Monday, August 30, 2010

Fivebar Swordtail @ Upper Seletar Reservoir

14 Aug was a lucky day for me at USR. While I walked behind the toilet towards the direction of the children playground, I noticed a Fivebar Swordtail (pathysa antiphates itamputi) perching on the edge of a leaf, above my eye level. I instinctively took a long distance shot - with the sky as part of the background. I approached closer and took more shots on this magnificent and attractive Swallowtail butterfly. A forest denizen that is fond of puddling on the damp ground, Fivebar Swordtail is a fast flyer with a pair of sword-like tails - a highly sought-after species by both photographers and butterfly collectors. A rather cooperative female dragonfly was found perching on a twig - I believe this is Orchithemis pulcherrima .
Lesser Darkie (Allotinus unicolour unicolour) is generally a shade-loving small lycaenid. It is rather common in the past few months - quite abundant in our nature reserves. Once it has settled down on a perch, it may rest there for a while. That is why I was able to take my time to compose and capture this shot at a rather slow shutter speed, 1/50.Lesser Darkie is known to have a symbiotic relationship with ants. Its larva is carnivorous and feeds on aphids or other small insects associated with ants.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

National Day Outing to Lornie Trail

It has been more than two weeks since my last visit to Lornie Trail on our 45th National Day. Attending a conference and a paper presentation in Tokyo last week was my excuse for not updating the blog in time.

This female Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri) flew across the forest trail and landed a few meters in front of me.
I like to observe how butterflies, small and big feeding on the Leea indica flowers at one of my favourite spots along the trail - the flowering trees could give me surprises at times.

This rather pristine male Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) was feeding on the flowers voraciously, demonstrating all sorts of stunts with flapping wings - giving me a hard time to photograph it.
Here is another shot showing its blue iridescence on the forewings caused by either refractions, diffraction or interference of light traveling through the tiny wing scales which are made of chitin and arranged in layers with air space in between. This optical process gives rise to structural colours which are usually metallic blue or green colours.

If you want to find out more about this gorgeous species, read the BC's blog on its life history.
The underside wings are more attractive. The brilliant colours coupled with the delicate patterns and the wave-line wing borders with v-shaped white markings make this lovely butterfly a favourite subject for photography.

There were at least half a dozen of Chocolate Grass Yellows (Eurema sari sodalis) flitting and feeding on the L. indica flowers.
A very common forest denizen, Yellow Veined Lancer (Pyroneura latoia latoia) can be easily seen feeding on the L. indica flowers in our forests. For a change, I chose to take a shot of this pristine specimen. A robberfly was basking in the afternoon sun. Or was it waiting to strike its prey that came near within its reach ? I have noticed that robberflies usually facing the forest trail when they perch.
I usually look out for dragonflies at the reservoir edge next to the SICC golf course. I think this predominantly blue damselfly is Pseudagrion microcephalum, a common species in many parks and nature reserves.
The way this damselfly perching - wings spreading outwardly was different from many other species - my second encounter of a male Lestes praemorsus decipiens at the same spot. I hope to see and photograph a mating pair in the future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Winged Animals On Flowers and Foilage

Fraser's Hill (FH) is a popular place for bird-watching and photography. Indeed, the number of birds I have encountered was quite impressive. Without a bird lens, I only captured some docile birds who were not afraid of my close proximity with them.

