Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some Fauna Species Shot in Hong Kong

On 7 Dec, even though the weather was gloomy, my colleagues and I still took a West Rail train to Tai Po Market from Shatin followed by a short taxi ride to Fung Yuen (refer to my previous post) as we had to register for the WALS International Conference in the late morning at Hong Kong Institute of Education which is nearby.A light drizzle had started by the time we reached Fung Yeun. While waiting patiently for the rain to stop (anyway, the weather was bad for 3 consecutive days), we were chatting and browsing the books on display(for sale and occasionally I was showing some of the species featured in the books that can be found in Singapore.As mentioned in my previous post, I went back to Fung Yuen again on 10 Dec. Of course, apart from butterfly species, we are sure to spot many other animals in Fung Yuen. These two wasps were shot while waiting for butterflies to pose for me. John identified this a Scoliid wasp, possibly a male Liacos erythrosoma.
The next shot is one of the Hong Kong's most common paper wasps, Parapolybia indica. According to John, this species usually disappears by October, so it was a surprise to see this bugger still around in December.
This handsome lizard looks like our local Changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor)After lunch (thanks Colleen and Chung), John drove me to Sai Kung area where he lives. We checked out a few places along our way to hilltop. One of our stopovers is this Wong Chuk Yeung Village, it has been deserted and abandoned for quite a while. John used to see many butterflies feeding on Lantana flowers on the left side of this picture. But now, no flowers mean no butterflies and insects.We saw at least three Indian Red Admiral (Vanessa indica) and a Sailor chasing each other on the hilltop, a typical territorial behaviour. They were too active and alert for me to get a decent shot. Here is a long distance record shot when one of the Admirals basking on the floor. This beautiful Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias) was spotted while I climbed up some stairs in a nature park not too far away from the Sai Kung town.Blue Admiral (Kaniska canace ) is abundant in Sai Kung's parks . I noticed that it had a tendency returning to the same perch but I still could not get a good shot as it was too skittish, it could detect any slightest movement. This is another record shot from far.
Before we took our flight back to Singapore on 11 Dec, we had a free-and-easy morning. We decided to take a leisure walk in Shatin Park just behind our hotel. A big grasshopper was like contemplating its next move so deeply that it wasn't aware of my presence. Of course we were greeted with many colourful and gorgeous flowers. These magnificent blooms really liven up our spirit, no wonder there were many locals out in the park on a cool and windy morning. My past few visits to Hong Kong were all during winter period. Next time I should visit Hong Kong in summer. I must visit Fung Yuen again - a heaven for butterflies.

Wising all readers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Photos by Wan San, John and Federick Ho

Friday, December 18, 2009

Some Butterfly Species @ Fung Yuen, Hong Kong

Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve at Tai Po, Hong Kong is well-known for its rich butterfly diversity, its relentless effort and successes in butterfly conservation in Hong Kong. I was very fortunate to have a chance to visit the place on 10 Dec (thanks John for giving me a lift from Royal Park Hotel, Shatin). I am very grateful to the warm hospitality shown by the staff members at Fung Yuen, they are Colleen Chiu, Kin Chung and Smith Wong. Thanks a lot. Please let me know if you plan to visit us.When Colleen and Chung brought us around the place, a White Dragontail (Lamproptera curius) suddenly perched in front of me, on a leaf surface of its host plant Illigera celebica. My first shot of the day of this White Dragontail served as a welcome gift for me.
One of the smallest and uniquely shaped butterfly in the Family Papilioidae, White Dragontail has a substantial portion of its forewing being transparent and a long white-tipped tails which make it a very special butterfly.

