Friday, July 31, 2009

Who Love Mikania micrantha @ LT ?

I was awaken by a pre-dawn thunder storm on 25 July. Knowing that the weather did not favour me to go out for my usual weekend hunting, thanks and no thanks to the gloomy sky, I had this rare occasion of working in front of a computer on an early Saturday morning, updating this blog (about my outing on 18 July). The moment I saw the first ray of sunlight piercing through the clouds and the emergence of a clear sky around 10 plus, I packed my gears and within 30 minutes I was on Lornie Trail (LT).

The morning showers had indeed energized the forest a great deal. I could sense that the forest was teeming with life manifested in various forms : birds singing, cicada songs and a good variety of creatures foraging . The air was purer and refreshingly cooler and everyone who was jogging or walking past me exuded a high spirit.

Near the reservoir edge, there were some flowering Mikania micrantha (mile-a-minute) which attracted quite a number of insects. This Pyroneura latoia latoia (Yellow Vein Lancer) is a common forest skipper. We always found them in the early hours feeding on flowers.
I noticed this large and very unusual wasp which has a section of a long and slender abdomen, feeding high up on the flowers. It refused to come down and I had no choice but to take a few record shots afar. This is another small insect with a cute yellow head. I am not sure what this is.
This is a kind of Scoliid wasp. Quite a number of them were seen visiting the flowers and feeding on the nectar. Two male Cruisers (Vidula dejone erotella ) were seen feeding voraciously on the flowers. I was delighted when I noticed a female was hovering high on tree-top. It has been a long time since I last shot a female so I decided to wait for her to come down. My patience paid off but she never gave me an easy time to photograph her as she kept flapping her wings while feeding. I blasted off many shots and this was the only presentable shot. Female Cruiser is rarer and she generally prefers to stay at forest canopy level. Here is an underside shot. So a good diversity of insect species were attracted by the flowers of Mikania micrantha. I love to see all these little flying beauties visiting and fluttering amongst the flowers as watching them feeding and pollinating the flowers so diligently and graciously would liven up my day.

Wild flowers and perhaps some weeds as well are absolutely essential for making our forest more vibrant and habitable for our many wonderful creatures.

I will write about my other encounters along the reservoir boardwalk in my next blog article.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Morning Walk - In the Forest

This is the continuation from my previous post. After a long walk along the forest fringe behind some private houses, I finally knew where I was and I decided to enter the forest via a shady and narrow trail.

It is difficult to spot Thaumantis klugius lucipor (Dark Blue Jungle Glory) because it blends so well with is preferred habitat which is the forest floor. Its presence can be noticed by its intense blue upperside when it made a short flight from one spot to another. The thorns on some fallen rattans prevented me from going nearer and lowering myself to shoot this magnificent jungle glory.I was caught by surprise when a Lesser Harlequin ( Laxita thuisto thuisto) suddenly perched in front of me. Lesser Harlequin is a relatively rare and very pretty member of the Riodinidae family. A shade-loving forest species, it tends to make short distance hopping flights from leaf to leaf, usually settling on upperside of the leaf and turning around with it's wings half opened. However, this one was different. It stayed still for a few seconds with both wings closed but at an undesirable angle for me to get good shots. Along a side trail leading to the main forest path, there were quite a number of black insects crossed my path. This tiny red-and-black beetle looks rather adorable but having a good shot of it was a huge challenge as focusing on such a small creature under a low light condition really made my lens work extremely hard. Here is another slightly bigger black beetle with a pair of long yellow antennae. It was found foraging on a leaf surface. That orange layer looks rather strange to me. I was not surprised to spot different species of beetles in my past outings because there are a lot more species of beetles than any other insects in the world. This looks like a Micropezid fly, a very common resident in our forest. I always found it stretching its front legs outwards in the field. Does anyone know the purpose of doing so ? The Arhopala genus contains many look-alike species. Identifying them by photographs is quite impossible. This shot taken along the main forest trail may be a Tailed Disc Oakblue (Arhopala atosia malayana ) or another different species ? We need someone to study these species closely.

This attractive red wild flower was found along the forest fringe before I entered the shady forest. Not sure what this is.

