Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Casual Morning Walk In The Nature Reserve

I cannot remember when was the last time I walked on this trail in the water catchment area so you know I have not been visiting this part of our forest for a long time.

There were few insect activities in the first hour but with the cool air and the occasionally bird singing, I did not feel disappointed as I really enjoyed the fresh air and the morning breeze in a soothing forest ambiance.

Ionolyce helicon (Pointed Line Blue) is not very common . The hindwing apex is quite pointed and its almost straight terman can also be the characteristic that we use to differentiate this species from other similar-looking Blues.
This guy was quite tame in the early morning, perching on the Pitchfork fern (Dicranopteris curranii) as if it was looking at the trail and greeting the joggers.

Elymnias hypermnestra agina (Common Palmfly) is a common butterfly that can be found both in the urban parks , forest edges or trails. Not a strong-flying butterfly, it usually flies a short distance and settles on a leaf top with both wings closed. I was not presented any chance of shooting its upperside wings which show purplish-blue patches when in flight. Usually a very skittish bugger, we can get close and shoot this bugger only when it was feeding

I spotted yet another White Royal (Pratapa deva relata) along the trail. The host plant is quite abundant and some eggs and empty egg shells were found on the underside of the leaves. It is never easy to identify a brown skipper from a field shot like this, especially when the markings seem to be fading.However, some white dots on the upperside of the forewings can be seen in this shot. Perhaps these markings may be useful for someone to identify the species. I was wondering why this moth was "hanging" at this strange position and motionless when I went very near to it. I only realised it was dead when I viewed this shot on my camera's screen. Take a closer look at this shot, you should know who the murderer was.
This red dragonfly liked to perch on a Coat Buttons (Tridax procumbens ) flower and it kept coming back to the same perch - a common behaviour of many dragonflies. I could not find a good match from Hung Bun's Singapore Odonata website.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some Flying Jewels In Our Nature Reserves

White Royal ( Pratapa deva relata) was first sighted near an urban park more than two years ago. Since then this relatively rare Lycaenid was occasionally spotted at a few places including the central catchment area. An excellent account of its life history can be found on ButterflyCircle's blog here .A few White Royal came down to tease us intermittently on 11 Apr. Most of them appeared near its host plant for a short while before went hiding again at the canopy level. Fortunately, there were two very cooperative and tame individuals which offered us plenty of shooting opportunities .

Its larval host plant Scurrula ferrugineahe belongs to the family Loranthaceae which comprises mainly aerial parasitic plants termed mistletoes. I noticed that Scurrula ferrugineahe seems to prefer Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) as its host.
Spindasis lohita senama (Long-Banded Silverline) is another flying beauty that always entices butterfly photographers spending hours chasing it. The silvery streaks on the reddish brown patches of both wings make this species unique and attractive.
I was caught off-guard when it suddenly appeared in front of me while I was shooting the White Royal. It flew off so quickly that I didn't have time for a second shot. The place here was not its usual habitat that I know of. No wonder it fled away rapidly from the territory belonging to the White Royal .

Eooxylides tharis distanti (Branded Imperial) is a beautiful shade-loving butterfly with a pair of white long tails. Being our permanent resident in our nature reserves, sometimes we can find them in good numbers. Its flight pattern appears to be “hopping” around with a rather slow speed. After a short distance, it tends to settle down on the upper side of the leaf in a shade. A magnificent flying jewel, Pathysa antiphates itamputi (Five Bar Swordtail) is a forest butterfly. On a sunny day, we may find a low-flying male testing the ground and ultimately puddling on a moist forest trail. When it is puddling, the attractive pale orange and light green colour combinations making up the patterns of the underside hindwings, the forewing black patches, the marginal markings and a pair of long and slender sword-like tails, together make this beautiful forest winged-gem standing out against the background.
It is always a big bonus for us if we can have a picture of a Five Bar perching on a leaf. I was indeed very lucky to spot and shoot this guy resting on a fern.
This small dark brown skipper with a few white dots on the underside of both wings is Iambrix salsala salsala (Chestnut Bob). A rather common skipper which can be found in grassy areas near the forest fringe, Chestnut Bob likes to feed on small flowers in the early morning.This beautiful red fruit was found in a shady part of the forest. I am really poor at identifying forest trees and plants. It is time for me to get some reference books on plants. [Note : this may be Sterculia coccinea belonging to Malvaceae family]

Friday, April 10, 2009

Puddling Butterflies in Our Nature Reserves

It was a lovely cool Good Friday morning. Taking advantage of this public holiday, I ventured into our Central Catchment area. My first shot of the morning was this docile Hypolimnas anomala anomala (Malayan Eggfly). It was perching elegantly on a grass blade, overlooking a valley of greenery without noticing my presence.
Malayan Eggfly is rather common and it can be found near forest fringe.
Along the same stretch of the forest trail, I accidentally intruded the privacy of these two flies. This stink bug (?) with a long feeler was hiding underneath a grass blade. The head section looks rather unique to me.
Mikania micrantha (mile-a-minute) (Family Asteraceae/Compositae) is an invasive climbing weed that grows in open grounds and the edge of the forest. This noxious weed is usually not welcome by gardeners but insects in the wild love it so much.

