Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013

The past year has been a crazy roller coaster. It's flung me in every 
direction and now that I'm getting off and walking to a new ride, it 
seems as though it came and went quicker than I could have ever 
imagined.













In butterflies, it has been amazing year. The Singapore check-list has
once again expanded due to numerous new discoveries and now 
stands at 310 species. That's an awful lot of butterflies for a tiny 
island of only 710 square kilometres. I got to fully appreciate the 
diversity we indulge in here when I flew to Adelaide, where the 
number of species iminuscule in comparison. I've also had so many 
first encounters this year, with the Courtesan and the flos family 
being definite highlights.













There has also been plenty of activity in the butterfly scene here. In 
January, the priceless Fleming Collection of butterflies landed in 
Singapore. It's really an honour that our humble country was chosen 
to house the collection, a valuable reflection of the butterflies of the
region, compiled from 1963 to 1978. June saw ButterflyCircle doing
a survey of the butterflies of Gardens by The Bay, unearthing 
another rediscovery and even earning a newspaper article














It's great to see that Singapore's wildlife is getting a bigger voice. 
This year's Festival of Biodversity, while not as big an event as last 
year's, being situated in a major mall, caught the attention of the 
general public and brought the wilderness to them.The Singapore 
Butterflies Facebook group is another example of how more and 
more people are beginning to open their  eyes to the delicate 
world around them. 














My only regret is that I missed out on a fair chunk of the excitement.
I was caught up school work most of the time. This year I sat for my
streaming examinations to determine what subjects I would take 
next year. Surprise surprise, I came down with a terrible bug the day 
before my first paper, with nasty hives and fevers attacking 
throughout the exams. Of course everything turned out well. Also, I 
have now ventured into the magic circle. I was invited by a teacher 
of mine who brought me into this new form of art.














I was oh so lucky to take part in the amazing Project Phoenix
community magic renewal programme that started in March 
when a group of us taught weekly magic lessons at a Community 
Centre and the volunteers, or 'students', ended up performing to 
the Children of Club Rainbow. Club Rainbow is a charity that supports
children with chronic illnesses and their families. I was really moved 
during our visit to the children in April; they were all fighters. To
see them laughing and smiling through what many of us would 
crumble under was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had 
this year.













The three month long project finished in a huge magic show held at
the centre's theatre. I went on my first stage performance that night 
and I loved it. Another big event I was part of was the 10th Splash 
Awards, an IT competition that looks into the development of mobile 
applications. It brought Secondary school students from all over the 
island together. I was leading the team representing my school. Yeah 
we won. It wasn't easy work though; I spent close to two months on 
photoshop designing our app, the Kindred Knowledge Konnector.













I also took part in the annual StrITwise competition, revolving 
around game development. My team stood second amongst the over 
sixty participants. We didn't win the big name but it's the journey 
that matters more. If you haven't figured out by now, I'm the painter 
who chases butterflies with a huge camera, performs magic and is in 
the IT field. It's not easy to do all that while still having to be a 
student but I guess that's why I've had such an wonderful time.













2013 has been quite an amazing year. I am aware that for almost 
half of the year there were no posts here at all. I want to say sorry 
for not doing the housekeeping required of a good blogger. I cannot 
guarantee that my posts will arrive every weekend but I will certainly 
try to make that happen. To all of my readers, thanks for being such
a great audience of my babbling. The past year has been a crazy 
roller coaster and I can't wait for what 2014 will bring.

pictures from top to bottom: common bluebottle, commander, blue pansy, branded 
imperial, banded swallowtail, long banded silverline, large snow flat, common hedge 
blue

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

To all of my faithful readers and the rest of the world. I think
Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year - everyone just
drops all negativity and lets love shine through. It's beautiful to see 
people so happy. Even our miserable December weather gave 
way to the sun today. While we celebrate, let us also remember
all those who can't. Let us do our bit to make a difference in their 
lives around and may they always stay strong. To the world and all
of my faithful readers, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Adelaide and Kangaroo Island Butterflies

I have finally walked on Aussie ground and I must say that I loved
every bit of it! We visited Adelaide since we have cousins living 
there, and even took a ferry to the beautiful  Kangaroo Island. It
was an amazing experience; the weather, the people and the 
nature. I'll get on with the butterflies first. Here we have the near
abundant Australian Painted Lady. They were everywhere but were
ever so lovely. Plus, there are none back in the sunny island.


























