Monday, May 27, 2013

From USR Park to Ulu Sembawang Park Connector

It has been more than two months since my last visit to the Upper Seletar Reservoir (USR) Park. So on a nice Saturday morning two weeks ago, I dropped by at this reservoir park - one of our hunting grounds for butterflies. 

I could not understand why the forest trails that were often teeming with different species of butterflies some years ago are quieter now most of the time. Apart from this female Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri) that I encountered just beside the shelter, I didn't have any other opportunity of  pressing the camera shutter. 
Incidentally, CH turned up at the park also. Both of us felt that we should not be "wasting" our time at USR so we went to the "fruit stalls" again, probably our last visit before new "stalls" appear. We still spotted some "customers" though lesser than a few weeks ago visiting some scattered "fruit stalls" - one of them was this Colonel (Pandita sinope sinope) which  loved the berry so much that it didn't notice my presence.      
This is another feeding shot when it opened its wings.
This male Horsfield's Baron (Tanaecia iapis puseda) was so skittish that he would take off whenever I inched one step closer. Any shot was considered precious for me as I had to stalk and chase it  patiently and tactically. 
There were at least two Purple Dukes (Eulaceura osteria kumana) feeding furiously on one of the dry fruits. From this shot, I came to notice that the proboscis of the Purple Duke is white in colour.

I guess we have to wait for a few months for a new  batch of flowers and fruits to attract new generations of  flying jewels. Until then, I wonder where I should be visiting for my weekend outings.         

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Butterflies Feeding on Ripened Melastoma Fruits

Over a period of two to three weeks from late April to early May, quite a number of fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) were gradually ripened in a forested area along a patch of a park connector in Mandai.

I visited the "fruit stalls" late in the afternoon on Labour Day. The first butterflies came into my sight were a pair of  Chocolate Sailors (Neptis harita harita) which were apparently "intoxicated" by the ripened fruit. Seeing one Chocolate Sailor is already quite uncommon for me so I was indeed very lucky to see and photograph  two Chocolate Sailors sharing their meal on the same fruit.    
What are the "ingredients" in these ripe berries that make many butterflies "addicted" to the fruits ?
One of them displayed all sorts of pose while feeding - here is an open-winged shot.
The Malayan Lascar (Lasippa tiga siaka) seemed to be very common here. Again, a pair of the Malayan Lascars was  peacefully sharing the fruit on a Saturday morning.
One of them had enough food and took off but this particular specimen stayed on the fruit for a much longer period of time despite a light passing drizzle. 
This is an upperside shot of a Malayan Lascar - it does't fly at a high speed - the flight patterns appear to be "sailing and gliding" gracefully in the air.
There were several Commanders (Moduza procris milonia) flitting around. They too perched and fed on the fruits frequently, providing us opportunities to photograph how these extremely beautiful butterflies used their proboscis for feeding.
The Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina) is usually "unapproachable"- very alert and sensitive to movement. However, with good fruit to entice its appetite for food, it did give us  a  bit of time to take a few shots. 
A close relative of the Common Palmfly, the Tawny Palmfly (Elymnias panthera panthera) also displays the same alertness to movement and feeding behaviour as the Common Palmfly. 
There were at least two male Malay Barons (Euthalia monina monina) hanging out in the forest and occasionally "patronise" the fruit stalls. This guy kept flapping his wings while feeding on the ripe fruit - a rather typical behaviour of  this species. So, we got to be patient and have some luck to capture a decent shot like this.
At times when it decided to show his true colours of the wings, we got a chance to shoot its uppersides.
The Colour Sergeant (Athyma nefte subrata) can be quite common in the nature reserves or some town parks. Having orange stripes on both the upper and undersides of the wings, this female showed the pose when she was "drunk" by the fruit.
I bumped into her in a resting open-winged position but the perch was too high for my height to snap a good shot. 
Two black-and-white butterflies were flying around the bushes but they were very skittish. Perhaps they got used to my presence after some time and the seduction of the ripen fruits were too strong to resist, one of them, a Lance Sergeant (Athyma pravara helma) finally settled on a nice perch feeding on some ripen fruits.
During the several outings to these "canteen fruit stalls", I encountered two rather uncommon lycaenids feeding on these ripen Melastoma fruits.

I didn't know when this Arhopala amphimuta amphimuta came to feed on a fruit not even on a ripe one - strange to me because we hardly see Arhopala species feeding on fruits or flowers.
Loke called my attention to take a few shots of this rather tame and pristine Bifid Plushblue (Flos diardi capeta).
I  never expect I would be able to take a "close-up" shot of a bird with a macro-lens. I could not explain why this beautiful bird (is it a kind of sun bird ?) didn't fly away when I approached it closer and closer until it filled the camera viewfinder.
A few of us spent many hours and had good times shooting these flying jewels on a small patch of forested area where flowering and fruiting trees provided us with many surprises and opportunities to take many photos - some turned out to be good and valuable. I am sure the thrill, fun and the satisfactions that were generated from the "canteens and fruit-stalls" will remain in our memories for a long time. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Surrounding Areas of Flowering Trees

We don't get to see flowering Syzygium trees all year round. When these trees were in full blooms, they were like "food stalls" of a popular canteen attracting all sorts of  "insect customers" visiting the stalls. In fact, some "spill-over" customers to the surrounding areas provided us with much photographic excitement too.  

