Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Very Dry MNT

On a sunny and rather warm Saturday morning (20 Feb), I was taking a slow walk in our nature reserve areas. I noticed that many parts of the MacRitchie Nature Trail (MNT) were quite try and filled with dead fallen leaves.

I am not sure if this is a Coeliccia octogesima which was found along a very shady forest trail. Its wings were spreading out quite evenly whenever it perched on something, not a usual posture displayed by most damselflies.
I saw this giant forest ant (Camponotus gigas) swimming across a narrow stream. This was my first sighting of how an ant overcoming the water obstacle. Finally, it succeeded in crossing the stream.This spider has spiny legs but the eyes don't seem to suggest that this is a kind 0f Lynx spider. It was waiting patiently on a leaf surface, ready to attack any intruders coming close to its territory.
I guess this is a digger wasp which kept buzzing around from leaf to leaf. It stopped occasionally to survey its surrounding. A rather cute black-and-white and pretty butterfly in its own way, this small Lycaenid Elbowed Pierrot (Caleta elna elvira) loves to flutter just above the ground level, looking for "sweet" spots to puddle on. I guess the common name Elbowed Pierrot was given to this species because of the L-shaped elbow-like black band near the base of the forewing beneath.
This particular species of Robber Fly seems to be abundant in our nature reserves as it kept appearing in the past two weeks. Robber Flies are carnivorous and their sharp mouth parts together with their compound eyes make them dangerous and deadly predators of other insects. Robber Flies are popular subjects for macro-photographers. I am no exception and I particularly like to take the side view shot.
This dark brown skipper is Banded Demon (Notocrypta paralysos varians) (Correct id should be Quedara monteithi monteithi . Thanks Khew). It can be seasonally common. A distinctive feature of this skipper is its white band on the forewing from the costal (the edge ) to the discal region. It tends to feed on flowers in the early morning. In fact, the upperside of the forewings has similar white irregular discal bands. This skipper was very sensitive to camera flash, both shots here were taken using the natural light source only.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

First Day of The Tiger Year @ Lower Pierce Reservoir Park

I decided to "sneak out" to Lower Peirce Reservoir Park in the early afternoon on the first day of the Tiger Year (14 Feb). I was rather disappointed that there wasn't any red butterflies or critters appeared to say "Gong Xi Fa Cai" to me. Perhaps they have gone to visit their relatives in other parts of the forested areas.

A very common and widely spread butterfly, the underside wings of Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina) are speckled and brown predominantly. This species very rarely opens its wings to reveal its upperside. Very frequently, Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete ) was seen fluttering at tree tops. This specimen was kind enough to remain at my eye level for a while. The orange and yellow patches on the underside of the hindwings make this slow-flying Delias species a very pretty and elegant butterfly.
There were quite a few small blue leaf beetles. I found this pair was "teasing" each other using their antennae, a rather interesting behaviour. I guess they were going through a kind of courtship ritual before mating. Or were they "fighting" ? This hairy moth larva with a pretty cute head was crawling on a twig. It moved rather fast. I tried to snap its side view before it turned around on the twig.

This is another moth larva found resting on a leaf surface. We can easily spot Robber Fly species (Family : Asilidae) in our forested areas. They are stout and fierce predators of butterflies, moths and other smaller insects. This is the dorsal view of the same fly which stayed quite still in a shade. I suppose this is another species of beetle which kept moving on a leaf surface. A few senior citizens and a group of foreign workers were intrigued by two different melody of bird songs but we just could not locate where exactly the birds were at the forest canopy. Many of us stood there for a while and enjoyed the beautiful music they have created for us - I should have recorded the songs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Two Dukes @ Lornie Trail

On the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year (13 Feb) I could only afford a quick outing in the afternoon. I had no definite plan of where I should go but since the bus going to Lornie Trail (LT) arrived first so once again I headed out to LT.

The refreshing breeze and the chorus of insects filled the forest ambiance. I really enjoyed the tranquility and solitude offered by our nature reserves in a very peaceful afternoon.

Purple Duke (Eulaceura osteria kumana) is rather common in our nature reserves as its larval food plant Gironniera subaequalis is quite abundant in many parts of our forested areas. Purple Duke tends to fold up its wings and hide under the leaf when it is alerted. This is a male specimen showing clearly its bluish purple underside in the presence of the camera flash light.

However, it does rest on the leaf surface at times. Occasionally, it may open up its wings and sunbathe. Purple Duke flies very fast however it does not seem to fly far between successive perches and that make it easier for us to track its movement. The life history of Purple Duke has beem brilliantly documented in the ButterflyCircle's blog here . Another "Duke" we are likely to meet in the forest is the Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana). Both male and female individuals were seen sailing or gliding along forest paths and quite often puddling on the rotten fruits or damp soil. While this male Archduke was puddling on the ground, I took a quick shot when his wings were momentarily folded.This is his open-winged posture, a rather pristine specimen. There were at least a couple of them in the same vicinity. Another excellent write-up on the life history of Archduke can be found at the ButterfluCircle's blog here. The actions of how a mother Grey Sailor (Neptis leucoporos cresina) was laying an egg on Gironniera subaequalis were captured (yes the same host plant as the Purple Duke. There is a write-up on this shrub in Flora of China). She was seen fluttering around and checking on a few leaves on the host plant before landing on a leaf surface.

