Sunday, March 18, 2018

An Unexpected Swallowtail Butterfly at Ngau Tan Mei (牛潭尾), Hong Kong

I did not post anything in the blog in the first two months this year because the butterfly activity during winter was extremely low.  On must weekends before March, the weather was really good for hiking but not ideal at all for butterfly-photography. 

My first butterfly outing with my usual group of butterfly enthusiasts after my CNY holidays in Singapore was on 10 March - a rare blue sky and cool Saturday morning.

We met at the Yuen Long MTR station before boarding a 5-seated taxi heading to  Ngau Tan Mei (牛潭尾) to look for our target skipper - the Caprona alida 白彩弄蝶, which I had shot before at the same location in July 2016.  As we hiked up to the mountains,  I could not resist taking some pictures of the beautiful panoramic views of  Yuen Long and Shenzen in the background.
Many butterfly photographers in fact came early than us and they had started to hunt for the target.
After combing the area for a while, I found nothing. So I broke away from the group and went to a hill top. I saw two swallowtails chasing each other without stopping - one of them looked very yellowish in flight and I wasn't very sure which species it was. In the mean time, a Ypthima norma norma was found flitting in the bushes close to the ground.
I was rather surprised to see a red dragonfly on a hill top.
With a bit of patience of staying put at the peak, I finally noticed a brown skipper zipping around me and it stopped on a foliage, giving me a chance for a few quick snap shots. My initial attempt of looking at the spots on the wings of this rather small skipper suggest that it may be a  Pseudoborbo bevani.
Its upperside shot may be useful for us to identify it with a greater confidence.
I guessed Ivy and Shan brought us luck. A few minutes after they came to join me at the hill top, the yellowish fast-flyer Swallowtail perched on some dry branches. Unfortunately, all my shots were "burnt" as I failed to peep at the view-finder to check my shots. 
We were the first few who got a shot of this non-HK resident - the Papilio machaon (Yellow Swallowtail). By the time we got some shots, more photographers rushed to join us.  When it perched again on a fern, it created a lot of excitement amongst us. Many of us approached towards it quite hastily as a result it took off  within a few seconds  -  but luckily from where I positioned, I could  take  a few shots of its undersides. 
However, it went to hiding around noon. But all of us were still waiting patiently for it to appear again.
True enough, its appearance at 2 pm created another round of excitement. This time it perched on the same type of dry leaves again but for a  longer period of time - which allowed more people including me to take up positions to snap some shots.
Though not completely parallel to where it perched, I must say that I was lucky enough to take these shots while it was swaying in strong wind.

While waiting for the Yellow Swallowtail to settle down, this pristine Papilio xuthus xuthus was seen feeding on some Bidens flowers - this is the only shot that I am quite happy with as it was just too fast on the flowers.
Not many photographers were interested in this rather common Five-dot Sergeant (Athyma sulpitia sulpitia).  
I feel  that its undersides are quite appealing to me.
It was a fruitful butterfly outing with lots of fun, excitement and nice company of many butterfly photographers. Hope that with the weather getting warmer from March onwards and having more blue-sky and sunny weekends, I would get to see and shoot more species before I complete my tour of duty and return home for good.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Butterflies at Sha Lo Wan (沙螺灣), Lantau Island

On the last day of the year 2017, I have to discipline myself to complete this long over due blog post. 

Many thanks to my usual butterfly-shooting friends who invited me to join a butterfly-hunting trip to the Sha Lo Wan ( 沙螺灣) on a lovely Saturday morning (11 Nov). Situated at the northwestern part of the island, Sha Lo Wan is accessible either by ferry service or on foot.

A scheduled ferry service from the Tung Chung ferry terminal is available. After disembarking at the Sha Luo Wan Jetty, we had to walk along a well-paved coastal path before reaching our hunting ground. 
My first shot of the morning was this puddling Malayan (Megisba malaya sikkima).  A rather copperative guy which stayed on the ground for all of us to take some shots.
There was a similar lycaenid puddling nearby - this is a female Acytolepis puspa (Common Hedge Blue).
Though there weren't many puddling butterflies at this sandy area, occasionally, we did spot some common butterflies foraging under the sun. This is Catochrysops panormus exiguus feeding on a wild flower.
There were quite a few skippers zipping past us.  I believe this is the Parnara guttata which is the largest of the three Parnara species that can be found in Hong Kong.
In the field, I can never be sure what a brown skipper would be such as this one - so I just took a shot. Having a closer look at the picture, I believe this is a  Borbo cinnara.
Shan spotted a very small skipper. When I looked at her shot, I noticed that it was not a usual skipper -  so I waited patiently for it to re-appear. It did come back and allow me to take some quick shots. This is Aeromachus jhora - my first shot of this not-so-common skipper in Hong Kong.
Its uppersides
It looks like another speciemen of the Aeromachus species but very worn out?
From far, I saw a small yellow skipper with the typical body shape of a Ampittia species. I was hopping to find Ampittia virgata but it turned out to be the more common species the A. dioscorides resting on top of a rock.
Once the sun was high up, butterfly activities became intense. A female Ixias pyrene (Yellow Orange Tip) was enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on a leaf.
Here is the male.
Very frequently, we tend to photograph aYellow Orange Tip feeding on flowers like this.
When this guy was in flight, the irridscent blue on the upperside of the wings was very prominent. Yes, this is the Jamides bochus, a rather common lycaenid in many country parks in Hon Kong.  
Though a rather remote place, Sha Lo Wan is a promising site for butterfly-hunting ground - worthy of another visit in the year 2018.