Needless to say, we would see a lot more interesting fauna species in the forest compared to forest fringes. Apart from the many different and diverse plant species in the forest, the interactions between the different ecosystems or habitats at the forest canopy layer, the shrub and herb layer, the understory and the forest floor also account for the rich fauna diversity in our tropical forests.Let's us play our part to protect and preserve our small but unique and precious forest in our natural Central Catchment areas.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Morning Walk - Along a Forest Fringe

I alighted at the bus stop outside Venus Drive on a fine Saturday morning (18 July). I was fully prepared to take a long trek into the Ranger's Station at Sime Forest. But somehow I was attracted by a row of blooming Common Asystasia flowers along the forest fringe and decided to take a look. Wow, quite a number of insects were busy feeding on the flowers. Subsequently, I ended up at the same place where I visited recently.

This is a cuckoo bee, a Thyreus species according to John. Though I saw it many times in the field but I have never got a chance to get a shot as it was always skittish and hyper-active. This was my first record shot of this bee species. I vow to get a better shot next time and let John to determine if we have other similar species here.
This Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala ) risked its life by inserting its head into the flower's tube-shaped fused corolla to sip nectar. You can imagine the outcome if there was a spider hiding inside. I just wonder why didn't it use its long proboscis ? This looks like a nymph of a cricket. It remained stationary on the flower for quite a while. Not sure what it was trying to do.
This is common carpenter bee Xylocopa confusa. It was buzzing from flower to flower, collecting nectar diligently and pollinating the flowers at the same time. Not an easy subject for photography, it was just too mobile and acrobatic on the flowers.
This dragonfly really loved to perch on the grass blade despite I disturbed it a few times, hoping it would perch on a twig or something that I could shoot with a clean background. According to Tang, this is an immature male of Orthetrum luzonicum.This female was much more cooperative and it came back to the same perch a few times, allowing me to get quite a number of shots in a breezy condition. Tang has identified this as a female Trithemis festiva which is less frequently seen compared to the male. She was so tame that I could even get a close-up shot of the head. Dragonfly's head has biting mouthparts and a pair of large compound eyes.
I have never seen such a small fly before. If not its reflective wings under the morning sun, I would have missed it. In the field, it was difficult to notice its beautiful colours of the head and body.
It was my first time trekking along this stretch of the forest fringe. I didn't meet any jogger or cyclist so I wondered where I would end up at. Finally, I came to a familiar place which I visited quite frequently where I found two Hypolimnas anomala anomala (Malayan Eggfly). This pristine female was puddling on the tarred road.
This is form nivas which is rarer and different from the above shot. Pity that the forewing was a bit torn.
A solitary male Cruiser (Vidula dejone erotella ) was found perching and resting on a leaf, occasionally sunbathing with his wings fully opened. I have not seen and photographed a female for a very long time. If he were a she, it would really make my day.
It has been a busy and hectic week for me at my work place so I have not been diligent in writing and updating this blog. I will feature some not very common buttefly species that I shot in the forest from this particular outing in my next post.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Short Outing to Punggol Wasteland

My last visit to this wasteland was more than two months ago (see here). On a early Saturday (11 July) morning, I made a short outing there. I was quite glad to see that the massive earthwork nearby has not reached this wasteland yet. But we all know it is a matter of time.

Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera which is characterized by having a hardened pair of forewings that cover and protect the functional membranous pair of hindwings. This light brown beetle with its orange tip antennae sticking out was found foraging on a grass blade.This looks like a Squash Bug belonging to the order Hemiptera -insects with piercing and sucking mouthparts. It stayed quite still for quite a while and loved embracing the tip of a leaf.I know this is a kind of crab spider. Beyond that I can't tell you anything. I find that human face-like abdomen really interesting and cute. It stayed motionless on the leaf waiting for its first prey of the day. The number of No Brand Glass Yellow (Eurema brigitta senna) butterfly has dwindled a lot, only two or perhaps three individuals were sighted. I was fortunate to be able to shoot this female trying to lay egg on the host plant, Chamaecrista mimosoides. The tall and fast growing Lalang grass has started to dominate the area. This groumd level creeper which I featured before in my early post with trifoliate leaves which are a-bit-rounded was quite abundant. But not many flowers were seen. The purplish blue flowers are rather small and cute. With reference to Plant Observatory, this wild creeper may be Calopogonium mucunoides. I suspect this is Ludwigia hyssopifolia (Family : Onagraceae) which was about 1 m tall near the entrance of the trail. Each small but attractive yellow flower has 4 sepals and 4 petals. I didn't realise there was this tiny beetle-like insect on the petal moving towards the stamens. Here is another shot which shows the leafs.
This is another wild flower which I have not seen and shot before . Growing at the sandy area, this small and short plant produces tiny and pretty yellow flower on top of each main stem. I wonder what this plant is.

