Roundup of 2019

It’s been a fairly quiet year in terms of tours but I have been very busy cataloguing the fauna and flora of the area. I also made significant changes to my website including developing a WordPress plugin to generate a page for each taxon in my catalogue (as exported from Lightroom) and pull in photos from my Flickr account. I have also started to add my nature observations to the iNaturalist platform. I have added 2,450 observations (883 species) so far but still have a huge backlog of observations to add. Of these observations 1308 (585 species) were observed this year but that isn’t everything I have observed because I haven’t yet added everything to iNaturalist. iNaturalist has produced a very nice review of my 2019 activity on that site. Triggered by fears over the future of Flickr, I have also started rewriting my WordPress plugin to display a gallery of iNaturalist observations, instead of photos from Flickr.

With the help of Tek Lin Seow, a butterfly identification expert, I have spent a great deal of time this year working on my butterfly checklist. This led to quite a few changes in how I had them previously identified. There is still work to be done on these but mostly on photos in my library that have not yet been identified and published. My butterfly checklists are available here:

I still have “Skipper Butterflies” (Hesperiidae) separated from “True Butterflies” (Papilionoidea) but I will have to change that because the position of Hesperiidae within Papilionoidea now seems to be widely accepted.

I have created a number of checklists, which currently also cover:

  • Dragonflies
  • Damselflies
  • Birds
  • Snakes
  • Orchids

All are available from this page: https://geenature.com/checklists/

I will be adding more checklists but everything takes time!

I have also been doing a lot of work on moths, encouraged and helped by Roger Kendrick and other members of the Indo-Pacific Moths Facebook group. It was Roger that started me actively using iNaturalist, as a result my observations are still heavily skewed towards moths. This was also affected by my light trapping (details here: https://geenature.com/light-trap-27-july-2019/) when I photographed 218 new species, 163 of which were moths. I had planned to do regular light trapping but it took me so long to process the results and I have been busy on other things, so I haven’t managed another one, yet. I have not yet added any checklists for moths but they are top of the list to work on next.

One of the highlights of the year for me was the publishing of the paper (written by Jérôme Constant) describing a new species that I found in 2016. The new species was even named after me: Sogana chartieri Constant 2019 (details here: https://geenature.com/new-species-sogana-chartieri-constant-2019/ ). There could be more new species to come.

I have also had my first ever paper accepted for publication in a scientific journal: The Cambodian Journal of Natural History. It will be included in the next edition but that has not quite been published yet (coming soon) so I won’t include details of what it’s about here.

Outside of nature stuff, I had a lovely month-long trip back to UK to visit family and friends and see my two very cute granddaughters for the first time. Theary (my wife) and I are also in the process of having a house built. We would like to move there in the next few months, ideally before we go to the UK again, this time for my middle son’s wedding, but not too hopeful about that. The new home should lead to an easier life because we will have a road and piped in electricity and water (for the first time since I moved to Cambodia over 10 years ago). However, I will not be so immersed in nature as I have been, which will take some getting used to. Our new place has a stream at the back with mangrove trees just the other side and direct boat access out to the main mangrove forest. I expect to be offering new tours and concentrating my studies/cataloguing on the mangrove environs.

The majority of my tours this year have still been with customers of Rainbow Lodge but that’s all good. I have had a few direct customers, including members of the Cambodian Bird Photography Group, who, having seen some photos of the birds building a nest I posted on Facebook, came all the way from Phnom Penh to spend three-and-a-half hours photographing one species of bird, Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (Black-and-red Broadbill), before returning to Phnom Penh.

I have also continued working with the Cambodian Fishing Cat Project.

I saw thousands of species of fauna and flora during 2019, many of which were new to me. I will include a few of my highlights below.

Here is Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (Black-and-red Broadbill), though my photo is not a patch on those taken by the real photographers who visited. This one was taken at our house after the young had flown the nest and they came with their parents to be fed with berries growing at our place.

Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (Black-and-red Broadbill)

Dinopium javanense intermedium (Common Flameback) also started visiting our property.

Dinopium javanense intermedium (Common Flameback)

The unusual and beautiful moth Trischalis subaurana [Lithosiini, Arctinae, Erebidae] seen during my camera trapping on 27 July.

Trischalis subaurana

In fact, the Lithosiini tribe was very productive this year, with some very helpful input from Karol Bucsek and some recent papers by him and his colleagues. My observations specific to that tribe can be seen here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/geechartier?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=Lithosiini .

A beautiful tussock moth: Carriola sp., Lymantriinae, Erebidae.

Carriola sp.

This stunning Zamarada sp., Ennominae, Geometridae, which is superficially similar to the Carriola sp. (above) but in a completely different family.

Zamarada sp.

A couple of species of Polythlipta, Spilomelinae, Crambidae.