On my return trip, I bumped into some puddling butterflies. I saw two Graphium sarpedon luctatius (Common Bluebottle) puddling on the ground. Trying to vary my shots, I tilted my camera to create a diagonal composition for this shot. A very attractive butterfly, Common Bluebottle is a strong and fast-flyer. On a sunny day, we could see them speeding past you at the ground level along forest trails.
Like Common Bluebottle, Graphium evemon eventus (Blue Jay) is another strong flyer which likes to puddle, sucking the minerals from the moist ground. They share similar habits and enjoy good company between them when come to puddling.
Another common forest denizen, male Vidula dejone erotella (Cruiser) has the habit of flapping its wings slowly while puddling.

Male Cruiser can be easily identified as both the upper and underside of the wings are orange in colour with wavy black markings along the margin. Female Cruiser looks very different from the male and is rarer.

Doleschallia bisaltide australis (Autumn Leaf) is very strong on the wing . This shot shows the subspecies australis which was not recorded by local butterfly watchers in the early days. It has become a very common species in the wild. Usually a very skittish and alert butterfly species, Catopsilia pomona pomona (Lemon Emigrant) can be found both in the forest and urban areas. There was an explosion of Prosotas nora superdates (Common Line Blue). On one particular spot along the bicycle trail in our nature reserves, there was at least a dozen of them puddling and fluttering near the ground.
This small and adorable black and white butterfly is Caleta elna elvira (Elbowed Pierrot). It is usually found fluttering erratically close to the forest trails. The size of this Prosotas dubiosa lumpura (Tailless Line Blue) is about the same as the Common Line Blue but the underside wings are more brownish grey. This is a very common species that can be found in abundance in urban parks as well.When in flight, the intense blue patches appear on the upperside of the male Acytolepis puspa lambi (Common Hedge Blue) is beautiful. A fond puddler, the male sometimes can get "drunk" by the minerals on the wet ground.
Eurema blanda snelleni (Three Spot Grass Yellow) usually congregates and puddles in a group when they are in good number. With patience I managed to isolate and shoot one of them.
Found this huge dragonfly, the largest I have seen, almost drowned in a stream. I used a twig to lift it up from the water and let it rest on a sand pile . If flew off a few minutes later.
I have no idea what this species is.

A few minutes later, another similar looking and fast-flying huge dragonfly appeared from nowhere and started laying eggs.

It would have been a better Good Friday if the weather had not turned bad in the early afternoon. Anyway, it was still a very fruitful outing for me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Somewhere Near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Quite often I could easily spot orange or brown skippers in the morning whenever I passed by grass patch along forest edges in our nature reserves. However, this was not so on 4 Apr morning. The only skipper I saw was this brown Pelopidas mathias mathias (Small Branded Swift) which was spotted napping in a shade.
Saw quite a number of lycaenid butterflies fluttering at the ground level. The ground was rather dry and these Blues were alert and did not puddle for long, not giving us many good chances of shooting them. I need luck and patience to get a decent shot like this picture of Nacaduba berenice icena (Rounded Six-Line Blue). At one particular moment it was quite tame and our butterfly master Khew was able to make it resting on his finger. I overheard Khew explaining to Roy and Jane the purpose of the tornal orange-crowned spots on the hindwing .
This Hypolycaena erylus teatus (Common Tit) was puddling on a tarred road and it really tested our endurance of the pain when we were shooting from the prone position on the stony road. Saw this Miletus biggsii biggsii (Biggs's Brownie) fluttering erratically from shade to shade. I had to be very patiently following its flight paths and kept this bugger in my sight. It took me a while focusing on this bugger before it finally settled on a leaf. Shooting without an external flash, I was quite satisfied to get some shots at a slow speed of 1/60 second.
Neopithecops zalmora zalmora (The Quaker) is a rather small butterfly- slightly more than the size of our five-cent coin. It is usually found in the shady area of the forest trails. It has a distinctive black spot on the hindwing below near the costar margin. This species can be quite seasonal and it is not a very common butterfly. Quite often whenever I saw Prosotas dubiosa lumpura (Tailless Line Blue) , this species always appear in a good number. I guess this poor Tailless Line Blue has to endure the irritation of the presence of a red flea on its head.Other butterfly species I spotted :

Here are some non-butterfly shots. This planthopper was seen in a shade under a thick canopy. I wonder what its name is.
I think this is a fly rather small in size.
I like to include some shots on plants to have a balance between the "yin and yang". This foilage plant (Aglaonema species ?) with very attractive fruits (?)was abundant and growing very well on the shady forest ground.

A promising hunting ground for butterflies and other insects, I will certainly like to explore this part of the nature reserve again in the future.