It was very skittish and flapping its wings at high speeds when it was feeding on different flowers. The only underside snap I had is this pathetic long distance shot. There were at least 3 or 4 individuals zipping around but I just didn’t have the luck to take a up close shot. Purple Sapphire (Heliophorus epicles) is such a brilliantly-coloured and beautiful Lycaenid which would excite every visitor. I spotted at least 3 of them, out in the sun feeding on Bidens flowers. I was awed by the beautiful upperside of the male Yellow Orange Tip (Ixias pyrene) when it flew past us a few times at a rocket speed. When you look at its underside when feeding, we can be mistaken it as an Orange Emigrant butterfly This Glassy Tiger (Parantica agela melanoides) was seen fluttering from flower to flower, very choosy about selecting the flowers. It decided to feed on the Bidens flowers and I got a chance to snap a few shots. Here is a view of its upperside wings - very similar to our Dark Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides agleoides) Dark Cerulean (Jamides bochus) was abundant. The intense metallic blue upperside that could be seen during its erratic flights enticed me to stalk and chase for it - but it rarely opened its wings when at rest.Here is another individual taking a short rest under the hot noon sun. Common Hedge Blue (Acytolepis puspa) appeared when I was about to move back to the reception area. The hindwing markings are not that heavy compared to our local subspecies lambi. I believe this is a Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe), busy feeding from flower to flower, a very skittish species that I hardly had a good chance of getting an up close shot. It remained very alert all the time and I could only manage a long distance shot like this.This Red-based Jezebel (Delias pasithoe) was the first species that I sighted at Fung Yuen, but I could only get this lucky shot when this guy suddenly perched on a leaf above my eye level around noon. It was so common that I could spot many of them flying around at Shatin Park just behind our hotel. We are familiar with this Pea Blue or Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) as it is quite a common species in Singapore.
This is an upperside shot of another specimen basking under the hot noon sun.I am very impressed by the many activities that Fung Yuen organises to reach out to the community to promote butterfly conservation on a regular basis. For examples, Butterfly Festival is conducted on every last Sunday of the month, Butterfly Watching Race and Ecotour etc . I am sure butterfly lovers and conservationists around the world has much to learn from Fung Yuen. Well done Fung Yuen !

Photos by Wan San, John and Federick Ho

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last Weekend of November @ MNT

It was a last weekend of November, hot and sunny, a perfect day for outing . So I was on my way to MacRitchie Nature Trail (MNT) after breakfast.

I didn't see anything interesting and exciting enough for me to pay attention to during the the first 500m of the forest trail. However, when I turned into a side trail leading to some private houses, a solitary Commander (Moduza procris milonia) was there to greet me. Feeding on the wild Mile-a-minute flowers (Mikania micrantha) for quite some time, this Commander was really "intoxicated' by the nectar. Look at how its long and thin proboscis was used to prob deeply into the flowers. The prominent orange bands on the upperside of the wings of this Common Lascar (Pantoporia hordonia hordonia) are rather similar to the other three Lascar species that can be found here in Singapore.
Occasionally, it perched with wings open and close rhythmically. So I had to observe and catch the right moment precisely in order to snap a clear underside shot.
This Aberrant Oakblue (Arhopala abseus abseus) is a shade-loving Lycaenid with two pairs of white-tipped tails, one pair being much shorter than the other pair. The rather distinctive costal white band on the underside hindwing helps us to identify this species quite easily. Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina) seemed to be in season lately as I spotted it quite regularly in the past few weeks. A female was shot when she was sunbathing along a forest clearing. The orange coloured legs of this rather large spider caught my attention.
I went in closer and took a shot from the other side. Its abdomen appears to be transparent. I wonder what species it is.
I guess this is a kind of fly. Flies which have one pair of flimsy forewings belong to the order Diptera.
This rather small critter with a pair of long antennae does not look like a fly to me. What is this ?
This looks like a kind of wasp foraging on a Hairy Clidemia leaf surface.
This looks like another wasp to me.
Nannophya pygmaea is one of the smallest dragonflies. Male was more common and it was frequently sighted near a stream. Female has always been elusive for me. Lastly, I saw this funny thing just "grew" from a fallen tree trunk. What an interesting shape !

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Abdominal Motion of Damselflies

For a change of my blogging style, in this post I just focus on two series of shots which I took during my outings to our nature reserves in the Central Catchment area.

