Painted Wing Lifers

Thanks to Lim Kim Keang, Lena Chow and a few others, I now pay great attention to the butterflies I see along the way when I am out birding. Some days birding can be slow so there is no harm in looking down instead of up for these painted wings zipping around or resting under the leaves.  Adding birds to my national list of 335 is getting tough, but there are still hundred plus new butterflies that I have not seen in Singapore.

It helped that my micro four thirds Olympus OM-D set up with 70-300 mm birding lens allows me to get some decent shots of these creatures without having to change to a marco lens. Of course the results are not that spectacular but good enough for posting.

Some of the butterflies that I photographed last months include two lifers to kept the excitement going during these outings.


This Malayan Sunbeam at Bukit Batok NP was so engrossed with licking on the surface of the Simpong Ayer leaf, that it did not move at all. Obviously it did not get its name from the pale underside but rather from the bright orange of the upperside. The other sunbeam is the Sumatran found mostly around the mangroves.

Psyche at DFNP
The dainty Psyche was flying just above the grasses while I was trying to shoot the Crimson Sunbird at the Helliconia patch at Dairy Farm Nature Park. A forest edge butterfly , both sexes look alike.



We were at Dairy Farm Nature Park to shoot the Jambu Fruit Dove that was feeding on the False Curry Leaf Tree when this colorful day moth Dysphania subrepleta was struggling to fly. It may have just eclosed and needed some time before flying away to the safety of the greenery.

Common Five Rings
The Lord of the Rings, the Common Five Rings is the rarest of the Rings. Found in the same localities with the three and Four Rings. It is hard to separate from the other Rings in the field, so I was told to just photographed them. This was taken at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. A week later I had another one at the car park at Hort Park.


The Centuar Oakblue is another lifer from Bidadari. I was there to check out the returning migrants and saw it flitting around a low bush. It is the biggest of the oakblues but easy to miss.

Reference: Gan Cheong Weei and Simon Chan Kee Mun. A pocket Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2007.  Steven Neo Say  Hian. A Guide to Common Butterflies of Singapore. Singapore Science Center. 1996

Bidadari here we come!

3rd October 2016.

A good portion of Bidadari near the Mount Vernon side have been cleared and fenced up. A really sad and sorry sight. Fortunately the studio hillock and the forest facing Bartley Road are still intact. Last Friday Lim Kim Keang went down to Bidadari to see if any of the passerine migrants are still dropping by. They were!

20160402_113120The Albizias at Bidadari are very important in giving shelter and refuge for many of the returning migrants.

He saw an Eastern-crowned Warbler, an Asian Brown and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. Zacc was there to photographed a sizable flock of Daurian Starlings on a bare tree. Despite his best efforts inside a light room, he cannot find any with a chestnut cheek, Good try Zacc.

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Bida
Last year’s file photo Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher at Bidadari, one of the most reliable places to see this globally threatened species in its wintering range.

The next day Richard White had better luck. He came back with three more flycatchers. A  juvenile Dark-sided, a Ferruginous affectionately dubbed “Iron Boy” and the globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. His shot of the day was a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo, a non-breeding visitor.


When word got out, birders and photographers were out in force crisscrossing the forest looking for more migrants on Sunday. I went down and joined them to find out if the remaining green patch is still “birdable”. The HDB will leave the hillock untouched. Will this be big enough for the migrants to spend the winter here? I hope so.


The Tiger Shrikes, all juveniles and the Asian Paradise Flycatchers were every where. Invariably we were all asking if they are Amurs or Orientals. The split was recent and the literature are still being defined. But safe to say that the ones we saw are mostly migrants.


We added a first winter Crow-billed Drongo and an Arctic Warbler to the list on Sunday. This was a great start and I am sure we will be getting more dropping by in the coming weeks. Do pay Bidadari a visit before more trees and greenery are being cleared.

Reference: Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beafoy Publishing Ltd. 2003. 



A Short Visit to Jurong Eco Gardens.


Made a short visit to Jurong Eco Gardens on Friday 8th September to check if any of the migrant flycatchers or shrikes were around. It was rather quiet for most of the morning. Even the usual residents were absent except for four Straw-headed Bulbuls and a pair of Oriental Magpie Robins. At least their melodious song livened up the place.

Magpie Robin at JEG
After so many years, this is the first time I managed to get this pose of the Oriental Magpie Robin. 

So the next best thing to do is to do some butterfly watching even though the Leea indica plants were past their flowering. Luckily the butterflies were out in force even if they are the more common species.

Leea indica
The Leea indicas were all past flowering. Morning dew hanging on the buds of the Leea indica.

The Common Mormons were easy to see, so was a Common Birdwing. The rarer Grey Pansies were chasing each other in the company of the Chocolate Pansies. But the summit was quiet this morning, no signs of the Lesser Harlequins.

Grey Pansy at JEG
Grey Pansy, the rarest of the four species of pansies enjoying the sunshine. Surprised to see a few of them around. 

Two Leopards were flying around the Weeping Willow trees, their host plant, by the side of the pond.

Leopard at its host plant
Leopard at its host plant

Like some alien species, this young shoot of the Elephant Foot Fern.

