Two

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

Two is better than one.

There is a time to wander.

And then there is a time when the wind stops blowing,

we fall to the ground and

began to grow.

As soon as my spinning wheel of work spat me out sideways, I grabbed my bags and lenses and ran away, by plane to the furthest reaches of the Earth where no mobile phone, marking or email could reach me.HeHuanShan1000

Recently, my love for the butterflies had gone with the hopping Harlequins, hopping and turning up every leaf towards Heaven, perhaps never to be seen again, as the great outdoors turned into yet another building, yet another expressway, yet another carpark for heavy vehicles.  Increasingly, all places seem to feel like yet another cubicle, with work waiting to be done.00-2

Thanks to Da Chang and Ah Quan, our newfound friends in Taiwan, we left the never-ending construction behind and fled to the mountains.

台灣玄灰蝶-(台灣黑燕蝶)-Tongeia-hainani

台灣玄灰蝶-(台灣黑燕蝶)-Tongeia-hainani

Our first destination was Gu Guan, a picturesque mountain with vegetation on either side of the wide mountain road, peppered with little Lycaenidae, with the occasional larger butterfly zooming over our heads down the mountainsides.

密點玄灰蝶-(霧社黑燕蝶)Tongeia-filicaudis-mushanus

密點玄灰蝶-(霧社黑燕蝶)Tongeia-filicaudis-mushanus

I enjoyed the breeze… and the lack of the sound of moving heavy vehicles gone to dig more holes in the ground, no depressing city skylines, and walked down the mountain roads, every corner a possibility for further exploration, whilst our friends posed with Hello Kitties on the ground.hello

The Taiwanese butterfly shooters place heavy bets when they pick up their gear and go on a butterfly photography road trip.  They travel 6 or 7 hours to reach a destination to face the possibility of fog, rain and other weathery impediments.  For us, we only face the possibility of facing a sign that says “Do not enter.  Construction in progress.” and the entire butterfly site cut out it seems with a giant cake knife leaving nothing but the orange mud flour of its insides gaping at the sky.

Tongeia-hainani-2

Tongeia-hainani-2

The better part of the first day was invested in Gu Guan, after which we began our long journey to La La Shan, Hua Lien.

Euploea-tulliolus-koxinga

Euploea-tulliolus-koxinga

Euploea-sylvester-swinhoei-(Double-Branded-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-sylvester-swinhoei-(Double-Branded-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-mulciber-barsine-(Striped-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-mulciber-barsine-(Striped-Blue-Crow)

We were at La La Shan in the hopes of spotting a Lycaenid which looked very similar to the Banded Royal in Singapore, the location of which however, had been replaced by a very important looking expressway.

拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan

拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan

We woke up early, and made the hour long drive to the gate of the Mountain, which opened at 7 sharp.  From 7a.m. we marched up the mountain 4 km to reach near the peak and waited beside a ubiquitous small tree for our winged friends to appear.拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶) Horaga rarasana (Formosan Onyx)拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

And they did appear, putting up a fantastic aerial display, which I think would have been just like that at our National Day, which I never saw in my entire lifetime, as I never did own a Hello Kitty or Despicable Me Minion MacDonald’s toy, because queueing for days was required.

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger)

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger)

In my diseased, sleep-deprived state, steeped in the cancer of consumerism, I failed to recognise how important that moment was, while munching on a furry peach, watching my husband run around excitedly.  I might never see another Banded Royal again.  And here I was, not the least bit excited about a butterfly some Taiwanese shooters have never laid eyes on.

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger) (2)

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger) (2)

I must have left, within me, some small fire, yet to be extinguished, in my frustration and hopelessness, that I put down my peach and suspended myself from thinking about shopping, to pick up my camera and excitedly take a few shots of the pretty butterfly.

雙色帶蛺蝶(臺灣單帶蛺蝶)雄 Athyma cama zoroastres (Orange Staff Sergeant)

雙色帶蛺蝶(臺灣單帶蛺蝶)雄 Athyma cama zoroastres (Orange Staff Sergeant)

Looking back now, I feel like shooting myself.  I could have taken even better shots of the butterfly.  Now I might never get the chance to.  But I’ll always have Orchard Road.  How depressing.  I would throw myself off a mountain but there isn’t one high enough here.

