And so it happened. Three weeks later, I flew to Chennai to meet Pankaj at the Chennai airport and take a flight to Port Blair, Andamans. Things didn’t went exactly as it was planned as our flight got delayed by six hours. However, with all the delays, we landed at Port Blair airport in the rainy evening of 15th August 2017. Prosenjit had already reached directly from Kolkata.
We found a small guesthouse and stayed for the night as we had a long journey the following day. Our main objective of the expedition was to survey the Andaman Odonata and explore its habitats, especially in the North Andaman Island. The capitol of Andaman and Nicobar Union Territory, Port Blair, is located in the South Andaman Island. The Middle Andaman Island, located north to the South Island is almost entirely a tribal reserve dedicated to the Jarawa tribe with several other settlements. The North Andaman Island, with few towns and villages scattered around still has a significant forest cover. The longest river in Andamans, the Kalpong River is also located in the North Andaman. That’s where we were heading.
We took a bus from Port Blair to Diglipur, North Andamans early morning on 16th. The almost 300 km journey took us the whole day. We had to cross two straits using ferries. While crossing these straits, I experienced rainforests continuing up to the sea shore and fringed with mangroves for the first time in my life, as no such rainforests patches are remaining in the coastal belt of Sri Lanka anymore. In the middle Andamans, all the vehicles were escorted by Police convoys as public are not allowed to get down or even stop the cars inside the Jarawa reserve. The Middle Andamans is almost completely covered in forest and while crossing the Jarawa reserve we passed many promising areas for some cool forest odonates.
Once we reached Diglipur we had two important things to do. Finding our accommodation and hiring motor bikes for our explorations. We found the Titlee Guesthouse in a walking distance to Diglipur junction and it was our base for the duration we explored the North Andamans.
The next day, we traveled southward from Diglipur along the Great Andaman trunk road and surveyed the streams we encountered. On one such stream flowing next to a rural house, we came across a very interesting damselfly. Head, thorax and abdomen tip almost entirely red in colour and medium in size, it was something the three of us had never seen before. Super excited, we somehow managed to get a decent photograph and capture it for closer examination despite the heavy rainfall at the time. This was later identified as Pseudagrion pilidorsum, a South East Asian species not known from anywhere in Indian territories other than the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. At the same location I observed the endemics, Andaman Bronzebak (Dendrelaphis andamanensis) and Andaman Treepie (Dendrocitta bayleyii).
Later that day, we visited the Kalpong dam area. On our way there we encountered some clear-winged Libellago specimen, but could not reach close enough to photograph them. It was a rainy evening, thus did not yield anything novel on the odonata surveys. However, the endemic Bay Island Forest Lizard was observed in the forest. Only a couple of common odonates were observed at the Dam area. While heading back from the dam just after the sunset, we could observe Andaman Nightjars (Caprimulgus andamanicus) hunting on the road.
To be continued…