Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Butterfly Garden Along Pang Sua Park Connector

Park connectors are green corridors joining different parks and nature reserve areas via jogging cum cycling tracks lined with vegetation. Ai Ling from Butterfly Lodge @ Oh's Farms and I attended the official launch of the Western Adventure Park Connector Network on 25 Oct 2009 at Chua Chu Kang.After the launch, at least a thousand residents led by Minister of Manpower Mr Gan Kim Yong took part in a 1.8 km brisk walking along a scenic stretch of Pang Sau Park connector (See here). Somewhere in the middle of the Pang Sau park connector, Mr Gan revealed a large display board containing information on some warm-up exercises before brisk-walking.

One unique attraction of this park connector is the butterfly garden which is about 50 metres away from this signboard. Here is a shot on some plants there to attract butterflies.
We arrived at the butterfly garden around 8 am. With the involvement of NParks' staff, background work of some members of the ButerflyCircle and Butterfly Lodge, this butterfly garden was successfully completed . This photo shows Josephine explaining to Mr Gan and other MPs.
Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) is a beautiful slow-flying butterfly belonging to the Danainae family. Quite a number of its larval host plants , Blood Flower (Asclepias curassavica) and Crown Flower (Calotropis gigantea) were specially planted there, so we were not surprised to see many Plain Tigers feeding and fluttering around, welcoming the guest-of-honour and the participants. This female was feeding on the purple Duranta flowers.

I spotted quite a number of Plain Tiger's larvae feeding voraciously on the stems and leaves of the Crown Flower as shown above.

The smooth and greenish Plain Tiger 's pupa was found hanging on another plant. In about a week's time, if the pupa is not parasited, an adult should eclose. Hope you are lucky enough to wittiness the eclosion process which usually takes place in the morning.

Here is a shot on the uppersides of a Plain Tiger.

Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe contubernalis) is a very common butterfly in our town parks. This female was so shy to let me take a shot while she was ovipositing an egg on a young leaf of Peacock Flower.
The larva of Common Grass Yellow was so well camouflaged with the host plant that if you were not observant enough you would not notice it munching the leaves.
Skippers belong to a very diverse family of butterfly called Hesperiidae which consists of many look-alike species. Many of them are inconspicuous and generally not very attractive. I managed to spot and shoot 3 species. This is an upperside shot of a Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala), a small but very common species usually found in grasslands or forest fringes.
This brown and fast-flying skipper looks like a Small Branded Swift (Pelopidas mathias mathias ) This is another common skipper Palm Bob (Suastus gremius gremius ) which appeared for a short while only. Indeed, some skippers just came and went off quickly without our notice if we did not pay attention to them.Just like the Common Grass Yellow, Striped Albetross (Appias libythea olferna) belongs to the family Pieridae. This is another common species as its larval host plant is a common roadside weed, Purple Cleome (Clome rutidosperma). Though I didn't see the adult of Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide), but there were a few young caterpillars feeding on its host plant Yellow-veined Erathemum (Pseuderanthemum reticulatum). Of course, there were other butterfly species visiting the garden but I didn't have a chance to shoot them. Do spend a few minutes at the garden watching how these flying jewels in action when you are there next time.

The first park connector was completed in 2007 in the eastern part of Singapore (see here) and there will be five more park connectors to be built in the near future. We are indeed fortunate that Nparks embarked on this ambitious project, providing nature-lovers and cyclists a safe and scenic green corridors to exercise and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Related website

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rich Biodiversity @ Temasek Junior College - Part 1

Situating along Bedok South Road in the eastern part of Singapore, Temasek Junior College (TJC) is one of the largest and top education institutions for Year 9 to Year 12 students. A few months ago, I planted a seedling of Bidens pilosa (or perhaps B. alba) near the basketball court. Under the good care of uncle Neo, one of the cleaning contractor's staff, the plants are flourishing. Today a few clusters of the plants together with other herbs maintained by uncle Neo are doing very well, attracting many butterflies and other fauna species.