Many of us came to check on these trees on a few consecutive weekends. Our enthusiasm and diligence paid off as we indeed recorded many species of butterflies in the past few weeks (see my last two posts here). 

I arrived quite early at one of the "canteens" on a sunny Saturday morning. Suddenly, I noticed something zipping down from the treetop into a shady area. Loke and I approached closer and realised it was a huge skipper - The Great Orange Awlet (Burarar etelka) was hiding underneath a leaf. Highly sensitive to the camera flashlight, it took off each time when we fire a shot. We lost sight of it while chasing and stalking it for a while. .
The White Spot Palmer (Eetion elia) appeared to be abundant now. But getting a good frontal shot was elusive for me as it was always alert and never stood still long enough, even during "meal" time.

This is another rare skipper, the Black Banded Ace (Halpe ormenes vilasina) that I shot on another flowering tree nearby. It was rather tame, enjoying its nectar of  some new blooms.
A dark brown skipper suddenly appeared and fed on some flowers in front of me. The most common Tagiades species in Singapore, the Common Snow Flat (Tagiades japetus atticus) is likely to be  encountered in our nature reserves.
During my previous few visits to the different "canteens", I noticed that at the vicinity of the flowering trees, we also got to see some other butterflies. This female Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana) was loitering around the area but she got hooked on to some liquid on the ground finally.
A key distinguishing feature of this Lexias species from the other two similar species that can be found in Singapore is the orange tip of the antennae.
There are quite a few look-alike black-and-white butterfly species. So with a careful examination, I think this is likely to be a Gray Sailor (Neptis leucoporos cresina).      
A pristine male Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina) gave himself a slightly longer period of time on this perch.
Skittish and unwelcoming to my movement at first, this male Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri) got used to my presence after a while.
This is one of the four Flos species that can be found in Singapore - The Shining Plushblue (Flos fulgida singhapura) with a pair of short stumpy tails at space 3.
Elbowed Peirrot (Caleta elna elvira) is a small and cute-looking lycaenid butterfly. It was flitting and feeding on the flowers rather high up. The moment when it came down to perch on a twig, "rubbing" its abdomen,  I grabbed this rare opportunity to take a few shots. 
I saw one Jewel Four Line Blue (Nacaduba sanaya elioti) taking a short rest on a twig in a shade.
With a rather straight forewing termen and the sharp marginal "V-shaped" marking in space 3, I reckoned that this is likely to be a Pointed Line Blue (Ionolyce helicon merguiana). It was tame and remained very cooperative for some of us to take some shots just besides a flowering tree.
I was rather surprised to see a small damselfly perching on another flowering tree along the roadside - it looks like a juvenile?
I will feature some butterflies visiting the "fruit stalls" at one of the canteen sites in my next blog post.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Flowering Syzygium Trees Part 2

Continue from the last post.

These flowering Syzygium trees were like "canteens" which attracted all kinds of "customers" patronising the "food stalls". The Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona pomona) is a common butterfly which can be found in our urban parks or forest fringe. There are several forms - I managed to take some quick shots of two different forms of  The Lemon Emigrant.   
The form-alcmeone seems to be the commonest among other forms.
The Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe countubernalis) is one of the most abundant butterflies in Singapore. It an be found almost everywhere so it was not surprise to see a few of  them loitering around the tree.
Whereas The Anderson's Grass Yellow (Eurema andersonii andersonii) is a forest denizen. This particular specimen hung around the flowering tree for a while before I managed to snap a few shots. 
This Chocolate Grass Yellow was rather skittish and alert, always preferring high perch.
A couple of Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber mulciber) were enjoying their late morning meal. Whenever they perched to feed, they would flap its wings a few times. So, I waited patiently for this female to open  her wings and snapped a instinctive shot.     
This is her underside shot.
This is a male Striped Blue Crow and shooting  his undersides was a lot easier as it usually closed his wings and maintained at this posture for a while.  
The Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) is a gorgeous butterfly that everyone would like to photograph. This guy came down from the treetop a few times giving me a good chance to capture its magnificent colours and patterns of the wings. 
Of course, lycaenids were among the "customers". This is a Copper Flash (Rapala pheretima sequeria) which took a short rest after a heavy "meal".
There were at least two Ciliate Blues (Anthene emolus goberus) flitting around the tree - a rather pristine specimen attracted my attention. 
I waited patiently for this Colonel (Pandita sinope sinope) to come down from the tree top. But I gave up  eventually as it was "intoxicated" by those new blooms high up.
Nice to meet an old friend at a new "canteen", the Blue Glassy Tiger  (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina) - you can see that the flowers were different. 
  In my next post, I would feature some skippers which also loved to visit the "canteen stalls".