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 

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 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Amongst the Melastoma

Melastoma malabathricum, the Singapore Rhododendron, is a
common shrub that grows aggressively in disturbed habitats such
as secondary forests and grasslands. Their fruits are oval and break
open to reveal purple black flesh dotted with pale seeds. The name
'melastoma' is Greek for 'black mouth'; the pulp stains! Birds,
monkeys and butterflies love them. A top customer is the common
Purple Duke. This one is a male.

For the past few weeks I have been visiting Mandai forest
because there is an abundance of melastoma bushes. Many forest
species that dwell in the treetops descend to feed when there are
fruits. This is a Lance Sergeant enjoying a sip of the astringent juice.

In the previous post, I talked about one member of the flos
butterflies, a family of rare forest gems. Out of the total four,
one, the BIfid Plushblue had eluded me completely. Yesterday
when I was in Mandai, I struck gold. Here is the female that I
managed to shoot; my first bifid.

The name 'bifid' comes from the dark bifid (split into two) marking
on the hindwing. It looks a little like an 'n'. 

That wraps up my collection of the flos family! Another flos that
was about was the Shining Plushblue, just as rare.

One of our more common forest butterflies, the Malayan Lascar
is extremely fond of the fruit. Almost every bush had one of these
delicate butterflies feeding away. They are generally skittish but
the juice from the fruits seems to intoxicate them, making them
more willing to stay for a shot or two.

Melastoma bushes are excellent butterfly magnets, luring them out
from their shady forest habitats. This makes photographing them
so much easier. Amongst the melestoma there are many surprises!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Darky Plushblue

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilada! I usually would not be able to shoot
on a Tuesday but this one was a public holiday. I was in luck. I saw
all four species of our flos butterflies, a family I have become rather
obsessed with. The flos are a group of forest-dwelling lycaenids that 
have wonderful colours. All are skittish insects and are strong fliers. 
One of the species I encountered was the Darky Plushblue, the least 
common of the lot. This is a male.

The darky plushblue is deep umber underneath, with a series
of paler bands that are covered in metallic scales, reflecting
shades of blue and violet at certain angles. They are rarely
observed but are attracted to fruiting melestoma bushes. While
the termen (outer edge) of the forewing in the female is rounded,
the males' are straight.

I was fortunate enough to observe a few individuals, as opposed
to the usual single specimen. From afar, their brilliant colours are
actually inconspicuous and dull, only illuminating with the extra light 
from a camera flash. On top, they are even more spectacular. Even
the female, the often duller gender, has a glowing violet upperside.

My luck with shooting the fantastic uppersides ended with that 
female, who was basking in the cool morning air. As for the male, 
whose upperside is extensively ultramarine with a thin black border, 
I managed only this glimpse.

However, in flight, these colours are once again hidden. They
seem black when they fly and do not flash their gaudy wings. Perhaps
this is because the blue that we see is a result of the wing scales' 
micro structure and not pigment. As always, the most spectacular 
butterflies have to be the shyest. Here are some of the "record 
shots" I earned from hours of chasing them in the sweltering heat.

You can get a rough idea of its size by comparing it against
the fly. Here it is feeding on a melastoma fruit; a butterfly magnet.

This was the first time I had seen this lovely jewel. It is really
quite something to see a new species, as even though I have 
drooled over others' pictures of the darky plushblue, nothing 
comes close to actually seeing it. It seems to be doing well at
its colony at the moment and I hope the presence of their caterpillar
host plant keeps them around.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Pasir Ris in Dodgy Weather

With that, I declare my streaming examinations over! Freedom.
Now that I have more time on my hands, I will resume to watering 
this place weekly. Today I had my batteries charged up but the
weather was not so enthusiastic. There were passing showers and 
drizzles, none of which kept the butterflies away. The Pasir Ris 
kitchen garden was looking brilliant and the usual suspects were
around. This is the ever common, Common tit.

There were plenty of Plain and Glassy tigers fluttering around
the bidens flowers, which almost seem to have invaded the 
garden. With so many flying around, it was difficult to isolate
just one to zoom in on. Here is a plain tiger.

The false dill plant was flowering too, Blue Glassy Tigers were
swarming around it. 

Flying around non-stop were the leopards. They seemed to
prefer feeding at the top of the string bushes, which were 
tall and looking great. The leopards are always skittish and
fly erratically. I managed to get a single shot amongst the multiple 
failed attempts.

It felt good to be back shooting. During the exam period, I
came down with an awful virus (was it dengue?). I had terrible
headaches, fevers and aches. Some nasty hives appeared all over
me too. Thankfully the storm has blown over and there are only
clear skies ahead. ;)