There were painted ladies on almost every flower patch in the
Adelaide Botanic Garden. They would hop from flower to flower
then fly off to bask on the ground or a rock.




























Cabbage Whites were also in good supply but they hardly stopped
to rest. This butterfly was actually accidentally introduced into
Australia along with many other foreign species during the eighteenth
century when the first European settlers arrived in the continent. 














In the woodlands, the most dominant butterfly was the Common
Brown. It is more orange than brown, and makes Singapore's 
delicate mycalesis browns look dull! They belong to a genus of
butterflies endemic to the Australia. Here is the male. I was not 
able to get a shot of the larger and more spectacular female.





























The most exciting encounter was my first Monarch Butterfly. It
is probably the best known butterfly around the world. Very often
the species that flutters by in the mind once the word 'butterfly' 
is mentioned would be this species! Its amazing migration is one of 
nature's wonders and has earned it its Aussie name: the Wanderer. 













The size of the monarch caught me by surprise; it was quite a bit 
larger than its Singaporean counterpart, the Common Tiger. Lastly, 
we have the diminutive Common Grass Blue. Being very similar to 
the blues I see along the roadsides in Singapore, they did not excite 
me quite as much as the Monarch but were a lovely sight nonetheless.














That's all for the butterflies. I saw far more birds during the trip
though. The place was like an enormous bird park. Anyway that
would be my material for next week's post. On a side note, Christmas
is only three days away. I'm finishing up all my gifts for my family,
one being the waxwing painting. I can't wait for the holiday!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Away to Down Under

I'm off! My sister recently completed her GCE O levels and
we're going abroad to celebrate! I'm so proud and happy for
her. So I won't be posting any butterfly sightings here for a 
while. When I come back, however, I will most definitely put
up a hurricane of pictures. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Little Bit of Scandinavia

I am back in the business!! The first painting I have done in
an entire year has been completed. This time, instead of 
having a local subject, I decided to paint a Scandinavian bird:
the Bohemian Waxwing, on a twig of Eurasian Rowan.






















The waxwing has the most magnificent soft and nearly
un-feather like plumage, coloured by muted greys and orange.
The bird is actually named after the red waxy protruding 
feather shafts on each wing. This is my painting set up - no 
nonsense, just paint, brushes, a canvas and a palette (usually 
half of a styrofoam box that used to contain chicken rice).














Here are some progress shots. I often do the plant or perch the first.
Then I'll tackle the bird. The snow was done more than a week later 
when everything underneath is completely dry.














Before any of that went onto the canvas, I painted a background
in acrylics with a sponge roller. I also did a rough painting in 
Photoshop to set a blueprint of how the composition and colours 
would turn out in the actual artwork.





















There you have it - the Bohemian Waxwing on Eurasian Rowan,
and a peek into my painting process. ;)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Ubin Before the Rain

I would never have known that the blue sky over Pulau Ubin would 
be so short-lived. The rain did more than just pour; it literally 
flooded the air completely. The enormous winds did not help either.
That aside, I'll write about the butterflies I saw before the downpour.
At Butterfly Hill, Pea Blues were numerous and were fluttering around
in full force. Here is a male who was sunbathing on the sandy ground.













Blue Glassy Tigers were about as well, floating from flower to flower.
Their close relative and lookalike, the Dark Glassy Tiger, was just as 
common but I did not manage any pictures.













While the Malayan Birdwing was nowhere to be seen, I was still 
thrilled to see its cousin, the Common Birdwing. The two species 
represent the largely Australasian genus, troides, in Singapore. There
were at least three individuals roaming the hill. Each time one 
passed by the ixora bushes for a sip, we would rapidly fire at them 
in hopes of getting a clear shot. This is the female.













Sometimes our reactions were too slow.













Here is a male. It is smaller than the female, and lacks the black 
spots on the sunny yellow hindwing.














While the rest were busy with the Birdwings, I decided to venture 
into a thick bamboo growth further away. The elusive Bamboo Tree 
Brown was everywhere. Their colour, bouncy flight and habit of 
landing in obscure places made them hard to track. I have always 
been drawn to their lovely patterns. While it is only brown, it is the 
variations in brown I find beautiful.













On my way out, I passed by this male Club Silverline. It liked to 
land under leaves very low down; quite a headache for me! Soon 
it perched on a leaf in some shade.













