Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Rather Quiet Sunday On MNT

A heavy downpour lasted almost the whole of last Saturday (20 March) prevented me from going to any wild places for my weekly nature walk. I made up the loss by taking a short walk along the MacRitchie Nature Trail (MNT) the next day afternoon - yes, enjoying greenery has become an important routine for me on weekends.

Some old trees were felled near the entrance of the trail and I saw a few signboards saying that reforestation programme was in progress. Reforestation programme is necessary for our trees and forest habitats to maintain a healthy state.

The critters seemed to stay away from where the reforestation work was. At last, this non-native Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor ) appeared in front of me. It has become our most common lizards in our gardens, town parks and many wild places since it was introduced into Singapore many years ago. Sad to say that our native Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) is losing the battle against the Changeable Lizard in the wild. This small but beautiful Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma ) rested on a tree branch at quite a distance from me. I hesitated a while before I took a few steps forward and snapped a long distance shot to capture its beauty with my macro lens. This is a planthopper which was found on a leaf surface with its wings open. It certainly looks like a moth in this position.

A very beautiful and attractive damselfly which I have shot many times, Ceriagrion cerinorubellum is widely distributed in town parks with ponds and water catchment areas in our nature reserve.
There were several of them along the reservoir boardwalk. I spotted this intimate pair trying to form a "wheel". Despite several attempts by the female, they were not successful.
A very common squirrel in many parts of our forested wild places, Pantain Squirrel (allosciurus notatus) is usually very skittish and alert. I usually didn't have any chance to get closer to them as any slight movement would scare them away. While I focused on shooting the mating pair of the dragonflies, this cute fellow came down and wandered around on the boardwalk wooden railings. Without making any movement, I quickly took a couple of shots.

Is this a "glowing" planthopper ? This was my first sighting of a rather strange and pretty planthopper. It rested on a dead branch in a very shady part of the forest trail. My shaky hands just could not allow me to lower the shutter speed further to get a brighter background.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Hazy and Cloudy Day @ Seletar Wasteland

My last visit to this wasteland at Seletar was last October (see here). After fulfilling my other commitment in the early morning, I decided to head out to this place even though the weather was a little hazy and a cloudy on a Saturday noon.

It was quite obvious that some shrubs and trees had been chopped down and a wider food path had been created - definitely not a good sign for nature lovers.

I saw this male Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus) resting in a shade, a very common species in this wasteland as its larval host plant the Indian Curry Leaf (Murraya koenigii ) was growing very well here.

There were quite a few Gram Blue (Euchrysops cnejus cnejus , 棕灰蝶) ) fluttering around in the late morning. They were rather active and alert and hardly stopped long enough for me to compose a better shot. I believe this is one of its host plants, a creeper growing quite well despite the dry weather in the past few weeks. I noticed this Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona pomona) resting on a lalang grass blade. Out of a few shots that I took, this particular shot captured a rare moment of it using one of the front legs rubbing its eyes.

This female Blue Glassy Tiger (ideopsis vulgaris macrina ) was fluttering around a Simpoh Air (Dillenia suffruitcosa ) bush, demonstrating a typical behaviour of a female trying to lay eggs. I patiently observed her and indeed she laid two eggs on a vine climbing high up on the Simpoh Air shrub.
She might have "exhausted" after laying the eggs so she decided to rest on a twig. What a good chance for me to snap some quick shots before she regained her energy and flew off.
This small Lycaenid is Apefly (Spalgis epius epius) which belongs to a a family of butterfly called Miletinae whose larvae are carnivorous. It displayed a rather erratic flight but all of a sudden it perched on a lalang , presenting me a good opportunity to take a few shots before it took off hastily again.
This may be a female Crocothemis servila dragonfly which was quite common in this long strip of wasteland. A drab and inconspicuous moth was hiding in a bush close to the ground. Identifying a moth is never an enjoyable thing for me to do. A very common spider in many wastelands, it looks like a female Golden Web spider (Nephila pilipes) enjoying her meal - a fly. Here is another shot, showing more of her underside. Leafhoppers feed on various plant's xylem sap and this particular species (Bothrogonia ferruginea) is very common in our wastelands. Though not big, its prominent orange "outfit" makes it very noticeable when it lends on a leaf. Interestingly, the presence of a few black spots on its head and the front sections of its body make it look like a ladybird beetle.
This wasteland has very rich floral and fauna species. We have lost quite a few wasteland habitats (eg Punggol and Daily Farm areas). I really hope it will not be developed in the near future.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Second Visit to Semakau Island Part 2

After a quick and simple packet lunch at the shelter, our "base camp", I checked out the forested area. The forest floor was piling up with many dead brown leaves due to the dry spell in the past few weeks.

The first critter I encountered was this pretty butterfly Hypolycaena thecloides thecloides which can be found quite regularly near mangrove areas in Pulau Ubin as well. The orange patches at the forewing apical and submarginal region are much more intense and prominent than its close relative Common Tit (Hypolycaena erylus teatus). The upperside wings are brown in both sexes. It liked to open its wings partially, making us quite frustrated if we were trying to get a good upperside shot.I encountered this rather tame and large beetle resting in the shade. I wonder if it has eaten and punctured the leaf foliage. This is an unattractive and dull-looking moth. However the shape of the wings is rather strange and unique. I have seen the name of the species before but I just cannot recall at the moment.

