Sunday, 18 May 2014

Back to Butterflying

If birdwatching can surpass grammar to become 'birding', I don't see why butterfly watching can't! My examinations finished just last week and I've been able to return to butterflying. It seems like perfect timing too, for the butterfly numbers are on the rise. Many butterflies can be seen flying by the roads. The forests are getting exciting too, with some uncommon species turning up. One of them, the green oakblue, seems to be doing well this year. This is a female sunbathing.

Where's the green? On the male's upperside. Unfortunately, I didn't see any males that day. There were a number of females out though and I suspect they were out to lay eggs. They would flutter around a certain bush and land in obscure places. I did not witness any actual egg-laying but the behaviour points to it. After a while of that, they would fly off to a nearby shrub and spread their wings flat. It is truly a spectacular sight. The underside is not quite as brilliant.

There were a number of Malayan Sunbeams out too. Sunbeams are fast flying blues that are usually seen on damp patches on the ground. We have two species occurring here, one being the Malaysian and the other, the Sumatran sunbeam. The latter is more often found in mangrove forests. Underneath, the Malayan sunbeam is silvery-white, peppered with lots of tiny black spots. The legs are unique too; they look rather like candy canes!

Like the green oakblue, their name comes from the upperside, which is bright vermillion. The clashing colours make them very conspicuous in flight. Most of the time, sunbeams prefer to open their wings in the late afternoon. This one only gave me a peek.

Another white-ish butterfly, the Malayan, referred to as the Malayan Pied Blue in Dr. Kirton's new butterfly book, was fluttering nearby. It is a tiny butterfly, with a forewing length of only 1cm. While it may be uncommon, it can be found in parks and gardens and not just in forests. Interestingly, it has an Australian counterpart, megisba strongyle, the Pied Blue, which looks very similar. The species we have here is m. malaya.

I was surprised to bump into one of my favourite butterflies, the
bifid plushblue. It is an elusive member of the flos genus, which I have gone on and on about before. I absolutely love the colour variations on the underside. This one was a very pristine specimen and the colours were even brighter. It disliked my flash, jumping every time I fired a shot, so this picture was taken with my shaky hands in the low light.

Along with the rising temperatures that the butterflies love, the humidity levels are increasing too. It is become quite unbearable to be outside; the air isn't just hot, it's wet too. I suppose that is just one of the little inconveniences we have to put up with to live amongst the rich diversity of tropical butterflies!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The New Butterfly Book!

A new book has been born! The latest addition to the family, 
Butterflies of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, was 
launched on Thursday, the 24th of April, at the iconic Gardens by 
The Bay.The book is absolutely beautiful. It was a very special 
moment for the butterfly scene over here!

The launch itself was invite-only but it was nice and informal, just
how I would've wanted it. Pansing Distribution generously ordered
for a buffet to grace the event too. After a few all but boring 
speeches, we lined up eagerly to get our copies signed. The company
was amazing. I also had the chance to meet nature legends like Ria 
Tan, Professor Peter Ng, the author himself, Dr Kirton and so many 
others. Here's me, overjoyed, with Dr Kirton!

(image courtesy of Mr Khew Sin Khoon)

The book, covering a total of 280 species from the three countries,
is a 'taster' to the fascinating butterflies from the region. The new
common names appointed in the book may spark a little controversy
but Dr Kirton gracefully justified his decisions during his speech.
The book boasts many lovely photographs, describtions on 
appearance, distribution, subspecies and habits, as well as 
interesting sections on butterfly ecology. It is the fourth book on the 
butterflies of Singapore. Here is my line-up. 

It's not an assumption to say that bird books outnumber butterfly 
ones heavily in the region and in the world too. This new book is not 
just a new reference; it's a symbol of the passion some people out 
there have for these flying jewels. Also, I am honoured to be one of 
the photo contributors to the book! Butterfly watching is growing in 
popularity. I think that it's great to have more butterfly books around
to fuel the growing number of 'butterfly people.

Here's a more detailed account of the event since mine's not the 
meatiest and this is the website for John Beaufoy Publishing.

Special thanks and acknowledgements to: John Beaufoy Publishing 
                                                              Dr Lawrence Kirton
                                                              Pansing Distribution Pte Ltd
                                                              Gardens by the Bay