Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ulu Sembawang Park Connector Welcomed Taichung Friends

Three Taichung butterfly enthusiasts 陳元, 劉淑芬 and 張庭愷 visited Singapore in the last week of July. On 29 July (Monday), I brought them to the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector to hunt and shoot our local butterflies. What a lousy weather for us !  Shortly after we reached there, heavy showers  forced us  to wait at the shelter. Anyway, our time was not wasted as we had a good chat and exchanged knowledge about butterflies in our countries.  

The rain had to stop eventually. Yes, we could not let our guests return home without taking a shot. The sky remained gloomy and it was definitely not a ideal day for butterfly hunting but we still managed to shoot some common local species that were "new" to our visitors. The Nigger (Orsotriaena medus cinerea) was one of them.
This is Eurema simulatrix tecmessa which was feeding on some animal dropping if I saw it correctly.
The Common Sailor ( (Neptis hylas papaja) can be found in Taiwan as well - it is called 豆環蛺蝶.
A long distance shot when it perched with its wings wide open,
A dark brown skipper was resting quite cooperatively on a grass patch next to a forested area along the park connector. 
A half-opened shot of the upperside of the wings was useful for us to suggest that it might be the The Full Stop Swift (Caltoris cormasa).
We were intrigued by the look of this insect - a fly or an ant ? I think it looks more like an ant to me. My first sighting of such an interesting  insect.
We hope that our Taichung friends had memorable outings in Singapore. Let us pray that our butterfly diversities remain healthy and good and their populations will soon bounce back to a level that would entice more overseas friends to come here for butterfly hunting and photography next year.      

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From Ulu Sembawang Park Connector to Upper Seletar Reservoir

A nice Saturday morning on 20 July enticed me visiting the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector again - my first outing since I came back from a conference trip to Melbourne. Again the forest trail was devoid of movement of life until I noticed this beautiful dragonfly enjoying its peaceful perch on a twig. 

I realise that I am getting "rusty" in identifying dragonfly now - I am not sure if this is the Cratilla metallica as it looks different from what Tang's book shows, perhaps this is a juvenile ?
I went to a patch of grassland and bumped into a solitary Scarlet Flash (Rapala dieneces dieneces) which was seen feeding on some Biden flowers at first.
I believe this is a kind of squash bug, roaming on the leaf surface.
The wings look strange to me because an "armoured plate" was seen below the wings ?
I returned to the forest trail again and this time I was lucky to see a pair of Plain Plushblue (Flos apidanus saturatus) in an intimate position. Unlike some other insects, they were rather alert and afraid of my presence. 
Before I left for Upper Seletar Reservoir (USR) Park, a big blue bird came to rest on a tree branch, allowing me to take a few shots. What bird is this ?
It wasn't better at USR. I only began to see a couple of Lascars at the 2nd trail. This skittish and alert Spotted Judy (Abisara geza niya) was a pleasant surprise to me, disrupting my quest for shooting the Lascars. Exhibiting its usual behaviour of hopping around with half-opened wings, this Judy tested my reaction time for capturing a shot. I think I didn't fail too badly.
Chasing the Judy was a nightmare. At last the Judy showed some mercy on me, staying on a leaf slightly longer than I had expected - that gave me a chance to snap a few shots like this.
Two or three Malayan Lascars were frolicking and looking for puddling spots along the sunlit trail. With patience and a bit of luck, I manage to snap an open-winged shot.
The only skipper shot I had was this Potanthus species. With its small size and forewing's and hindwing's veins not darken heavily, I guess it may be the  P. ganda.
I met CH and Nelson at USR also. While waiting for butterflies to appear, we all agreed and lamented that the number of butterflies we could see these days have dwindled tremendously. Perhaps the forest habitat has been going through changes that we are not aware of ?Who has an answer ? 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ant-loving Lycaenids @ Ulu Sembawang Park Connector

My first outing after I returned from a vacation in Kyoto was on a cloudy Saturday morning (29 June). Perhaps due to the severe haze Singapore has experienced from 19-22 June, I could use the word "deserted" to describe the state of the wild life along Ulu Sembawang Park Connector where I wandered around for about two hours.    

