Friday, January 29, 2010

Butterfly Survey @ Ang Mo Kio Town West Garden

A relatively large neighbourhood park occupying an area of 21 hectare (1 hectare is 10 thousands square metres) , Ang Mo Kio Town West Garden is situated opposite Ang Mo Kio Town Library along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.

Siew Chuen from Nparks, Khew and I did a quick butterfly survey on a very fine Saturday morning. We were also discussing how to attract more butterflies to the garden.
This tiny Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa) was my first shot. A few of them were seen fluttering erratically and feeding on small wild flowers such as the Cupid's Shaving Brush (Emilia sonchifolia). A big bush of Lantana flowers near the entrance attracted quite a number of butterflies . We saw a colony of Leopards (Phalanta phalantha phalantha) fluttering and feeding on the Lantana flowers. Getting a shot with a clean and nice bokeh of this species is always a challenge as they are usually skittish and flapping their wings constantly when feeding. Here is a record shot.
Quite a few Lemon Emigrants (Catopsilia pomona pomona) were "fighting" for nectar. Again, a fast and skittish species most of the time, Lemon Emigrant is widely distributed in Singapore and it has several forms. This is a male form alcmeone.Here is another form hiding his head while feeding.This is another individual resting in a shade. I hope seeing all these flying jewels in our parks and gardens would make you curious to know more about them.This brown skipper looks more like a Small Branded Swift (Pelopidas mathias mathias) zipping from flower to flower. We have to be patient with it before we can get a decent shot.
This Chestnut Bob (ambrix salsala salsala ) was initially feeding on the Common Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta indica) when I snapped a shot. However, the camera flash might have triggered it to take a "back flight". Really, I didn't know how the shot ended up like this. Quite a number of Common Grass Yellows (Eurema hecabe contubernalis ) were there to add more vibrancy to the garden. Since its larval host plant Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is rather abundant so we should expect this species to be a permanent resident of the park.
This is Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus goberus). A common Lycaenid in both our parks and forest fringes, it has a very distinctive dorsal black dot on the underside of the hindwings. This Grass Demon (Udaspes folus) flew pass me a few times, close to the ground. It has a habit of opening its wings slightly when at rest. Initially it was very alert and never allowed me to get closser, however, it gave in to my persistant chasing eventually. There is a big pond near the entrance. I guess the garden shuold have a good number of Odonata species. As our focus was on buttefly species, we didn't take a good look at the pond area. However, I still managed to shoot one damselfly near the entrance. I am not sure if this is Agriocnemis femina.
Other butterfly species sighted (hope I didn't miss out any) :

1. Appias libythea olferna (Striped Albatross, 利比尖粉蝶)
2. Papilio polytes romulus (Common Mormon, 玉带凤蝶)
3. Phaedyma columella singa (Short-Banded Sailor)
4. Graphium sarpedon luctatius(Common Bluebottle, 青凤蝶)
5. Elymnias hypermnestra agina (Common Palmfly)
6. Hypolycaena erylus teatus (Common Tit)
7. Junonia hedonia ida (Chocolate Pansy)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rich Biodiversity @ Temasek Junior College Part 3

I walked around the college compound looking for macro subjects for my photography session on 9 Jan 2010 which was a sunny and warm Saturday morning. Any visitor to the college will not miss the pond and the sculpture In front of the General Office.

Look out for a very beautiful and attractive dragonfly Trithemis aurora. The male is brilliantly coloured with a pink body. This particular male was so skittish that I had to move around the ponds many times before I could nail a shot. The female is less attractive. This specimen was much more cooperative, staying quite still for me to take a few shots. This male Carpenter bee was buzzing around most of the time. He might be too tired and decided to rest. Common Tit (Hypolycaena erylus teatus) has a pair of curly tails on the hindwing. Very often when it is at rest, the wings are folded. It tends to slide the hindwings up and down, resulting in two tails imitating a pair of moving antennae. This is a common species that can be found in urban parks where the ornamental plant Javanese Ixora (Ixora javanica) is abundant.

We have only two Prosotos species in Singapore, one of which is Tailless Line Blue (Prosotas dubiosa lumpura). About the size of our five-cent coin, it may not be conspicuous individually. But when they are in good numbers, you could easily spot them fluttering. puddling or sun-bathing with open wings in our urban parks and gardens. I was rather fortunate to be able to get two very different shots on their feeding behaviour, obviously on two different sources.
This white-tailed Lycaenid with 3 or 4 black spots near the base of the underside hindwing is a common butterfly named Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava pandava). Its larva feeds on various cycas species which are commonly grown in public parks or perhaps in some private houses . So it is not surprise to see Cycad Blue in the college compound occasionally. A creeping weed growing on the ground, Coat Buttons (Tridax procumbens ) belongs to the family Asteraceae (Compositae). The true flowers are yellow in colour and small, packed into heads which are surrounded by five jagged white ray florets. Take a closer look when you pass by them, you may find insects feeding on the nectar-rich flower heads.
My first sighting of this small critter. I am not sure what this is, a fly perhaps.

Initially. I thought this is going to be my last blog post on flora and fauna species in the college. But since I will be visiting the college rather regularly, I guess I am still able to feature some other animals as well as wild flowers in my next post, though it may not be so soon.

