Friday, April 30, 2010

From Dairy Farm Park to Bukit Timah Hill

Perhaps due to torrential rain on quite a number of days in the past two weeks, I noticed many fungi along the forest trails in our nature reserves. All fungi do not have chlorophyll which is found in green plants and therefore cannot produce their food through photosynthesis.

This small orange wild and perhaps poisonous mushroom grew on the shady ground at the peak of the Bukit Timah Hill.
Under the flash light, the dark bluish colour of this fungus was simply magnificent.
Fungi are capable of synthesising many organic compounds and they live either as parasites on other living organisms or as saprophytes drawing nutrients from dead remains. For example, this white fungus was found on a piece of dead fallen branch.
If we are not careful, we may think that this is the common Neurothemis fluctant dragonfly. Besides the slight difference in the red-winged pattern, the size of this rather large male Camacinia gigantea dragonfly differentiates clearly between the two. There were quite a few of them darting in high speed at the summit. Just next to the large dragonfly that I shot, this orange skipper which looks like a Telicota species quietly enjoyed a moment of solitude under a big tree. This tailless Arhopala species (possibly Arhopala major major) appeared along the sunlit trail leading to the carpark when I came down from the peak - a rather unusual behaviour as species in this genus usually prefers shady environment.
This "dragon-head' larva was found on a young leaf of a Saga Tree (Adenanthera pavonina) near one of the entrances to the Wallace Trail.
These two small and brilliantly coloured cute leaf beetles were found on the same Saga tree.
My first sighting of this yellow-and-black leaf beetle. The multi-segmented antennae look rather interesting and unique. Quite a few Lycaenids fluttering and puddling on the ground. However, they were rather skittish, hardly stopping long enough for me to take a shot. This looks like a Pointed Line Blue (Ionolyci helicon merguiana) as its forewing termen is rather straight with a rather pointed apex.
When it was in flight, the metallic blue upperside of this skittish Nacaduba species (may be Nacaduba calauria malayica) was rather prominent. It kept fluttering erratically along the Wallace Trail without stopping. It finally settled on my hand and I managed to take a shot.
The pictures here were shot in two different outings to this convenient hunting ground for me. I plan to go up to the Bukit Timah Hill a few more times as this is part of my preparation for climbing Hunagshang in China in June.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Uninteresting Old Tree Trunks ?

I usually didn't bother to look at a tree trunk, especially those old ones covered with dull and unattractive tree bark.

I remembered this critter flew past me and landed on a tree trunk in front of me during one of my outings many weeks ago. Out of curiosity, I took a closer look and noticed it was a moth, very well-camouflaged and blended almost perfectly with the tree bark. Since then, whenever I bumped into an old tree trunk with dull and unattractive bark, I would spend a few more seconds examining the tree trunk. I have begun to discover that there are interesting creatures living on tree trunks.

I guess this is a kind of Darkling beetle (Strongylium gratum ?) which was found on a tree trunk covered with lichen on the summit of the Bukit Timah hill.
This pupa was found hanging on an old tree trunk along a forest trail in the nature reserve. I am clueless about its identity though it looks like a moth pupa. This hairy moth larva caught my attention when it was scurrying on a old and big tree trunk.This is a definitely a cicada (Purana nebulilinea ?). So far I have not seen a cicada resting on foliage. We always could hear its high-pitching noise in the forest but finding one is not that easy as it is very well camouflaged with tree bark or usually hiding high up on the tree.
I think this is a kind of toad grasshopper. The texture and colour of the tree bark conceal the presence of this little creature so well that any predator could miss it completely.
So next time when you come across an old big tree covered with blackish and dull bark, slow down and take a look because you may discover something you have not seen before.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wild Wild West After Rain

Last Saturday's predawn thunderstorm lasting a few hours till late morning did not stop me from going for a quick outing to a wasteland in the western part of Singapore.

