Posts Tagged ‘singapore’

Came across SO MANY of these adorable little creatures today.Planthopper4

They were no bigger than HALF of my pinkie fingernail.Planthopper1

And look so amazing up close with their fantastic tri-horns.Planthopper3

And their comical faces!Planthopper

Hazing sleepily through the first weekend of shooting after starting a full week of commuting 3 hours daily on the ever popular SBS bus alternating between trying not to collapse on the person next to me and trying not to throw up from all the braking and surging like a small dive boat riding the Fremantle waves, we happily came across a Wide Jawed Viciria, which somewhat resembles a Scorpion.

Wider Jawed viciria (Viciria praemandibularis)

Wider Jawed viciria (Viciria praemandibularis)

The Wide Jawed Viciria comes under the family of Jumping Spiders (Salticidae).  Jumping spiders are a hit with nature photographers.  Wow, they’ll give you a million great poses.  They could scratch their armpits and still look glamorous.  In the photo above, the spider is drumming on the leaf.

The most photogenic spider in the natural world

The most photogenic spider in the natural world

Here our model is looking demure by clasping its “hands” together like a formal portrait while directing its famed “headlights” gaze gently at the camera.  Oh by the way, our model is male.Wider Jawed viciria (Viciria praemandibularis)jpg2

Over here the spider is doing the tango, putting its weight on one side and then quickly on the other side and back again.

Getting ready to jump!

Getting ready to jump!

Our eager model also provides great action shots.  Here it is above, getting ready to do the action that gives the Salticidae its name: JUMP! And jump it did, multiple times onto… my partner’s lens hood.  Look at the back legs bunch up ready to provide it with the force to jump a distance so many times its own body length it’s like us jumping over an entire HDB estate.

Hmmm.... what kind of disguise might this be?

Hmmm…. what kind of disguise might this be?

Other than the typical poses, the Viciria also does this strange yoga like pose when disturbed.  Though I don’t know what on earth it’s trying to mimic.  Wider Jawed viciria (Viciria praemandibularis)ipg3

Next time you’re out wandering in the park, do keep an eye out for this great looking fellow!  It likes to hang out under leaves, literally, just like these good looking fellows of the bat persuasion:bsts


I had the great fortune of coming across an Orange Tailed Awl (Bibasis sena uniformis) in Singapore after having never sighted or photographed it here before during any of my hikes.  The Awl had been muddying itself in the very kind of habitat Awls are famous for frequenting… a dank putrid toilet.  And so there we were lying belly down on the toilet floor trying to get a good shot of it.  After having had enough of all that… stuff …coming out of the toilet, the Awl was full and sleepy enough to be grimy-finger held.

Orange Tailed Awl (Bibasis sena uniformis)

Funnily enough, this rare treasure of a butterfly was flitting around smelly bodies coming in out of the rain and landing on dirty footprints.  In flight, to the inexperienced eye, it was moth-like.  And to many a passers-by, when they curiously asked what we were soiling our clothes for, this was probably as far from a pretty butterfly as they could have imagined.

Another not so commonly photographed although occasionally commonly encountered is the Yellow Flash (Rapala domitia domitia).  Congregating in clusters of several individuals, the lambourghini of the butterfly kingdom makes its getaway almost unlike any other, by zipping away upwards into the trees, almost never offering a second chance at a better shot.

Rapala domitia domitia (Yellow Flash)

However, it seems that when you do chance upon a cluster then you would get to enjoy their company for a short while, before they seem to disappear for a long spell, during which many visits thereafter reveal no reason for this strange phenomenon except to assume that they seem to be seasonal in a country with only one season.  This would be only the second encounter of a cluster in 5 years.

For all intents and purposes, it’s hard to imagine why a snake might fall on one’s head, considering how graceful, intelligent and poised these creatures are… unless you are prey.

I had the privilege of witnessing one of the members of the Genus Dendrelaphis or commonly known as Bronzebacks come cascading down like a deadly colourful ribbon on a skink amongst some large dead leaves.


In spite of its length (very long snake… at the very least 1.5m), the Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus) made no more than a light thwack when it hit the ground and before you could open your mouth to gawk, the tail of the skink was already curling around a corner of the snake’s jaws with the rest of it down its gullet.

Unlike some snakes which would sidle and slink away to the cover of the trees, this snake displayed an interesting curiosity, approaching the lens carefully, sliding under some leaves before raising its head high above the leaves, flicking its red tongue and wavering its long yellow neck.  It did this at several instances, in spite of my boots making considerable amount of noise amongst the leaves, approaching closer instead of backing away.


Although I got a little hesitant when it got less than a metre away from me, it was hard not to be enraptured by its gaze and dance and took one last photo before letting it carry on on its merry way.

