Sunday, December 19, 2010

Butterflies @ Panti Forest

Initiated by one of our enthusiastic ButterflyCircle (BC) members, Chng, ten of us in 3 vehicles set off for Panti Forest Reserve in Southern Johor State early morning on 11 Dec. Efficient customs clearance on both sides of the causeway and a smooth ride gave us plenty of time enjoying a fantastic Bak Ku Teh breakfast at a roadside makeshift stall.

About 10:30 am, we reached the carpark where the Panti Forest Reserve Information Centre is.
It has been about five years since my last visit to Bunker's Trail at Panti Forest. The conditions of the track are better now. The moment we stopped our cars at the "base camp" - a camp site area where remnants of charcoals, firewood, left-over food and containers could still be seen, we sprang into actions.

My first shot of the day a few minutes after we alighted from the car was this Banded Yeoman (Cirrochroa orissa orissa). I finally nailed a shot of this skittish and shy bugger after stalking with "tactical movement" .

This Tawny Rajah (Charaxes bernardus crepax ) was our star model for the trip - everyone got a few shots. It was skittish initially, any slight movement would have scared him/her to flee and perch on a leaf above us.
With our relentless patience of waiting, it finally got used to our acquittance and succumbed to the enriched mineral solutions on the ground.
It was rather tame and allowed us to take pictures from different angles.
This dark brown skipper with a very prominent orange apical patch more parallel to the forewing costal margin is Sumatran Bob (Arnetta verones).It was abundant and we can see that its underside wings are sparsely covered with some reddish-brown scales.
This is another similar-looking brown skipper or perhaps the same species as above ?
When it was in-flight, we could see its glittering light-blue upperside. This lycaenid was rather abundant and it looks like a Malaccan Caerulean (Jamides malaccanus malacanus), fluttering non-stop most of the time and getting a shot was a test of perseverance and of course luck playing a part as well.
According to Mr TL Seow, an expert BC member, this is Arhopala inornata. A very skittish bugger which refused to stop long enough for me to take a proper underside shot.
However it presented a rare moment in front of me for this upperside shot.
The weather at Panti was fast-changing - a characteristic of the North-east monsoon season. It was overcast around 2 pm when I spotted this Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypesina) very lethargically resting in a bush along the gravel track outside the "base-camp".
This Acacia Blue (Surendra vivarna amisena) also felt the effect of declining temperature causing it to rest longer rather than flitting around.
Another tame Bob appeared on a rather quiet afternoon along the super quite forest track. Palm Bob (Suastus gremius gremius) is a very common skipper in Singapore as well.
I noticed a couple of Sunbeam lycaenids (may be Curetis tagalica according to Mr Seow) were chasing each other around a sunlit spot. The moment they perched they opened their wings giving me no chance at all taking any underside shot.
As the clock ticked away, the number of butterflies dropped significantly and the clouds gather momentum as well, signalling an imminent storm was approaching. While all of us were ready to call it a day, this solitary Rustic (Cupha erymanthis lotis) did not seem to like our partings, kept flitting around a particular shrub. It never stayed still for more than a few seconds, so getting a shot like this was a bonus for me.
Occupying an area of about 10 thousand hectare, Panti Forest has a lot to offer to nature lovers. Apart from its potentially rich diversity of insects, it has been an important bird sanctuary for bird-watchers and ornithologists. I will feature other insects in my next post.

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