She moved backwards and finally she knew where the spot was - the tip of the leaf and a green elliptically shaped egg was laid.

On my way home along another side trail leading to Lornie Road, I met this large and dull skipper, Coconut Skipper (Hidari irava) resting in a shade.
Just a few metres away from the skipper, I spotted an Arhopala species high on a shrub. My first impression was that it looks like one of those rarer species.
This interesting smiling-face spider which I shot last weekend appeared to be guarding her babies a week later. I can't figure out what exactly she was doing in the picture.Though I took the same old trail as last weekend, I could still find and capture some different critters in the forest. That shows our nature reserve areas are still quite rich in biodiversity and vibrant enough to give us surprises at times. But, with the help, cooperation of the public and the support of the relevant authority, I hope our forests will offer us more fauna and flora in years to come.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Good Outing @ Lornie Trail

I could not join a ButterflyCircle group outing on Saturday (6 Feb). However, I did manage to free up about 2 hours around noon, searching for butterflies and other insects at Lornie Trail.

The scorching heat dissipated almost instantly the moment I stepped on the forest trail. Thanks to the forest canopy which provides us sufficient shade. First terrestrial animal I saw was two Psyche butterflies ( 纤粉蝶, Leptosia nina malayana). They were constantly fluttering very casually near the ground, welcoming me visiting their home. Usually, I would not stop long waiting for them to perch. But, I was lucky I turned my head back to take a second look at them and realised that one of them was resting on a grass blade.This was my first sighting of a Pierid butterfly feeding on bird droppings. I rarely encountered Psyche staying so still, a golden opportunity for me to snap a few more shots from different angles. Wow, what a good start for my outing as the memory of my last shot of a Psyche in the wild has already been erased completely. Usually I encountered and shot open-winged Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea), a very common species in our forest. I was fortunate to see two of them, a male and a female, puddling on the ground. This is my first shot of the underside of a female. There were fewer joggers on the trail during lunch hours otherwise I would not be so lucky to get these shots. Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala ) is rather common and widely spread. However, I have seen this slightly different Chestnut Bob quite frequently at a particular location. Yes, I have an interesting conjecture in my mind now. Perhaps this may be a Starry Bob (Iambrix stellifer) after all. I am not sure if this is another species of Micropezid Fly. It has a "tail" sticking out from its abdomen and is larger than the common Micropezid Fly that we usually encounter in the forest. This is another species of fly, perhaps a kind of Soldier Fly. A few of them were found in the shade along the trail. An interesting posture - raising its abdomen while sticking out its front leg.

Do you think the small spider in the webs would draw your attention ? The answer is no for me. It was the glittering webs under the sun that arouse my curiosity. This is a close-up shot of the spider. I have no idea what species it is.
Another very interesting looking spider appeared to be taking a nap.
It was a very fruitful outing for me in which I managed to get some "firsts". Today is the eve of a new year - Year of the Tiger on the lunar calendar. Here I wish every reader of the blog a fruitful and healthy Year of the Tiger ahead.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Glorious Butterfly Species @ USR

I went on a short outing trip to Upper Seletar Reservoir Park (USR ) on 31 Jan which was a fine Saturday morning. One of my usual hunting spots presented me with a pleasant surprise. This was the first time I could see at least half a dozen Dark Blue Jungle Glory butterflies (Thaumantis klugius lucipor) at one location. I guess the larval host plant must be nearby. I notice that the ocellus on the underside hindwing in space 2 of a female is bigger than that in a male. Also the presence of a tornal black spot on a female is not observed on a male Dark Blue Jungle Glory. I hope I am right to make these observations. While I was searching for a mating pair and the larval host plant, I almost bumped into this spider web overhanging my head. I have no idea what spider this is.I cannot remember if I have seen this black beetle before. Those vertical white markings on its wings did not help to conceal itself especially when it rested on a green foliage. It stayed very still for me to take a few shots but from an awkward angle. It looks like a kind of Darkling Beetle (?) Again, I have very poor knowledge of beetle, so I can't really tell what species it is.I am not sure if this is a fly or something else which kept flapping its wings on a leaf surface.
This is another spider found along a forest trail. I noticed that spiders seemed to be thriving in our nature reserves these days. This is Ictinogomphus decoratus, a rather big but common dragonfly found near the reservoir edge. It kept coming back to the same perch, so getting a shot was rather easy. I remember during my early years of butterfly watching and photography, it was quite rare for me to see a Dark Blue Jungle Glory. However, I have been sighting this species more frequently in the past few months. I feel that this is a puzzle that we are yet to find out all the answers.