This is a sequel to my earlier video on “The Wild Side of Singapore” which was quite well received. It may not be as good as the original but there is a portion that I like best where 2 damselflies (Orange-striped Threadtail & Blue Sprite) fought for their favourite perch. Hope you enjoy it!
Let us take a break from dragonflies and damselflies and look at some of the other beautiful creatures that can be found in Singapore’s limited rainforests and parks.
In January 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced the plan of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) which would begin from Changi, passing through Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast, and terminate at Jurong Industrial Estate targets to be completed by around 2030.
I did not pay attention to this news until last week when a friend shared a link regarding a petition to save Singapore’s Forest Reserves initiated by Teresa Teo Guttensohn. There was also an article on The Straits Times and TodayOnline dated 19 July 2013 where it mentioned that the Nature Society (Singapore) has opposed the future CRL and has proposed an alternative route that cuts southwards via Lornie Road around the reserve.
As a nature lover who enjoys photographing insects and bugs in forested areas, I am concerned after reading the impact of CRL on Singapore’s rich biodiversity as it would cut through the southern portion of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between Upper and Lower Peirce and MacRitchie Reservoirs. As an ordinary individual, one of the little things that we could do is help to highlight what would potentially be destroyed by the construction of CRL. In this regard, Ivan Kwan has done a superb job in his “The Lazy Lizard’s Tales Blog” where he pointed out that many of our threatened and endangered native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects, etc., live in these forests and any form of large-scale disturbance is likely to have adverse impacts on them. I am glad he included the uncommon Forktail dragonfly taken by me although I would have preferred him to mention Triangled Small Percher instead as it is classified in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008 as a critically endangered species which lives only in Upper Peirce forest. Since no damselflies were mentioned, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that there is possibility that Singapore’s most beautiful damselflies that happen to live in the affected areas could be extinct due to the construction of CRL.
I am referring to the Libellago which is the most unique damselfly genus in Singapore with its wings distinctly longer than the body. They are rare, attractive and require pristine habitat. I have rated them as the most beautiful damselfly species in Singapore! We used to have 4 Libellago species in Singapore checklist but unfortunately, one of them known as Libellago stigamtizans (Orange-faced Gem), is already extinct here. The following image of a L. stigmatizans in flight was photographed in Malaysia.
The remaining 3 Libellago species can still be found locally. They are Libellago lineata (Golden Gem), Libellago aurantiaca (Fiery Gem) & Libellago Hyalina (Clearwing Gem) and we should protect these Gems to the best of our ability.
Libellago lineata has a relatively higher chance of survival as it can be found at two locations, one at a protected area in Mandai forest not accessible by the general public, and the other one at Lower Peirce Reservior.
The behaviour of the Libellago genus is fascinating too. One of my most satisfying damselfly works is a series of images showing the unique and complete behaviours (ie. territory fight, mating,
egg-laying process, male guarding the egg-laying female) of Libellago lineata all taken at the edge of Lower Peirce Reservior.
Libellago aurantiaca has been recorded in Upper Peirce forest and Lower Peirce Reservior but both areas would be affected by the CRL. They are usually found in swift clear streams, typically with a sandy bottom and perch just above water as shown in the image below. I particularly like the male which is striking beautiful dressed in vibrant colour of red and yellow.
All the females of Libellago genus are less attractive with duller colours and L. aurantiaca is no exception. When both are displayed side-by-side, it is not difficult to tell which gender is more eye-catching.
Mating of any damselflies is a joy to watch, not to mention this cute and gorgeous gem in a wheel or love shape formation.
The most vulnerable of them all has to be the Libellago hyalina simply because their only home is at Upper Peirce forest. This is a precious species as it shows a great deal of colour variations, both in the female & male. The females have 3 different colours form and I like the one with a “tiger-skin” abdomen the best.
The other two females have duller colours and therefore slightly less attractive.
The males have 3 colours form too with the bluish grey abdomen being the least good looking.
The metallic blue male is more handsome.
But I like the glowing purple abdomen male the best.
With a total of 6 colours, surely it must be the most colours form damselfly species in Singapore! While doing a search of this species over the internet, I have found images of female L. hyalina from other countries that look similar to ours. However, the colours of the males are different from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia & Cambodia. In other words, the 3 colours form of the male Libellago hyalina above could be uniquely Singapore that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth! This makes it all the more valuable and should be protected at all costs! In the event that the CRL has to proceed to meet the infrastructure development needs of Singaporeans, LTA should find ways to guarantee zero disturbance to our nature reserves and ensure the survival of at least the critically endangered species.