Next time, I may want to capture the beauty of the wild scenery around this area just like Samuel did for Lorong Halus. However, due to the constraint of my camera lens, I hope Samuel or someone can come to this place to capture the natural beauty that this place has presented to us before it is lost completely and permanently.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Loving Couples @ Central Catchment

In order to pass a book to Horace, I arranged to meet him for an lunch-time outing to our nature reserves on 7 July, hoping to tap on his luck and acumen in the field to spot or shoot some rare butterfly species that were found around the area . As I reached there early, I checked around the forest fringes.

Mating is animal’s instinct to prolong their existence by producing sufficient number of offspring. This Common Four Ring (Ypthima huebneri) was caught in this intimate position. They were rather shy and flew away whenever I came close to them. My first sighting of this black moth which has some greenish-white spots on the upperside wings. It stayed very still for me to take a few shots until I was attracted by another highly acrobatic and loving couple nearby.
Photographing any mating damsel and dragonflies could be quite challenging. I believe this couple is Orthetrum testaceum. They were very sensitive to movement. In this photograph, the female attaches the tip of her abdomen to the base of the male’s abdomen to receive the sperm and she secures herself by using her legs to clasp the abdomen of the male while the last segment of the male's abdomen resting on the female's head. I also noticed that the male did the flying all the time.

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the insect order Odonata. It is characterized by the adults having two pairs of membranous wings which are divided into many cells by a fine and delicate network of veins.

Here is another shot when the couple decided to take a short rest on a grass blade at my eye level. This pristine Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana ) was sunbathing in the early morning. Occasionally it was quite lethargic on a perch like this, inviting me to take a few shots.There were a few tall and hardy Costus Speciosus around the forest edge. This attractive sun-loving native plant with large and showy white flowers not only has horticultural values, its rhizome is edible and believed to have some medicinal uses.

These shots here were taken before Horace's arrival at around noon. Shortly after we went into the forest, the dark clouds and the rain drops gave us clear signals that we had to abandon our outing. What a disappointing day !

Was it a prelude to the El Nino effect or something amiss has been brewing for our weather ? The weather on most days last week was rather abnormal and erratic – not the usual scorching heat and high humidity that we would expect for the month of July and a sunny morning could turn into a pea-soup day in a matter of a few minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Grand Species @ Central Catchment Area

It was a sunny Saturday morning. I met up with Yong San and went to this relatively less-travelled forest trail somewhere in the northern part of our nature reserves.

You would agree with me that Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) is a very attractive butterfly. It was found resting underneath a fern at knee level. A forest denizen, Malay Lacewing could be seen visiting flowers on a sunlit day. The absence of some submarginal white spots on the underside hindwing distinguish it from the other Lacewing species in Singapore. BC blog has an excellent article on its life history.

Another forest species, Mycalesis fusca fusca (Malayan Bush Brown) was hopping above my eye level. Though it was far from pristine, I still took some shots as I have not photographed it for a long time. The very distinctive and pretty ochreous undersides were different from other Mycalesis species found in Singapore.
I spotted quite a few Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites atlites) at two different locations in the past two weeks. This one was not so lucky as it was caught and found dead in a spider web. At least another two individuals were frolicking near a stream in the vicinity. Though not a very pristine specimen, this "grand" and rare Neocheritra amrita amrita(Grand Imperial) butterfly was definitely our catch of the day. My second sighting of this long-tailed beauty at the same location, it always perched underneath the leaf, giving us a hard time getting a better shot. It took off a few times whenever we approached it closer. Here is another shot from the other side of the wings. Though these two shots were far from good, I was quite happy as these shots were better then what I had shot sometime ago.
I always feel quite helpless in identifying an orange skipper. Really, without seeing its upperside markings, one can never be sure of the species.
According to Yong San, this is a male Orchithemis pulcherrima and it has different colour forms. The blue form can be found here. I feel quite disappointed at times when I could not identify a dragon or damselfly from Tang's website .I found this small beetle resting on the edge of a palm leaf. There was a bit of motion blur in the shot as I was shooting with one hand holding the camera and the other hand flicking the leaf over.I think these were wild mushrooms growing on moist ground. They scattered around and really looked nice in groups among the green grasses.

I guess this is a kind of tree frog. I shot it once many years ago along the same trail. It stayed very still until I "reset" its position in order to get a brighter background but it responded by showing me a few frog jumps into the undergrowth.

Other not-so-common butterfly species sighted :

1. Chersonesia peraka peraka (Little Maplet)
2. Poritia sumatrae sumatrae (Sumatran Gem)
3. Sinthusa nasaka amba (Narrow Spark)