黃斑蛺蝶 Sephisa chandra androdamas (Eastern Courtier)

黃斑蛺蝶 Sephisa chandra androdamas (Eastern Courtier)

To add salt to my injury, and everybody else’s that they don’t have a La La Shan in their backyard, La La Shan is more than rare butterflies as well.  Trees, the shape of bonsais, grow out of the sides of the mountain, like static ballerinas curving for the sky.  On a clear day, La La shan is a picture of how Heaven might have looked like, to a person who’s had nothing but HDB skylines.IMG_3220

A tip for the traveller though, you might want to venture further than just the area with the large trees because the scenery up there is worth it.  Really!  If the skies are clear and you’re early enough, the air up there is sweet enough to make you sing! (Hence the birds singing giddily!)

褐翅青灰蝶-(褐底青小灰蝶)-Tajuria-caeruela_

褐翅青灰蝶-(褐底青小灰蝶)-Tajuria-caeruela_

After La La Shan (I was a little sorry to leave even though my partner didn’t think I was) and a little chat with a yellow cab driver who mentioned rare sunbears in La La Shan, we made a stop at the butterfly garden where you can see a giant purple Nymphalidae statue.

紫俳蛺蝶(紫單帶蛺蝶) Parasarpa-dudu-jinamitra-(White-Commodore)

紫俳蛺蝶(紫單帶蛺蝶) Parasarpa-dudu-jinamitra-(White-Commodore)

It was here that we shot most of our Papilios and some Nymphalidaes.

紅斑脈蛺蝶 (紅星斑蛺蝶) Hestina assimilis formosana (Red Ring Skirt)

紅斑脈蛺蝶 (紅星斑蛺蝶) Hestina assimilis formosana (Red Ring Skirt)

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia-formosana

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia-formosana

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia formosana (Formosan Duke)

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia formosana (Formosan Duke)

After this stop, we travelled to Hui Tou Wan.XX-6

Papiliomemnon heronus (Great Mormon)

Papiliomemnon heronus (Great Mormon)

Hui Tou Wan is something out of a Chinese painting. Although I could not grab any photos of the scenery as Ah Quan weaved around and around the precarious sides sprouted over with small signs that have large rocks falling onto a running stick man (Beware landslides and falling rocks!), it was reminiscent of several movies rolled into one road trip.  The narrow road James Bond was on when he was racing several baddies in Quantum Solace overlooking cliffs falling away into nothing, the passing of Argonath in Lord of the Rings and vaguely Clash of the titans, as we looked with awe at some of the fallen sides of the mountain, the size of which you would thought was only possible with movie special effects.

Papilio nepheluschaonulus (Yellow Helen)

Papilio nepheluschaonulus (Yellow Helen)

Unfortunately, for all its great scenery, we did not have much fortune with the butterflies.  In spite of walking up and down the bends, all I could find were half-beaks and a straggly dog looking sad and wanting a friend.  We were in the path of an approaching Typhoon.

碧翠灰蝶 (江崎綠小灰蝶) Chrysozephyrus esakii (Esaki's Hairstreak)

碧翠灰蝶 (江崎綠小灰蝶) Chrysozephyrus esakii (Esaki’s Hairstreak)

Typhoons were common in Taiwan, sometimes mild, sometimes very destructive.  Butterfly activity was low.  Ah Quan took out his red jacket which he said the butterflies favoured but those butterflies were nought to be seen that day.

紫日灰蝶-(紅邊黃小灰蝶)-Heliophorus-ila-matsumurae-(Restricted-Purple-Sapphire-2

紫日灰蝶-(紅邊黃小灰蝶)-Heliophorus-ila-matsumurae-(Restricted-Purple-Sapphire-2

We left disappointedly for our next location closer to Bi Lui Shen Mu.  There we were enveloped in fog, and had the company of a Taiwanese couple cooking spaghetti on a portable stove, a lone Purple Sapphire butterfly perching on a yellow flower and a blue bug pretending to be part of the furniture.

白鐮紋蛺蝶-(白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia-c-album-asakurai-(Comma-Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶-(白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia-c-album-asakurai-(Comma-Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶 (白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia c-album asakurai (Comma Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶 (白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia c-album asakurai (Comma Butterfly)

We headed up to Guan Yun, a stone hostel with both rooms and dormitories for mountaineers and hikers alike.  The environment, reminds me of an old monastery, very simple and decorated with Chinese sayings.

琉璃蛺蝶-Kaniska-canace-drilon-

琉璃蛺蝶-Kaniska-canace-drilon-

 

琉璃蛺蝶Kaniska canace drilon (Blue Admiral)

琉璃蛺蝶Kaniska canace drilon (Blue Admiral)

Our next stop was Bi Lui Shen Mu. As this part of our journey was the most exciting, I will leave this for my next post.  Valley of the Kings Part 2🙂

 

GB3

Sunny Chir and the young Jonathan

Over the weekend, Butterflycircle members were graciously invited by Gardens By The Bay to do a butterfly survey.  Unbeknownst to them, many of us had already been prowling the grounds… to little success.  Host plants were still few in number and the lack of shelter on the grounds make it difficult for anyone to see clearly enough against the glare of the sun to shoot a Grass Blue.