This small and pale greenish moth flew past me and perched in front of me. I went closer and took a couple of shots.
A few pristine Malayan (Megisba malaya sikkima) butterflies were fluttering around a flowering Turn-In-The-Wind (Mallotus paniculatus) tree. I saw one female busy ovipositing her eggs - on the flower buds as well as underneath the leaf. She was rather choosy, fluttering around the tree and looking for a good position to deposit every egg.A detailed write-up on the species and its life history can be found in the ButterflyCirlce's blog here. This wasteland habitat is home to our two Spindasis species. They usually stay around in the same vicinity after each short flight. This Long Banded Silverline (Spindasis lohita senama) is one of the favourite butterflies for photography.
This rather large and brightly coloured Shield Bug (Pycanum rubens) was hiding underneath of a Simpoh Ayer leaf (Dillenia suffruticosa). When a Shield bug is threaten, it has the ability to release a disgusting scent to scare off any intruders. This critter remained tame and unperturbed for a while, allowing me to compose my shot, though from a difficult angle.
As usual, flowers with rich nectar attract all sorts of critters. This hoverfly (Eristalinus arvorum ?) was feeding voraciously on Bidens flowers.

I have shot this small and colourful critter a few times before. However, I am not sure what it is.
This black ant (Polyrhachis sp) was seen on this wild flower which has lost one petal. I wonder what the ant was doing.
I am not sure if this dragonfly is Agrionoptera insignis. There were a few of them perching on twigs along a shady trail in the wasteland.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Short Outing to Dairy Farm Natue Park

I dropped by Dairy Farm Nature Park Last Saturday (3 Apr) morning. My first impression was that it was not crowded at all. The number of visitors seemed to decline compared to few months ago when it was just opened.

I stumbled onto a Digger Wasp (John has identified this a spider-hunting wasp (Pompilid) on the trail leading to the Bukit Timah summit. I was too slow to capture the action of the wasp ragging a rather huge spider into its burrow. It happened so fast that I could only snap one shot. I moved the dead leaves away and I waited for the wasp to appear again. Before it emerged fully from the hole, it cautiously protruding out its head to check the surrounding. Now, it was completely out of the burrow.Strange that it decided to go into the hole again. I quickly restored the dead leaves back to their original spots and went down hill to take a slow walk along the main tarred road. Usually I would ignore this common cricket, However, the way it perched on a flower of the African Spiral Flag (Costus lucanusianus) caught my attention. I spotted some ants moving on the Macaranga plant. I was trying very hard to isolate and freeze one of them. Wow, so many "shells" on the stem and the ant was like walking on some pebbles.
I suspect (not fully sure) this may be Miletus symethus petronius , a rather rare Miletus species that I may not have shot it before. This orange skipper which looks like a Palm Dart (Telicota augias augias) was resting in the shade.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wonderful Wild Wild West On a Hot Saturday Part 2

When there wasn't any butterfly around, I would take pictures of other insects that crossed my path.

This is a common and slow-flying brightly coloured Assassin bug (Cosmolestes picticeps). It belongs to the Reduviidae family of insects in the order Hemiptera . Possessing a strong mouth part that can penetrate and inject toxin into the body of its preys, Assassin bugs live up to the name given to them. Thinking that it was an ant, I was almost fooled by its appearance initially. Of course, when I looked at the camera's viewfinder, I realised that it has eight legs, an ant-mimicking spider.This is a Giant Ant-like Jumper spider which mimics the Common Spiny ant in the genus Polyharchis.I believe this is a kind of firefly (Luciolinae sp) belonging to the beetle family Lampyridae. This beetle has light-producing substance in its lower abdomen according to a Wikipedia's page here . A kind of Tiger Beetle (Collyris bonelli ?) found wandering on a leaf surface appeared to hunt for its preys. This looks like a Scoliid wasp to me (Campsomeris species ?) resting on a berry fruit of the climber Cissus hastata.
Cissus hastata (Family : Vitaceae) is a rather common climber in our wastelands. One of the distinctive features of this vine is its reddish tendrils. Brown in colour and with a triangular head, the Broad-headed bug (Riptortus pedestris ?) is commonly found on leaves in grasslands.
This green cricket seems to love nectar as it was commonly found on all sort of flowers. I would not be able to spot this well-camouflaged katydid if it did not leap from one leaf to another. A rather common species in grasslands with a pair of big and powerful hind legs, male katydids have stridulating organs located on their forewings. The females would chirp like "katy did, katy didn't " in response to the songs made by the males during the courtship season. This is a kind of toad grasshopper, blending itself perfectly with the ground colour. I would not have noticed it if I had not gone low shooting a puddling Gram Blue butterfly nearby.