Elephant foot Yam
Vulnerable Elephant Foot’s Fern.
Commom Mormon at JEG
The Polytes female form of Commom Mormon feeding on the Lantana.

The Traveler’s Palm from Madagascar is not a true palm. It is elegant looking but is out of favor as the base of its fronds trap water for mosquitoes to breed. I found only a small cluster here.

p9092208 Symmetricand colorful patterns of the Travelers Palm

Found several new species of butterflies in the park.

Marina Gardens and Barrage-Birding Hotspots Downtown.

3rd September 2016

Decided to dropped by the Gardens by the Bay this Saturday morning to check out if any other passerine migrants have arrived following Danny Khoo’s report that a Common Kingfisher was seen there on 31st August.

Instead I got this uncommon resident Ruddy-breasted Crake that was moving around the gardens some months back. This shot showed its long toes which are needed to walk on the floating vegetation in the water.

Ruddy-breasted Crake at GBTB
Ruddy-breasted Crake looking for earthworms.

I never get tired shooting sunbirds because you get both the colorful sunbirds and the bright flower. The Brown-throated Sunbird has its own iridescent beauty.

Brown-throated Sunbird at GBTB
The yellow Canna flowers certainly add color to the photo.

Glad to run into Siew Mun who showed me this friendly Laced Woodpecker. How not to take a photo when it was showing it best profile to us. The red crown stripe of the male always made a great photo. This is the only woodpecker that comes down to the ground to forage for food.

Laced Woodpecker Male at GBTB
The male Laced Woodpecker with its red crown stripe. 

Siew Mun sharp eyes picked out this Common Frangetail, a rather large common dragonfly in our parks and gardens. It seems to be eating one of its own after mating. Any dragonfly experts care to comment?


I have not photographed a Common Myna for years. I am surprised to see them here by the food court as the White-vented Mynas have driven most of them to the outskirts of the city. This one seem to have a attitude and was giving orders to others.

Common Myna at GBTB
Common Myna at the Food Court.

It was high tide around noon so I decided to swing over to the Marina Barrage to see if there are any visiting terns flying around. Didn’t know that there were Pokemons to catch at the breakwaters.

Didn't know there are Pokemon at the Marina Barrage.
Catching Pokemons at the breakwaters at the Marina Barrage?

A family of Little Terns were still around with the juveniles practicing how to catch fish from the surface of the water.

This sub adult has lost some of its juvenile feathers that gave it the scaly look.

Little Tern Non breeding
Little Tern moutling into non breeding plumage.

Good to see our resident Malaysian Plovers roosting around the barrage after breeding. To be able to see them so close to the city without venturing to Tuas or Changi is a bonus. This female is feeling very at home among the pool of water on the bund.

Malaysian Plover Female at Marina Barrage
Malaysian Plover Female at Marina Barrage.

Gardens by the Bay is becoming an oasis for migrants based on the many that dropped by last season. It is getting a lot of attention from birders and photographers partly to its accessibility and being right in the center of the CBD. Lets seen which rare migrant will be coming for a visit this season.

Forest Butterflies at our Reservoir Parks

30th August 2016

Butterfly watching is somewhat different from birding but just as absorbing.  For one thing they are smaller and harder to identify in the field. The best part I like about it is not having to wake up at the break of dawn, as the butterflies are active much later in the morning. Lim Kim Keang, veteran birder and a keen butterfly watcher first got me interested in butterflies. On some slow birding days I got a chance to do some butterfly watching with him and also learn from other members of the Butterfly and Insect Group.

Mango Hawk Moth at USR
Mango Hawk Moth, about half the size of my palm, found by Yong Yik Shih

Recently I was fascinated with the forest butterflies that were seen at our reservoir parks. Some of the rarer ones are found at the host plants inside the forests, which is not very accessible. But they will move out when the plants along the forest edges flower.

Humming Bird Moth at USR
I have been always wanting to get this Humming Bird Moth on my sensors. They were also attracted to the nectar of the Sycygium flowers.

Early this month a row of Syzygium spp at the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park bloomed. I was lucky to see a proliferation of rare Awls, Snow Flats and Skippers that were not normally seen outside the forests. To top it all we had a rare mango moth to end the season. I had a total of eleven lifers thanks to the help from so many butterfly experts I met there. Here are some of the butterflies and insects we managed to get on our sensors during those few mornings.

Robberfly at USR
This Robber fFy was found inside the trails of the Seletar Forest.


Common Snow Flat at USR
Common Snow Flat is a sun loving butterfly and likes to bask with opened wings
Brown Awl at USR
Brown Awls were out in force on all the days when we were there.
Ultra Snow Flat at USR
You can only see small white specks zipping around. They are the Snow Flats. The Ultra has more markings at the base of the hind wings.
Malay Lascar at USR
Malayan Lascar is very similar to the Common Lascar but are less common. Do comes down to the ground to feed.
Tree Flitter at USR
Tree Flitter, a small skipper is not easily seen. Spotted by Chan Yiu Nam.
Pale Mottle at USR
Pale Mottle likes underside of leaves that are infested with Asphids. Like the ants they are attracted to the secretions of the Asphids.
Common Posy at USR
Common Posy looks like the Branded Imperial but has more black Stripes on its hind wings. Often returns to the same sun lit spot. 
Darky Plushblue at USR
Darky Plushblue was the rarest butt seen during the past few days, thanks to the Kim Keang’s sharp eyes 
Cruiser at USR
A low perspective of a uncommon Cruiser. Loves to feed on excrement and dead animals.
Hoary Palmer at USR
This fairly large Skipper, the Hoary Palmer was really friendly and stayed around for all of us to get our shots. The heighten White hind wings are good id features.