I saw quite a few Tiger Beetles on the beach. This species is different from what I usually saw in our parks or forest edges. I found it less skittish and shooting it was not as challenging as other Tiger Beetles.

From far I saw this lizard climbing up a tree growing on the shore. It scurried up the tree fast and high the moment I came closer. It looks like a juvenile to me but I have no idea what species it is.

Lastly, this solitary digger wasp, Stizus species according to John, was seen entering a subterranean tunnel on the beach. Just before it entered the tunnel, I took a quick shot. It appeared to me that the wasp was in the process of building the tunnel - an interesting behaviour.I only covered a tiny section of the island. I hope I will have another opportunity to explore more about the island in the near future.

Related posts :

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Second Visit to Semakau Island Part 1

Thanks Khew for organising as well as sponsoring this butterfly survey for ButterflyCircle members on 7 March. After about 20-minute of smooth and comfortable boat ride, we reached Semakau island around 9:30 . An NEA officer was already there to receive us. Read more about the outing here.

I decided to check out a portion of the grassland first while some other members went straight to the forested area.

Not very far away from where the first shelter is, BJ and I found some host plants of the Common Tiger (Danaus genutia genutia) Cynanchum ovalifolium. Most of them look very young and vulnerable. I hope the recent weeks of drought will not threaten the survival of this vine which is becoming less abundant. This is a record shot of a solitary male Common Tiger feeding on a Coat Button (Tridax procumbens) flower. From the non-green background of this shot, you can imagine how dry this place was. Though there were quite a few Blue Pansy, Two-spotted Line Blue and Tawny Costa, Lycaenids and skippers fluttering and zipping around, these butterflies were extremely skittish, alert and restless, perhaps the intense radiating heat also affected them as much as human beings.

The moment I noticed this orange skipper resting on a leaf, I quickly approached closer and snapped a few shots. It appears to be a Common Palm Dart (Telicota colon stinga).Here is another skipper. After a few minutes of high-speed flashing flight, it decided to rest on a dry Lalang leaf. I could only get a long distance shot. There were many hoverflies both in the grassland and the forested areas. A few of them were seen chasing each other but most of the time they were busy visiting flowers.This carpenter bee appears to be smaller than a particular female Xylocopa confusa. In addition, the brown patches on the wings make me think that it might be a different species. It was found resting on a dry stem. I almost had to lie on the ground to take this shot with a blue-sky view in the background. This is another shot from the side. I wonder what that little red thing near the end of the abdomen.
Every 15 minutes of searching and hunting (yes, not much shooting) in the open field, I was exhausted by the heat wave and had to look for a shady tree nearby. This was how I noticed this Lacewing hanging on a Lalang when I was taking a break under a big Acacia tree. I think the common name of this attractive pale yellow flower is African Morningvine (Xenostegia tridentata Family : Convolvulaceae ). It is a perennial vine with arrow-shaped leaves, growing relatively well in the grassland near a big Rhu tree.
More information on this vine can be found here. I don't remember I saw this Cucumis maderaspatanus when I first visited Semakau last January. This wild climber with sprawling stems, producing small melon-like fruits was doing very well in one particular area in the field.
You will be surprised this tiny flower can produce such a nice-looking edible fruit.
After about 90 minutes of sun-tanning in the open field, I felt quite exhausted and decided to head back to the shelter to replenish my energy level. In part 2, I will write about my encounter in the forested areas.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Some Forest Plants

These are some plant species that caught my attention during the last two weekend outings to our nature reserves.

African Tulip (Spathodea campanulata. Family : Bignoniaceae) is a rather common evergreen growing on wastelands and along some secondary forest edges. A fast-growing tree which has wind-dispersed seeds, African Tulip is very attractive when it is in full bloom as the large and showy orange-red flowers can easily be seen from far. The fruits are long and obliquely large. .
The dried flowers on the ground provide food source for animals as well. Look at this Baron (Euthalia aconthea gurda), it was found "drunk" on a piece of decaying flower.

This spiny rattan palm Daemonorops didymophylla. (Family: Arecaceae) is rather common in the shady parts of our forest. I have seen some very tall ones before. Here is a picture of a cluster of fruits that I took recently.

The fruits are covered with a red encrusting resin which can be use as a traditional medicine as well as a dye according to Ivan Polunin's book on "Plants and Flowers of Singapore". There are quite a few other Daemonorops species that can be used for many purposes (see here). I was quite curious to find out how its flowers look like but was not able to find any.

I saw this Black Lily (Tecca integrifolia Family : Taccaceae) near a stream in our nature reserve. The leaves are large and its flower is grown at the end of a flowering stem which stands out quite prominently.

Here is a close-up shot of its rather unique flower which is surrounded by very interesting-looking bracts. I was rather intrigued by this very special flower.

Without a good diversity of plant species, the survival of many animals will be threaten. We need to be observant to look at the plants around us, try to understand more about their habitats in order to safeguard their survival in our very delicate natural environment.