A very fruitful outing in which I used more than two CF cards to store my pictures It appeared that some wastelands in the Western part of Singapore have very rich biodiversity, waiting for us to explore further.

Related post : Wonderful Wild Wild West On a Hot Saturday Part 1

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wonderful Wild Wild West On a Hot Saturday Part 1

My last visit to this large plot of wasteland in the western part of Singapore was last May (See here). On a hot Saturday morning (27 March) I set off early with my rarely-used monopod (just in case I need it for chasing away wild dogs) to check out this place again, alone.

My first encounter with a 'flying jewel' was a pair of Malayan Eggflies (Hypolimnas anomala anomala). We could see a glimpse of the iridescent blue patches on the upperside forewing of the female.

Look at the number of eggs a female had laid a week ago perhaps. I could not understand why Malayan Eggfly lays all the eggs on one leaf - not a wise move really. Judging from its uppersides, this is a male Malayan Eggfly, so willingly to be my model posing at a low level. This common skipper Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala) was resting just a few leaves away from the Eggfly. The white spots on the underside hindwing can be quite variable. Usually there were three white spots as shown in this picture.

One distinguishing feature of Tawny Palmfly (Elymnias panthera panthera) is the row of submarginal black spots on the underside hindwing. You should be able to see that it was shot from an elevated angle.
Many Common Caerulean (Jamides celeno aelianus) were fluttering at ground level as well as feeding on the Bidens flowers like this. When in flight the whitish upperside wing distinguishes it from the other Jamides species which have very similar underside wing patterns.
I was rather surprised to see a pristine Commander (Moduza procris milonia) resting on a foliage, flapping its wings gradually, a rather common behaviour that I often noticed. So I waited for the right moment to snap a quick shot on its underside.

This Common Red Flash (Rapala iarbus iarbus) suddenly flew past me and rested. Though it was not a nice and pristine specimen, in order to record its presence, I slowly moved and positioned myself to take a few shots.
Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja) was abundant there, at least half a dozen of them were frolicking, usually in pairs under the hot morning sun. They seemed to like perching on the flowers or dry fruits (?) of Goose Grass (Eleusine indica), flapping their wings gradually from time to time. In this picture, the proboscis was probing something which I am curious to know. The underside of the Common Sailor is ocherous with prominent rows of white spots across the wings.

This brown skipper was darting past me a few times and it finally rested in front of me. I was trying to get a shot of its underside but it just refused to rest with it wings folded up fully.

Looking at the forewing markings, I guess this might be a Contiguous Swift (Polytremis lubricans lubricans). Here is another shot showing the upperside markings.

This small Lycaenid, The Malayan (Megisba malaya sikkima) was spotted along another trail in the wasteland, fluttering erratically around a Turn-in-the-wind (Mallotus paniculatus)tree. It was already past my lunch hour, I was feeling a bit tired and I decided to stand still and watch it. At last, it rested in a shade, allowing me to snap a few shots.

These were my best shots of a beautiful and high-flying species, Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete). I saw two of them fluttering at the tree top level while I was finding my way to look for other butterfly species in the late afternoon. I really didn't expect this pristine specimen coming down to feed on the Bidens flowers. How lucky I was. I spent about 10 minutes chasing and shooting this beauty. After which I felt completely exhausted and decided to head for the bus stop.
This was one of my longest and most tiring outings - more than 5 hours in the field. Apart from all the shots here, I will feature some other non-butterfly shots in my next post.