This beautiful butterfly, Tawny Coster (Acraea violae , 斑珍蝶) will thrill you with its brightly-coloured wing patterns when they were fluttering elegantly and feeding on the Bidens flower heads. Tawny Coster tends to open the wings fully like this when feeding. This pristine male specimen was intoxicated by the rich nectar in the many small flowers of Bidens . It stayed at this position for a while even though it was swaying in the wind left and right. However, with patience I was still able to get a decent shot like this. Here is an excellent account of how this migrant came and thrived here. You will definitely love the colours of this male Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei). Though a bit tattered the brilliantly-coloured wings still enticed me to take a few shots of it whenever it settled or perched on a leaf. Striped Albatross (Appias libythea olferna, 利比尖粉蝶) is a rather common butterfly which is fast on the wings. Striped Albatross is sexually dimorphic (male and female look different). So in the following two shots, can you tell which is male and female ? When they were feeding on flowers, photographers would always love to capture their beauty.
It was a pleasant surprise when KY showed me a brown Lycaenid that he had just shot and had not seen before in the college (Yes, he has been very diligently keeping track of the number of species he spotted). I was lucky to see this Centaur Oakblue (Arhopala centaurus nakula, 银链嬈灰蝶) still feeding on the flowers. A tiny and inconspicuous butterfly not bigger than a 10-cent coin, Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa, 毛眼灰蝶) was abundant on a few occasions when I was there. I hope to spot another similar species next time.Apart from butterfly species (there were a lot more species that I was not able to shoot), other small little beauties also visited the college. Here is a small and cute phytophagous Ladybug beetle (Epilachna indica) foraging on a leaf. Of course, the plants and insects here already formed an ecosystem and the food web is one of the characteristics in any ecosystem. Here is a shot when a honey bee became the meal of a Crab Spider and some small flies might have gained some advantage as well.
There were quite a number of carpenter bees (Xylocopa confusa ) both male and female, buzzing around. Of course the female were always very diligently collecting nectar from flower to flower while the male just buzzing and hovering and "doing nothing". This shot below reveals the nice bluish and shining wings which I have not noticed before.

Remember, though these carpenter bees look big and scary, they are really harmless critters so long as you leave them alone - you are unlikely to get stunk by them.With its rich diversity of fauna and flora species, TJC has the potential to develop itself into a Garden Junior College. As Singapore is launching The Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity , I feel that each school can play a part in observing and recording the fauna and flora species in the school compound - creating an awareness of the importance of biodiversity amongst students. Who knows, you may record something new.

In Part 2 (at the moment I cannot tell when I will publish it), I will probably feature some flora and other insect species including other butterfly species that KY or I will shoot in our future surveys.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Hot Afternoon on MacRitchie Nature Trail

It was a sunny and hot Saturday (17 Oct) at last. After lunch, I went to MacRitchie Nature Trail alone. In fact, I didn't feel the heat wave to be unbearable the moment I was strolling along the trail.

We would never fail to spot Micropezid Fly (Mimegralla albimana) in our shady forest. Having long and white-tipped legs, this fly usually stretches out the front legs to fend off potential predators (I guess). Looking this shot on the computer screen, I realised that this fly actually stretched out its right front leg across its head while I was taking the shot. Malay Baron ( Euthalia monina monina) is a relatively common forest denizen. It was rather unusual to see a female puddling on the ground. I kept chasing and stalking this female up and down along the main trail because she always landed on the ground again after a short flight. At last she found a sweet spot and luckily, there were not many people using the trail on a Saturday afternoon otherwise I would not have a chance to snap a few shots. I have seen quite a few different species of robber flies (Family : Asilidae) in our forest and wastelands in the past. I am quite sure these two robber flies are different species. I think these common and fierce predators are generally understudied here. This is a St Andrew's Cross spider (Argiope species) which is quite common in our nature reserves. I usually found it resting on its orb-web and the white opaque zig zag webs at the corners made it quite distinctive and different from the rest of the spider species. I hope I didn't bore you with all the same old species that I have posted before in this blog. Yes, I have not been able to spot and shoot something new for a long time. Let's hope that I have good luck in my future outings.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anything New @ TPTP ?