It was a later afternoon, this Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush was resting high on the tree.
This magnificent Black-throated Sunbird was our "target" when we didn't have any other subjects to photograph. It kept coming back to the same Honeysuckle Flowers (Lonicera species) outside the Bungalow where we stayed.Quite a number of this rather tame Long-tailed Sibia were singing and foraging for food in the early morning. Thanks David from Australia who had identified these birds.
Here is another shot.
Another small bird was chirping above me on a cloudy morning just outside where we stay.
Forest Quaker (Pithecops corvus corvus) is a small lycaenid butterfly. There were quite a few of them flitting and feeding on wild flowers beside a riverbank.
The number of Red Spot Jezebels (Delias descombesi eranthos) fluttering at the canopy level tempted us to stop our cars along the roadside. Many thanks to the owner (or caretaker) of a private property on a small hill top for allowing us to photograph these beautiful Jezebels feeding on the flowers of the Lantana bushes.
On 5 Aug after the weather turned slightly better in the early afternoon, we went to the same place again. On the slope, I had a rare chance to see a female being harassed by a male and this was what she did - to refuse mating.
Just like other "Tiger butterflies", Yellow Glassy Tiger (Parantica aspasia aspasia) usually flies slowly at low level, feeding on wild flowers intermittently.

The most common "Ring" species at FH is the Common Three Ring (Ypthima pandocus corticari) but they were rather skittish. I decided not to chase them for a shot. From far, we would think that there isn't any "ring" on the underside hindwings of this species shown here. In fact, there are six (the last adjoined pair counted as one) small ocelli  on the hindwings of  this Malayan Six-ring  (Ypthima fasciata torone) butterfly
This is Chocolate Tiger (Parantica melaneus sinopion). I had a hard time chasing this bugger before I could manage a record shot.

This moth was spotted at the ground level where we were chasing and shooting the Red Spot Jezebel. It flew and behaved like a butterfly, feeding on the Lantana flowers under the hot sun.

This Saturn (Zeuxidia amethystus amethystus) was taken from afar resting above my eye level. However, its preferred habitat is the forest understory.
I cannot identify the next two skippers. There were shot at the foot of Bukit Fraser on a rather sunny and hot afternoon. The first shot looks like a Notocrypta species.
I have no clue about this skipper.
My first shot of a mating Lady Bug. There were quite a few of them foraging on leaf surfaces. This intimate pair didn't seem to be shy about their behaviour.
A rather large bug appeared to be wearing a armoured shield around its body, I guess this is a kind of Sting Bug. Apart from these insects, I have shot many species of moths - will post these shots when I have the time to process the pictures.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fraser's Hill Puddlers Part 2

Continue from my previous post.

The Great Orange Tip (Hebomoia glaucippe aturi) is a rather large pierid butterfly. It tested a few spots before it settled down quite tamely savouring the nutrient solution.My first encounter with a Spotted Sawtooth (Prioneris thestylis malaccana) was just next to a group of Swallowtail puddlers. A deformed paper cup on the right side of the picture really spoilt this shot.
Chocolate Albatross (Appias lyncida vasava) was in great numbers that they could obstruct our view of getting a clear shot on other puddling butterflies.
The grayish white ground colour of this lycaenid with speckled wings is likely to be a Malayan Sunbeam (Curetis santana malayica). When it is in flight, its prominent and striking apical orange patches on the uppersides will definitely tell you where it has gone to.

The White Four-line Blue (Nacaduba angusta kerriana) can also be found in Singapore though it is rather elusive and rare. It was re-discovered in late 2008 and within a short period of time, its life history was successfully recorded (see BC's blog). There were at least two species of small black-and-white lycaenids fluttering in the area but I managed to capture only this Banded Blue Pierrot (Discolampa ethion thalimar ) which was rather skittish and did not stay on the ground for long.This small lycaenid is Common Line-Blue (Prosotas nora superdates) which is fond on puddling on moist objects, hard or soft. A rather common species in Singapore as well that explains why many of us did not really have an interest in chasing it. I took a few shots hoping that it would be other species.
Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus goberus) is characterised by the little black dot on the hindwing dorsum - this is another common species most of us would not chase for a shot if we have other choices. A not-so-pristine Common Tit (Hypolycana erylus teatus) appeared while I was chasing and getting a shot of the Malayan Sunbeam.
According to Khew and a shot of the upperside of this brown skipper, it is Pithauria stramineipennis. Many of them were zipping and puddling along the riverbanks. This one looks like a Dark Banded Ace (Halpe ormenes vilasina) Initially I thought this was a Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala) because of size and the wing shape. However, the forewing orange subapical patch and the absence of white spots on the hindwing suggest that it was another species. I guess it is Idmon obliquans obliquans.

