Damselflies @ Belumut

Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest (Belumut) is a protected forest in central Johor.  It is located about 30 km north-east of the town of Kluang

I got to know about Belumut only recently when Mr Tang Hung Bun, an odonata expert, shared with me a video (see below) of the Green Metalwing damselfly that he recorded at this place.  He said that he enjoyed very much the dragonflies there.

This got me excited and I requested Tony to do a recce there with the intention of organizing a formal macro outing for members of Nature Photographic Society, Singapore.  So, 5 of us (Tony, Allan, Ong, Foong, & I) set off early in the morning on 16 July 2011.  It was about 7.30 am when we cleared the custom at Tuas second link.  We drove towards Kluang and had our breakfast at coffee shop called “老巴剎“.  We reach GBRF at about 10.30 am.

There is a big forest stream on the right side near the entrance of Belumut.  The water was clean, swift flowing, shallow with many rocks of different sizes.  However, at some areas, the water can be above knee level deep. From my experience, such habitat is an ideal place to find interesting and rare damselfly species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It did not disappoint. Immediately, a male Euphaea ochracea was spotted perching at the edge of the stream. Not too far away, perching on the rocks in the middle of the water were a few beautiful Green Metalwings, both male and female.

(Green Metalwings, male)

(Green Metalwings, female)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We quickly set up our camera gears and soon we were all in the water.  It was a big wide stream which can easily accommodate many photographers at any one time.  As we moved around the stream, many damselflies were spotted.  There were so many of them that there was no need for us to queue up to shoot.

(Allan spotted another uncommon damselfly species)

(Euphaea ochracea, male)

(Euphaea ochracea, female)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A male L. aurantiaca guarding a eggs-laying female)

(A mating pair of Euphaea Impar)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Heliocypha perforata, male)

(Heliocypha biforata, male)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending more than 3.5 hrs at this stream, we stopped for a short break at 2.30 pm where we ate breads as lunch that we bought at the coffee shop earlier.  All of us were tired but happy with what we had photographed.  As it was still early, we decided to walk further up the stream hoping to find more interesting subjects.

Most of the species that we spotted earlier can be found here too. We didn’t shoot here for long as most of us were already tired. Tony was too tired that he chose to take a nap at a nearby bench!

(An exhausted Tony!)

Damselfly (26a) – Dysphaea Dimidiata

Family : Euphaeidae
Common Name : Black Velvetwing
Status : Extinct
Location : Gunung Belumut Recreation Forest

Dysphaea dimidiate is a large damselfly species, classified as extinct in Singapore. The males have dark purplish colour on its body and half of its wings but when seeing it from afar, it looks more like a black damselfly. The females are said to have brownish yellow marking on its thorax and they are rarely sighted in open areas. The males are normally found perching on rocks, branches or falling logs in clear forest streams. When doing a search in the internet, I could find a handful of male images but not a single image of the female.

My first sighting of a male was at Endau Rompin in August 2010. My impression then was that it is a skirtish species but when we spotted it recently at Gunung Belumut Recreation Forest, it was fairly cooperative. Most of us managed to get some decent shots. I notice that the male likes to perch under hot sunlight. It would, sometimes, open and close its wings while perching as if to suntan its wings. When doing so, it really looks a little like a true dragonfly.

The female D. dimidiata was on my wishlist since last year but what I saw was totally unexpected. A female came from nowhere and suddenly my photography buddy suddenly shouted with excitement “Hey, they mate!”. I turned around and I saw the mating pair perching on an unattractive fallen branch not too far away from me. The lighting was harsh but guessing that the mating may not last long, I didnot bother to get something to block the strong sunlight. True enough, the mating lasted only about 3 minutes.

(A rare mating sight)

(The male opened and closed its wings even during mating!)

After the female’s anal appendages separated from the male’s genitalia, the male pushed the female under the water of a nearby floating log as shown below:

(Male pushed the female under the water)

Thereafter, the female submerged under the water for about 3 to 4 minutes to ovipositing while the male stayed  above the log to guard from any disturbance by rival males.  It is quite common to see female laying eggs above the waterline or at the waterline but this is the first that I saw egg laying below the waterline!  Truely amazing!

(Female laying eggs under the water)

Damselfly (34) – Vestalis amoena

Family : Calopterygidae
Common name : Charming Flashwing
Status : Uncommon
Location : Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest, Johore
We have two Vestalis species in Singapore namely V. amethystina & V. amoena.  Both look almost identical with metallic green colouration and they have attractive clear wings that can sparkle with purplish iridescence when photographed at a correct angle and with fill flash.  V. amethystina is a common forest species in Singapore but V. amoena is classified as uncommon.  V. amethystina is frequently found in the vicinity of clear forest streams whereas, V. amoena is often associated with large forest streams.

According to the Dragonfly of Singapore book, one way to tell them apart is through of the anal appendages. I did not manage to get a close-up shot of this damselfly as it disappeared when I tried to close in with my gears.  Hence, I have no idea how to tell from looking at the image.  Since this damselfly was found at a large forest stream, I hope it is a V. amoena.  Please correct me if I am wrong.

Damselfly (33) – Neurobasis chinensis

Family : Calopterygidae
Common name : Green Metalwing
Status : Extinct
Location : Mt Ophir, Belumut

This is a large damselfly species usually found at moderate to swift flowing clear forest streams or near waterfalls.  It likes to perch on stones or fallen logs in streams.  Such habitat, unfortunately, can no longer be found in Singapore and therefore, this species is believed to be extinct nationally.  Accordingly to Dragonflies of Singapore book, it was last recorded in a stream at Upper Macritchie in 1970.

The males have transparent forewings and attractive metallic green hindwings.  When in flight, the male looks like a beautiful butterfly flipping its brilliant metallic wings.  It is one of the most stunning damselflies that I have seen so far.  The female is a little less impressive than the male but still attractive to me.  It has amber coloured wings with white wing-spot.  Both the males and females have metallic green thorax and abdomen.

This damselfly is considered a common species in Malaysia.  Both the male & female were photographed at a stream near the entrance of Mt. Ophir Recreation Forest.

(Male)

(Female)