Bekok is a town located at the eastern side of the district of Segamat, Johor, Malaysia. Bekok is well-known especially among nature lovers since Bekok is the western entrance to Endau Rompin National Park as well as having a refreshing waterfall known as Sungai Bantang Waterfall.
I had visited Bekok waterfall twice, one on a recce mission on 25 May 2013, and the recent one on 29 June 2013 where I joined Nature Photographic Society, Singapore (NPSS) on a marco photography outing. The meeting point was at the first Esso Petrol kiosk after Tuas 2nd link Customs. 18 of us gathered at 6.35 am, drove to Machap for breakfast and arrived Bekok Waterfall at 9.45 am, approximately 200 km of driving.
There is a stream near the entrance and it looks like a place full of damselflies, just like the stream at Gunung Belumut.
Unfortunately it was not the case, only a few species could be found. One of which was a Protoneuridae interrupta. In Singapore, it is classified as an uncommon forest species.
There were quite a no. of the male Euphaea ochracea, most of them perched just above the fast flowing water. This must be one of the most common forest species in Malaysia.
There were a few Aristocypha fenestrella. This is a sun-loving species and they prefer to perch on rocks under direct sunlight. Photographing them is a little challenging as it is difficult to avoid the harsh sunlight. They were also more sensitive to human than the other damselflies species in Bekok.
It has a very nice common name known as Peacock Jewel, most likely due to its beautiful metallic colouration on its wing!. One of the most interesting behaviours of A. frnestrella is when two males are involved in aerial territorial fight. Getting both males sharp while they are fighting in mid-air are extremely difficult. I did not manage to get any decent fighting shot of A. frnestrella but was happy to photograph a male Heliocypha perforate chasing another losing male during a fight!
There were some common dragonflies and damselflies such as Spine-tufted Skimmer, Yellow Featherlegs, Blue-sided Satinwing, Common Flashwing, etc which I did not capture them as they are quite easily found in Singapore. One common dragonfly however caught our attention and that was a male Tree-hugger. It is special because its left wing did not have the metallic bluish-black at the base of the hingwing.
While I was disappointed not to find more damselfly species here, it was compensated with the sighting of a few lantern bugs (Laternaria ruhli) on a tree nearby. Lantern bugs are very rare in Singapore, the last official sighting was in October 2009 (See “Records of Lantern Bug … ” by NUS). As none of us have seen lantern bugs in Singapore, we would not want to miss this great opportunity to add this into our collection.
I have seen images of lantern bugs taken by friends in Malaysia before but I didn’t expect it to be that big. I think it is about 20% bigger than the common cicada that we see in Singapore.
Another highlight of the trip was we found many butterflies, 6 species to be exact, feeding on sandy ground near the edge of the stream. I was not sure what were they feeding on but it must be very tasty as they kept coming back to the same spot.
Among all the butterfly shots, the image below is my favourite as it shows the size difference between the tiny Common Pierrot vs the much larger Common Jay (please correct me if I identified them incorrectly).
After lunch, we walked through the forested path and soon reached the upper stream where there is a nice refreshing waterfall. This should be the Bekok waterfall that people are taking about.
If Gunung Belumut is a heaven for damselflies, Bekok should be a paradise for frogs and toads as we spotted so many of them both from the lower and upper streams.
Frogs in particular are photogenic subjects to shoot and it was no surprise to see my friends trying to get the best angles.
I personally find the Black-spotted Rock frogs most charming and therefore I had shot them with various angles.
When the black-spotted rock frogs were in abundant, it was not difficult to spot at least 2 of them together. Some of my friends saw 3 to 5 of them in a single spot, I could only shoot 2 in a frame.
Thanks to my friend, Allan, who found a black-spotting rock frog having a male Euphaea ochracea damselfly as lunch near the waterfall. This is my first time seeing a frog eating and this has to be my catch of the day!
Happy with what I had already shot, I put aside my camera gear to join Yan Leong, Allan & Chiat Pin for a cool dip in the stream. OMG! It was cold in there!
After a tired but rewarding day, we deserved a good dinner at Cathay Restaurant in Kulai.
Reference : Wikipedia
During my early year of learning macro photography, I was often frustrated as I could not get sharp images. Most of my pictures were motion blur due mainly to windy conditions. I soon realized that from the first light of the day (ie. 6.45 am to 7.00 am) to 9.00 am is the best period for newbie like me to practise shooting as there are little or no winds and insects are less active. I began to improve and soon mastered the basic skills of macro photography. Shooting very early in the morning has its advantage. You would see lots of dews around the greenery.
Morning dews not only complement but very effective in making an ordinary subject looks amazingly different. I personally find damselflies covered or surrounded in the morning dews most beautiful and eye-catching such as the above image which is one of my favourites.
