Sunday, January 25, 2009

From Telok Blangah Hill Park to MF Park

On the second last day of the Year of the Rat, a sunny Saturday (24 Jan 09), I went on a solo outing trip to Telok Blangah Hill Park (TBHP).

Telok Blangah Hill Park was once a very quiet urban park even on weekends. However with the completion of the Southern Ridges Project in May 2008, there are a lot people passing by the park these days.

This Park has always been one of my important hunting grounds for butterflies. ButterflyCircle members have found and shot quite a few rare butterflies here.

My first quick shot of the day was this Potanthus species . It looks like a Potanthus omaha omaha (Lesser Dart), just before opening its wings for sunbathing. My focus today was to look out for rare butterflies so I didn't bother much about the common species. However, this shade-loving Spalgis epius epius (Apefly) kept teasing me so I decided to get a few shots when it was resting at a low level A Caltoris like species zipped past me a few times. On one occasion, it landed in a shade offering me a few seconds to snap a quick shot. Most of the time I was walking up and down, looking high and low but shooting nothing - a very quiet day especially in terms of butterfly activities. Anyway I am quite used to this situation these days.

Some insects were visiting these Mikania micrantha (mile-a-minute) flowers. Is this a fly or bee ?
Is this a wasp or a bee ? (Ok, John has identified it as a Scoliid wasp, possibly a Campsomeris species, thanks). Today, I didn't have much patience to chase these insects for better shots.
This long-legged insect looks like an assassin bug. Not very satisfied with what I have seen and shot at TBHP, I decided trying my luck at Mount Faber Park. It was just a short walk via the Handerson Waves bridge.

The moment I reached the other end of the bridge, some flowering Leea indica trees caught my attention. The small white flowers attracted some butterflies.

There were quite a few of this Megisba malaya sikkima (The Malayan). This small Lycanide is about the size of a 5-cent coin. Usually I spotted this species in shady bushes. This Yellow looks like a Eurema sari sodalis (Chocolate Grass Yellow). It must have gone through some hard time as the markings on the wings were so faded.
The highlight of the day must be this Burara harisa consobrina (Orange Awlet) belonging to the Coeliadinae subfamily). Very "chubby" looking orange skipper that loves to rest underneath the leaf. It was a long outing but I didn't see and shoot much. Hope I have better luck next time when I visit TBHP again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pulau Semakau On 18 Jan 2009

My previous boat ride to a southern island was more than a decade ago. So, I was very excited about this butterfly survey trip to Semakau island. Once again, we must thank Ria Tan (her blog) for arranging and making this trip possible for ButterflyCircle members.

During our comfortable 25-min or so boat ride, we witnessed the awesome oil refinery facilities at Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom.
Occasionally the boatman had to skillfully manoeuvre to avoid the coral reefs.

At last, we alighted near the shelter outside the forested area. A Common Tiger and a Leopard (We were in danger ! Not really, they are just butterflies) were already there welcoming us.

Without much delay, seven of us were prowling and hunting for butterflies along the mozzies-infested forest trail which led us to the shore.Butterfly photographers like us not only look around but also look up for our targets. That's why we could spot this Baron-like butterfly, quietly overlooking us from a leaf high up..
Butterfly activities were considered low and we didn't take too long to reach the beach. At the shore, I was attracted by this citric-like plant. The fruits are elliptical in shape and they don't look like the usual citrus fruits.

When I returned to the shelter along the same trail, this orange skipper, likely to be a Potanthus sarina, was tamely waiting for us at the entrance. A few of us took some shots. This shot reveals a bit of the upperside markings.

I decided to cross the road and explored a huge plot of grassland.A few isolated Acacia auriculiformis trees, standing tall and withstanding the onslaught of the gutsy wind, were in my sight from where I stood. With the help of strong wind neutralising the scorching heat from the sun, we were able to spend sometime hunting for butterflies on this huge patch of grassland. Finally we spotted quite a few of this Nacaduba biocellata (Two Spotted Line Blue). They were congregating and fluttering under a flowering Acacia tree.

Most of them were pristine specimen and we could spot them perching on different objects, giving us adequate shooting opportunities.

This Asystasia gangetica ssp. micrantha was abundant here and so was Junonia orithya wallacei (Blue Pansy) as it is a larval host plant of Blue Pansy.
I could only shoot the underside of this Blue Pansy from far.Usually they were very alert under the hot sun.Passiflora foetida is such an invasive vine that it is growing on almost every grassland that I have been to.

I could see them climbing up the Acacia tree and it was not difficult to spot the caterpillars of Acraea violae (Tawny Coster) feeding on Passiflora foetida. At around noon, I headed back to the shelter to have my packet lunch. Soon after that, I went into the forested area again. This time, I could see more butterfly species.
Quite a few Arhopala centaurus nakula (Centaur Oak Blue) though most of them were tattered.When in flight, the metallic blue uppersides of this Nacaduba species could be seen. It was fluttering non-stop and there were a few of them. I only managed a long distance record shot.

