Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flora and Fauna@Toa Payoh Sensory Park (Part 1)

A 1.1 hectare neighbourhood park, Toa Payoh Sensory Park is first of its kind in Singapore. It was constructed at a cost of $3.5 million dollars by the Housing Development Board (HDB) (see here). The location and layout plan is shown below.
This specially designed park is equipped with facilities for all ages : jogging track, playground, exercise corners and a sensory garden to rejuvenate our five senses. Someone has posted a video on Youtube (See here).
Among many flowers we can find in this park, these two varieties of Passiflora flowers are my favorites - they are simply gorgeous and magnificent when they are in full bloom.
Apart from the many different varieties of colourful and showy flowers in the park, I could see many honey bees (Apis cerana ? ) buzzing around. These bees were visiting flowers and collecting pollens diligently. Do you know these flowers ?
Leave the bees alone and just watch them at work, they are not aggressive and certainly not a threat to human beings at all.

Here is a shot of another bee species collecting pollens from the flowers of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) which were abundant in the Sensory Garden.
One good thing about this Sensory Garden is that we can learn the names of all the herbs and culinary plants grown here.
This Stainer bug (Dysdercus cingulatus ?) was seen on the leaves of Lady's Finger (Abelmoschus esculentus). Not sure if it has eaten up the leaves.
I got a glimpse of its underside as well.
Guess what flower it is. I was lucky to encounter this light yellow showy Lady's Finger flower.
During my third visit there in two weeks since its openning in early August, I began to see more insect species. This day-flying moth was resting at a high angle, offering me a unique opportunity for shooting its underside.
In Part 2, I will feature other flora and fauna that can be found in this wonderful neighbourhood park.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

NBGY is Still Safe @ Punggol

It has been a week since the ground-breaking ceremony on the construction of a 4.9 km Punggol Promenade (a map can be found here ) on 15 Aug (see here). I am quite anxious and curious to know what has happened to this wasteland. So on a blue-sky sunny Saturday morning (22 Aug) I was once again checking out and roaming on this no-man's land alone. Apart from the patch of grassland running parallel to the Sungei Serangoon that has been cleared, the rest of the wasteland is still untouched. I have mentioned a few times in this blog that this wasteland is home to a newly discovered butterfly, the No Brand Grass Yellow (Eurema brigitta senna), NBGY in short. I am delighted to write here that I spotted at least half a dozen females fluttering around the host plants, busy laying eggs. Yes, we are all aware that the NBGY is vulnerable here, we certainly will help this species finding a new home. This beautiful damselfly Ceriagrion cerinorubellum was usually found in our nature reserves. So spotting it here was indeed a pleasant surprise for me. Another dragonfly was found resting at the ground level often. It looks like a female Diplacodes trivialis which I have shot at the same place before. I think this is a Lacewing belonging to the order Neuroptera. Lacewing has a pair of long antennae and two pairs of membranous and intricately veined wings, quite similar to dragonflies, except that the wings are folded to form an arch over the body when it is at rest. Katydid was usually well camouflaged with the foliage. However, this bugger was risking its life by exposing itself on a twig, the vast contrast allowing me to spot it easily and take a few shots. From far, I thought it was a Common Tiger (Danaus genutia genutia) in flight as I have seen it many times here. However when it perched on a flowering shrub (yet to identify it), I realised it was a male Black Veined Tiger (Danaus melanippus hegesippus). While he kept flapping his wings, I took a quick open-winged shot. Though it was a very torn specimen, I was delighted to post here, appending the list of butterfly species that were found in this wasteland.
This male Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei) was trying to puddle on the sandy ground under the hot sun - very skittish and did not stay long on the ground. As the sunlight was direct and very harsh, I had to take this shot without the flash.
I could only manage the upperwing shot of this rather large orange skipper feeding on the flowers of Spermacoce prostrata.There were many hover flies like this hovering at low level, perching from flower to flower. The brilliant yellow flowers of the Yellow Flame tree (peltophorum pterocarpum) which I wrote about before attracted a few carpenter bees (Xylocopa latipes ).
While developing new communal facilities for the residents, we should also treasure and preserve the wildlife there especially the very localised and the less common species. It is my hope that we record the flora and fauna before the whole habitat is wiped out by the construction work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tiny Beauties @ UPR

I went outing with BJ to Upper Peirce Reservoir (UPR) on a slightly hazy Saturday morning. Soon after we arrived at the Casurina Prata shop, the weather became cloudy and it started drizzling. Thanks to the drizzle, we were able to savour our food and tea slowly , my second round of breakfast in the prata shop. The sky cleared up eventually and we were on our hunting ground.