GB10

Founding father of BC

However, they do seem enthusiastic about increasing the butterfly and hostplant population.  Let’s just hope that the trees grow tall enough to provide some shelter by then.

XMM of BC

XMM of BC

I didn’t get a good shot of a butterfly worth posting all day and I didn’t the last time we visited the area either.  I did however promptly get headache and a bad bout of flu which I am still suffering from right now.

Interesting displays at the visitor centre

Interesting displays at the visitor centre

I also did get many shots of the Tulip Exhibit just before they disappeared.GB18

The Tulips were… okay… the little flowers, traditional shoes and cacti make for better photographic subjects.

Cacti Flower

Cacti Flower

Artistic forms in the cacti

Artistic forms in the cacti

Beautiful bark patterns

Beautiful bark patterns

The leaves of the cacti are full of symmetry and pattern

The leaves of the cacti are full of symmetry and pattern

Another geometric pattern

Another geometric pattern

Some of them are furry too

Some of them are furry too

Other than the cacti the little flowers and leaves were intriguing as well.

Leaves with interesting stains

Leaves with interesting stains

Translucent flowers

Translucent flowers

A fiery flower amongst silvery branches and leaves

A fiery flower amongst silvery branches and leaves

Tiny flowers all in a row

Tiny flowers all in a row

Tiny flowers forming a nice frame

Tiny flowers forming a nice frame

GB14GB13I could not get many nicer shots of the tulips.  There were just way too many people.  I saw two ladies tussling to get into one of the gazebos.  I anticipated a cat fight but was disappointed.  It was so crowded little children were literally climbing up the walls (no kidding.  I saw a parent leave two young girls on top of a ledge so that they could have space to crawl around).GB33

GB32GB31GB12

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

After 7 years of roughing it out in the field with my trusty Canon 40D, I’ve upgraded to a spanking new Canon 6D, which has superior ISO capabilities and picture quality.  Here are some of my first shots:nymph katydid

jumping spiderHasoara VittaI love this pretty Awl (Hasora vitta vitta).Hasoara Vitta2

odd caterpillarI have no idea what caterpillar this is but it’s both amazing and creepy at the same time.  It perfectly blended itself into the stems of this plant.Suffused Flash

I love the background that the C180 produces with the Canon 6D.

As promised, this is the second and third installment of Kaeng Krachang – combined!

Turns out, I did not have as many blog worthy photos of critters to make an entire post on its own, so everything other than butterflies will go in this post.

As you can see from this very simplistic map attached, all the intersections and trails we visited are along the bird watching trails.map

Here are some environmental photos to show you how popular the place is.

This is a photo taken at the first intersection.first intersection

This is Antonio and Nelson getting acquainted with the butterflies at the second intersection.puddling photographers

The second intersection sees the most visitors.  Look at the numbers of parked cars:plenty popular

These is one of the puddling butterfly groups we encountered at the third intersection.third intersection

I would say the second intersection is very popular.  It was also at the intersection that our own butterfly celebrity Les Day (and the rest of us less popular butterfly enthusiasts) bumped into a shirtless Dr Ian Redmond (below, right), whom I had mistaken for yet another Caucasian male who had decided to take on the Thai forest and its biting inhabitants without a shirt after visiting the beach.   As it turned out (Les explained), Dr Ian Redmond is a conservationist who has been in the field for 30 years, is a champion for gorillas and needs no introduction.  He has a wikipage here.  You can stalk his page on Facebook here.ian redmond

Unfortunately, out of the group, only Les managed to recognise him.  The rest of us spend too much time listening to David Attenborough’s soothing voice on DVD, reading C&P4 and had no access to BBC.  However, judging from Les’ reaction, we decided in our herd mentality that he must be famous and proceeded to take group photos with him like fanboys and girls. enjoying a nice chat

Dr Ian Redmond was travelling with a group who for all you know, might have done conservation work and were just as knowledgeable.  However, since Les didn’t recognise the others, we decided that we didn’t know better either and continued pursuing the relentless butterflies.  We lodged at Samarn Bird Camp while we were shooting at Kaeng Krachan.  Click here for more information.

