Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Long Hike To Chek Jawa @ Pulau Ubin

Taking a long and leisure hike to Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin on a nice Sunday morning (21 Nov) was something I look forward to - so I grabbed the opportunity of being a guide for a friend of mine who has not visited this most natural environment in Singapore for more than two decades.

This mangrove shrub which was standing straight and tall in a pond along the Sensory Trail is likely to be Lumnitzera littorea (Family : Combretaceae ). Its exceptionally striking and attractive red flowers attracted both photographers as well as birds (I missed a beautiful sunbird perching on this plant)
This is another shot of a whole bunch of flower buds - so I guess in a week's time the whole tree will blossom with red flowers. In order to be back at Changi Village before 1:30, I could not adopt my usual outing habit of waiting and spending time in stalking butterflies along our way.

You will not miss this most common spider on Ubin - the Golden Orb Web Spider (Nephila maculata). This is a female which is much bigger than the male.
I encountered many Knights (Lebadea martha) along Jalan Ubin as well as Jalan Durian. I believe both sub-species parkeri and malayana were present on Ubin. This one looks more like a malayana from a glimpse of its rather brownish-orange patch near the edge of its upperside hindwing. All the Knights that I encountered were very skittish and they didn't stay long enough for me to get a closer shot. This is a long-distance shot of a more pristine Lebadea martha parkeri.
This showy and attractive flower is Gloriosa superba (Family : Liliceae). The outward-spreading yellow stamens are rather unique and prominent.
We finally reached Chek Jawa around 11:30 am. Strolling along the boardwalk, my friend noticed this very well-camouflaged mud crab coming out from its burrow.
I guess this is a mangrove cricket which was found at Punai Hut.
From far, I noticed a fast-flying Graphium species visiting a row of plants opposite the Information Centre. This is a record shot of a Common Bluebottle ovipositing on some young leaves of its host plant.
A small greenish-yellow Flatid planthopper was found moving on a climber's stem - quite a challenge to take a good shot of this guy as it probably had too much energy to stay still.
We decided to take another route going back to the jetty. The trail which is overlooking the Balai Quarry really offers us a magnificent view of this abandoned quarry as well as the lush greenery of the mangrove forest.

A grasshopper was staying very still on the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) leaf along the trail.
On the same plant, I also found this Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina) which was "intoxicated" by the dry fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron. Feeding and flapping its wings above my eye level, the upperside of this Malay Baron was out of my sight - so only the delicate underside wing patterns could be seen.
I believe there may be many interesting and less common fauna and flora species on Ubin that I have not seen. So, my next trip to Ubin will be a long hike again, perhaps going to the western part of the island.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deep Inside the CCA

On a fine and sunny Saturday morning, while I was pondering where to go for my weekend hiking, a picture of the Banded Leaf Monkey (Presbytis femoralis femoralis) on the newspaper surfaced in my mind. I have not seen one before so I decided to venture deep into Central Catchment Area (CCA), hoping to get a glimpse of this endangered species.

The damp forest floor and the dead tree trunks due to the abundant rain fall in the month of November created the ideal growing media for many fungi. This is a kind of bracket fungus spreading out nicely on a huge fallen tree trunk.

This is another species which looks rather filmsy

I guess these black and elongated coral-like fungi sprouting out from the soil underneath another decaying tree trunk is a kind of coral fungus.

This is a rather small and colourful nymph of a cricket (?) with one exceptionally long pair of legs.
This is the side view.
I believe this damselfly is a male Coeliccia octogesima which was spreading out its wings rather evenly when perching at the side of a muddy forest stream.
This prodominantly white damselfly is a newly emerged teneral male Coeliccia octogesima. He even had a little companion on the wings to pose for me.
The Common Snow Flat (Tagiades japetus) tends to perch with its wings open flat on the leaf most of the time. However, this particular Common Snow Flat behaved a bit strangely as it folded up its wings partially when it was sunbathing.

After finding my way to overcome some really tough obstacles along the way, I finally came to the end point of this trail. At one particular spot, I spotted at least three different species of Arhopala.

The three pairs of white striae along the costal margin of the underside forewing distinguish it from another tailed Arhopala species which is A. athada athada and a tiny white spot in space 11 suggests that this is likely to be a Raffles' Oakblue (Arhopala psedomuta psedomuta).

This guy became docile and got used to my presence after my persistent stalking and chasing. So I could try shooting with different settings. This shot was taken with manual mode at 1/50, f8 and ISO800.

This is another tailed Arhopala species which unfortunately was a bit tattered for a possible identification. I feel that this may be a rare species that requires us to examine further. (Dr Seow TL has identified this as a male Arhopala agrata on the BC forum on 5 Dec, thanks a lot Dr Seow.
This male Lesser Herlequin (Laxita thuisto thuisto) did not like to stay still while feeding on the leaf surface. It kept turning around in a circular manner, testing my reflexes and patience of getting some decent shots.
Take a closer look at this picture and locate its proboscis. I wonder what it was feeding on - a mystery yet to be solved.
On my long way back to the main road, I spotted this small toad grasshopper which blended itself so perfectly with a fallen tree trunk that we could miss it if we were not observant enough.
This moth belongs to the family Callidulidae which really looks like a butterfly. I realise that this is different species from what I had shot before (see here).