My very first shot of the morning was this black ant (Polyrhachis sp ?), quite large in size, roaming alone on a leaf.
This is a male Tyriobapta torrida which had the tendency to come back and rest on the tree trunk. The female seemed to exhibit the same behaviour - often resting on the tree trunk. The tree bark really provides her with good camouflage from any predators.This magnificent male Trithemis aurora, frequently perching and resting on top of a twig or stem with both wings depressing downwards is one of my favourite macro subjects. Its purplish pink thorax and abdomen really looks strikingly beautiful in the field. This is a female dragonfly which was shot around the same place as the male Trithemis aurora. But it does not look like a female of T. aurora. I am not sure what species this dragonfly is, perhaps a juvenile too. During outings, if there were no butterflies and other conspicuous critters for me to photograph, I looked for small critters. With a bit more concentration on small creatures, I could spot many little and cute beauties in nature.

I guess this is a beetle resting on a Wild Cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners) leaf.But its side view does not look like a beetle. What exactly is this little cutie ? My first impression of this small red beetle with a shiny body shell was a little circular "red dot" moving along the edge of a leaf. Not sure if it has eaten up part of the leaf. I usually saw Tiger beetles hunting for their preys on sandy ground. They were not easy subjects for macro-photography. However, I was lucky spotting this one flew past me and landed just a few metres in front of me. Not only the body, the colouration on the legs look attractive as well.
I used to ignore flies because they looked either too tiny or unattractive compared to butterflies. Since I started recording my fauna sightings on this blog, I have begun to pay attention to flies and other small insects as well. Now, I realise that there are a great varieties of fly in the forest. For example, I have never seen this small fly before. This Dark Brand Bush Brown was the only butterfly shot I took on the day when many butterflies seemed to go on mass hiding. It does not matter there are a lot lesser butterflies for me to photograph these days. I have started to train my eyes (my mind as well) to look for eggs, larvae and other tiny beauties in our nature which have always been neglected.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Short Afternoon Walk in CCA

Of course, 9 Aug is a special day for Singapore and Singaporeans, our National Day. This day is also the Birth Day of Butterfly Lodge at Oh' Farms. We had a simple but memorable 1st anniversary celebration in the evening, lasted a few hours (see here).

Bearing in mind that I had to be at Butterfly Lodge in the evening , so, I decided to go for a short outing to the Central Catchment Area (CCA) in the afternoon after lunch.

I took a leisure walk along a forest fringe leading to Upper Peirce Reservoir (of course I didn't reach there). I was all alone throughout my 2-hour of walking on a quiet and tranquil forest path. This tailess Arhopala species was abundant again. It looks like a Arhopala major major though I cannot be 100% sure because there are quite a few highly similar species that can be found in our forest.
There were not many insect activities on a generally fine Sunday afternoon. This small plant bug (?) was shot in the shade with a low shutter's speed.
It looked like a three-headed alien to me on my camera's viewfinder after I took a shot of this strange creature above my eye level. When I pulled the branches down, I realised that it looked more like a grasshopper nymph to me.
It was another quiet outing for me on this stretch of forest trail. Before I headed for Bah Soon Pah Road where the Butterfly Lodge is situated, I encountered two fast-flying Lycaenids in the bushes where the climber Pueraria phaseoloides was abundant. With part of the intense metallic blue upperside wings exposed when they were in flight, I knew they were Dark Caerulean (Jamides bochus nabonassar).
Recently, SC, one of the veteran member of ButterflyCircle (BC) successfully recorded the life history of this species on another host plant, Derris trifoliata (see here).

With some BC members' relentless effort and enthusiasm in breeding butterfly larva to adulthood and documenting the whole process, we will slowly discover that many butterfly species do have alternative larval host plants. The knowledge we gain will help us in our work of butterfly conservation.

