Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Was USR So Quiet ?

I decided to visit Upper Seletar Reservoir Park (USR) on a fine Saturday (16 April) morning. The forest trails looked rather "eerie", full of spider webs cutting across my path and overgrown tree branches almost blocking up a side trail.

Lycaenids such as Arhopala species that were commonly sighted along a side trail were absent completely. Just one micro-moth gave me a bit of consolation - a rather reluctant shot though.
Quite a number of orange leaf beetles were munching the foliage at one quiet corner of the park where some strange Arhopala species had shown up before.
At the reservoir edge, a few orange skippers zipping around. One of them is Common Dartlet (Oriens gola pseudolus) - a relatively small size skipper, Common Dartlet does not have darken veins on the wings and those dusted markings on both the hindwings and forewings make this species quite identifiable.
However, I always have difficulty naming a Telicota species with confidence. TL Seow from ButterflyCircle has helped me to identify this to be a female Palm Dart (Telicota augias augias).
Once it perched on a sunlit spot, within seconds it would open its wings partially. Dr Seow explained that "The abdominal tip and the black 'hole' on the orange upperside indicates a female. T. colon & T. besta are eliminated as the females have the underside greenish ochreous. The greater amount of orange on the upperside costal area and the faintly (may be stretching the imagination a bit ) darkened veins on the hindwing band suggest this is T. augias female". Wow, I really learn a lot from Dr Seow, thanks !
Though Common Three Ring (Ypthima pandocus corticaria) has the least number of eye-spots called ocelli on the hindiwngs, it is one of the largest"Ring" butterflies in Singapore.
Is this a very small net winged beetle or something else ? It was balancing itself perfectly on a stem.
Lastly, there were many Lynx spiders out there to ambush their preys - staying rather still on the leaf waiting to hunt down any insects coming close to them.
USR is slowly losing its appeal for butterfly photographers. Though I don't see noticeable change in the vegetation and the surrounding habitats, something which I can't see may have gradually and quietly happened and affected the forest ecosystems ? I hope I am wrong.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From Dairy Farm Park to Bukit Timah Hill

My friend and I spent a few Sunday mornings walking up to the summit of the Bukit Timah Hill. We usually started early at the Diary Farm Park trekking up the hill - because we want to be fitter and "conquer" another mountain in China -Ermeishan this time, in early June.

Along the way, if I encountered anything interesting I would usually take some pictures but shooting chances were rather rare most of the time.

I remember we saw this green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) along the road leading to the Wallace Education Centre. This shot was taken before we went up the hill.
When we came down, we could see this green beauty again but further away from us - it looks like it had been suffering from hunger.
Although this is a native species but I hardly get to see it often in the wild - in fact it is getting quite uncommon - so let's look at another shot.
Yes, I am rather bias because I tend to ignore fungi especially those small and inconspicuous ones. But big and brilliantly coloured fungi or those which grow in a cluster could still attract my attention. How can we miss this very striking and conspicuous bracket fungus ?
Some fungus species grow in a cluster like this - would these fungi glow at night ?
I think this bracket fungus is a common species as I always encountered it. Fungi are quite diverse and perhaps ubiquitous. They can be found on forest undergrowth, live or dead tree trunks.
Spotting an adult butterfly or their larva is considered a bonus for me when my intention is "training my legs and heart". Lucky star did strike me at times. I guess this is a late instar larva of the Orange Awlet (Burara harisa consobrina).
I am not sure if this is its hostplant because this plant looks different from its known hostplant which is Arthrophyllum diversifolium and this particular caterpillar was not munching the leaf at all.
Here is my attempt to take a shot of its dorsal view - shooting with one hand.
When the sun was up, we began to see signs of fauna life and butterfly activities. This Branded Imperial (Eooxylides tharis distanti) was seen perching on a sunlit spot.
Don't underestimate the height of the the summit - only 163 m above sea level can make us panting if we are not fit enough. Don't worry, we can always take our own time to climb the steps and appreciate the floral and fauna surrounding us. At the end of the climb, we would be rewarded with lots of fresh and cool air on the hilltop.
At the summit a female Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina) was looking for sweet spots for puddling, When I was chasing and stalking her quite persistently, I could sense that my "bizarre" behaviour attracted attention of some hikers who were resting at the summit - well it's fine with me !