Related posts :

Friday, January 22, 2010

Some Common Butterflies @ Ubin

I met Chng, KY and his friend at Ubin Jetty before we headed straight to the Butterfly Hill on a fine Saturday morning. As usual, Plain Tiger and Glassy Tiger butterflies were aplenty on the hill. I really had no great motivation chasing them. However these two Blue Glassy Tigers (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina) were quite tame and cooperative, putting up an elegant pose infront of me. I just didn't want to disappoint them by ignoring them without a shot.
I have not spotted Dwarf Crow (Euploea tulliolus ledereri ) on the main island. The smallest species of the genus Euploea that can be found in Singapore, Dwarf Crow seems to prefer feeding under morning sun before noon.
This particular shot was taken when it took a few seconds rest after feeding.While I was chasing the above Dwarf Crow feeding on the flowers of Common Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta indica), I saw this lonely moth caterpillar crawling towards a flower. I observed awhile and it did not seem to munch the lovely purple flower which attracted quite a number of butterflies.
Ladybug or Ladybirds are rather misleading common names given to this tiny and cute insect. This is in fact a small beetle belonging to the family Coccinellidae. Many species in this family are usually brightly coloured with distinctive black spots on the wings cover meant for warding off potential predators, a phenomenon called aposemetism.
This flowering shrub on the Butterfly Hill attracted quite a number of insect species including this honey bee. I have not found out what this shrub is.
It looks more like a Telicota species perhaps a Palm Dart (Telicota augias augias ). Quite a few orange-coloured skippers like this were seen feeding and zipping amongst the Biden's flowers. Here is another rather large orange skipper which does not look like a Telicota species.
A smaller yellow skipper, perhaps a Potanthus species was amongst many other skippers parading how they fed and then disappeared within seconds.
This male Horsfield's Baron (Tanaecia iapis puseda) was out to tease me along the Sensory Trail. He had a tendency of perching at the same spot after a short flight. Female is rarer but I believe KY shot one when she visited the Butterfly Hill. I have not been diligent in updating this blog since the beginning of the year. I hope I can post and clear my backlog of write-ups for my outings once I settle down well in my new working environment.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Quiet Afternoon @ MNT Boardwalk

In nature, many insects develop a symbiotic relationship with other organisms. These relationships are mainly mutualistic and thus the species involved are benefiting from each other's presence. An example of this mutualism is shown between many Lycaenid butterfly larvae and several ant species.

I spotted a group of black ants (Polyrhachis species ?) attending to a late instar larva on the underside of a Turn-in-the-wind leaf (Mallotus paniculatus). At last I managed to take a clear shot of this late instar larva of Semanga superba deliciosa. An excellent account of its life history can be found on the ButterflyCircle's Blog here.
Here is another example of ants living in symbiosis with a scale insect found on the same tree. Scale insects feed on tree sap and excrete honeydew which attracts the ants to protect them. A fast-growing evergreen, Turn-in-the-wind (Mallotus paniculatus) is an important shrub for observing insect-plant interactions. Here is yet another cricket-like insect that caught my attention, again found below a leaf surface.
I spent most of the time strolling on the boardwalk, looking out for subjects to photograph. It was a very quiet afternoon. Finally I saw and took a shot of this brilliantly coloured bracket fungus. These are another species of bracket fungus I believe. I am really hopeless in identifying fungus.
This is not a common posture of the Large Snow Flat (Tagiades gana gana). I was very lucky to see its underside and take a long distance shot. This spider was holding on to its prey very tightly. I wonder how long it would take to consume such a prey as big as its own size. Lastly, this very nice hoverfly with a pair of lovely wings kept teasing me for an in-flight shot. But I could only manage to take a quick shot when it rested on a vine.
Besides hunting for butterflies and other insects, I should also look out for opportunities photographing any interactions between species.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Passiflora suberosa and Tawny Coster @Temasek Junior College

Look out for this vine climbing along the fence facing the Bedok South Avenue 1 at the PE Department of Temasek Junior College. This is Passiflora suberosa, a perennial vine which uses its tightly coiled tendrils to extend its territory.

According to the guide book "1001 Garden Plants in Singapore " and NPark FloraWeb , this species exists in two forms of leaf ; tri-lobed leaf and simple-leaf. Yes, I did see both forms there but I thought the tri-lobed leaf form is another climber. I will insert a picture here next time.

The light yellow, small and inconspicuous crown-like flowers are beautiful if we take a closer look.

Its fruits look like oval-shaped berries which are quite small and green initially, ripening to dark purplish black and containing numerous seeds. Ok, what is so special about this climber ?

This is an alternative larval host plant of our new immigrant, Tawny Coster ( Acraea violae, 斑珍蝶). At least a dozen of them were seen fluttering along the fence on 9 Jan.

Near the volleyball court, KY, Jonathan and I noticed some Keranga Ants or Weaver Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) transporting a dead female Tawny Coster. I wonder if she was attacked by the ants while eclosing from its pupa or during mating as we spotted a male was being pushed away from a group of red waver ants a few wire grids away.

Jonathan got a shot using my T180 lens.

I went back to the same location after lunch. Now there were fewer ants transporting the two poor Tawny Costers. A few grids away, I saw two weaver ants working very hard moving this poor Tawny Coster along the fence. I wonder how these ants could drag such a mammoth object (compared to their size) and manoeuvre themselves so skillfully on the fence. After a while, I noticed that one of the ants giving up, leaving behind this persistent guy pushing and dragging the giant by itself. The ant must be tired by now and it stopped moving. From the background of this shot, you should be able to guess that the ant in fact had moved quite some distance, from above my eye level to below my eye level.
I surveyed the fence and found another pupa. I hope the adult from this pupa will eclose successfully and avoid the same misfortune.

Did the lonely ant continue pushing and dragging the dead butterfly to its nest ? I shall let the picture answer this question (note : throughout the whole duration that I stood there and observed, I did not interfere the ants at all)