Forgive the childish photo-combo design.  It looked good on my phone and seemed like a good idea at the time

Forgive the childish photo-combo design. It looked good on my phone and seemed like a good idea at the time

Samarn birdcamp has hot showers, acceptable food and airconditioning.  If you didn’t go anywhere you wouldn’t think you were here to rough it out in the Thai National Park.  Our hosts were really friendly and accommodating and their dogs were super friendly and ‘adopted’ us with so much as a pat on the head.

Hoffe, the dog with only three paws, zonking out near the kitchen

Hoffe, the dog with only three paws, zonking out near the kitchen

Samarn Bird Camp is very popular with birders (of course) and they make trips out daily early in the morning.

On to the non-butterfly critters… the below is one of the creatures on LC’s and Nelson’s agenda:

Lantern Bug

Lantern Bug

This Lantern Bug was spotted on the same tree where I found my Blue Begum discreetly perched just behind.  The bug maintained a good height throughout the day (the time that we were there) which we thought was odd because some of the ones we had encountered tended to come down lower during the early morning hours.  We tried several means to photograph this Lantern Bug, including piling up dead logs to climb up on and once, even sitting on Nelson’s shoulders just to get closer to the critter.jumpin spidey2

jumpin spideyWe also encountered a very shiny tiny jumping spider (Salticidae).pompom2

We also came across this very slow moving colourful bug with what looked like Chinese pom-poms on its feelers.  Like the horned beetle, this bug took a long time to get ready to take off, gradually opening its wings intermittently and psyching itself to fly away.  And when it did, it mustered nothing more than a metre’s distance!pompom

The most intriguing creature we encountered was this clear winged moth.  The moth came by on two occasions at the second intersection.  It had a habit of perching its front legs on an object and while hovering, wave its hairy back legs rhythmically like it was riding an invisible bicycle.strange moth

We had the good fortune of managing to photograph some interaction between butterfly and some of these interesting characters:Face-off

Unfortunately when butterflies are in such numbers, most of such encounters are of the macabre type:macabre

I did see several skinks make off with some of the smaller butterflies.  Ants did the same and some bees were not spared either (as above).Elbow Conference

Tiny butterflies especially were easy pickings but they were in such huge numbers too.cookies

Kaeng Krachan is one of the places you have to visit if you’re a butterfly enthusiast! :)  So what are you waiting for?butterflyfields4 (2)

It has taken me a while to sit down and write about our recent trip to Kaeng Krachang.  Firstly there were way too many photos and too much to write about.  Secondly, I hardly knew most of the species that I had photographed as I’m not familiar with Thai butterflies.  It is with the kind help of Dr Seow and the kind community at Butterflycircle that many of the butterflies could be indentified.

One more Space

One more Space

This trip was only possible with the great companionship of Antonio Giudici and Les Day, two butterfly enthusiasts who have currently made Thailand their home.

Butterfly fields

Butterfly fields

Due to the photograph intensive nature of this trip, I will be breaking the write up into 3 parts: the butterflies, location and other interesting critters.

Papilio protenor Cramer (Spangle)

Papilio protenor Cramer (Spangle)

Papilio protenor Cramer (Spangle) underside

Papilio protenor Cramer (Spangle) underside

First off, I have to say through my 7 years on the pursuit of butterflies, I have never seen so many butterflies.  They amassed in such huge numbers that they literally covered an entire bank with their fluttering wingtips.

Papilio polytes romulus

Papilio polytes romulus

Papilio polytes romulus f cyrus

Papilio polytes romulus f cyrus

They were so secure in their numbers that if you were slow and gentle enough, you could gently sweep your hand across their wing tips and they would not move.

Papilio paris paris (Paris Peacock)

Papilio paris paris (Paris Peacock)

Papilio nephalus chaon (Black and White Helen)

Papilio nephalus chaon (Black and White Helen)

This location is by no means the butterfly world’s biggest secret.  Lots of people come by these spots on a regular basis.

Papilio nephalus chaon (Black and White Helen)

Papilio nephalus chaon (Black and White Helen)

Birders, entomologists, geologists and even conservationists frequent these roads.

Papilio memnon agenor f distantianus

Papilio memnon agenor f distantianus

And these are literally roads.  Not a secret enclave deep within the forests, or a quiet spot eyed by the sun amongst tall trees.

Atrophaneura adamsoni

Atrophaneura adamsoni

The butterflies gather at the sides of the mud roads which cross several sections of streams through which cars trundle over everyday.

Vindola erota erota

Vindola erota erota

Terinos clarissa falcata

Terinos clarissa falcata

It really is the most unglamorous spot you can imagine.

Pereronia anais anais

Pereronia anais anais

Paratica melaneus

Paratica melaneus

There are three stream-road intersections on the trails of Kraeng Krachang which we visited that have these huge masses of butterflies, the first, second and third intersection.

