Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Butterfly Hunting on the Ninepin Group Islands (果洲群島), Hong Kong

Many thanks to a "last minute" invitation by Evengeline I was very fortunate to be able to join the annual outing to the Ninepin Group Islands (Kwo Chau Islands) on 2 July, organised by her and her husband (I overheard that people called him KK).

After attendance-taking outside the Sai Kung GeoPark, we boarded a relatively "luxurious" charted boat at the public pier as there is no public transport going to the island - about 15km in the southeast direction from Sai Kung town.

Slightly more than an hour of boat ride, we began to see a group of islands popping up from the waters.   There are no big trees on these islands - the surfaces are either barren or covered  by grasses or short coastal shrubs.

As there is no proper jetty on any of these islands, the boatman has to anchor the boat at deeper water and use a smaller speedboat to transfer us to the shore.
Shortly after the first batch (I was in) of people was transferred to the shore, the weather turned bad - heavy passing rain started to fall. 

Our main target of today's outing is to shoot the Common Grass Dart (Taractrocera maevius). A rather common species in India, but it is very rare in Hong Kong and can only be found in Ninepin Island in certain months of the year.

A rather small skipper, The Common Grass Dart blends very well with its habitat; especially so when it stays at the ground level. Thanks to KK who had spotted it twice at the small grass patch shown in the following photo.
I wasn't near the area when it was spotted by the sharp eyes of KK. So when I rushed to the location, a big group of people already surrounded it.  I could only snap one and only one record shot from a difficult angle.
After having our buffet lunch on the boat, we went o the North Island and continued hunting for the Grass Dart.
Despite so many pairs of eyes hunting for the little Grass Dart, we could not find it again. However, there were some other common butterflies we could shoot such as the Chilades lajus leucofasciatus.  .
I think this small light-house must be the only landmark on the North Island because I could not find any other prominent object on this island. 
While looking out for the Grass Dart, I came across a few small leaf beetles, either resting or foraging on plant foliage.

A slightly large beetle tried to shy away from my camera. 
Some insects were found on flowers too.
Here is another beetle feeding on flowers.
 A pair of day-flying moths
There are altogether 20 odd big and small islands in the Ninepin group - they are formed by volcanic rocks with hexagonal horizontal cross-sections.

  This Mycalesis mineus was hopping around before it settled down briefly.
Due to a warmer weather in the afternoon at the North Island, there were more butterflies flying around. A small Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis otis) was found resting on a dry leaf.
The Chilasa clytia is not uncommon in HK however, this female form clytia is not common. I could manage a long-distance record shot.  
A 2nd and possibly a 4th instar larvae of the Common Mime (Papilio clytia clytia) were found on its host plant which is unknown to me.

There were some interesting wild flowers on the islands. Let me share two shots to conclude this post.

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 most 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.