Inspired by Robin Ngiam's article in the 2009 issue of Singapore Nature, I dropped by Toa Payoh Town Park (TPTP) twice on two different evenings, hoping to get a glimpse of the rare damselfly Pseudagrion rubriceps. But, I didn't have the luck to see any. However, I was fortunate to shoot a few new fauna species that I did not feature in my previous post (here).

This very distinctive White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) is rather common in marshy habitats. However, I was rather surprised to see a family of waterhens in this urban town park. The dark brown chick was about the size of an adult, wandering and foraging with its parents. I saw them probing with their bill in the shallow water and on the aquatic plants belonging to the genus Cyperus which are growing wild along some edges of the pond. A rather sluggish female damselfly, Iscnura senegalensis was preparing herself for the night fall. This is a common species that can be found in open drains or ponds.My first sighting of a lonely Rhyothemis phyllis in the park. A rather large dragonfly with very distinctive yellow and black basal patches on the hindwings, Rhyothemis phyllis is rather common in our wastelands. Though it was getting cooler in the evening, this guy was still quite active, gliding from perch to perch. Here is a side view when it landed above my head.This looks like a male Xylocopa species. It was seen "climbing" on the stem, a rather rare moment.
This looks like a changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor) lurking amongst some ginger plants.
I saw a man using his handphone camera to take a picture of this frog which remained very still and semi-submerged in the water. Of course, when he left, it was my turn to take a few shots. This may be a non-native species American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). I wonder how did it come to this pond ? I was trying to look for butterflies also, checking out the Ixora bushes and the rows of Peacock Flowers which are away from the pond, This small moth was found on Peacock Flowers swaying in the wind. Using a macro lens to shoot bird is always doing injustice to the beauty and the detail of the subject. Is it a species of sparrow or something else ? Does anyone know what this small but beautiful critter is ? The long segmented antennae and the red patterns on the body attracted my attention.
At last I shot a butterfly. Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa , 毛眼灰蝶) is a rather inconspicuous Lycaenid. This species usually can be found in good numbers in town parks or roadsides. This was a rather pristine, tame and lethargic specimen. It rested on the red florets of the Ixora flowers, waiting for the dusk to set in. Lastly, I observed this paper wasp kept flying back to this nest and there was not any other wasp around. Was it building or guarding the nest ?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Caught In The Rain

I thought it was a perfect morning for outing so I headed to the western side of the water catchment area early yesterday (10 Oct) morning. While I was strolling and enjoying the greenery along the dirt track, the Sun in fact was quietly and slowly retreating and hiding behind the congregating dark clouds. Soon the clouds and rains ruled the sky.

As the rain was getting heavier, I decided to wait under a fly-over bridge where we used to shoot many puddling butterflies - but not now anymore.

I saw a few Tiger Beetles (Cicindela aurulenta) on a discarded sand heap . Extremely alert and skittish, these beetles could detect slightest movement and flew off. I just didn't have the luck and patience to be up close with any of them. However, I still managed to get some medium-range shots as these fierce predators on other small insects usually don't fly far and tend to forage close to the ground.This particular species of Tiger Beetle has six distinctive yellow spots on the body, a large pair of compound eyes, long legs and have metallic or iridescent blue and green coloration. I wonder if there is other species of Tiger Beetle in Singapore.
After a few shots, it decided to turn away from me and flew off.A plant-feeding insect, this solitary and very tiny treehopper was resting on a grass blade. The dorsal view shows two 'horns' protruding out from the head. From this shot of its side view, I can see the wings and its eyes. Perhaps due to its inconspicuous size, I seldom paid attention to treehopper in the past. More information about treehopper can be found here. There wasn't any convincing sign that the rain would stop soon so I packed up and headed to a bus stop nearby. I hope the weather will be kind to me next Saturday.