This Plain Banded Awl (Hasora vitta vitta) woke up rather early in the morning looking for a sweet spot on the brickwall "puddling vertically".
Shooting puddling butterflies needs a lot of patience and luck as well even though there was a big group of them at times. Different species come and go and we cannot be sure when they will return again. However, over the years I have realised that the time of the day does play a part in determining which species would be likely to puddle.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fraser's Hill Puddlers Part 1

Thanks Khew for inviting me and organising the trip to Fraser's Hill (from 3 - 6 Aug) for a group of us from ButterflyCircle. I must thank the drivers also - Khew, Sunny and Chng, without their transport, it is impossible for us to move around in Fraser's Hill.

Many entomologists or butterfly researchers have concluded that mostly young male butterflies engage in puddling activity to supplement their sodium intakes used as nuptial gifts during copulation (Carol and Lee, 1991). However, Freerk et. al. (2005) felt that the role played by sodium may not be the same for all species and he suggested that a better understanding of puddling behaviour can be achieved by physiological studies on sodium in the butterfly's excretory and digestive system.

We were really trilled by the number of butterflies puddling on the river banks - this is just one of the puddling sites.I shall feature all the species that I have managed to photograph in two parts.

It appeared to me that more species from the Swallowtail (Papilionidae) family love to puddle. There were at least a couple of Tailed Jays (Graphium agamemnon agamemon) came down to puddle. they flapped their forewings at a high speed the moment they landed and puddled on the ground.
The Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon luctatius) is a very fast-flying and common butterfly which can be found in Singapore parks and forests as well. We could spot them puddling on river banks, damp ground or fermented fruits along forest trails.
This is a Striped Jay (Graphium chironides malayanum) - I guess the two curved black strips on the hindwing beneath give its common name.
Red Helen (Papilio helenus helenus) is another very common and large swallowtail in Malaysia forests - I have seen this species many times in good numbers. Look at this guy, it showed us how a graceful and elegant puddling was like.
Sometimes, it would open its wings and sunbathe to absorb energy while puddling - this picture was taken in the late afternoon when the temperature started to decline.
Fourbar Swordtail (Pathysa agetes iponus) prefers highland and it is not a common species. The wings at the apical region appears to be semi-transparent. It was playing hide-and-seek with me between two puddling sites. Thankfully, at last it was kind enough to stay on the ground for quite a while waiting for me to take a few shots.
We can see the four black bars on the the upperside of the forewings.

Rajah Brook's Birdwing (Troides brookiana albescens ) is a typical example of the sexual dimorphism in terms of puddling behaviour. So far, I have not seen a female puddling while the male often congregate and puddled in a group. I tried to isolate one of them and took an open-wing shot while others puddling with wings flapping frantically.

The next 3 species are from the Nymphalidae family. The Indian Yellow Nawab (Polyura jalysus jalysus ) was intoxicated by the nutrients in the damp soil. It stayed at this position for more than 20 minutes, allowing us to take as many shots as we like.

A common species in the Malaysia forests, though the Common Nawab (Polyura athamas athamas) looks quite similar to the Indian Yellow Nawab, we can easily tell the differences.

This is a very pristine male Jewel Nawab (Polyura delphis concha ) who came down a few times to tease us before it really got intoxicated by the nutrients-rich sandy ground where he stayed quite a while for all of us to take a few shots.

In my next post, I will continue sharing more puddling butterflies from three other families.

Reference :
1. Carol, L. B., Lee A. J. (1991) Mud puddling by butterflies is not a simple matter. Ecology Entomology, 16, 123-127.
2. Freerk M., Roy, H.A.G., Maartje L., Bas J.Z. & Paul M.B. (2005) Is male puddling behaviour of tropical butterflies targeted at sodium for nuptial gifts or activity ? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 86, 345-361.