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.
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.
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
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!
The 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-rumpedFlycatcher. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two Leopards were flying around the Weeping Willow trees, their host plant, by the side of the pond.
Like some alien species, this young shoot of the Elephant Foot Fern.
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.
Symmetricand colorful patterns of the Travelers Palm
Found several new species of butterflies in the park.
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.
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.
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.
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 Mynafor 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.
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.
A family of Little Terns were still around with the juveniles practicing how to catch fish from the surface of the water.
Sub adult Little Tern at Marina Barrage
Little Tern at GBTB
This sub adult has lost some of its juvenile feathers that gave it the scaly look.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. 1993 The Wild Bird Society of Japan.