Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Surprise @ Mount Faber Park

It has been almost a year since I last visited Mount Faber Park (MF). After collecting a free gift from Cannon Singapore on a late Friday morning, I dropped by the park which is just across the road. Same as before, I took a leisure stroll along Marang Trail, reaching the peak in less than 30 minutes.

My first shot of the afternoon was this small and drab moth resting on Saga (Adenanthera pavonina) leaves near the entrance of the trail.This plant looks like an Ardisia species to me. My curiosity was aroused when I noticed that there were many leaves with holes, a definite sign of insects eating the leaves.

I flipped over some leaves and found at least four larvae. The picture shows two of them , one early and one late instar. I guess these are larvae of an Abisara species (Thanks BJ).

The pupa looks quite cute and nice.This red beauty belongs to the Riodinidae family of butterfly. This should be a male Abisara species that I am not very confident of identifying it. Read this ButterflyCircle's blog article for an insightful and detailed discussion on its possible identity. I saw three individuals engaging in "dog-fighting " activity on a windy afternoon.

Due to its shady habitat and the usual persistent breeze at the location, getting a good shot of this species is always a challenge for us. This shot reveals the upperside of a male when he perched on a leaf very high up.These shots appear to be a Pointed Line Blue (Ionolyce helicon merguiana) perching on a leaf near the "playground" of the above Abisara species.The undersides of Ambon Onyx (Horaga syrinx maenala ) is predominantly ochreous brown with a prominent white band across both wings. I encountered three individuals chasing each other whenever an "intruder" came close to one's territory. This is one of my best instinctive snapshot as I hardly had any time to think and compose my shots on this guy. Colour Sergent (Athyma nefte subrata) seems to be a permanent resident at MF. This male was found along a row of hedges when he was sunbathing. I often encountered the male but not female.
It was a rare moment when I saw a half-opened wing Apefly (Spalgis epius epius), warming itself under the afternoon sun. This is my very first shot of the uppersides of this species. I am not sure if this tiny and cute critter is a froghopper. It was moving aimlessly on a stem but I had to follow it and aim hard to get this shot. No new species spotted but I was quite pleased to see and shoot quite a few butterfly species on a rather short weekday afternoon outing. Let's hope that one or two Vanessa species will visit us again this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rich Biodiversity @ Temasek Junior College Part 2

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were quiet a number of fauna species in the college. In addition to those critters mentioned in my previous post (see here), here are a few more species which I encountered.

This is a kind of Lynx spider. It does not spin webs but it has spiky long legs and excellent eyesight to hunt for its preys amongst flowers and foliage.
This is a male Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) butterfly which belongs to Danainae subfamily in the butterfly family Nymphalidae. Plain Tiger generally displays leisurely slow flights and is unpalatable to predators due to the chemicals ingested from the host plants Asclepias curassavica (Blood Flower) or Calotropis gigantea (Crown flower) during the larval stage. This is Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa) which I featured in Part 1 of this series. So far I have not found another look-alike Pygmy Grass Blue (Zizula hylax pygmaea). This is Pale Grass Blue (Zizeeria maha serica) the largest of the three Grass Blue butterflies that can be found in town parks, gardens or even roadsides. In addition, the denser and more prominent underside submarginal black spots on both wings separate this from the other two species mentioned above. I am rather optimistic that I would find Pygmy Grass Blue as these three species share the same habitat.
Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona pomona) is a rather common and interesting butterfly that can be found in our urban parks as its larval host plants Senna fistula and Senna alata are common wayside trees. Female Lemon Emigrant has quite a number of forms which look differently. I have seen this fast-flying medium size butterfly visiting the college compound regularly but it was always skittish. So this indeed was a timely and lucky shot. This is a solitary Scoliid wasp with a pair of long antennae and some yellow stripes on its abdomen. This is most likely to be a species of Campsomeris according to John. It tends to bend and curve its body when feeding, making it a challenge for us to take a good shot of it.

This is a small Potter wasp, possibly an Apodynerus species. So long as we don't disturb them or their nests, these wasps in general are not aggressive and if they do come close to us, I usually just stand still and do not react offensively.
This honey bee looks like Apis cerana was found feeding on the flower heads. Again. these bees are not aggressive. We just leave them alone, quietly observing how they collecting nectar and pollinating the flowers can be quite inspirational.
Grasshoppers belong to the insect order Orthopetera which includes crickets and katydids as well. These insects' hind legs are long, robust and strong, enabling them to make long distance leaps effectively. This green planthopper belongs to the insect order Homoptera. Planthoppers feed on plant juices and excrete honeydew, a sweet by-product of digestion. This is a day-flying moth (syntomis huebneri) that is rather common in parks and gardens. The nectar from the Bidens flowers could make it stay there for a long time. A mating pair was found underside of a leaf. Usually the copulation takes at least an hour so that a sufficient number of eggs would be fertilised.
Vitex trifolia (Family : Verbenaceae) is a perennial herb, a treasure for uncle Neo who consumed the leaves regularly and found it beneficial for his health and eye sight. He propagated quite a few of them in the college compound.
This purple flower is Brazilian Button Flower (Centratherum punctatum , Family : Asteraceae). A bushy herb, the purple florets are rather showy and attractive.
This female Carpenter bee (Xylocopa confusa) was easily attracted by the flowers.
KY and I have seen quite a few other butterfly species visiting the school compound. We will continue to photograph them and perhaps include them in Part 3 of this series of write-ups.