A butterfly photographer is oft heard lamenting the harbingers of heavy rain but given that even grey skies and the thunderous threat of lightning have recently delivered no promise of rain, I have been risking time and equipment in the hope of meeting sleepy individuals who would have been normally active at mid-day, like the Common Mormon and the rarely settling Tree Nymph:



Lulled by the cool breeze and the easy sway of the trees, even the normally skittish Chocolate Royal exchanged break neck speed for a quiet moment in the dim sunlight, warming its purple wings.

Chocolate Royal Upperside


A couple of Grey Sailors coupling under the cover of a leaf.


The male was that much smaller than the female.  When disturbed, the female flew a short distance away with the male hanging onto her by its tail.


The Sailors moved their wings up and down in slow meditative fashion.  First the male then the female, the female than the male.

The contemplative couple did not grace me long with their elusive presence, and flitted in uncharacteristic clumsy fashion to the deep cover of the brush, leaving nothing but a couple of great photos!

Every once in a while, something great happens. Like after the many times where the Orange Emigrant and I would pass shoulder to ear, and ear to shoulder, that I’d force myself to keep walking away, having to watch the weather, watch the time and watch the circumstances and weigh this choice against the probability that it would never quite stop for me.

Then on a day bereft of practical choices, having walked myself into the ground, the Orange Emigrant stopped for me.

Things certainly did not start out that way. During the seasons when I was young and was on a path to prove to the world that they were wrong to doubt me and that I would brave any kind of fire just to prove a blind point that I could fight wars, I chased the Orange Emigrant through many a trail, believing that that was all that would take to turn the odds of making a creature beyond command bend to my will.

Through the years that ensued, however, having torn my knees and hands through thorns and brush, my thoughts, confused, conditioned to believe that all things in Life live out an unerring pattern, lost themselves in the best intentions and desires of others.

Then on day when the caterpillars have eaten all these palaces of trees to the ground, whilst languishing amongst the dead leaves, in a magic meeting of time, space and day, the Orange Emigrant stopped to drink water bleeding from sand and stone.

And I sat up in the mud and rejoiced at being proven wrong, watching a whole inflated third of my life with its grey skin of make-believe wisdom and sinewy beliefs and preconceptions tear open to give way to second chances, different choices.

I blew the Emigrant a kiss long time coming, and stopped, watching as the familiar bright tail of the Singapore Dream flit farther and farther through the trees out of sight, leaving in its wake, wet trails spangled with possibilities.

To see the world in a butterfly
You must first on the bare earth lie
Look up into the sky
And let your heart take wing.


A male Chocolate Albatross shot in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur.

Where might you have been?
What have your tattered wings seen?
To fly with you, my soul is keen
Come and take me to the brink.

Your freedom tresspasses all
I lay trapped in this shell
Everything in my world becomes so small
When on your amazing travels I dwell


The migrant Chocolate Albatross butterfly travels great distances from Malaysia all the way to Singapore.  The butterfly is seasonal and is not always found throughout the year.  This rare female spotted in a Nature Reserve was a rare find as females are very rarely seen.  In this rare occasion, the female also appeared to be puddling, a behaviour which is not impossible but is rarely observed amongst female butterflies.

To see the world in a butterfly
Worldly pleasures become a lie
Look at life through your mind's eye
And let your soul take flight.

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The Sweet Life

Just type "chocolate royal" into Google search and the first image that it gives you is a luscious chocolate cake with plenty of chocolate icing on top.

The Chocolate Royal butterfly sounds like expensive dessert for blue blood.  And reminiscent of its name, it is a dark brown colour with two black tornal spot crowned with metallic green. 

Check out the colourful butt of this butt.

Previously, before a successful attempt by Horace Tan on capturing the life history, very little was known about its life history.  But thanks to his efforts, you can see the full story here.

The Chocolate Royal is a rare butterfly.  And I have only seen it twice ever.  And one of them was in poor condition.  This individual hung around long enough in spite of heavy human traffic to allow every one of us to get its photograph, including 3 guests with point and shoots (who were privileged to be allowed by the butterfly to get so close).

The butterfly is pretty fast on the wing and in this instance, preferred to return again and again to the same area, brushing its proboscis against the leaves.

Young of the Chocolate Royal feed on Eurya acuminata.

Gliding In The Shadows

Unlike the zippity expensive dessert butterfly, the less allusively named and humbly coloured Spotted Black Crow glides slowly in the shadows of the trees.

The young of the butterfly feeds on Parsonia helicandra, a plant which belongs to the family Apocynaceae, a family of plants known to have chemicals which is used by male butterflies in the sub-family Danainae in their courtship rituals. 

This group of plants fed on by the butterflies both when young and as adults also gives the butterflies its distastefulness which provides the butterflies protection from predators such as birds.

Hence with this in mind, the butterfly was not in any haste to get away from me as I stumbled, climbed and clawed my way up the muddy embankment on which it had calmly perched itself in a tree just slightly out of reach.

