Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Day Before F1 Singapore Race

It has been quite a long time since ButterflyCircle (BC) organized the last group outing. On, 26 Sept, the day before F1 Singapore Grand Prix, we finally had one, thanks to Simon’s initiative. A few of us gathered at Venus Drive carpark and others were waiting at the Riffle Range Road, all heading to our final destination – the “spa” area in Sime Forest.

My first shot of the morning near the entrance of the Venus Trail was this Taractrocera archias quinta. It is quite a small orange skipper without apiculus on its antennae. This open-winged Faunis canens arcesilas (Common Faun) was shot along Venus Trail in a rather shady environment. Usually, Common Faunn was found puddling along forest paths so I consider this a relatively rare moment . I can not identify this pair of damselflies. What was this couple trying to do ? Where they in a copulation position ?
This stream at Sime Forest provides a good habitat for many species of damsel and dragonfly. Again, I cannot be 100% sure of the species of this female though she looks like Trithemis aurora. Nannophya pygmaea is the smallest dragonfly in Singapore. Mature male of this species has very striking red body. The males were quite abundant but there was no sight of any female around that area. A slow-flyer, it usually perched around the same place and at times remained very sluggish, giving us plenty of time to compose our shots.
A relatively large and beautiful dragonfly with short abdomen, Rhyothemis triangularis is getting less common these days based on my field observation. This male perched on a grass tip along the forest stream. Glistering in the sunlight, his metallic blue hindwings are definitely attractive and enticing us to chase for good shots.

Thanks to Cher Hern's sharp eyes, he spotted this green-bodied cicada resting on a tree trunk at kneel level. Cicadas have two pairs of transparent wings, prominent compound eyes and three simple eyes. They belong to the order Homoptera.

Only male cicadas produce incessant high-pitched sound to attract mating partners. They produce the chorus of the forest by vibrating the membranes near the base of the abdomen.

All cicadas go through an interesting 3-stage life cycle : egg, nymph and adult. Females lay many eggs in tree barks sliced open by her sword-like ovipositor. The tree bark protects the eggs until they hatch into nymphs. The wingless nymphs burrow underground . Once they mature, they dig themselves out from the soil, creating mud chimney during rainy days.
Robber flies belong to the family Asilidae in the insect order Diptera . Rrobber flies have stout and spiny legs, a pair of short antennae and colourful compound eyes. Aggressive and fast-flying predators with excellent vision, robber flies are rather common in our forest.
This black creature with highly reflactive shell looks like a Darkling beetle. It was found on the stem of a vine, staying very still as if it was dead. This small red-eyed and black-bodied critter was a stranger to me. I have no clue what it is. Lastly, I would like to end here with two shots of this beautiful flower found near the entrance of Venus Trail. A solitary bee belonging to the genus Halictidae was diligently pollinating the attractive pink flowers. But getting a good shot was really tough.A close-up shot of the flower and I hope I will find out the name of this flower soon.
Though I didn't encounter many flying jewels in our forest in this outing, I was glad to meet some old and new members of BC.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Fate of a Yellow

I had a mission on 19 Sept. Armed with some necessary stuff, I reached Punggol wasteland slightly earlier than BJ. Look at this shot below, you can imagine what would happen to the site . By the time I posted this blog article, I guess the hoarding should have been up and entry to the site would be difficult or impossible. The moment I reached there, I started to search for NBGY, No Brand Grass Yellow (Eurema brigitta senna) larva on the host plants - I found this sad ending to a last instar larva. The weather was rather unpredictable. In a short time, dark clouds gathered rapidly and soon I felt rain drops falling on my head. I quickly informed BJ that I would wait for him at the nearby Kopitiam.

Once again, we had to spend some 20 minutes or so chatting over a cup of tea waiting for the rain to stop.

After the rain, we managed to trans-locate a few NBGY, mainly females, from Punggol to Seletar.

This record shot captured the moment of a female laying egg at the new site soon after she was released. We hope that these females would lay many eggs at this new site and their offspring would establish a permanent home at Seletar.

This is Apis dorsata. There was quite a number of them at the Punggol site feeding on the yellow flowers of Aquatic Sensitive Plant (Neptunia plena).

A. dorsata looks similar to A. carana , but larger in size. I just wonder what that orange thing on its leg is. I was rather lucky to snap an in-flight shot as this bee was rather active and never remained long on the flowers.
This may be a species of Scolia wasp. It was found "rotating" itself on a Lalang grass blade. A pair of short antennae and the big eyes on this wasp make its appearance a bit different from other wasps. This looks like a Broad-headed bug. I notice that its eyes are situated at the sides of its head which has a triangular shape. This robber fly was taken at the Seletar site while we were on our way back. The weather turned bad again and I had to take this shot quickly before the rain pouring down again. The fate of this Yellow species now depends on whether it can adapt to its new habitat at the Seletar site which is not really the same as that of the Punggol wasteland. But we have tried our best to trans-locate and conserve this species. However, we hope that the relevant authority would assist us in our future conservation effort.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where Have Butterflies Gone To ?

While I was on my way to the Punggol wasteland, I realised that I did not have the necessary stuff for trans-locating the No Brand Grass Yellow butterfly (Eurema brigitta senna ) to a new site. So I headed to Lornie Trail (LT) instead.

