Sunday, 25 August 2013

Uncommon Characters

Some butterflies are always a familiar sight. Others don't show up
quite as often. These uncommon characters are what butterfly
chasers live for (at least me). They are the thrill on a dull and
quiet day. This is an aberrant oakblue. While the name probably
refers to the cryptic markings, it also aptly describes its habits; I was
surprised to see this forest denizen out in the open at the Zoo!

The aberrant oakblue is moderately rare in Singapore but it turns
out, after some reading up, that it can be seen in urban parks from
time to time. The Malay Tailed Judy, on the other hand, is confined
to the forest. It has an almost annoying habit of continuously hopping
from leaf to leaf, turning each time it lands.

Not all butterflies have to be rare in order to qualify as novelties.
Some are plain hard to spot! The saturn, for example, is a perfect
mimic of a dried leaf, complete with blotches of colour here and
there. I was lucky that this male opted for a green perch, otherwise
it would have gone unnoticed amongst the leaf litter.

The last thrill I caught recently was a small, fast flying, almost
inconspicuous lycaenid. It stays in the sanctuary of the nature
reserves, but today I chanced upon one at... the Zoo. (again, yes.)
Cornelian is actually a type of semi-precious stone, the red variety of
chalcedony. The male sports a bright red upperside, reminiscent of a
cornelian stone.

I would love to have one or two more butterflies to ramble about but
rare ones don't come easily. It is always amazing to see a new
species or a rare one, but these encounters are usually just as
uncommon as the insects themselves. No, these four aren't the most
novel that I've shot but they still made my heart thump as my lens
went in and out, trying to focus on the rarity in front.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Fluffy tit

The fluffy tit is a relatively common frequent of the Southern Ridges
and the central catchment forests. It can be observed frolicking 
amongst vegetation and sometimes males are seen in rapid 
'dogfights' with other males, which can also be observed
mudpuddling. In flight, the long and whirling tails trail behind 
elegantly. I shot this male yesterday. It is actually a male sipping 
from a bird dropping on a leaf!

The underside is a beautiful combination of orange and a blueish 
white. On top, the male has black forewings which shine deep
violet in side-light. The hindwings are largely azure. Females are 
brown on top with a white tornal area on the hindwing. They lay 
their eggs on the flowers of the forest plant, cleorodendrum 
laevifolium and the caterpillars feed on all parts of the flowers.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Narrow Spark

Happy National Day to all of my Singaporean readers! (and happy 
48th birthday Singapore too) What better way was there to celebrate
this special day than to go out and hunt for butterflies? While the skies
were clear (yes, only in the morning), the butterflies didn't seem to
want to celebrate with me. However, I finally settled my score
with a certain old friend.

That would be the Narrow Spark. Two years ago, when I first saw 
this butterfly deep in the bowels of the Central Catchment forest, 
returned every weekend in hopes of getting a shot. Every time I 
ended up with shots like these.

The Narrow Spark was not documented by the early researchers and 
was only recorded i Singapore in 1995. It is a small and fast flying 
lycaenid, found in the heavily shaded forests of the nature reserves. 
Being uncommon and rather local in distribution, it is a novelty to 
see. (well at least for me)

It lands on leaves usually at eye level, and rests with its wings 
folded upright, concealing the upperside; a dark oily blue overlaying
a brownish base colour. The hindwings are metallic indigo. These
colours usually only show up in good light; in the dim conditions they
are seen in, they often appear nondescript and black in flight.

The underside is a silvery grey with rusty shading towards the
apex of the forewing. There is a ochreous band that runs through
both wings, and a yellow-rimmed black spot on the hindwing that
resembles an eye. Not to mention the legs, strikingly banded in
white and black.

Meeting this fellow on National day was a treat. I have finally
settled my score with him! Very often, knowing a certain butterfly's
habits and habitats go a long way if you're trying to find it. So 
putting butterflies aside for a moment, let's put our hands up an

Monday, 5 August 2013

After the drizzle @ Upper Seletar

Yesterday it drizzled and drizzled. I needed a break from school 
work badly but the weather did not seem to agree with me; neither
did the butterflies. It was only after an hour or so that the sky 
cleared a little, letting some light in. This pristine common faun 
was the first to cross my path.
The common faun is always a familiar sight in our forests, often 
flying very close to ground and disappearing upon landing. While
it may not seem to be a very interesting butterfly due to its drab 
colours and abundance, its eyes are a burst of colour. The upperside,
too, is rather bright, being a rusty orange that flashes as it flies.

The sun finally decided to poke out from behind the clouds. A female
purple duke was fluttering around the ground. At first glance, she 
appeared to be puddling; a behavior not commonly associated with 
females. However it turned out that she was feeding on minerals on the leaves.
I was scouring a hedge line for anything interesting when I noticed 
something resting on a leaf. Longish shape, black, some yellow... 
definitely not a butterfly. It was cicada; a black and golden cicada. 
When it took off, it revealed a yellow abdomen, which it also 
exposes when calling.

The day was certainly getting brighter. I was shocked when a malay
lacewing glided out of the forest and onto the grass. It was unmistakable;
with its stunning combination of metallic black, white and glowing
sunset orange. This one was a male. The female sports a paler orange. 
The malay lacewing was arguably the highlight of the day. It came to
feed on some ixora blooms as well, but it was very active and 
I was unable to get any good shots. The underside is even more 
dazzling, with patterns of golden brown, red, black and white. It 
is one of our most colourful butterflies, and was a joy to watch.

Many other butterflies were seen, but only in glimpses and flashes.
Back to reality, my shots have really deteriated. It's obvious. I bet I'm
just out of practice. While I would love to shoot more, this year was 
destined to be a busy one. While my exams have recently passed, they
are nearly on me again. I think I will cease the self- pity here. Thanks
for reading!