Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lornie Trail Part 1

17 May was Vesak Day, a gazetted public holiday in a multi-racial and religious Singapore. I was on a casual forest stroll along the Lornie Trail. Not too far from the entrance to the greenery and tranquility of the forest, a Chequered Lancer (Plastingia naga) displayed what a "ghosting effect" whenever I snapped a shot.
I decided to take some shots from a more difficult angle but with a brighter background - surprisingly, it stayed still. I guess the skipper may be sensitive only to certain intensity of the flash light.
At the same sunny spot where I shot a bunch of Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) larvae here, I saw how arts could be manifested in nature - a cluster of eggs likely to be of Malay Lacewing were lined up on a thin and young stem of a climber.
This is a male Cruiser (Vidula dejone erotella) whose fulvous-orange colour on both the upper and underside wings are distinctive enough to be seen from far. Though a rather common forest species, we seldom found the female on the ground. A commonly seen behaviour of the male is that they like to puddle on damp ground with wings flapping. This was the only timely shot which captured a split-second moment when both wings were almost flat on the ground.
This is a female Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri). She liked to glide and perch from leaf to leaf and puddle on the ground occasionally but not for long. Rather alert and skittish, she really tested my patience for getting a decent shot. On the contrary to Cruiser, it seems that the male is less common.
Along a shady forest path, this tailed Arhopala hopped across the trail. I identify this as a Tailed Disc Oakblue (Arhopala atosia malayana). Seow TL from ButterflyCircle has also confirmed it.
This is another shot from a different side. Lycaenids in the genus Arhopala would increase the number of butterfly species in Singapore once some lookalikes with very subtle differences are identified with confirmation one day.
The male of the Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina ) is polymorphic - it has at least 3 different forms here. This is form-monina if I am not wrong.
It also displayed the typical behaviour of puddling on the ground and perching on the leaf surface along the forest trail from time to time.
A small robber fly remained quite still on a leaf.
This is another slightly larger robber fly stretching its hind legs and displaying the same behaviour - looking at the trail.
I aways found robber flies facing the trail, scanning for intruders and ambushing its preys when they perched. I had a "face-off" with this guy.
Association of ants with other insects can be seen quite easily in nature (more info here). Here is a shot illustrating a symbiotic relationship between some small ants and two lycaenid larvae found on a young leaf of a Macaranga plant.
It was a fruitful outing for me - very pleased and relieved to see that the forest is still teeming with life. I will feature some dragonflies in my next post.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From Dairy Farm Park To The Summit

I had another training session with my friend on a fine Sunday morning. We started rather early at the Dairy Farm Park. Walking towards the trail leading to the summit, I saw this wasp hovering and then resting underneath a leaf. I went down, looked for a suitable angle and snapped a few shots.
As usual I didn't get many chances to shoot when we were ascending the hill via Seraya Loop and Jungle Fall Path - one of the toughest trails leading to the summit. Occasionally, small critters like this Soldier Fly may just appear in front of us.
Of course, fungi were abundant but sometimes I ignored them. Here are some small and fleshy wild mushrooms found on a dead wood.
A rather large and conspicuous dragonfly, this male Camacinia gigantea is a permanent resident at the summit. While resting at the Summit Hut, I could see a few male C. gigantea darting, chasing, hovering and perching on the twigs. But where are females - I have not seen one !!
We usually descend along the Dairy Farm Loop as it is shorter and it leads us to a spot where a Lantana bush is - yes, hoping to shoot butterflies.

This small lycaenid is Pointed Line Blue (Ionolyce helicon merguiana) which has lost its tails. According to Seow, one of the features of this species is its rather sharp vertex angle of space 3 (next to the eye-spot) on the hindwing.
At the Wallace Education Centre, some Raffles Girls' School students were hosting an art exhibition entitled Illuminating Nature (see here). We spent some time there listening to their presentations - I am glad I met Mrs Hoo and other familiar faces.

