Saturday, December 29, 2012

From Dairy Farm Park to Mandai Park Connector

I arrived at the Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) on 22 Dec before 10 am. I decided to make a detour to explore the Wallace Trail instead of going straight to the location where we usually hunt for butterflies. It was a pity that part of the Wallace Trail was cordoned off due to soil erosion.

My first shot of the morning was this Ultra Flat (Tagiades ultra) feeding  on the Pagoda flowers. It appeared to be a regular visitor to DFNP as I have seen it a few times at the same place.
Next came a female Cruiser (Vidula dejone erotella) busy feeding on the Lantana flowers but she was just too active for me to take a better shot.
A male Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus) was flapping its wings in high speed in mid-air while feeding on the Pagoda flowers - despite using a fast shutter speed, I still could not freeze its wings completely.
The Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete) is a very common butterfly that prefers to stay and even feed at the canopy level.  
At around 11 am, all the butterflies disappeared suddenly so I walked towards Zhenghua Park to meet up with CH. What a lousy day for us at this particular location where we used to see many puddling butterflies. So, we decided to go elsewhere - Mandai Park Connector. 

Thanks CH for giving me a lift to Mandai. This small but interesting beetle caught my attention while it was moving along the edge of the leaf initially.

CH spotted an Acacia Blue (Surendra virvarna amisana) on a Ginger flower. In fact, when we looked closely, there were at least three different individuals feeding on a bush of ginger plants there. I like this shot as these ants inject some 'dynamism and live " into a picture. 
Here is another shot which looks "static" without the ants.
We saw a few larvae. One of them looked like a late instar larva of the Orange Emigrant (Catopsilia scylla cornelia) found on a Senna biflora shrub.
A rather pristine brown skipper, probably Caltoris bromus was resting in a shade. The little blue tint on the abdomen surprised me. It quietly disappeared from our sight when we want to take more shots. Update : this may be a female Caltoris cahira austeni ( the larger rounded FW spots & dark brown scaling on the HW indicate this - commented by Dr Seow)
This should be my last blog write-up for the year 2012 - it has been tough and time-consuming to update this blog regularly since December 2008. At this juncture, a thought flashes through my mind - should I continue with the same diary-writing style, featuring most of my outing shots or post only "interesting" shots and more selectively as many species of the flora and fauna have been posted many times. Well, I need to reflect and think about it.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a fruitful 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012

More Critters and Flowers Shots in Melbourne

Continue from my previous write-up.

Again, thank you Brenda for bringing us to the Melbourne Zoo which is about 20 minutes tram-ride from the city at William Street (Tram number 55).

There were too many different flowers in the open area of the zoo.

I took some animal-in-captivity shots - I have never come so close to a real tiger.
We spent most of the time taking pictures in the butterfly enclosure. As far as I could see, only Australian butterflies (mostly from the north-eastern part) were kept in the enclosure. Among them, the Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) is the most magnificent and pretty butterfly. This particular male kept "harassing" a female when I took an in-flight shot.
A perching shot of a male.
This is a female resting on a leaf.
This is a male Ulyssess Swallowtail (Papilio ulysses) whose brilliant iridescent blue uppersides were impressive and clearly visible when it was in flight.  
It was a great pity that we didn't spot any Yoma sabina in Langkawi in my recent trip. But we could see quite a few of them in Melbourne Zoo.
This is a male.
A kind of Shield bug, this mating pair was shot just before we left the zoo in the late afternoon.
I booked a day tour from Eco Platypus Tours to The Grampians National Park on 9 Dec. The driver-cum-guide, Steven  picked up tourists from a few locations in the city. After the morning tea and cookies at one of the suburb townships, we reached a scenic small town called Halls Gap where we could see  many kangaroos in the wild.
We could see many wild flowers along the footpaths leading us to where those wild kangaroos congregated.
Besides the Cabbage White butterfly which was rather common, there were many small Grass Blues fluttering non-stop near the ground.  
After a quick lunch at the Halls Gap, we visited a few scenic spots at the Grampians Mountain Range, including a few kilometers of bush-walking to view the famous Jaws of Death and the McKenzie Falls. Of course along the way there were just too many interesting and colourful wild flowers. 
I was very lucky to be able to snap a quick shot of this small skipper (perhaps a Trapezites species) puddling on the rock at the base of the waterfall.    
Though it was rather cold on  top of the mountain at the Reeds Lookout, we spent some time enjoying the amazing panoramic views surrounding us before we headed back to the city. It was almost 9 pm when I reached the hotel. 

