During my trip to Morocco’s Atlantic coast last week, in addition to the 16 bird lifers recorded I was pleased to find some new dragonflies. The weather was sunny throughout my stay and these insects were encountered in several locations, flying in good numbers at some. Four common African dragons: Orange-winged Dropwing, Red-veined Dropwing, Ringed Cascader and Banded Groundling were all added to my life list.
On Thursday 5th November I drove a popular tourist route through the western end of the Atlas Mountains, north of Agadir that is known as Paradise Valley. This runs from the small coastal town of Tamrhakh on the N1 for 50 km to a village Imouzzer Ida Outanane. At route’s end an information board says Imouzzer nestles at the foot of the western High Atlas, but it had seemed a long way up to me, not to mention higher and higher. Part way along this ascent the road enters a steep sided gorge in which it has been washed away then patched up in places. And that was where I lost interest in birding for the day.
Investigating three different locations I got quickly into southern Portugal upland watercourse mode. At my first stop the most numerous dragonfly was Orange-winged Dropwing (pictured below), a species that I had expected to come across on this trip. These typically perch on waterside rocks or gravel to absorb sunlight, and here they were mixed with slender blue Epaulet Skimmer, one of the most common dragonflies of tropical Africa. The latter’s range extends to southern Iberia and I was familiar with them from Portugal in May 2014.
At the next stop the Orange-wings were competing for space with a much slimmer red Dropwing with black edges to its abdomen. These were Red-veined Dropwing, another of the most numerous African dragonflies. I also saw the last named the following day at the wadi upstream from the N1 Massa bridge, where the pictures below were taken.
Though November lies outside the European flight period stated in Dijkstra and Lewington, the medium-sized species in the picture below is a male Ringed Cascader. I watched two of these for some time at my third Paradise Valley stop. According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species web site (see here), this is a vagrant species in Morocco where there are several recorded breeding sites from which individuals disperse widely. The fast-flying males patrol endlessly and rarely perch. A common dragonfly in tropical Africa, it favours swift-flowing permanent water-courses with rapids and waterfalls. So the habitat here is exactly right.
My thanks to KD Dijkstra (see here) for confirming that ID. At the Massa bridge wadi I finally caught up with Violet Dropwing, that I also knew well from Portugal. The yellow dragonfly (pictured below), seen near the royal palace south of Agadir is the female of that species.
Banded Groundling, another abundant tropical African species that extends to southern Iberia, was encountered on both my visits to the Souss-Massa national park. These are found typically on rough ground close to grazing animals.
Lastly, Lesser Emperor were seen at several locations but as is the wont of all Emperors they were not on any day inclined to stop and pose. And at Agadir’s kasbah a bold yellow and black banded number flew past. Female Ringed Cascader or a Goldenring species perhaps … I shall never know.