Chiang Dao Mountain

Doi Chiang Dao
Doi Chiang Dao

Doi (meaning mountain) Chiang Dao is the third highest mountain in Thailand, at 2,195 metres above sea level. It is one of the most beautiful in my opinion and the limestone massif can be seen in splendid profile from the road which runs north from Chiang Mai to the town of Chiang Dao.  There are a number of subsidiary peaks; the highest is called Doi Luang Chiang Dao.

Doi Chiang Dao from the road
Doi Chiang Dao from the road

It is a great location for a wide range of activities including bird watching, trekking, visiting temples, caves and waterfalls. The mountain can be climbed in the dry season, with the necessary permits, which can be arranged by lodges. I would recommend The Nest (1) and Malee’s Nature Lovers bungalows (2).

Most birders head for Wat Tham Pha Plong which is at the end of the road leading past the lodges mentioned above.  The monks don’t seem to mind birding visitors but I always try to show respect and leave a good donation for the temple.  The view of the mountain and the forest from this temple is spectacular.

Doi Chiang Dao from Wat Tham Pha Plong
Doi Chiang Dao from Wat Tham Pha Plong

There are bird watching trials around the temple and it is also a very good place to see butterflies, such as this lovely Clipper.

Clipper Parthenos sylvia apicalis male
Clipper Parthenos sylvia apicalis male

Another place, higher up the mountain – and well-known to bird watchers – is Den Ya Khat Ranger Station.  This is a good place to see Giant Nuthatch.  It needs a four-wheel drive vehicle to get up the rough road, but once on the mountain there are lovely pine forests and even a lake to wander round.

Small lake at Den Ya Khat Ranger Station, Doi Chiang Dao
Small lake at Den Ya Khat Ranger Station, Doi Chiang Dao

Doi Chiang Dao is a lovely mountain and one with lots of secrets to discover; the sun sets early behind the mountain casting rays of light into the sky. I hope to return sometime soon.

Sun setting behind Doi Chiang Dao
Sun setting behind Doi Chiang Dao

1) http://nest.chiangdao.com/
2) http://www.maleenature.com/

Six blue tepals and some nectar thieves!

Spring Squill (Scilla verna) 2

Spring Squill is a lovely perennial wild flower, with lilac-blue or violet-coloured flowers which emerge each Spring from the underground bulbs. It can be found all along the north and west coasts of Western Europe: including Portugal, Spain, France Great Britain and Ireland. I took these photographs at the Morouzos beach protected area, a RAMSAR site, on the Ria Ortigueira in Galicia (N W Spain).  The plants were growing on cut grass verges next to the wooden walkways which protect the vegetation from visitors to this lovely site.  This plant does not like being trampled!

Spring Squill (Scilla verna)
Spring Squill (Scilla verna)

Spring Squill is a member of the Asparagaceae family; so this little lily is a distant cousin of asparagus! Each of the squill flowers consists of six ‘tepals’ – a term which is apparantly used when the sepals and petals look identical and cannot be separated.  There are also six stamens, each capped with Cappadocia-like, dark brown anthers, effectively a ball of seeds. The blue ovary is at the centre of each flower. Interestingly, there were black ants on the flowers; but I only saw these after I opened the photographs and zoomed in! The ants are on or close to the ovaries so they are probably feeding on nectar. Ants can help to pollinate flowers by transferring pollen from one flower to another, but they can also be nectar thieves, just feeding on the nectar without carrying out any pollination services in return! (1).

Ants on Spring Squill
Ants on Spring Squill

A new species of squill from Galicia – Scilla merinoi – was recently described by some Spanish researchers from the University of Santiago (2).   Maybe this is it?!  Perhaps a botonist will see this and let me know!

1) Tia-Lynn Ashman and Emiley A. King (2005). Are flower-visiting ants mutualists or antagonists? A study in a gynodioecious wild strawberry. Am. J. Bot., 92:891-895.

2) Santiago Ortiz, Juan Rodríguez-Oubiña and Jesús Izco (2008). Scilla merinoi (Liliaceae), a new species from Galicia, northwestern Iberian Peninsula. Nordic Journal of Botany 13(2), 159-163.

Yellow legs and a yellow bill!

Yellow legged gulls (Larus michahellis) at Cabo de Bares in Galicia, NW Spain.
Yellow legged gulls (Larus michahellis) at Cabo de Bares in Galicia, NW Spain.

Yellow-legged gulls (YLG) have probably been around for quite a long time, but they have only recently been recognised by us humans as deserving a species of their own!  Larus michahellis.   Not being an expert birder, they look to me like Herring gulls with yellow legs, but watch out because 1st year birds can have rather pink legs, just like Herring gulls!  They were originally considered to be a race of Herring Gull.  I see them regularly in Galicia, N W Spain, which probably means that these are the Atlantic subspecies of YLG, but I leave that to the experts.  They are however, a beautiful gull, especially the adults with their bright yellow legs, bright yellow bills with a large red dot (for pecking!) and beautiful grey backs.  These photos were taken on 8th October at a northerly point called Cabo (or Cape) de Bares, which is a good sea-bird watching point.  Having said that, I seem to be the only one watching sea birds whenever I go there! These photographs show some birds entering their 1st, 2nd and 3rd winters, as well an adult with an all white head.

Yellow legged gulls (Larus michahellis) of various ages.
Yellow legged gulls (Larus michahellis) of various ages.

A lovely beetle, but a bit of a pest!

Coraliomela quadrimaculata (Chrysomelidae)
Coraliomela quadrimaculata (Chrysomelidae)

This lovely beetle, whose full name is Coraliomela quadrimaculata, is a leaf-mining leaf beetle with a fondness for palms and coconut trees.  It is found in South America, so we should give it its Spanish name, Barata-do-coqueiro. This is in fact the name given to several species of chrysomelid beetles, whose larvae feed on the young leaves of palm trees in Argentina and Brazil. The adults are fairly large (2.5 to 3.0 cm long) and feed on palm leaves, although the larvae seem to do the most damage.  This particular species is a minor pest in the group and probably occurs widely without causing too much damage.

