Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pleasant Surprises @ Seletar

It has been more than a week since my last update of the blog as I was down with flu last weekend and therefore did not go for outing. After recovery, I was eager to take a look at the Seletar site on 20 March late afternoon.

I could sense that something zipping past me and settling on the underside of a leaf in a shaded area in front of me. My instinct told me that it may be an Awl. So I approached closer to where it rested.
True enough, it was this Common Awl (Hasora badra badra) that flew past me rapidly. It has the habit of resting underneath the leaf at an awkward angle. You can imagine how frustrating I was when shooting this bugger.

It was my first encounter of this leaf-eating tortoise beetle in the field. It is such a cute little creature that most macro photographers would love to take some shots of it.

Junonia atlites atlites (Grey Pansy) is one of the four Pansy butterflies we have in Singapore. This pristine specimen was seen fluttering at low level among the weeds and grasses. I was patiently waiting and stalking, and finally it was resting with its wings fully open. I took a distant shot of another Grey Pansy when it rested on the Blechum pyramidatum (Acanthacceae family). Its fluttering behaviour appeared to be trying to lay eggs but I could not find any. I usually see butterflies laying eggs with wings folded so it might not be laying eggs at all.

This particular ground weed Blechum pyramidatum produces tiny flowers as shown in the picture and it was abundant near the entrance of the trail.
There are two look alike climbers growing well in this area, entangling with each other at certain spots. Here are the two different flowers.

This ground level vine produces attractive yellow flowers. I have not been able to find its name despite some searching on the web and books. Are your eyes sharp enough to see one blue tiny egg on the flower bud ?The other one with purplish blue flowers is the Pueraria phaseoloides (Fabaceae family) which is known to be one of the host plants of Jamides bochus nabonassar (Dark Caerulean). Indeed, I was very fortunate to get a record shot of a Dark Caerulean feeding on a flower. Wow, there was another tiny egg on a flower bud as well. It was my first sighting of this species here.Both Gram Blue and Common Caerulean were seen fluttering around these two climbers. So far the known host plant of Jamides celeno aelianus (Common Caerulean) is known to be Combretum sundaicum, a jungle plant species. So I guess there must be an alternate hostplant around here but yet to be discovered.

It was my first time getting a decent shot of this Rhyothemis Phyllis, a slow flying and beautiful big dragonfly that I would love to shoot often.When I saw a rather small and tailless Blue butterfly puddling on the ground, my first impression of that was a common butterfly, Tailless Line Blue. But the two small tornal black spots on the underside hindwings indicate that it must be something else. A pleasant surprise to me that this Petrelaea dana dana (Dingy Line Blue) was found here, a species that I have not been shooting for a long time. Another dragonfly really puzzled me. I have never seen a dragonfly having two colours on the abdomen like this before. I am still looking for its id.
This poor butterfly became the prey of a merciless robberfly . Really, this is how different species in nature fight for their survival and maintain an equilibrium.

The rich biodiversity here must be contributed by a healthy food-web in the ecosystem of this wasteland.

Apart from some common species of butterfly I always found here, I am glad that I could find something new to write about from my last outing.
The abundance of Scurrula ferruginea (Family Loranthaceae) on this patch of wasteland may give us more surprises. I am sure I will be able to shoot something new again in the future. The rich biodiversity and the beauty of this wasteland has yet to be fully discovered.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Melastoma malabathricum and Butterfly @ WWW

A few of us from ButterflyCircle visited this wild land somewhere in the Western part of Singapore on a not-so-sunny Saturday (7 March) morning.

My first shot of the day was this human face-like moth with a pair of huge eye spots on the forewings. A scary-looking low flying moth, it preferred to land in the undergrowth, showing a glimpse of prominent orange patch on its underside wings when it was in flight. I have seen this moth a few times but at the moment cannot recall where I saw the id.

The vegetation is similar to those abandoned farmland in a countryside where wild grasses, ferns, weeds and some tall trees occupy most areas. One of the most prominent shrubs we can see there is the Singapore rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum). This common wasteland shrub was abundant there with lots of attractive and showy pale purple flowers blooming, attracting quite a number of butterfly species. In fact, most of my butterfly shots were associated with this plant.

My main objective of this outing was to get some good shoots of this orange beauty Pandita sinope sinope which is not a very common butterfly. I first shot it at Upper Seletar Reservoir some years ago. I was excited when I saw quite a few of them fluttering, but ..Somehow they were not cooperative yesterday. They either perched at a high level or were just too skittish and alert, giving us little chance of getting close to them. We wished we had a high stool in the field to shoot this beauty when they were feeding high on the Melastoma. They usually rest or perch with open wings, so getting a good underside shot is therefore quite rare.