On the eve of year 2018, wishing everyone a healthy and fruitful new year.

Hope that by the end of June 2018,  I  would photograph a lot more HK butterfly species than what I did in 2017.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Butterflies Along Tung O Ancient Trail (東澳古道) (up to San Tau Village)

On two consecutive Saturday afternoons (29 Sept and 6 Oct), while I was on my way back from and to the airport, I made a slight detour to San Tau Village, next to the Yat Tung estate (逸東邨) in Lantau Island. Yat Tung estate is just a short bus ride (Bus 38) from  the Tung Chung bus station. 

I strolled along the Tung O Ancient Trail (東澳古道) which runs along the northern coastline of  the Lantau Island 
The Hau Wong Temple (侯王宮) which was built during the Qing Dynasty period was one of the historical sites along the 15-km long Tung O Ancient Trail - a favorite trail among hikers. 
The Quaker (Neopithecops zalmora zalmora) is a permannent resident at a location near the Hau Wong Temple (侯王宮) -  there were a few of them fluttering around some small flower buds.
A pair of Quaker each took care of its own food source.
There was a row of pea plants near an open grass patch outside a playground  A Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus) was resting on a blade of grass.
Zizeeria maha (Pale Grass Blue) is a common lycaenid in Hong Kong. If we pay attention to those small butterflies fluttering around wild flowers on the ground, we should be able to find them easily.
Continued walking along the trail for a couple of minutes, I came to a concrete bridge - the mangrove vegetation covers almost the whole river banks.
Butterfly activities were generally low on both occasions. Apart from a few skippers, there were very few other species crossing my path. This rather pristine Bush Hopper ( Ampittia dioscorides etura ) was kind enough for me to snap a few shots.
Two other brown skippers presented their pose for me too  - they look like the Borbo cinnara.
 Another specimen was found nearby on a leaf.
A fast-flying skipper which looks like a Parnara ganga was seen looking for its host plant - it did find the type of grass to lay its egg.
Chilades lajus is another common lycaenid along the coastal area
Apart from butterflies, other insects appeared in front of me would be my targets too. This  colourful beetle caught my attention when it perched above my head - thus making it rather hard a well- composed shot.
An on-coming passer-by alerted me that there was a snake about 50m ahead of me. Indeed, a rather slender green snake with some red tint on the skin was crawling along the kerb. I have no idea if it is poisonous.
Soon, I reached one of the many old villages along this ancient trail -  the San Tau  (䃟頭) village - I noticed that there were quite a number of vacant houses and some of them were in a dilapidated state.

A Snow Flat, the Tagiades litigiousus came out to welcome me to the village.
The Blue-spotted Crow (Euploea midamus midamus) was found feeding on some wild Lantan flowers beside a village house.
Due to time constraint on both occassions, I had to return to Tung Chung. Indeed, this long ancent trial has a lot to offer to the hikers and photographers as it runs through many old villages such as I hope to complete the whole trail in the near future.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Second Visit to 企嶺下 (Kei Ling Ha) @ Sai Kung, Hong Kong

What a chaotic and abnormal weather in Hong Kong this week (21 - 27 Aug). We started the week with two extremely hot days but a drastic change of weather on Wednesday due to the  devastating T10 typhoon Hato inflicted severe damages and inconveniences to some places. Three days later on 27 Aug, while some places are still grappling  with repair and maintenance work,  we had to face with another T8 typhoon Pakhar - moving towards south China coast and about 150 - 200 km at its closest distance away from HK. Again, the path of Pakhar brought strong winds and heavy thunderstorms, turning a normally vibrant Sunday morning in this activity-filled city into a standstill.    
No outing with my usual hiking group so I  could complete this blogpost on a butterfly-hunting trip to Kei Ling Ha last month (1 July) with my usual group of butterfly enthusiasts.

After a long bus journey from Shatin MTR station (Bus 299), we alighted at the Kei Ling Ha San Wai  and walked towards a coastal village. My first shot of the morning was a mating shield bug - what a difference between the size of a male and a female.

Unlike my last visit last year, Kei Ling Ha was rather quiet this year. For a long  period of time we were actually just strolling along a coastal track without seeing any "worthwhile" species. 

We decided to walk twoards Kei Ling Ha Lo Wei. Along the way near a public toilet,  a Yellow Rajah (Charaxes marmax marmax) was seen puddling on the ground. 
While focusing on shooting this guy, I received a call from my friend  asking me to go forward to a bridge area. Indeed there were a lot more butterfly activities there. 

There were at least two pristine Commanders (Moduza procris procris) loitering around the area. Once they settling down, we quickly queued up  to snap some shots.
This guy also liked to perch on a metal railing - it did that a few times otherwise I would not have a chance to snap this shot. 
Common Hedge Blue (Acytolepis puspa gisca) is a very common lycaenid which is often ignored by many of us if we have another species to go after. 
The Bamboo Tree Brown (Lethe europa beroe) is another common butterfly that I have started to leave it alone unless it looks "suspicious" to me.
散紋盛蛺蝶 (Symbrenthia lilaea lunica ) is also a very common butterfly in Hong Kong.  Though a beautiful butterfly, I don't see many butterfly photographers here chasing after it.  
I have seen the Courtesan (Euripus nyctelius) a few times in HK. I broke away from the group which was perfecting their shots on the Commander, I found this guy on a roadside about 100m away. 
I had an instinctive shot of its uppersides when it puddled on the ground.
I was alerted to this critter hiding underneath a big leaf - I guess it is a nymph of a katydid.
A praying mantis was nearby looking out for its preys.