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


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!