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. 

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