While on our way back to the carpark, some showy orange-red flowers of the Rose Cactus or 七星针 (Pereskia bleo Family : Cactaceae ) attracted my attention. A spiny shrub that has ornamental and medicinal values, Rose Cactus has been one of the research areas for some researchers in Malaysia. A detailed write-up about this potentially useful plant can be found in Gardening with Wilson

Lastly, I found a pristine Pointed Line Blue near the toilet -it was fluttering and puddling on the ground.
I hope we have time for another training session before we head to Sichuan province in early June.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chestnut Avenue On Polling Day 7 May 2011

After voting, I decided to drop by Zhenghua Park and Chestnut area on a very hot Saturday morning. I didn't get a chance to press the shutter for a long period of time until I saw this strikingly-coloured net-winged beetle.
A kind of spiny spider, it was resting or perhaps waiting patiently for its preys in its webs.
This is another shot from a different angle - the lighting was so harsh that I didn't get the correct exposure initially.
This Assassin bug is rather common - it was feeling the heat as well, decided to perch and rest.
I could feel my body was dehydrated under the menace of the scorching sun and the heat wave. I succumbed and decided to take cover under a big tree. Met a couple of cyclists asking for direction, I could sense that more people these days were taking up cycling as a hobby.

Finally, this Common Caerulean (Jamides celeno aelianus) was kind enough to pose for me - a consolation shot for me.
The weather is getting hotter when it is hot. Slowly and surely, we will begin to feel and see the effect of the climate change - are we prepared for it ?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Along Old Upper Thomson Road Part 2

Continue from my previous blog post.

Old Upper Thomson Road is a long and winding road that took me more than 2 hours to stroll from one end to the other end.

I almost bumped into this moth larva which was hanging vertically from a tree clinging on its tiny silk, trying very hard to climb upwards for a foothold .
It was "dancing" in the air, demonstrating all sorts of body movement.
I had to be very patient and quick to snap these shots as this acrobatic larva was moving and swaying in the air.
A solitary Yellow was fluttering around a young Abizia tree (Paraserianthes falcataria) across the road. I could see from far that some leafs were being eaten - so many Three Spot Grass Yellow (Eurema blanda snelleni) larvae on one leaf stalk.
On another leaf stalk, I saw a late instar larva displaying some tiny liquid droplets on its body. I guess this is a kind of defence mechanism to fend off any intruder - you can see a tiny critter on its body.
Other larvae many not be so lucky - one poor larva was eaten up by a wasp.
The stretch after the Upper Perice Reservoir entrance was rather quiet. I could not find any winged critters except this strange looking moth caterpillar was moving on a leaf.
I cannot remember when was the last time I walked on this serene and quiet road - I like the way it is now and hope it continues to provide nature photographers, hikers, joggers and cyclists a safe and easy road to ramble on during weekends.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Along Old Upper Thomson Road Part 1

I guess not many young Singaporeans are aware that Old Upper Thomson road was once the venue for the annual Singapore Grand Prix usually held over the Easter weekend from the early 60s t0 1973. When I was a school boy, I remember I would clue to a radio listening to the live commentary of this event. A very good account of this event can be found in this blog and some highlights of the 1966 Grand Prix was captured in this Youtube video.

On 30 April after lunch at the Prata shop at Casuarina Road, I decided to stroll on this stretch of the old Grand Prix circuit like what the driver did in this video - not that I want to bring back the nostalgia of the racing event but more for macro-photography.

The first critter I encountered at the starting point of the road was a female Horsfield's Baron (Tanaecia iapis puseda) feeding on the fruit of Simpoh (Dillenia suffruticosa) .
Noticing that she flapped her wings gradually, I changed my shooting angle and captured her underside wings.
Just a few metres down the road, a Lantana bush attracted a solitary Blue-banded bee (Amegilla species). I had to be very patient and focused to snap this shot.
This Fluffy Tit (Zeltus amasa maximinianus) hopped and stopped next to the Upper Peirce Reservoir gate. One of those long-tailed lycaenids, it is the distinctive black spot on the hindwing that identifies this species easily.
I noticed there were at least 3 or 4 species of dragonfly darting to-and-fro in front of me. This beautiful female (Lathrecista asiatica) was rather lethargic and tame.
I decided to take a close-up shot of her head.
Another female dragonfly, Cratilla metallica is rather common in our nature reserve.
Next moment, I noticed this wasp doing exercise on a leaf - it was stretching its hind legs.
After exercising its legs, it decided to rest - a good chance for me to take a proper shot.
In my next post, I will feature some caterpillars that I found along this long and winding road. I must appeal to all drivers that please don't speed on this road - not only would you endanger cyclists, joggers as well as hikers and nature lovers like me, you may kill yourself. Next time I shall record the car plate number or take a photo of any car that speeding past me like a bullet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ulu Sembawang Park Connector

This was my second visit to this new park connector in the northern part of Singapore on a cloudy Saturday (23 Apr) afternoon after lunch.