I didn't realise it was ovipositing until I saw the shot on my camera's viewfinder. I went back to shoot the plant, apparently, an Ardisia species.

When there were no butterfly species, I shot dragonflies and other insects. At least one dragonfly and a very beautiful damselfly (Tang HB has identified it to be a Teinobasis ruficollis, thanks) crossed my path. These two became my models for just a few seconds.
Here are two other insects found in the forested area. A strange looking insect that I have never seen before. I wonder how many legs there are ?

Saw a whole bunch of Cotton Stainer bugs on the underside of a leaf and I managed to shoot two of them which were roaming around on the upperside of the same leaf.
I guess these are forest fungi growing on fallen tree branches, making use of wood as the substrate. I shall let the expert on fungus to identify them.

It was a fruitful outing for me on a windy, dry and hot Sunday. There is a good potential discovering more species of flora and fauna in future survey as we have not covered very much of the island yet . Here is the write-up on the first survey.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Beauty of Wildness @Punggol

This plot of grassland was mostly covered with overgrown Lalang (Imperata cylindrica). Not many people see this a natural beauty - a beauty of wildness. However, if we pay attention to this habitat with an open mind and keen eyes, we can actually find lots of fascinating and amazing little wildlife.
Standing amid these tall Lalang grass, looking at the greenery in the far horizon and listening to the sound of music played by the wind and the dancing Lalang, I feel this setting somehow has a soothing effect on a person's heart.

Ok, back to where I stood, I was distracted by a little red dot a few metres infront of me.
This attractive and tiny beetle was busy foraging for aphids or perhaps other source of food on the feather-like fruits of Lalang. Its flight pattern was rather slow and short. I think we call this little beauty ladybug.
Not far away from the ladybug, there was another small and shiny orange bug (another beetle ?) resting on a leaf. I am not sure what this is. It definitely looks cute enough for me to take a few shots without flash light.

Though the type of vegetation here was quite uniform and there were not many tall trees as I approached the shore line, prominent clusters of yellow flowers still caught my eyes.

This shrub crotalaria mucronata became the centre of my attention for quite awhile

There were quite a few of this moths belonging to the genus Utetheisa  (perhaps Uthetheisa lotrix) in the vicinity of these shrubs.

A few caterpillars like this were found on the plants.
Closer to the entrance, those little creatures found near the Cassia biflora really made my visit a memorable one.

Firstly, this Robber Fly was so cooperative that I could even shift the grass blade slightly to get a green background shot - how I wish I could encounter this kind of luck often.
This planthopper was dead but somehow it still clinched on to a dry leaf. It was found on the ground and I got to place it on a stem for this shot. I love the metallic blue on this beautiful insect. Yet another blue creature, this time a rather acrobatic male Diplacodes trivialis dragonfly (thanks Yong for the id) balancing itself on a dry grass blade.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Butterfly Species at Punggol Wasteland

Visiting the Punggol wasteland on a sunny Saturday (10 Jan 09) morning, I was "warmly" greeted with quite a number of orange skippers performing an open-winged ritual in the morning sun, with their hindwings fully open and forewings almost vertical like this picture shown here. Judging from the relatively small size and the hook-shaped tip of the antenane , I believe this is likely to be a Potanthus omaha omaha (Lesser Dart).
Another skipper looks like a Telicota besta bina was resting under shade. Oblivious to my presence, it did not bother me snapping a few shots. There were a fair amount of insect activities near this Cassia biflora - a known larval host plant of Catopsilia scylla cornelia (Orange Emigrant). Expectedly, there was a pair of Orange Emigrant frolicking nearby. A few steps away from the plant, I was rather fortunate to spot this relatively tame Orange Emigrant resting calmly, ignoring the occasionally strong morning breeze. At a closer look, I realised that the eye was opaque and it was not normal for Orange Emigrant. Since the discovery of this migrant Acraea violae (Tawny Coster) from the north, this plot of wasteland has become a popular hunting ground for ButterflyCircle members. Read here for more details. My very first sighting of this Rapala pheretima sequeira (Copper Flash) was high above my head on the Cassia biflora. With my persistence of waiting, this Copper Flash decided to reciprocate my patience by coming down to my eye level. I was fortunate to spot this rather drab but not-so-common Common Evening Brown (Melanitis leda leda). As this species usually loves the undergrowth, I was quite happy to get a shot even though it didn't offer me a single chance for a clean and green background shot.
While I was standing under a shady tree having few sips of water, this Euchrysops cnejus cnejus (Gram Blue) suddently perched and oviposited an egg on a flower bud of this attractive shrub Macroptilium lathyroides .

Other butterfly species observed between 9:30 - 12 : 30 .
1. Danaus genutia genutia (Common Tiger)
2. Hypolimnas bolina jacintha (Jacintha Eggfly)