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Rare Encounter

Due to a last-minute work commitment, I had to miss the butterfly survey at the Eco-link bridge site on 9 April. After lunch, I headed out to a forest fringe along Old Upper Thomson Road. This is a very quiet trail. I hardly encountered any trekkers or bikers on this trail.

My first shot of the day was this tailless Arhopala major major. Seow TL enlightened me at the BC's forum. He said "If the middle spot (2nd if including all 4 ) in space 7 (topmost space of the hindwing ) is much smaller than the outer two postdiscal spots in space 7 & 6, as seen here, then it is almost certain that it is A. major" . Thanks a lot Seow - I hope I understand what you meant.
My maiden shot of a very nice blue tiger beetle - the camera flash light really brought up its iridescent colors - but pity that certain parts of its body were not well exposed.
This guy was found foraging on a fallen tree trunk - very active and never stayed still for me to compose my shots.
A hairy moth caterpillar was resting on a Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) leaf.
This is another moth caterpillar found on another shrub. I believe quite a number of moth caterpillars love Singapore Rhododendron very much.
The catch of the day must be this rare encounter of a male Courtesan (Euripus nyctelius euploeoides). The last time I saw and shot this species was at a hill park, at least 2 years ago. It was found on a tree top midway along the trail . With lots of patience, I finally got a few shots when he decided to settle on a perch closer to me but still above my eye level.
It appeared that Robberfly species seemed to be in season along this trail. I shot these two different species. My first sighting of this orange robber fly was shot under a thick forest canopy.
I think this is a common species in the forest.
A medium-size dragonfly, Cratilla metallica (female) has darken wing tips as shown here. Rather common along this forest trail, I often encountered the female but not the male.
While I was still enjoying the calm and solitude in this "no-man's land", sound of thunders from afar brought me back to reality - its' time to make a hasty retreat though my ultimate destination was still far away.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Solo Visit to the Admiralty Park

The pre-dawn heavy rains lasted till morning forced us to abort a butterfly survey near the Eco-link bridge site on 2 Apr. Once the cloudy sky cleared up a bit in the late morning, I decided to head out to Admiralty Park in the northern part of Singapore - a park that I would not visit often due to its "remote location" from my home.

The shape of the Bush Hopper (Ampittia dioscorides camertes) is rather different from other orange skippers. Initially, it reacted to the camera flash, however after a few shots it got used to it. This dark brown butterfly which loves the grassy habitat, having a prominent white discal band across both wings is Nigger (Orsotriaena medus cinerea) - a common name that doesn't sound nice. Female Malayan Eggfly (Hypolimnas anomala anomala) was often seen to guard her a large number of eggs in a cluster. This rather old mother Malayan Eggfly was seen guarding her newly born babies underneath a leaf on its host plant. She was still alive but she was just too weak to flutter at all. I am not sure if this bee is Apias dorsata. There were quite a number of them congregating at the inflorescence of the Nipah Palm (Nypa fruticans) - an endangered mangrove palm in Singapore. I was lucky to be able to shoot this guy in flight. I didn't know another bee was following behind -what a pity that the second bee was not in focus. Shooting a nectar-feeding Yellow in the wild needs lots of patience and luck - it was no exception when I had to wait patiently near the wild flowers, perhaps a Oxalis species, to nail this shot. Displaying only one cell spot on the forewing beneath, this yellow butterfly looks like an Anderson's Yellow (Eurema andersonii andersonii). It was rather quiet in the park - not many species for me to shoot So when this pinkish orange bug, quite a few of them, appeared on one of the Singapore Rhododendron shrubs I found it attractive and worth taking some shots. Finally, I would like to end the write-up here with a shot of this rather common micropezid fly displaying its "trade-mark" style.
This park is big and the natural mangrove habitat along the river hopefully would give nature-lovers surprises from time to time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

From Lornie Trail to Rifle Range Link Part 2

Continue from my previous post.