This is a kind of soldier fly (a hover fly according to Alan, see comments below) . Though it resembles a wasp, its large compound eyes and the wing patterns are rather different from that of a bee or wasp.

My last shot of the outing was this orange skipper - perhaps a Telicota species which I really have great difficulty in identifying it.Add Image

I hope this underside shot with the forewing sub-apical "L-shaped" markings clearly shown here would enable someone to identify this species with confidence. (Note : Dr TL Seow from Malaysia, a member of the ButterflyCircle identified this a male Palm Dart (Telicota augias augias) on 11 Dec 2010. Thanks Dr Seow.
Trekking deep into our Central Catchment area was always tiring but rewarding - apart from what I was able to photograph, I spotted quite a few other butterfly species. But one disappointment was that the elusive Banded Leaf Monkey did not like to see me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Deepavali Outing to Pulau Ubin

Deepavali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year on the Lunar Calendar - a gazetted public holiday in a multi-racial and religious Singapore. On 5 Nov, Ai Ling from Oh's Farms, her friends and I decided to explore Ubin since some of us have not visited the island for a long time.

Ai Ling and I were lucky to get onto a boat first. At the same time dark clouds coming from the Punggol side congregated above us and soon the rain started pouring furiously. Many visitors were "stuck" at the jetty waiting patiently and orderly for the rain to stop. Thanks to the fast-dispersing clouds, we didn't have to wait long. After renting a few bicycles, we were heading straight to the Butterfly Hill, Ai Ling and her friends were on the wheels but I preferred walking.

As usual, there were many Dark Glassy Tigers (Parantica agleoides agleoides) but surprisingly, there wasn't any sign of Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus ) and the Syzygium trees that were flowering last year around the same time (see here) showed no sign of a full bloom yet.
There were a few orange skippers zipping amongst the Pig's Grass (Synedrela nodiflora) bush and resting with wings partially open like this - quite impossible for us to identify it with confidence.
Not a very cooperative guy, this is another orange skipper that looks like a Telicota species rushing off quickly.
Another larger orange skipper which resembles a Cephrene species also loved the nectar of the Bidens flowers.
Since my last few outings focused very much on the Butterfly Hill, after taking a few shots, I decided to head to the Northern part of Pulau Ubin which I have not explored for a long time. Yes, I think it is time for me to explore other parts of Ubin to increase my chance of finding any rare species.

Coconut Skipper (Hidari irava) is a rather large red-eyed and shade-loving skipper. I found this species along the shady part of Jalan Noordin resting on a tree trunk in such a way that I had to go into the forested area to take this shot.
Here is another Coconut Skipper which was found along a narrow dirt path near the NPCC campsite - the lighting was much better along this narrow path.
Forest Hopper (Astictopterus jama jama) is a dark brown skipper which I have shot before along the same trail.
I am not sure what plant this is - but the ants were certainly like this plant very much.

Perak Lascar (Pantoporia paraka paraka ) is a common species in Ubin especially near the back mangrove areas. Though it flew rather slowly by the "gliding and sailing" style, it was very alert and didn't stay long on the leaf.

There were many human-faced Squash bugs on the Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) leaves.
I guess this red creature is the nymph of the above bug.
When I stopped at a patch of grassland hoping to see a Silverline (Spindasis sp) butterfly that I used to encounter before, two very different looking grasshoppers caught my sight. I have no idea what they are. (Note : Ming Kai has identified that the first one looks like the nymph of Tagasta marginella (Thunberg, 1815).
He also identified that this is an adult female Spathosternum prasiniferum (Walker, 1871).
Two large robber flies were also found on this small plot of land overgrown with all kinds of weeds and grasses.
Look at how this robber fly hanging on to its prey while balancing itself on a grass stalk.

Perhaps this is another species of Squash Bug which was found on a grass leaf.
Shortly after noon, the sky turned cloudy again. I had to speed up my pace and move towards Jalan Ubin, cutting through a few ponds and swampy areas.

This robber fly is quite small but its compound eyes are rather attractive in colour. Resting rather tamely on a twig in the shade, it refused to change its perch despite I "reset" its position.
This Tholymis tillarga was my only shot on dragonfly. Though I did notice a few dragonflies I was not particularly keen on shooting them as I reckoned that they were common species that I have shot before.
It was around 1:30 pm when I felt rain drops on my head. So we contacted each other and gathered at the jetty before heading back to Changi Village for our lunch - to avoid the large crowds of people at the food stalls in Ubin. Once again, we saw another round of heavy rain while we were on the boat.

Over the years, Pulau Ubin has become a popular and natural "resort" for hiking and cycling on weekends for families, locals, foreign workers and tourists alike. I believe many Singaporeans prefer Ubin to remain unspoilt as far as possible, providing our hardworking people a place to relax, to exercise and to appreciate the charm, beauty of Ubin and its rich biodiversity.