I came across these beetles on Yatai poñi or Yatay palms (Butia paraguayensis) whilst touring a ranch (San Juan Poriahu) in Corrientes Province, northeast Argentina.  These small palms are a feature of the Ibara wetlands in this area where they are an important component of the grasslands.

Yatay palms (Butia paraguayensis) in Ibara wetlands
Yatay palms (Butia paraguayensis) in Ibara wetlands
Yatay palm (Butia paraguayensis)
Yatay palm (Butia paraguayensis)

The beetles were abundant in mid-March and could be seen mating on the palms in the late afternoon.

Coraliomela quadrimaculata beetles mating
Coraliomela quadrimaculata beetles mating

Many thanks to Ted MacRae [Beetles In The Bush] for identifying it for me.

Two wooly bulbs!

Hoop Petticoat daffodils (Narcissus bulbocdium) in Galicia, Spain
Hoop Petticoat daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium) in Galicia, Spain
Romulea bulbocodium flower in Galicia, Spain
Romulea bulbocodium flower in Galicia, Spain

These early flowering Irises both share the same species name – bulbocodium – which means ‘wooly bulb’ or ‘wool covered bulb’.  Presumably because they share the same sort of furry bulb (!) but I have not dug up either to inspect the below ground parts.

Hoop Petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocdium)
Hoop Petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocdium)

The lovely yellow Hoop petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium), or narcissus, is a species which is usually found on mountain pastures in Spain, Portugal and S W France.  I see it every year in a field near the coast at Cabo de Bares in Galicia, Spain.  The field is damp and often occupied by cattle (including a bull!).  The combination of wettness and cattle manure seems to suit this little daffodil which occurs in some profusion.

Hoop Petticoat daffodils(Narcissus bulbocdium) in field
Hoop Petticoat daffodils(Narcissus bulbocdium) in field

The other Iris is a small Romulea (Romulea bulbocodium) which also occurs near the coast in N W Spain, usually on rocky or grassy habitats. Both plants have been widely cultivated and come in different shades, but these are native wild flowers, photographed in later March and early April this year, in Galicia.

Romulea bulbocodium
Romulea bulbocodium

Both plants have been widely cultivated and come in different shades, but these are native wild flowers, photographed in late March and early April this year, in Galicia.

Romulea bulbocodium
Romulea bulbocodium

 

Lovely little daisies!

Common daisies (Bellis perennis)
Common daisies (Bellis perennis)

The common daisy is a lovely little flower when you look closely. Cannot help but love them! Each little white petal is part of an individual flower, or floret, together with one of the yellow parts in the centre of the ”capitulum’ making up a composite flower or inflorescence! The common daisy is a lovely little flower when you look closely. Cannot help but love them! Each little white petal is part of an individual flower, or floret, together with one of the yellow parts in the centre of the ”capitulum’ making up a composite flower or inflorescence!  Photos taken with my pocket camera (Sony DSC-RX100).

Common daises
Common daises

 

Close up of inflorescence or capitulum
Close up of inflorescence or capitulum

 

A malee of mating frogs

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) floating on a pond surface
Perez’s frog floating on a pond surface

 

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) mating
Perez’s frog (Pelpphylax perezi) mating

Whilst I was waiting for a flight back to London at the small airport at La Coruna, in northwest Spain, I went for a walk outside the terminal building and found a pond full of mating frogs! It was a nice way to spend the time waiting for my flight and I was able to watch and photograph the frogs in the Spring sunshine. Spring was certainly in the air for these frogs, which are Perez’s frog, also known as Iberian waterfrog, Iberian green frog, or Coruna frog (Pelophylax perezi) (1) and they were croaking away and hurling themselves at each other with abandon!

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) leaping
Perez’s frogs leaping

This was presumably their mating ritual, although most of the leaps ended in one frog colliding into another, or missing it completely as the other frog swiftly moved out of the way! Perhaps they were just frisky! I am not sure if any of them were actually mating, they mostly seemed to be leaping about and croaking. Perhaps this was party time! I think what was happening was that this pool contained a high density of males all calling and tussling with each other to try to attract a female to come and mate with them. There were quite a few frogs basking in the sunshine around the edge of the pond; or at least they were until I approached, and they leapt into the safety of the water with a satisfying plop!  Perhaps these were the admiring females? Although this one looks fairly nonplussed!

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) sitting by the edge of the pool
Perez’s frog sitting by the edge of the pool

Some individuals seemed a lot more relaxed than others, perhaps they were just having a break from the proceedings, and floated serenely on the surface of the pond.

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) floating or resting
Perez’s floating or resting

This species is found in southern France and across the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been introduced to the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands (Spain), as well as two sites in the United Kingdom (Kent and Surrey) (2).

One of the most striking features of this frog are they two inflatable vocal sacs either side of the head. These little greyish balloons are inflated very rapidly and can be sucked back in very quickly as well.

Marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda) mating
Perez’s frogs mating
Marsh frogs (Rana ridibunda) fighting? With vocal sacs enlarged
Perez’s frogs fighting? With vocal sacs enlarged

For photographers, I took these images at a shutter speed of 1/1000th second which unfortunately, was not fast enough for some of the shots. A speed of at least 1/2000th second would probably be needed to ‘freeze’ the leaping frogs.

Marsh frog (Rana ridibunda) leaping out of the pond
Perez’s frog leaping out of the pond
  1. http://amphibiaweb.org/species/5124
  2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/58692/0