The picture below shows a snap shot of a female Colour Sergeant (Athyma nefte subrata) while she was flapping her wings gradually. Generally, Colour Sergeant likes to glide and perch along sunlit forest edges. However, it can also be found in some of our urban parks situated near a secondary forest. Out of the four Flos species that can be found in Singapore, we were indeed lucky to spot two of them on one of the Malestoma shrubs. This Flos fulgida singhapura was rather skittish at first and its presence in front of us was like a phantom. Later in the morning, it was spotted again, happily feeding on some dry fruits high on a Malestoma plant. The second Flos is this Flos apidanus saturatus, feeding quite tamely on a dry and fermented fruit on the same plant but at a lower angle. One distinctive feature of this species is the presence of a red patch in the basal region on both wings. Elymnias hypermnestra agina (Common Palmfly) is a no stranger to most of us. But we would not see a Elymnias panthera panthera (Tawny Palmfly) frequently. This pristine Tawny Palmfly liked to hang itself in this manner to feed, allowing some of us to shoot with a clear background. Again, this male Scare Silverstreak butterfly with a very feminine and elegant scientific name Irota rochana bosewelliana also fed on dry fruits above my eye level. It's a pity that the hindwing is slightly torn but the glimpse of the blue upperside gives us the clue that this is a male.There were many butterfly species spotted at this undeveloped site. Here are other not-so-common butterfly species that I spotted.
1. Semanga superba deliciosa
2. Surendra vivarna amisena (Acacia Blue)
3. Papilio demolion demolion (Banded Swallowtail)
4. Tanaecia iapis puseda (Horsfield's Baron)
5. Euthalia monina monina (Malay Baron)

Perhaps I was too engrossed in stalking and hunting the P. sinope, I didn't really encounter many other small creatures. Only two non-butterfly shots.

This dragonfly, looks like a female Neurothemis fluctuans, landed in front of me, inviting me to take a few shots of it. I couldn't resist taking a closer look at this cute and tiny leaf beetle (?) wandering on a white Common Asystasia flower. It was a fruitful day for me though I did not have many good shots to bring home. I think this piece of wild land has very rich fauna diversity, waiting to be discovered.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Attractive Plants @ Punggol

This post records my sightings during two short outings in the late morning on 14 Feb and 28 Feb.

It was very hot and dry in the whole of January and early February this year. On both outings, I could not find any caterpillar nor the adult of No Brand Grass Yellow (Eurema brigitta senna) . Most of the host plants Cassia mimosoides had dried up like this.
It was a big relief for nature lovers like us that the dry spell ended this week with heavy down pours on most afternoons in the last few days.

Once again, I checked out the area yesterday late morning - though still no sign of the Yellow, at least I could see a few smaller plants growing quite well. This Yellow species is highly vulnerable now.

I guess the rains in the past few afternoons did "induce" the plants to flower. From far, the striking yellow inflorescence and the flower buds (?) of this peltophorum pterocarpum (Yellow Flame ) caught my attention immediately. Almost the whole tree was covered with flowers and buds, an absolutely magnificent scene we will not see often.

Here is a close-up view of the yellow blooming flowers and buds. No surprise to me, the flowers attracted many insects.

One hardworking butterfly, Delias hyparete metarete (Painted Jezebel) was seen on the tree top, enjoying a good meal of nectar.

We would never miss the big and buzzing Carpenter Bee in the wild. At least three individuals were flying around the tree and diligently picking up nectar.

A few other species of bees and wasps were there too, busy foraging for nectar among the flowers. Ths one looks like a female Scoliid wasp.

Shooting an in-flight insect is never easy, so this is one of my best attempts out of at least a dozen of blur shots. This skipper Potanthus omaha omaha suddenly zipped past me from nowhere and landed on the flowers in front of me There are a few vines growing very well on this wasteland despite the harsh weather in the past few weeks. One of them is this Cucumis maderaspatanus.It is amazing that such a small flower of this vine from the Cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae) produces attractive fruit as big as a cherry tomato.

Another vine from the Cucurbitaceae family is this Coccinia grandis (Ivy gourd) which produces edible fruits.

I am not sure if I want to eat the fruit, shaped line a miniature melon in the wild but obviously some other animals like it very much. Just like other Hoverfly, this species was found hovering slowly at the ground level, perching on twigs or feeding on flowers. I was lucky that the wings stayed wide open when I took the shot.
I guess this dragonfly is Potamarcha congener (?). Wow, quite a number of them near the entrance to the trail. On the same twig, there was another dragonfly. It is less bluish on the body. I wonder if this is a female or the juvenile or an entirely different species. Please let me know the answer. [Note : Yong San confirmed that this is a female. Thanks]Saw this wasp at the sandy area, not sure what it was trying to do. Accordng to John, this is a digger wasp, possibly a Bembix species.Very few butterfly species were spotted on both days. Nevertheless, I was considered lucky enough to shoot a female Euchrysops cnejus cnejus (Gram Blue) laying an egg on a dry seed pod of its host plant Macroptilium lathyroides (read related post) When I took a closer look at the plant, I found another late instar cat being attended to by some Karanga ants. Lastly, a Robberfly was resting on a grass blade under the sun in a windy afternoon.