Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Lucky Encounter at AHBT on 23 May

I can't remember when was the last time I visited Alexandra Hospital Butterfly Trail (AHBT). I decided to drop by AHBT before going to the new Hortpark Butterfly Enclosure on 23 May. I reached AHBT around 8 : 30 am. The whole place was rather quiet. I guessed most of the butterflies were still not awake, waiting for the sun to warm them up.

At last , when the first morning rays pierce through the canopy, this Euthalia aconthea gurda (Baron) appeared and gave me some shooting opportunities. It was busy feeding all over the place, on the grass, on the wood and puddling on the ground.
This female Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus) was spotted resting under the shade. Common Mormon is quite a big and common butterfly which can be found in both the urban and forested areas. The female has two different forms. This female is of the form polytes which mimics the unpalatable Pachliopta aristolochiae asteris (Common Rose).

Before I left for Hortpark, I saw this Doleschallia bisaltide australis (Autumn Leaf) caterpillar kept moving its front part of its body on its host plant, Common Asystasia. When I approached closer, I realised that it was in the process of moulting. Wow, I was really lucky to see this in the wild. This was my first shot at 9:28:43. Next shot was taken at 9:29:24. The caterpillar appeared to be quite disturbed, moving its body both in the transverse and longitudinal directions.
The movement of the caterpillar was quite profound. In this shot, the front part of its body was bended inwards. The shot was taken at 9:30:20..

However, shortly after this, the body of the caterpillar was observed to move mildly and mainly in the longitudinal direction, pushing the old skin backwards. The following shot was taken at 9:30:49. The new head capsule was white in colour instead of bluish black initially.
This was shot at 9:31:36 . The old skin was almost reaching the rare. I realised that a small wasp was lurking near the caterpillar. Not sure if this tiny wasp would invade and harm the caterpillar. Next shot was taken at 9:32:53. A caterpillar molts a few times before it turns into a pupa. After each molt it becomes bigger. Finally, the caterpillar put on a new skin at 9:37:41 and it remained motionless for a while.
A close-up shot of the the newly moulted head.
Moulting is a part-and-parcel biological process in which the immature insects shedding off their outer body covering (in butterfly and moth, the exoskeleton) so that they can grow further in size.

I left Hortpark around 1 pm. After lunch, a few of us went to AHBT again to hunt for butterfly species. I looked for the same caterpillar and I noticed that the caterpillar's head had turned into the usual dark blue colour.

This was a female Lebadea martha parkeri (The Knight), a butterfly that can be found in some urban parks and forest trails in the nature reserves. On the upperside of the forewing, the female does not have prominent white apical patches and the V-shaped discal white band.
Alexandra Hospital Butterfly Trail (AHBT) is where I started my learning journey of butterfly photography and butterfly appreciation.

I remember it was 19 June 2004, a lovely Saturday morning. After attended a talk given by Mr Khew at the AH Conference Room and the practice session, I was infected with the “Butterfly Flu” and it lasts till today.

I remember there were many “Tigers” then. This was one of the Danaus melanippus hegesippus (Black Veined Tiger) shots taken with the Minolta Z3, my very first digital point-and-shoot camera. I went back to AHBT quite often during my early days of photographing butterflies. I still have fond memories of some of us chasing the Leopard, Common Birdwing and Common Imperial as well as a newly eclosed Common Rose there.

Time flies and many new developments have taken place. Very soon, Alexandra Hospital will be re-located to Yishun. Let's hope that AHBT will remain as it is - a very accessible and popular shooting ground for butterfly and macro photographers.


  1. Glad that talk I gave at AH made a difference to you! It's been five years already?!? And now you're a senior and veteran photographer at ButterflyCircle. Keep up the good work with your blog!

  2. Yes, thanks for your inspiring talk. You and other long-serving senior members of BC in the past few years have helped me to appreciate and learn - from knowing nothing about butterfly to knowing something and of course still feeling inadequate in this fascinating field of knowledge and many areas of butterfly photography.

  3. Wow... Nice articles, Fed!
    Too bad I can't write, but I have added your blog into my Flying Jewels ( blog (if you don't mind) :)

    Looking forward for more articles from you.


  4. Thanks Bobby.
    Who say you can't write ? You have got some very good write-ups in your blog.
    So long as time permits, I will continue to blog but the challenge is how to make it interesting and informative.