Holland Woods, a greenery opposite Ngee Ann Polytechnic, is an excellent place to photograph damselflies in heavy dews!
It is a location where the Common Bluetail damselflies are in abundant. Although this species is very common and widespread throughout in Singapore, it is quite unique as the female has three different colour forms ie Golden orange, Olive green & Bluish green.
Wild Wild West, a location at the end of Corporation Road, is the next best place to shoot damselflies in dews. Unfortunately, it is now under construction for roads and drains and I heard recently that it will be used for industrial purposes.
Shooting damselfly in dews with dark background is equally appealing to me.
How about one with a backlighting as shown below?
If you like these images, wake up and shoot very early like me!
Family : Corduliidae
Common Name : Shadowdancer
Status : Rare
Location : Venus Drive
This is a relatively small dragonfly spotted at Venus Drive this morning. It has very thin abdomen and usually found perched, hanging vertically from high branches.
According to Mr Tang Hung Bun’s Dragonflies Book, it was once listed as a critically endangered species in the Singapore Red Data Book, but the present knowledge suggests a less threatened status.
Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest is a protected forest in central Johor. I have mentioned it in my earlier post that this place is truly a damselflies heaven! More than 10 beautiful damselfly species can be easily found there. I have visited Belumut 5 times since 16 July 2011. The most recent one was on 22 Sep 2012, a Macro Photography Outing organised by Nature Photography Society, Singapore.
This is a short video which I recorded during the trip. It features 6 damselfly species namely Rhinagrion macrocephalum, Dysphaea dimidata, Euphaea ochracea, Neurobasis chinensis, Libellogo aurantiaca and Heliocypha biforata. Dyspaea dimidata and Neurobasis chinensis are already classified as extinct in Singapore.
From my observation, many male damselflies species show very strong territory behaviour. They will find a good breeding ground which then becomes his territory. The size of the territorial area varies with different species. For eg. the Libellago family usually establish their territories ranging from 1.5 to 3 metres. The males would perch on their favorite spot and overlook their territory. If another male of the same species attempts to take his territory he will then try to chase him away. If any mature receptive female enters his space, he will attempt to mate with her. It is unlikely to see two males of the same species become good neighbours. However, the territory holder is more tolerant to other males or females of different species as demonstrated by the 2 images below:
Male dragonflies are equally territorial as well. However, when the areas are small with very few nice spots to perch, they have no choice but to become temporary good neighbours as seen below:
So, can dragonflies and damselflies be good neighbours?
Of course, they can
During my recent trip to Nee Soon Swamp Forest, a damselfly that I have never seen before was spotted near a small stream. My initial thought was that it could be a new species and this got me excited. It disappeared for a while but after some thorough search, I managed to get some record shots.
After careful examination, it looks a little like the red form immature female Amphicnemis gracilis. As a male Amphicnemis gracilis was found nearby (about 2 metres away), I concluded that it could be another different colour form female A. graclis.
I emailed to Mr Tang Hung Bun to seek his advise that his reply was “Since the location is Nee Soon, it can either be A. bebarn or A. gracilis. Females of these two species are difficult to separate.”.
According to the Publication dated 22 Dec 2011 by NUS, Amphicnemis species are very similar to each other in appearance and thus cannot be identified with certainty based solely on colour markings.
Amphicnemis bebar was last collected in 1994, and has not been seen in Singapore since.
Family : Corduliidae
Common Name : Lesser Stream Cruiser
Status : Very rare
Location : Venus Drive
According to the book “A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore“, Macromia cydippe is a very rare species in Singapore. It was first recorded at Nee Soon Swamp forest on 3 January 2010 by Mr Cheong Loong Fah.
While going through my old photos recently, I found 2 low quality images of a dragonfly very similar to Macromia cydippe. Both images were taken on 28 January 2009 when I was still new in learning macro photography.
A check with Mr Tang Hung Bun, one of the authors of the above book, confirmed that it was indeed a Lesser Stream Crusier, the common name of this species. It was found at a small stream at Venus Drive perching on a hanging branch at eye level. As I recall, it is a large dragonfly about the size of Macromia cincta. It has a metallic greenish blue body with a distinct yellow band at the base of the 7th segment.
I wanted to take a dorsal view shot but the stream is very narrow and, even with my Canon 100mm macro lens, it was too close to include the whole dragonfly in the frame.
The difficulty of positioning my tripod in the stream and my clumsiness scared away the dragonfly as it disappeared into the forest. I have not seen this species again since then. I am lucky to be one of the only 2 persons in Singapore to have seen this dragonfly.