This lycaenid is Gram Blue (Euchrysops cnejus cnejus), a permanent resident of this park connector.
This ground climber is abundant there. I believe it is one of the larval host plants of quite a number of lycaenids including the Gram Blue. We can see some small insects other than the ants on this picture, illustrating a kind of symbiotic relationship but I cannot tell exactly what it is.
The Orange Emigrant (Catopsilia scylla cornelia) is a rather skittish and fast-flying butterfly especially on a hot and sunny day. So taking a shot of this species requires luck. It was a rare occasion to see one resting tamely on its host plant Senna biflora .
Butterflies are cold-blooded animals, they tend to be less active on a cloudy day. This Leopard (Phalanta phalantha phalantha) also succumbed to the gloomy weather - too lazy to react to my presence.
Camacinia gigantea is one of the largest dragonflies in Singapore. This shot shows a young male hanging on a stem in an early afternoon.
In contrast, this male Orchithemis pulcherrima is much smaller.
This park connector is next to the nature reserve so I am quite hopeful that it would give me surprises when I visit this park connector next time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

From MNT to Ranger Station On Good Friday

Hiking from MacRitchie Nature Trail (MNT) to the Ranger Station in Sime Forest is quite a long route. On Good Friday, 22 April, I began my slow hike from a slip road along Upper Thomson Road.

My first shot of the morning was this Selaginella willdenowii (Family : Selaginellaceae) - what a beautiful fern quietly growing under a big tree just a few steps away from a bus stop where I alighted.
I love the fragrance of these flowers of Jasminum sambac. Some J. sambac shrubs along the road leading to the forest fringe were covered by blooming flowers.
Presumably a migratory species, Chocolate Albeltross (Appias lyncida vasava) is a very common species in Malaysia. But we usually encountered it in the month of April and May. A skittish and a fast flyer, it gave me no chance at all for a better shot.
Along a stretch of very damp and shady forest trail, I could only spot one leafhopper.
Just before I reached the main forest trail, I saw a Bush Brown hopping on the forest undergrowth. I usually would not bother chasing a Brown. But it suddenly became quite tame and stayed stationary when I approached closer. Wow, it turned up to be a Purple Bush Brown (Mycalesis orseis nautilus) - a rather uncommon species.
Strolling slowly along the forest trail, I looked around for fauna and floral that that would interest me. At one shady corner I saw this dome-shaped mushroom on a fallen tree trunk.
From the flight behaviour of this Common Lascar (Pantoporia hordonia hordonia), I khew she was looking for the host plant to lay eggs.
True enough, she laid one green tiny egg on an old leaf of a Petai tree (Parkia speciosa).
This sun-loving Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana) was spotted in front of SICC. Perching on top of a flower stalk of a grass for a short while before it hurriedly fluttered away when a group of hikers passed by.
Along the service reservoir road, I saw quite a few green squash bugs (?) on one particular Singapore Rhododendron shrub.
A very hungry and hairy moth caterpillar munching furiously.
One small green immature katydid I supposed - all on one shrub. A young boy and his father asked me what I was shooting because they didn't see anything on the plant. Yes, we need to see nature with our eyes on a special focus point before we can see its beauty and wonder.
Finally I arrived at the Ranger Station. Many Common Four Ring (Ypthima huebneri) lycaenids were seen feeding on some small white flowers of Leea indica.
But only one lonely Common Five Ring (Ypthima baldus newboldi)
The competition for nectar became intense when a few Common Caerulean (Jamides celeno aelianus) also feeding furiously on the L. indica flowers.
I noticed that the barricades to the Tree Top Walk were removed - a sign that the maintenance work has been completed. But the sudden change of weather forced me to abandon the plan of going up there. In fact, I had to withstand the onslaught of the gutsy winds and heavy downpours under one small umbrella while I was on my way out along Venus Drive. We have been experiencing very strange and bizarre weather these days - the effects of climate change will wreck havoc to our normal life one day.