand's dragonflies and damselflies so if any Asian odonatologists randomly come across this and see some glaring errors, please let me know. To everyone else, I hope you enjoyed the eye candy!