Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Two weekends at Mandai (part two)

Today, following up to the previous post, I'll continue on my two trips to Mandai. My more recent visit saw a much smaller number of species, but it was interesting nonetheless. Early in the morning, with the sun still not penetrating the blanket of clouds overhead, the few butterflies I spotted were docile in the cool air. The highlight of the day was the first butterfly I shot, the rare Malay Staff Sergeant.

The Malay staff sergeant is said to be the island's most uncommon athyma species, but in more recent years it seems to have turned up more frequently. It was still a thrill to observe it as it fed greedily on the melastoma fruits. Countless lascar species were fluttering around the bush as well. This rather worn out specimen might be a Burmese lascar, another rarity.

Purple dukes were also abundant. They liked to dart rapidly out from under a leaf, fly around in circles then swoop back under another leaf. Both males and females were observed. This species, and the courtesan, are our sole representatives of the subfamily Apaturinae. The purple duke is a common sight in the forest, but is never easy to shoot. I believe this is a female. 

Once the sun was up in full force, many of the butterflies began to flee for shelter. However, the colonels seemed to enjoy the sweltering heat, chasing each other around in the treetops. Some even came down to feed on the remaining melastoma fruits. They were skittish were off at the slightest disturbance. Here is one of the more docile models, allowing me a few pictures before retreating to the trees.

Large and conspicuous butterflies aside, there were also many small blues out that day. The most numerous was the ever common acacia blue. I saw at least four of them fluttering around a single bush. Their stunning purple uppersides were a sight to behold. However, they only reveal them when sunbathing in the late afternoon. The underside is a  much more nondescript brown, with a few dark spots.

The real surprise was a tiny lycaenid I noticed flitting high up in a melastoma bush. When it flew down to a lower branch, it's identity was revealed- the semanga superba deliciosa. Yes, it is one of our most superbly delicious butterflies. With it's buff coloured underside adorned with patterns in red, blue, orange and black, it truly is a gem. All that colour- packed into something merely the size of a five-cents coin!

Though I have observed it many times before, it is always a joy to see. This one turned out to be my first sighting of a male, the much rarer sex. They are characterised by having a total of four tails on the hindwings. The females have six, and are usually larger.
Coming to the end, here is a male knight, one of my favourite forest species.

Well, I must say that these two days spent at Mandai have been two wonderful days of my life. The mere diversity of species there is astounding. But the fruiting season has come and gone, and all the butterflies would have gone back deep into the forest. Now I'm looking forward to participating in this survey, at Gardens by The Bay.

That's all for now. ;)


  1. Great pictures of some really interesting butterflies. It looks like you had a good time!
    I'll be interested to hear how you got on at Gardens by the Bay. I have seen a few pictures on "Singapore Butterflies" which gave me the impression there were a lot of butterflies. However, another blog seems to suggest there were very few!

  2. Thanks Nick for looking man! The butterflycircle members over at Singapore Butterflies are involved in this survey to record the butterflies there... And they've seen plenty! I suppose the butterflies are there, but you have to be In the right place and at the right time to see them.