Other butterfly species spotted but not photographed.
1. Neocheritra amrita amrita (Grand Imperial)
2. Flos anniella anniella

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another Quiet Day @ TBHP

I went on a solo outing to Telok Blangah Hill Park on a fine Saturday morning (8 Aug). I alighted at the bus stop below the Henderson Waves bridge and climbed up at least a hundred steps of staircases to reach Mount Faber Park.

First shot of the morning was this little Assassin bug feeding on the Leea indica flowers, slightly above my eye level.

I could see many more Asian foreigners then locals were trekking towards the Kent Ride Park direction. Perhaps, at this time of the year, many tourists are in town to celebrate our National Day too.

I decided to check out the site where some Butterfly Circle members found a rare Nacaduba species a few months ago. Again, I had no luck but I managed to spot this mating pair of Logania marmorata damis. Logania marmorata damis is a rather unattractive and inconspicuous Lycaenid butterfly. In the field, its fight pattern is rather erratic and appears in a zig-zag manner. I have not seen this species feeding on flowers. Very frequently, it was found together with ants because its larvae are known to feed on aphids.

This small fly was shot near the Alkaff Mansion. Look carefully, its tail end of the abdomen looks like its head. So I guess this is a form of decoy tactic used by insects to escape from their predators. [Note : I got it wrong completely - a pair of mating flies here. Thanks.]

This plant with variegated leaves looks like a Ficus species to me. Though the attractive flowers were aplenty, I was rather surprised to see that there was only one blue bee visiting these flowers and it never gave me a single chance to snap a shot. [note : see the comment from a reader below. This plant is not a Ficus. Thanks]It was a "dead' park in terms of fauna activity. Perhaps the hazy condition that day and the day before contributed to this phenomenon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Quiet Day in Central Catchment Area

I met up with fellow ButterflyCircle members SC and Koh at Thomson Plaza on a nice and cooling Saturday (1 Aug) morning. When Koh arrived at around 9:30 am, we were on our way to explore the forest.

Just outside the forest, we saw this Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) resting on a grass blade. This was my first sighting of a Plain Tiger along this part of the forest fringe. This is a male as there are four black discal spots on the underside hindwing.

Pygmy Grass Blue (Zizula hylax pygmaea) is a very small but common butterfly which usually flutters amongst wild flowers at low level, along road sides or forest edges. This species can be easily mixed up with another equally common and look-alike species, Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa). On the hindwing underside of Pygmy Grass Blue, apart from the three spots near the base, other discal and post-discal spots form a circular shape.Here is another shot from a different angle when this loving couple changed their position slightly.

Before we entered the forest, a female dragonfly was found resting peacefully on a slender stem of a climber. I had to wait patiently for the stem to stop swaying in the morning breeze to get a few shots. Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea) is another very common forest resident. We usually find it making short gliding flights from perch to perch on the upperside of a leaf on a sunlit day.SC spotted this large pupa belonging to a Papilionid butterfly. It was dead and I could see some small flies or perhaps wasps flying around it. What a sad ending for this pupa.This small but very attractive and prominent black-spotted red beetle was found on a leaf along the main forest trail. The edges of its shell (or the wings ?) look fluffy to me. The rather long and multi-segmented antennae really look interesting and unusual.
Here is a dorsal view. This shot shows how reflective the surface of the beetle is. Shooting without an external flash in a shady forested environment, I was greatly challenged to get a good shot of this tiny beauty. Is this a moth or a butterfly ? Make a guess before you read on. Many butterfly photographers were fooled by this forest moth before as it behaves and looks very similar to a butterfly in the field. It belongs to the moth family Callidulidae and there is a few similar species that we may encounter in the forest undergrowth.

This hairy moth caterpillar was found foraging on a leaf surface. Not sure what it is. I spotted a lurking spider resting on a leaf not far away from the caterpillar, perhaps waiting for its prey coming to its way.A rather quiet day in terms of butterfly activities in the forest, our outing to this stretch of forest ended when the sky turned gloomy. After a quick lunch (where we met BJ and CM) we headed for Bah Soon Pah Road where Butterfly Lodge is situated.