I met Cher Hern at the "Spa" around 11 : 15. The sun was rather shy hiding behind some clouds that's why we didn't see many butterflies puddling on the sandy ground. Nevertheless, a few common species kept us busy.
Common Hedge Blue (Acytolepis puspa lambi) is rather common in our forest. I usually found it fluttering along sunlit forest paths or puddling on damp soil. There are a few look-alike Yellows here. In the field, we usually can't differentiate them with certainty. However, macro-photography allows us to ascertain and notice the delicate differences between them. This is a Chocolate Grass Yewllo (Eurema sari sodalis) characterised by a continuous patch of chocolate-brown apex on the underside forewing. How about this species ? The brown forewing apex is more diffused - the main characteristic of Eurema simulatrix tecmessa. A third Eurema species came down to puddle. This is Anderson's Grass Yellow (Eurema andersonii andersonii) - one of the the main identifying keys of this species is that it has only one cell spot on the underside forewing. Common Blue Bottle (Graphium sarpedon luctatius) is a common and keen puddler. Its larvae feed on wild Cinnamon - a common wayside tree. That is why we can see Common Blue Bottle in many town parks.
I wondered why this scary and hairy moth caterpillar was crawling on the sandy ground towards the water - I guessed it has lost its direction. Of course it turned back eventually.
Not far away from the above caterpillar, I found another similar caterpillar resting on an aquatic plant - can it be the host plant ? A beautiful damselfly perching on a leaf, Ceriagrion cerinorubellum is very common in our nature reserves and some town parks.
Due to the very low butterfly activity at the "spa", we decided to take a look at the reservoir edge. We saw a lycaenid fluttering along a drain. Finally it settled on a perch but at a difficult position.
Same situation at the reservoir edge - there wasn't a good sign of fauna life. We decided to call it a day and walked towards Rifle Range Road. I was quite surprised to see this female Tawny Costa (Acraea violae) feeding on Elephant's Foot flowers (Elephantopus scaber) at the Rifle Rage Link. A hasty shot was what I could manage but it was a significant shot - my first sighting in the central catchment area.
Once again thanks Cher Hern for sending me back to Sembawang where we had our late lunch there. After a long trekking, sitting down enjoying a good meal with icy cold water make me feel good and ecstatic - more to come, I hope.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

From Lornie Trail to Rifle Range Link Part 1

It has been quite a few weeks since my last visit to the forest. So on a fine but slightly cloudy Saturday (26 March) morning I decided to go for a long hike from Lornie Trail to Rifle Range Link.

A bunch of Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) caterpillars was hiding below a leaf. There were not many big leaves left, I wondered how many of them would survive ultimately.

The host plant is a forest vine with thick and big mature leaves. The life history of this species can be found at BC's blog here.
Along the trail some pink flower buds (I could not remember the name of this plant) attracted my attention. On closer look, I saw something else - what ants are these ?
I stopped at my favourite spot waiting for the first early butterfly to show up. Once this hungry Psyche (Leptosia nina malayana) woke up from its sleep in a shade, it started feeding voraciously on the Mile-a-minute (Mikania micrathan Family : Asteraceae) flowers.
Having a feeble flight pattern and flitting close to the ground most of the time, Psyche is one of the skittish and alert butterflies in the wild. So I was indeed very lucky to be able to take some photos of this particular little beauty - the greenish thin striae on the underside hindwing show us what "beauty of randomness" is about.
This Ciliate Blue (Anthene emolus goberus) liked to open its wings partially whenever it settled on a new perch and stayed like this for a while.
Demonstrating about the same behaviour, this brown skipper likely to be a Contiguous Swift (Polytremis lubricans lubricans) also kept opening its wings whenever it landed on a sunlit spot.
However, if we react fast enough we may be able to get a shot of its underside like what I did.
There wasn't any other butterfly species preventing me from advancing forward. Towards the end of the reservoir edge, I spotted this rather dark and medium-size dragonfly perching on a twig - it looks like a male Idothemis limbata.
Besides joggers and trekkers, I could hardly find any other animals from Golf Link to the Jelutong Tower. At last, this Malayan Bush Brown (Mycalesis fusca fusca) with distinctive reddish-orange underside wings hopped across the trail and landed in front of me.
After taking a short break at the Jelutong Tower, I continued moving towards the "Spa". In part 2, I would feature a few puddling butterfly shots.