A small lycaenid was fluttering continuously and erratically for a long time. As there was nothing else for me to shoot at one corner of a trail, I waited patiently for it to settle down. Yes, this marble-winged lycaenid, considered "ugly" by some people is the Pale Mottle (Logania marmorata damis).  
To me, this is a rare shot with a planthopper on the same twig. The larvae of the Pale Mottled are known to have a mutualistic relationship with ants - the myrmecophilous interaction explains why I usually found the adult had a tendency to accompany with ants. True enough, the ants were in fact nearby. 
When I was about to call it a day, I sighted another ant-loving lycaenid - The Bigg's Brownie (Miletus biggsii biggsii). But where were the ants ?
Another specimen was found mingling with the ants on a twig.
What a disappointing day in terms of butterfly sighting - in fact from my outings in the subsequent weeks, I could tell that the number of butterflies in the fields had dwindled beyond my imagination.      

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kyoto Botanical Garden

Kyoto Botanical Garden is situated on the east bank of the Kamo river, north of Kyoto city. We visited this large garden on 25 June morning by train, alighting at the Kitayama station and entering the garden from the north gate.

The garden is big and well-maintained. It appears to have many small theme parks showcasing different variety of flowers and plants. Apart from the many colourful blooming Hydrangeas and Sunflowers, we could find many interesting flowers as well. 
The arrangement of the flower looks like an insect. What is this ?
 A large cluster of pink flowers not only drew my attention they attracted many bees too.  

The Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae)  was quite common and it was always a challenge to take a good shot as it usually does not stay still for long.
We spent almost half-a-day roaming around and trying to see as much as we could. At one corner, I found many lotus flowers - showing off their brilliant colours in the sun.

I was fortunate to meet the Small Copper (lycaena phlaeas) again, my third encounter.   
It changed perch a few times and kept chasing until it got used to my presence and offered me more shots.
It showed off its beautiful upersides. 
We traipsed for a while before heading back to the north gate again. Feeding rather tamely on a yellow daisy flower, this Potanthus skipper  blended very well with the flower - I almost missed it.
There were quite a few robberflies zipping around from perch to perch. I noticed one of them grabbing its prey firmly with its front legs.  
It was a memorable and enjoyable trip for me. Once again, thanks KY our "local guide" who planned the itinerary and made all the transport arrangement. May be I should visit Kyoto in a different season.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Some Flora and Fauna Shots In Kyoto Part 2

Continue from my last blog post.

We headed to the eastern part of Kyoto on 19 June and Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) was our first Zen temple we visited. The garden design and the landscape architecture of many temples in Kyoto are very artistic and unique.
After an early lunch we headed south strolling along the Philosopher's Path towards the Nanzen-ji (南禅寺). The 30-minute or more slow walk on the paved path lined with shrubs and flowers on both sides of a canal provided us with some surprises.
Once again I met a rather pristine Small Copper feeding on some wild flowers.
There was another small lycaenid  feeding on the same type of  flowers nearby - is this Maculinea arionides or a Zizeeria species ?
Thanks to KY who spotted this damselfly who rested in a shade.
This bird was rather tame and oblivious to my presence. It allowed to take some shots when approached closer to its perch.
We visited the Kinkaku-ji Temple (金閣寺) and Sanjūsangendō (三十三間堂) on 20 June. There is a beautiful pond at the Kinkaku-ji Temple.

Apart from the attraction of  being one of  the UNESCO world heritage sites in southern Kyoto, the Toji Temple (東寺) is host to a large and popular flea market on the 21st of each month. You can find all sorts of things on sale here.

On 22 June morning, about an hour train ride from Kyoto brought us to Nara - an capital city of ancient Japan. We visited more temples at Nara such as the Toshodaiji (唐招提寺) and Toda-ji (東大寺). At Toda-ji, I saw some attractive pink flowers in the garden.

A lycaenid also loved the flowers but I am not sure if this is the Celastrina argiolus. 
Sika deer were everywhere roaming the ground freely in the temple and the nearby Nara park. Tame and unafraid of our presence, these deer mingled around with tourists and created some excitement for photographs.
On 23 June, we visited the bamboo forests in Arashiyama, at the western outskirt of Kyoto.
We wandered the surrounding area and encountered a brown skipper enjoying itself on the nectar.
Around noon, while we were walking on the main street, KY spotted a Potanthus skipper resting on a leaf outside a shop.
This was another perch.
In my next blog post, I will feature more flora and fauna shots take at the Kyoto Botanical Garden.