It was a really enjoyable trip. I had excellent company; the people 
from ButterflyCircle are amazing. The rain will never be able to 
dampen our spirits. ;)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

More Hope for The Metallic Caeruleans

Recently our weather has taken a turn for the worse and the butterfly
numbers have dropped. I took a short walk yesterday and stumbled 
upon a nice surprise - a colony of Metallic Caeruleans (jamides 
alecto). There were at least five individuals fluttering in and out of 
the area. The species is rather new record here, being rediscovered 
in 2008.













The metallic Caerulean is an uncommon butterfly that depends on 
the availability of Torch Ginger (nicolaia elatior) flowers for its
survival; the caterpillars only eat the flowers and not the leaves. 
While the plant is popularly cultivated in gardens around the island, 
as of 2011, the only known colony was at Mandai Orchid Garden, 
which is now gone.













Now, with the colony I found, there are three areas where they are
known to breed. One of them is in the Singapore Zoo! When plans 
were announced to close the Orchid Garden, the Zoo graciously 
worked with ButterflyCircle to transplant clumps of Torch Ginger to 
the Zoo in wonderful project to save the species. Where I observed 
them, most of the caeruleans were females. Here are two on a 
ginger bloom.













It is the largest of our Caeruleans (jamides sp) but is still a small 
butterfly, with a wingspan of 35mm. The uppersides of this butterfly 
are bright blue with a dark border. Underneath, it appears very 
similar to the other caeruleans. Here's a comparison with the most 
common member of the genus, the Common Caerulean.






















I was thrilled to see the metallic caerleans doing so well at this new 
site. Many of the flowers I scrutinised had minuscule bite marks and 
holes; indications that there were caterpillars in the flowers. I did 
not see the caterpillars myself but the evidence was pretty 
compelling. The dark object is a visitor, a fruit fly.













It's great to see that this species has managed to establish itself in 
more than one location. I will keep the location of their colony 
undisclosed to ensure that these little butterflies can continue 
breeding with little disturbance. To finish off, here's a metallic 
caerulean I saw in the Zoo last year.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Commanders

Today I returned to Dairy Farm Nature Park. I hadn't been there for
over a year and I was surprised by how much it's changed. Many of
my favourite spots for butterflies were cleared and are now making
way for more trees to be planted. Luckily, I had the company of two
Commanders - one of them being this lovely butterfly.














Mr Khew, creator of the Butterflies of Singapore and amazing 
architect, who goes by "Commander" in ButterflyCircle and in the 
blogging world, was the other. Strangely, the little butterfly kept
landing on Mr Khew's bag! (while neglecting mine) It even landed on
his water bottle.














In December last year, I painted two Commanders on their caterpillar
host plant, Timoneus wallechiana, for Mr Khew. (Photo credit goes to
him, here's the link.)






















While I had used many great reference pictures from the web, not 
having my own set of references set me back a little. If only I had 
obtained these pictures back then! The commander is a rather 
common butterfly of our forests and parks and it has been known 
to have a taste for human sweat.














I would really like to thank Mr Khew for welcoming me into the 
butterfly scene. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be out every 
weekend chasing butterflies with a camera. Butterfly photography
has really opened my eyes to the beautiful world around me. It has 
been one the most amazing things that's ever happened to me!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Felder's Royal

Singapore is home to three Royal (tajuria) butterflies.Today 
completed my set of royals with the third species - the rare 
Felder's Royal. It stayed in the treetops for a long period of time 
before finally coming down to eye level when the sun became too 
unbearable. It would be nice to say that my heart was thumping 
almost audibly as I snatched this shot but I admit that that is a slight 
exaggeration. 













The Felder's Royal is a small butterfly, with a wingspan of only 35mm.
While it may appear drab on the underside, apart from the splash of
orange and blue at the hindwing tornus, the upperside is a brilliant
shining turquoise. Sadly, they land with their wings shut and the blue
can only be seen fully in flight. It has a habit of landing underneath leaves.













It was rediscovered in Singapore in 1999. So far, sightings have 
mainly been from the Southern Ridges but I saw mine in the heart 
of the Central Catchment area. Here is another record shot I got 
when it landed some distance away from me.













Out of the three royals, the Felder's royal is rather rare. Last year
I was fortunate enough to observe the rarest of the trio, Tajuria 
dominusnear my house. Recently I saw a female t.dominus 
fluttering around a mistletoe high up in a tree (also outside my 
house) - promising evidence that the species is still breeding and 
surviving.