Polythlipta sp.
Polythlipta macralis

My first encounter with a “Glory Moth”: Prismosticta microprisma, Endromidae.

Prismosticta microprisma

Another stunner but rather strange, with those enormous eyes: Taurometopa pyrometalla, Odontiinae, Crambidae.

Taurometopa pyrometalla

A stunning “Window-winged Moth”: Herdonia thaiensis, Thyrididae.

Herdonia thaiensis

We were visited by a few mantidflies, including this Tuberonotha sp., Mantispidae.

Tuberonotha sp.

This festively decorated moth has baffled everyone, including Terry Whitaker, author of Pyralids of Borneo. All we know for certain is that it is in the family Crambidae.

Unknown crambid snout moth.

Nightjars swoop around our property most evenings but I finally had one perch close enough to the house for me to rig up my tripod, camera and two head torches out of the window to get a clear enough photo to ID this one as Lyncornis macrotis (Great Eared Nightjar). Unfortunately, it wouldn’t keep its head still long enough for the slow shutter speed, so its eyes and ear tuft look quite weird.

Lyncornis macrotis (Great Eared Nightjar)

Thanks to Thilo Krueger, I finally got identification of two bladderworts that had remained unidentified for a while. I saw them again this year and posted them on iNaturalist, where Thilo helpfully contributed with IDs. Bladderworts are considered the most complex of all carnivorous plants. They have bladder like structures on their roots, with “doors” that are held in place with tiny hairs. The plant pumps the bladder out to create a partial vacuum inside. The weight of tiny creatures like protozoa is enough to cause the door to start to open and the prey is sucked in by the vacuum. Digestive juices are then pumped into the bladder. After the meal, the bladder is pumped out again, ready for the next unsuspecting creature that bumps into it. They also have small but beautiful flowers.

Utricularia hirta
Utricularia punctata

Another strange moth sighting was this little one, which Terry Whitaker believes has been recorded only once before, the holotype that was collected from Borneo in 1894 and now sits in the British Museum of Natural History. I checked my records and I have photographed of it on four different occasions (two in 2017 and two in 2019). It is Oligernis endopthalma, Musotiminae, Crambidae. There is some confusion over its taxonomic position but this is what Terry told me, and he knows rather a lot about crambid moths. Actually, he believes it should be moved to the genus Musotima but I need to leave it in Oligernis until that change is published.

Oligernis endopthalma

We have been visited by jellyfish every year in the dry season. This time they came early and in larger numbers than I have ever seen. Maybe because dry season started early this year. I managed to catch a few to take clearer photos and get them identified to species level. They are Acromitus flagellatus (River Jelly). Despite their common name, they mostly inhabit coastal areas but will travel upriver into brackish, estuarine waters. They have stinging tentacles but their sting is mild. They can vary significantly in colour, seemingly dependent on what they have eaten.

Acromitus flagellatus (River Jelly)
Acromitus flagellatus (River Jelly)

I also got my first ever species level ID on a crab (thanks to Marcus Ng). It is Perisesarma eumolpe, Sesarmidae. I must try to find some time to work on my other crab photos, along with all the other stuff I haven’t managed to get around to yet.

Perisesarma eumolpe

We also had some cool things recorded fairly near to our house on camera traps set by the Cambodian Fishing Cat Project. These include Lutrogale perspicillata (Smooth-coated Otter) and Arctonyx collaris (Greater Hog Badger). There were also continued sightings of Lutra sumatrana (Hairy-nosed Otter) at a nearby stream. Unfortunately, the photos and videos have not yet been uploaded to their website, so I cannot include them here.

I was hoping to report on a caterpillar that I collected but it has been in its pupa for over two months already, so it missed the chance of making the 2019 roundup. I still don’t know what it is. The pupa still looks normal and I am still hopeful that the adult will eventually emerge.

We finished the year with a fantastic all day tour with a group of eight. This is more than my usual maximum of five but my brother-in-law helped us out and we had a great, full day, starting at 8:00 and not getting back until nearly 18:00. The tour involved walking in mangrove swamp and kayaking in a beautiful stream, lined with mangrove trees, palms and Pandanus oderifer, before heading down into the main mangrove forest for some more kayaking among the stilt-rooted mangrove trees, in and out of myriad streams, We stopped at our place for lunch on the way. I am considering changing my website to make this the only predefined tour.

So, it has largely been a year of “back room” jobs but I have still had some opportunity to get out in the field and find new fauna and flora. Unfortunately, there is still a mountain of work to get through but none of it is urgent, so I am just trudging my way through it.

Hopefully, I will continue to find new things next year.

Wishing you all a happy and successful (by whatever means you prefer to judge success) 2020.

Gerard Chartier
Author: Gerard Chartier

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