I love to shoot Ceriagrion cerinorubellum because it is one of the most beautiful and abundant damselfly species we can find in the nature reserves. Two C. cerinorubellum were spotted perching on different grass blades along a clear stream of water. I focused on shooting the one nearer to me. Lady's luck was with me that day. While composing my shots, all of a sudden, I noticed this beauty raising up its slender abdomen along a vertical plane. Of course, instinctively, I snapped and snapped.
I could see that in the next moment, the motion was faster and so drastic that the last section of the abdomen was moving both upwards and sideways and was no long in the same vertical plane as the front abdominal segments. As a result, the orange section of the abdomen was not as sharp as in the second shot.
Very quickly, the whole abdomen was aligned again eventually.Some years ago, I was rather lucky to witness how a Prodasineura notostigma damselfly, another common species curled up its abdomen. The last section of the abdomen started to bend downwards.
Next the second or the third last section began to follow suit. This motion of bending the abdomen was rather gradual and not so "violent" . One more section of the abdomen was seen curling downwards.
Now, it almost completed the bending motion. What a nice shape it formed. Until today, I have not seen this kind of motion again. What is the purpose of all these ? I am still looking for an answer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Butterflies and Other Critters @ USR

Upper Seletar Reservoir Park (USR) has always been my favourite ground for butterfly watching and photography. Once again, I was on a solo trip to this familiar place.

Along the row of Syzygium hedges along the roadside, I found lots of planthoppers on one of the shrubs. A few wasps or perhaps hornets were foraging on the leaf surface on the same shrub as these planthoppers . Not sure if this is a Banded paper wasp (Polistes sagittarius). And this Yellow-vented hornet (Vespa analis) was seen stopping on the leaf for quite a while. I have no idea what it was trying to do. We only have four butterfly species belonging to the genus Flos and this Flos apidanus saturatus has been the most commonly seen in the nature reserves. She landed on a young leaf and slowly walked forward on the stem, looking for a spot to lay eggs.

She found it. The larva is known to have close association with ants. As you can see here the eggs were laid near some ants. If I had said it loudly ' Hi, mother Flos apidanus saturatus, don't be shy, let me see your face", pherhaps my shot would not had been obstructed.

Here is a picture of the host plant, a tall tree perhaps a Syzygium species
This Yamfly (Loxura atymnus fuconius) was shot at the water edge. A few of them, all lost their white-tipped tails, were seen sunbathing occasionally. Read more about this species here. Here is another shot that shows us a glimpse of a bright orange patch on the upperside forewing.The Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri) is quite common in some parks and our forest. Very often, it prefers to glide and perch on a leaf surface with wings fully open. My first shot of this relatively rare Colonel (Pandita sinope sinope) at USR was way back in 2005. Here was the shot taken then.This was my second encounter of this species here after four years. As usual, a very skittish guy, it preferred to stay high up most of the time.It is rather hard to spot a Dark Blue Jungle Glory (Thaumantis klugius lucipor) resting on the forest undergrowth as it blends very well with its environment. Very often its presence was noticed only when it was in flight as its very intense and magnificent metallic blue upperside surly caught our attention. The camera flash light really brought out the spectacular colours of the underside as well. I have begun to notice and shoot more species of moth in the wild since I started this blog almost a year ago. I usually have no clue of what I shot, like this one, a small moth resting underneath a leaf. But I hope one day someone will drop by here and name the species.Another Yellow-vented-hornet (vespa analias) was busy feeding on the dry fruits and the flowers of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum). Wow, at one moment as if it was staring at me.This fungus grew on a fallen tree trunk and I think the grasshopper was risking its life resting at that open and prominent position. This was my best attempt at shooting an in-flight male Orchithemis pulcherrima. Not a good shot as it was a bit too far from me. I hope to get a better shot next time. I consider this a rather fruitful outing. Let see what I will find during my next visit to USR, well, that should be at least two or three weeks later.