Sunday, March 18, 2018

An Unexpected Swallowtail Butterfly at Ngau Tan Mei (牛潭尾), Hong Kong

I did not post anything in the blog in the first two months this year because the butterfly activity during winter was extremely low.  On most weekends before March, the weather was really good for hiking but not ideal at all for butterfly-photography. 

My first butterfly outing with my usual group of butterfly enthusiasts after my CNY holidays in Singapore was on 10 March - a rare blue sky and cool Saturday morning.

We met at the Yuen Long MTR station before boarding a 5-seated taxi heading to  Ngau Tan Mei (牛潭尾) to look for our target skipper - the Caprona alida 白彩弄蝶, which I had shot before at the same location in July 2016.  As we hiked up to the mountains,  I could not resist taking some pictures of the beautiful panoramic views of  Yuen Long and Shenzen in the background.
Many butterfly photographers in fact came early than us and they had started to hunt for the target.
After combing the area for a while, I found nothing. So I broke away from the group and went to a hill top. I saw two swallowtails chasing each other without stopping - one of them looked very yellowish in flight and I wasn't very sure which species it was. In the mean time, a Ypthima norma norma was found flitting in the bushes close to the ground.
I was rather surprised to see a red dragonfly on a hill top.
With a bit of patience of staying put at the peak, I finally noticed a brown skipper zipping around me and it stopped on a foliage, giving me a chance for a few quick snap shots. My initial attempt of looking at the spots on the wings of this rather small skipper suggest that it may be a  Pseudoborbo bevani.
Its upperside shot may be useful for us to identify it with a greater confidence.
I guessed Ivy and Shan brought us luck. A few minutes after they came to join me at the hill top, the yellowish fast-flyer Swallowtail perched on some dry branches. Unfortunately, all my shots were "burnt" as I failed to peep at the view-finder to check my shots. 
We were the first few who got a shot of this non-HK resident - the Papilio machaon (Yellow Swallowtail). By the time we got some shots, more photographers rushed to join us.  When it perched again on a fern, it created a lot of excitement amongst us. Many of us approached towards it quite hastily as a result it took off  within a few seconds  -  but luckily from where I positioned, I could  take  a few shots of its undersides. 
However, it went to hiding around noon. But all of us were still waiting patiently for it to appear again.
True enough, its appearance at 2 pm created another round of excitement. This time it perched on the same type of dry leaves again but for a  longer period of time - which allowed more people including me to take up positions to snap some shots.
Though not completely parallel to where it perched, I must say that I was lucky enough to take these shots while it was swaying in strong wind.

While waiting for the Yellow Swallowtail to settle down, this pristine Papilio xuthus xuthus was seen feeding on some Bidens flowers - this is the only shot that I am quite happy with as it was just too fast on the flowers.
Not many photographers were interested in this rather common Five-dot Sergeant (Athyma sulpitia sulpitia).  
I feel  that its undersides are quite appealing to me.
It was a fruitful butterfly outing with lots of fun, excitement and nice company of many butterfly photographers. Hope that with the weather getting warmer from March onwards and having more blue-sky and sunny weekends, I would get to see and shoot more species before I complete my tour of duty and return home for good.

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