Before I left for the airport on 11 Dec evening, I visited Royal Botanic Gardens again in the early morning and the Fitzroy Gardens in the afternoon. I must admit that I didn't pay much attention to dragonflies but this tiny blue damselfly attracted my attention.
Once again, there were quite a few Australian Painted Ladies (Vanessa kershawi) feeding on all sorts of flowers. 
I guess there were at least two different species of Grass Blues flitting around the lawns. Extremely alert  and active under the hot sun, they were just too shy for me to snap a better shot.
I took a tram back to the city centre to have a quick lunch at the  QV Village. After lunch, I had a short rest in the State Library at Swanston Street before visiting the Fitzroy Gardens which is about 10 to 15 minutes  walk from the library.

Two species of butterflies, Common Brown and the Cabbage White were rather abundant. In the late afternoon, a pair of Dainty Swallowtail came and  they kept teasing me by coming back to feed on the flowers. My perseverance paid off. 
Just before I was heading back to the hotel,  I spotted at least two Vanessa itea (Yellow Admiral) high up on the tree.
Once again, thanks Brenda for spending your precious time with us on a lovely Saturday (8 Dec).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Critters and Flowers@ Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

CH and I arrived at Melbourne city centre and checked into the hotel in the late morning on 5 Dec. Brenda,  CH's friend who is working in Melbourne, took time off  accompanying us to the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) which is located a few tram stops from where we stayed - the  Mercure Welcome Hotel. Thanks for your hospitality, Brenda.

It was drizzling shortly after we alighted at the stop opposite the Shrine of Remembrance. Instead of going straight to RBG, we hurried to the Shrine of Remembrance - one of  the important and prominent landmarks in Melbourne. Thanks to the bad weather, we had the chance to tour inside the building.
The sky cleared up in the late morning. We followed Brenda, heading towards RBG which is a stone's throw away from the Shrine.

Strolling on garden paths, we were surrounded by all kinds of shrubs and trees blooming with many colourful flowers. 

We saw a lot of Plague Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus sp) on different plants and flowers.
Here is another shot of  three of them "fighting for space" on a leaf.
When there were no butterflies for us to shoot, I took some pictures of  hardworking bees collecting nectar from different flowers. 
We were walking aimlessly and occasionally stopped  by the beauty of a great variety of  bloom. Except for some white butterflies fluttering past us in the garden, we didn't find any other flying jewels for a long period of time.  At last I spotted this dark brownish-orange Telicota species resting in a shade.
Though the weather was getting hotter in the afternoon, the cold summer breeze kept me dry and I didn't perspire at all.  Instead we were succumbed to hunger and thirst. So we had a quick snack at The Gardens Shop next to a lake.

Outside the shop and cafe, we found one Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi) loitering around at its host plant.
We had to endure the heat and the breeze to take some pictures of this fellow. 
There were  many small Grass Blue butterflies fluttering and feeding on some tiny  flowers growing on the grass lawn. They were extremely skittish in the hot sun - this upperside shot was my best attempt.
It was late in the afternoon when we were at the Plant Craft Cottage at one corner of the garden. When we were looking for direction to the gate, I noticed a different butterfly feeding on flowers at a distance - yes, it was Dainty Swallowtail (Papilio anactus).
It flew closer to me and I managed to "fire" rapidly a few shots instinctively.
Finally it rested on some dry stems of a tree.
We headed towards the gate where the Children's Garden is located. at. At last, I found a resting Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) inside the garden waiting for me to take some shots . 
There were many larvae on its larval host plant - the cabbage leafs. What were these two small flies doing on  on the larva ?
I guess this is what will happen to the larva if it is parasited.
I spotted a few Pea Blues (Lampides boeticus)  in the Children's Garden. But this better specimen was photographed outside the garden. 
The sun was still above our heads in the early summer evening. When we were about to leave RBG, we bumped into a few Common Brown (Heteronympha merope) butterflies flitting outside the National Herbarium building. A sun-bathing male was rather tame for me to take a few shots.   
They flew close to the grassy understorey and tended to fold their wings when they rested on the ground.  Without a pair of sharp eyes we would not be able to spot any of them as the dull underside of the wings blended perfectly with the environment. 
This is a female which is rarer and much harder to shoot than the male.
CH spotted this female resting in the shade - the undersides are paler than the male's.
After participating in a conference at La Trobe University on 6 and 7 Dec, we spent the whole day in the zoo on 8 Dec. While CH flew back home early, I continued to travel further and re-visit RBG and Fitzroy Gardens.    

To be continued