Parantica agleoides agleoides

Parantica agleoides agleoides

Papilio castor mehala (Burmese Raven)

Papilio castor mehala (Burmese Raven)

The first intersection is where many of these butterflies below will perch on the leaves open-winged in the morning sun.  By noon, they will be puddling in their masses on the ground.

Graphium aristeus (Striped Swordtail)

Graphium aristeus (Striped Swordtail)

Graphium aristeus (Striped Swordtail)1Graphium aristeus (Striped Swordtail)At this intersection, there are clear paths or trails leading from this intersection into the forest.

Bindahara phocides

Bindahara phocides

It is on one of these trails (the trail leading uphill next to the intersection) that we encountered a very small Plane.  Nearly half the size of the Singapore species, we were stunned to find such a small version of the Plane.butterflyfields4

Along the way to the second intersection, which is less than a few hundred metres away from the first intersection, I saw many large butterflies fluttering around the roadside flowers.

Prothoe franck uniformis

Prothoe franck uniformis

The second stream-road intersection is by far the most exciting.  It is on the trail leading from the intersection on the right hand side (if you’re coming from the first intersection) that I encountered my second Blue Begum perched facing downwards behind a tree.

Polyura eudamippus

Polyura eudamippus

Polyura eudamippus (3)

This Great Nawab was so drunk it had fallen face forward into the mud.

I had been looking for Lantern Bugs and was surprised to see this well camouflaged individual quietly sitting behind a large tree.  The second stream also gave me my first puddling Great Nawab.  Everybody was so excited to be graced by the presence of this especially rare butterfly, that we got to see Les running at top speed when we called out “Great Nawab!!!”LC

The Great Nawab was such a celebrity butterfly that everybody took turns to have their photos taken with it.  Like most of the Polyura butterflies, once they are hooked on whatever they are drinking, these butterflies turn from flitty frightened swift flying rarities into drunken friendly blokes.nelson n nawab

Indeed, I was so happy to see it I was beside myself.

Libythea narina rohini

Libythea narina rohini

Euthalia recta (Red Spot Marquis)

Euthalia recta (Red Spot Marquis)

The second intersection also saw three different kinds of half-beak butterflies as well as my greatest number of first-time butterflies such as the Red Spot Marquis and the Black Veined Sergeant.

Discophora sondaica zal

Discophora sondaica zal

Athyma ranga obsolescens (Black Veined Sergeant) 3

Athyma ranga obsolescens (Black Veined Sergeant) 3

Athyma ranga obsolescens (Black Veined Sergeant)

Athyma ranga obsolescens (Black Veined Sergeant)

Besides the usual pretty butterflies, the second intersection also had a great number of interesting members of the Hesperidae.

Seseria strigata

Seseria strigata

Odontoptilum angulatum angulatum

Odontoptilum angulatum angulatum

Ctenoptilum vasava vasava (Tawny Angle)

Ctenoptilum vasava vasava (Tawny Angle)

Thoressa masoni

Thoressa masoni

It also had a good number of different crows which I did not get all the photographs of.

Euploea modesta (Plain Blue Crow)

Euploea modesta (Plain Blue Crow)

The third intersection did not have as huge masses of butterflies but the butterflies that did visit are no less interesting.

Kalima limborgi

Kalima limborgi

The leaf butterfly is well liked in butterfly enclosures and parks but this is the first Leaf Butterfly that I have encountered in the wild and managed to photograph.

Kalima limborgi

Kalima limborgi

The butterfly’s likeness to the dead leaves on the ground is astounding.

Neorina crishna

Neorina crishna

Neorina chrishnaIt is also here that we encountered the beautiful Neorina crishna.  This beautiful large butterfly is really difficult to spot amongst the bamboo and palm vegetation, a distinct feature of the third intersection.

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Common Tawny Rajah)

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Common Tawny Rajah)

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Common Tawny Rajah) (2)

Charaxes bernadus crepax (Common Tawny Rajah) (2)

We also encountered two very different looking specimens of the Common Tawny Rajah above.

Other notable mentions are:

Jacoona anasuja

Jacoona anasuja

The Great Imperial which was encountered on the bush on the left side of the second intersection.

Neptis miah nolana

Neptis miah nolana

This little lascar, the only lascar I shot the entire trip, feeding on what looked like bird waste on a rock at the first intersection.

Graphium antiphates

Graphium antiphates

This Five Bar Swordtail puddling at the first intersection.

bouncing off the wallsNext up… the deeper darker denizens of Kaeng Krachang🙂