The Purple Duke is the only butterfly in its genus found here and Malaysia. When disturbed it will zipped away and hide at the underside of leaves with folded wings.

Male Form Gardineri Baron
Unfortunately this is not the White-tipped Baron that Lena Chow saw the day before. It is a male Form Gardineri Baron.
Malayan Snow Flat
Malayan Snow Flat is rarer than the look alike Ultra. This was pointed out to me by by Khew Sin Khoon.
White Banded Awl
The White Banded Awl should have a more colorful name. When the hind wings catch the sunlight, you can see the purplish sheen on it like in this photo.


Acknowledgement: I like to thank Lim Kim Keang, Khew Sin Khoon, Yong Yik Shih, Lena Chow and Chan Yiu Nam for showing me these butterflies and how to identify them. 

Reference: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore. Gan Cheong Weei and Simon Chan. A Guide to the Common Butterflies of Singapore. Steven Neo. Butterfly Circle Butterflies Checklist.

National Day Ramble

Went for a morning ramble to the Peirce Reservoirs with my wife this National Day. It was quiet at the Lower Peirce Boardwalk with a few families out enjoying the nature. But the old Thompson was pretty crowded. Long Tailed Macaques were lining up by the side of the road waiting for handouts from the stream of cars passing by.


Good to see they were wearing the national colors to celebrate the nation’s birthday at the Lower Peirce Boardwalk.


This pair of GRT Drongo siblings were still unsure about themselves. They were looking around for their parents and kept calling out to be fed.

Slender Squirrel at LPR
The Slender Squirrel stays close to the Central forests

This Slender Squirrel was moving up and down the trunk of this tree rubbing its face on the bark. I think it is leaving its scent on this tree to mark its territory.

Suffused Flash at UPR
Suffused Flash 

Over at the Upper Peirce Reservoir, I found a rare butterfly, the Suffused Flash, the best catch of the day. There were no flowering plants around and it stayed on the same leaf for a long time. This forest butterfly can be found at the Upper Seletar Reservoir as well.

Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker at UPR
Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker 

A small bush behind the toilet has a parasite plant growing on it. The Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers love the berries of this plant. This male was at eye level and presented a great side profile for me to shoot. Earlier I saw another Flowerpecker, a juvenile Orange-bellied inside the Lower Peirce Forest.


Little Terns at the Marina Barrage.

Breakwater at Marina Barrage
Very disciplined shooting session at the breakwaters by the Marina Barrage. Nature next to the CBD.

I think that the breakwaters by the side of the Marina Barrage was built to prevent erosion of the beach fronting the barrage. But it turned out to be a great place to study the post breeding behavior of families of the Little Terns, Sternula albifrons. Besides the Black-naped Terns, Sterna sumatrana, the Little Tern is the only other tern that breeds in Singapore, although we had some sporadic records of the Bridled Terns, Onychoprion anaethetus, breeding at Horsburgh Lighthouse.

Coming in to land.
Frontal flying shots will not be possible without knowing where they will land.
Fluffing up is part of preening to keep the feathers healhty
Preening and fluffing to keep their feathers healthy

Since early July, a few adult terns were using the breakwaters to teach their juveniles flying and survival skills of catching fish in the open waters. As the juveniles are not able to fly for long periods, the breakwaters is a convenient place for them to come in for a rest.

Dinner time.
Parent terns were able to demonstrate the art of catching small fishes to the juveniles near the breakwaters.

At first the parents will bring back the fish for the juveniles and then gradually entice the juveniles to follow them out to fish at sea. The parent birds will catch the small fishes and dropped them back to the water for the juveniles to practise fishing . By the end of July, a few older juveniles were seen fishing on their own having mastered the art of finding and catching the small fishes from the parents.

The juveniles under the watchful eyes of the adult
The juveniles practise flying at the breakwaters under the watchful eyes of the adult

Unlike the period before the chicks fledged, the parent terns at the breakwaters were very tolerant of intruders. They allowed the photographers to come close knowing that the juveniles were able to fend for themselves. Those of us that tried shooting the young chicks at the open grasslands will tell you the ferocity of the adult terns dive bombing every intruder including House Crows that get too near to their chicks.

Stop showing off.
Showing off landing to its siblings much to the delight of the parent on the right.

This in turn allow us to get some stunning photos of these terns in flight, fishing, feeding preening and fighting for food in a natural surrounding. This will not be possible if not for this breakwaters which is just outside the CBD.

Last feed for the juveniles
Parent tern still hard at work with the last feed for the day

Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. 1993 The Wild Bird Society of Japan.