Not The Black or Yellow Ones

Standing motionless on the forest floor, a lone male Archduke came plodding around my feet instead of flying away.  The fact that it isn't speckled and all yellow readily eliminates the chances of it being a yellow Archduke, which doesn't display the dimorphism of the "normal" Archduke (dirteana).

Peering down at the curious butterfly (which had now climbed gingerly up onto my shoe) revealed that its sub-apical antennae were not black either, eliminating the possibility that this was the Black Archduke.

The comparison between all three Archdukes and poring through past photos however, causes me to wonder whether these two particular individuals encountered many months ago feeding on pineapple were actually the Yellow Archdukes.

As described in Corbet and Pendlebury 4, the underside of the L. canescens pardalina was an ochreous brown and clearly defined yellowish spots.  And both individuals were markedly smaller than the usual size of the female dirteana (photo attached for comparison).

Ochreous underside with defined yellow spots

Hugely different sizes between photo above and below

To save you from your confusion, refer to these very comprehensive links on the differences on

Lexias canescens pardalina

Lexias dirtea merguia

Lexias pardalis dirteana

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I spent the afternoon rolling around in the grass and mud trying to get acquainted with the frightened bursts of Yellow Flashes.  The butterfly flies with a blinding speed, eluding even the experienced eye.  And its yellow blending into the glare of the sunlight on the leaves makes it hard to spot amongst the cow grass.

But the colony of several individuals have a predictable pattern, taking turns to land around the same areas.  When quietly observed through the grass, the butterfly crawls along the length of the grass, turning around and around until it flits quickly to another blade nearby where it repeats the same behaviour.

The butterfly is one of the largest species in the Rapala family but despite its size, is one of the hardest to spot in the field. 

The Common Hedge Blue was found in almost every section of the path today.  The explosion of fluttering and puddling blues rose up like spatterings of blue petals carried by the wind, settling disorderly in our wake as we pass.


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The Red Thief

A large batik spider looking web dotted with many of these spiders was spotted while out looking for butterflies.  At the first look, I thought we had come across a kind of 'social spider' something along the lines of 'social bees' which had cooperatively come together to build a huge impressive web.

But after checking on the identification of this tiny red community of spiders, it seems like they had gathered on this large web to help themselves to the buffet of hanging lunches while the owner of the 'house' was away.  The spiders' regular habitat are the webs of other spiders.   

Ref: Joseph Koh's Guide to Common Singapore Spiders


Red Eyes Staring In The Dark

The Coconut Skipper belongs to the family of Hesperiidae and has two huge goggly eyes beset in its furry face, a typical feature of the butterflies in this family.  The Coconut Skipper is usually found in forest shade and typically rockets up into the air when the flash light hits it.  This happens so fast that all you get is a half of a butterfly disappearing over the top of the frame.

Considering their shady habitat and their habit of flying around with huge bursts of speed, their large eyes are probably so as to help them see better.  Although why some of them are favoured with such beguilingly blood red jewel eyes is not known.  An experiment done on the swallowtail has shown that the eyes are not actually black as superfically seen with the human eye, but a mixture of deep pink, pale pink and yellow.  So who knows whether those eyes are as red as they seem.  Read The Butterfly's Coloured Spectables here.  See all the different variations of butterfly eyes here.


The Red Flash Of Sunset

A senior photographer opened my eyes to an oft-overlooked butterfly over the weekend when he pointed out a butterfly whose drab undersides looked beguilingly like one of the often encountered members of Lycaeninae.

But come evening and sunset and suddenly 'Open Sesame!', males of this species sit around prettily, spreading open their drab wings and vie with the setting sun, competing red with red.

That is, if the males would let each other rest long enough to do so.  Territorial in behaviour, each male will chase other males away from his perch until you get a nice brouhaha of 3 or 4 males zipping around like fighter planes, nose diving and rocketing into each other with great speed.

Females are drab and brown in contrast to the males. Because of this and also because they don't dog-fight each other, they are harder to spot in the foliage.

Read more about it here.


The Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

After I'd stopped 'birding' around with my Sigma 500mm, I'd not seen this bird for about a year until now.  By chance, while wandering around the melastoma bushes.

That being said, it seems the bird is not uncommon, having been spotted even in urban parks.  The first time I saw it about a year back was in Labrador park in a very open spaced area in a short sparse bush near a park bench. 

It makes a very noticeable rough clicking sound which will make any macro photographer want to investigate.  Its movement also makes it easy to spot, flitting quickly from branch to branch.

Females are drab with only a red vent.  Click here for photos of female as well as nesting behaviour.


Humpin' Blow flies

And if this invasion of fly privacy still isn't close up enough to satisfy your curiosity of these death-seeking blood-eyed creatures, check out this fun site with a microscopic lens that allows you to see different parts of a fly real up close!  It definitely helps if you still can't figure out where the halter (a distinguishing feature of the Order Diptera) is. 

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