My first shot of the morning on 12 September was this very tiny treehopper. A few ants were seen roaming around it and at times the ants even climbed over the body of the treehopper. Interesting interaction there but I don't know what exactly it was. BJ and CM came to join me late in the morning. BJ spotted this pristine female Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana) near the exercise station at LT. Usually, Archduke was seen on damp ground along jungle trail with both wings opened. Take a closer look at the apex of the antennae, the orange tips separate the other two lookalikes and rarer species from this species.
There were quite a number of dragonflies and damselflies near the golf course area. I was always amazed by the acrobatic positions that Odonata species shown when they were in copulation positions. This brilliantly coloured mating pair of Ceriagrion cerinorubellum was no exception. I got a few shots taken from the edge of the reservoir at a rather low angle. There were a few very pretty blue damselflies which look like the shot shown here. This looks like a male Pseudagrion australasiae.
A slow-flying pair was spotted just above the water surface. They were flying in tandem and it looked like the male was guarding the female. This in-flight shot was my best attempt out of many blur shots. Soon, the female was fully submerged in the water, ovipositing her eggs while the male was still in contact with her. The male let go the female but he was seen "waiting" for the female (not shown in the picture) while she was laying eggs underwater. After a while, when I used a twig to stir the water, the female got back to the same position as shown in the 2nd picture above.This rather large dragonfly with very striking yellow markings on its body kept darting from perch to perch. It looks like a Ictinogomphus decoratus. This particular specimen was very alert whenever I came close to it. I had to position myself near a twig, waiting patiently for it to land there. The pointed and triangular shape of the last abdominal segment is rather distinctive in this species. This is another shot on a different perch. Another relatively tamer and smaller dragonfly was nearby. This looks like a male Aethriamanta gracilis , a permanent resident in this area. This red dragonfly occasionally appeared in my sight. I am not sure if this is Rhodothemis rufa. On our way back to the carpark, CM spotted this spider on a palm leaf along the trail. Another lousy day for butterfly photography. The number of butterflies in our nature reserves has been quite pathetic for many weeks. Where have they gone to ? I wish I knew the answer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Anything Interesting @ Dairy Farm Nature Park ?

Together with Khew, I took part in two butterfly surveys for Nparks near the surrounding area of the newly opened Dairy Farm Nature Park a few months back. On 09-09-2009 (what a special and auspicious day for some ROM couples), a lovely sunny day, I went to take a look again at this newest park which was officially opened on 5 Sept (see here).

My first shot of the morning was this cricket. There were so many of them along the road leading to the carpark. Having a pair of thin and long antennae, and powerful hind legs for leaping, crikets were often seen leaping from leaf to leaf. Yes, I have not seen a cricket flying far in the field.
This handsome male Changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor) was protruding his head out from a row of tall grasses as if looking for his meting partner because during the mating season, the males display bright orange coloration on their head and a black throat as shown in the picture. This interesting all black with a little red eye creature looks like a species of ant or an ant mimicking a spider.Here is another shot. Pity that I am not tall enough to capture its dorsal view. After shooting this ant, I met Roy, an Nparks staff who was guiding a group of people from Starbucks (I hoped I heard it correctly) doing some voluntary community work there. Just next to the ant on a grass blade, I saw this katydid. We would miss its presence if we were not observant enough. There is a lot of interaction between species in nature. For example, this Lycaenid butterfly, Biggs's Brownie (Miletus biggsii biggsii) was usually seen having a close association with ants in the wild. John helped me to identify this digger wasp which belongs to the genus Sphex. From this dorsal view, we can see its big black bullet-shaped abdomen with brilliantly coloured legs.
It looked like searching for food on the leaf surface and at one moment it was buzzing around me and I had to keep very still and bend my head low.
A sap-feeding and a moth-like insect, this is a beautiful Ricaniid hopper (Ricanula stigmatica) which was resting (or feeding ?) on the edge of a leaf. Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida) is a very common butterfly which can be found along forest fringes or in town parks but getting a good shot in the wild is never easy. I was lucky to have this rather skittish one perched in front of me for a few seconds - instinctively, I fired a few shots.
You will not miss a few clusters of tall African Spiral Flag (Costus lucanusianus ; Family : Costaceae) in the vicinity of the park. Its big and showy flowers often attracted carpenter bees visiting them. This Noctuid moth was shot in the deep undergrowth along Wallace Trail. The two prominent eye spots on the forewings and the wing patterns can really scare a predator even a person away. This black and white Tumbling Flower Beetle with a pointed tail-like structure belongs to the genus Mordella. Not sure why it is called a Tumbling Flower Beetle.
I guess this is a St. Andrew's Cross Spider. Spiders generally are not attractive to me but I find spiderwebs fascinating because of their delicate and complex patterns. I believe spiderwebs have given scientists idea to create new materials which are light and superstrong.

I spotted this Common Grass Yellow (Eurema sari sodalis) which was trying to lay eggs along the tarred road. I waited a while and was lucky to see her laying one spindle-shaped egg on the upperside of a young leaf. I hope to find out the name of this plant later.

It has been almost 9 months since I started this blog recording my sightings in nature. This is my 50th post this year. I am glad that I still have the stamina to update the blog quite regularly. Honestly, I felt like giving up updating at times when I had too many deadlines to meet in my busy work schedule.

There are lots of interactions between different or even same species in nature. These ants were attracted to something that I am not sure of though it looks like bird droppings. Looking forward, I hope I can persevere and sustain my effort in blogging, capturing more dynamic and fauna behavioural shots, perhaps incorporating short video clips.

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