Related post

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some Interesting Critters@USR

Playing tennis at Cherry Hill Condominium with my alma mater from River Valley High School followed by a breakfast chatting session at Kopitiam has been my Sunday's routine. Taking a break On 15 Nov allowed me to head out to Upper Seletar Reservoir Park (USR) on a cloudy Sunday morning,

My first encounter of a critter was this beautiful Long-horned Beetle (Chloridolum sp) resting on a Wild Cinnamon leaf surface. This shot of its side view reveals its iridescent colours of the body and legs. However, the dorsal view is not as spectacular as the side view. The appearance of a Long-horned beetle is quite different from many other beetles due to its cylindrically elongated body shape and a pair of antennae as long as its whole body length.
This critter was found feeding on flowers of Mile-a-minute (Mikania micrantha). I thought it was a wasp but when I take a closer look on the computer screen, it does not look like one. So I am not sure what it is or perhaps a firefly ?Here is another shot from the side, showing a clear view of the relatively large hind legs. This is another all-orange beetle foraging on Mile-a-minute leaves. It looks like a kind of leaf beetle.
What is that thing hanging below its abdomen ?
There were quite a few Prodasineura notostigma damselflies near a stream. I always found this species around there. It appears that the blue markings on the thorax of these two shots look slightly different.Near the reservoir edge, I was taken aback by this large hornet, likely to be a Vespa tropica (Greater Banded Hornet) (Thanks John for identifying it) foraging slowly on the soggy ground. I took a shot afar, observed its behaviour a while then decided approaching closer to take more shots.
This very small, drab and dull-looking moth has a pair of long antennae which attracted my attention when it landed on a grass blade.Finally I was able to shoot a butterfly, Lesser Darkie (Allotinus unicolor unicolor). Though not a fast flyer, the duration of its zigzag and erratic flight would really test the limit of my patience to wait for it settling down. Its toothed edge along the hindwing outer margin is rather unique. A rather large red-eyed skipper, Coconut Skipper (Hidari irava) could be found quite regularly at USR. It zipped past me and perched a few times but it was too skittish for me to get closer. Finally I did it. At first, it was so sensitive to the flash light that it would "jump" whenever I snapped. So my first few shots were all blur but luckily at least one shot turned out quite acceptable and it revealed part of its upperside markings - a rather rare moment. This crab-shaped Curved Spiny Spider (Gasteracantha arcuata) was found near a shady stream. It was patiently waiting on its webs initially. It moved behind the leaf when it sensed that there was some disturbance to the webs. This head shot does not look like the head of the spider at all as I cannot figure out confidently where the eyes and the mouth are .
Lastly, I also saw two different fungi. This one looks like a kind of wild mushroom growing on some decayed substrate. There were many tiny flies hovering around this reddish fungus which appeared to be elastic with a smooth and translucent surface. We are in the midst of the year-end monsoon season which brings along lots of rain fall. It will be interesting to see and document how flora and fauna in our nature reserves adapt and react to the wet weather.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Sunny Sunday @ Ubin

It was a lovely sunny Sunday on 7 Nov, thanks Khew for giving me a lift to Changi Village. KY met up with us at a coffee shop and after getting some quick bites, we were on a bumboat ride to Ubin. We went straight to the Butterfly Hill , one of my favourite hunting grounds for butterflies.

We were extremely delighted to see flowering Syzygium trees (Syzygium myrtifolium ?) The white fluffy flower parts covered almost the whole tree. There were lots of carpenter bees (both Xylocopa confusa and Xylocopa latipes were spotted), wasps, perhaps hornets and of course butterflies feeding on the flowering trees, creating a magnificent scene that I have not seen for a long time. Here is record shot of a Xylocopa latipes. This shot may be a male of Xylocopa caerulea according to John.This is a Sphecid wasp (Sphex species). Just like other bees and wasps, it had insatiable appetite for nectar, feeding voraciously from flower to flower. The flowers really attracted all sorts of insects. This Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina) was feeding next to a beetle. They were so close. I wonder why didn't they scare each other away. These two beetles have very similar shape, size as well as the white spots on the body. The only difference I can see is the colour. I wonder if they are male and female of the same species.
There were butterfly activities opposite these flowering tress also. This rather pristine Biggs's Brownie (Miletus biggsii biggsii ) was ready to extend its proboscis to feed on sugary substance excreted by other bugs or the plant ? This Biggs's Brownie was "drunk" and stayed there for quite sometime.
This strange-looking Logania marmorata damis was spotted by KY above my eye level . The pointed shape of the wings suggest that it may be deformed. Same as Biggs's Brownie which belongs to the Miletinae subfamily of the Lycaenidae family of butterflies, this species is also known to have close association with ants.

Now behind the flowering trees, there was this Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metaretel) quietly resting on a high perch. I could only take a record shot from far. Let us go back to the flowering trees. We spotted quite a few Plain Palm Dart (Cephrenes acalle niasicus). This rather large orange skipper may be a male The underside colour of female is rather different from the male. It has a purplish sheen and some obscure markings on both the hind and forewings.
Here is another female. I noticed that there were more female then male feeding in the late morning. Feeding under the hot sun, another Bule Glassy Tiger simply ignored my presence even though I was rather close by. I noticed that other butterflies such as Leopard, Black Veined Tiger and Plain Tiger didn't seem to like the Syzygium flowers.

Senna alata trees were flowering as well. There are eight "candlesticks" in the picture. Anyway, I wonder why the common name is called Seven Golden Candlesticks.
There were quite a few other butterfly species visiting the flowering trees such as the following three "Crow butterflies" which I didn't have any presentable shots.

1. Euploea eyndhovii gardineri (Striped Black Crow)
2. Euploea mulciber mulciber (Striped Blue Crow)
3. Euploea phaenareta castelnaui (King Crow)

We hope that Syzygium trees elsewhere would also be flowering soon so that we can have fun chasing and shooting different kinds of winged beauties.