Dragonfly (48) – Gynacantha basiguttata

Family : Aeshnidae
Common Name : Spoon-tailed Duskhawker
Status : Rare
Location : Mandai Forest

This is a huge dragonfly that is rarely seen in Singapore. It is generally encountered feeding at dawn and dusk and spends most of the day hanging from tree branches.  At the end of the abdomen is a pair of long and thin superior appendages, expanded at the tips to form a small spoon, hence, its common name is known as Spoon-tailed Duskhawker.

dragonfly

(Female, Mandai forest, 19 December 2015)

This female specimen was spotted at a dimly forested area in Mandai. Very difficult to spot as its colour blends well with the dark surrounding. A skittish species where we could photograph some record shots only from a distance of 2 metres. It flew away when we tried to get a closer look of it.

I am still happy to have added a new dragonfly species in my collection after a 15 months’ break!

Reference : A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore

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Dragonfly (47) – Raphismia bispina

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Mangrove Dwarf
Status : Uncommon
Location : Pasir Ris Farmway

This is an uncommon dragonfly and is one of the few species that lives and breeds in saline water in mangroves. Both the male & female are small in size about 2.5 cm long. Accordingly to Mr Tang Hung Bun’s Dragonfly Book, the Mangrove Dwarf has been recorded in Changi, Mandai, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

I first saw the image of a female taken by my friend, Yan Leong, in August 2010 and subsequently, a male captured by Allan Lee in December 2011, both found at Chek Jawa mangrove in Pulau Ubin. An internet search reveals that not many people have photographed this mangrove species. Those who were lucky usually spotted them at Chek Jawa.

I have wanted to photograph this uncommon dragonfly for a long time but I just didn’t want to bother Yan Leong or Allan to bring me all the way to Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. It was only recently when I met Loh, someone who is probably more crazy about dragonflies especially mangrove species than me, at Zhenghua Forest where he shared his well-captured images of both the male & female of this dragonfly. He shot them somewhere at Pasir Ris Farmway and it appears that this dragonfly species is a permanently resident there. I requested that he brings me along of his next visit.

Yesterday, I met him at the entrance of Pasir Ris Farmway. We drove a short distance from here and park our cars near the main road side. On the right is a small forested area which looks very ordinary to me. There are no mangrove swamps in sight and I would never expect to find this species here. I think Mr Tang Hung Bun would be surprised too!

(Residence of Mangrove Dwarf)

(Residence of Mangrove Dwarf)

Without further delay, we crossed the road and moved into the forest. Loh showed me the small area that he usually sighted this dragonfly. Within 10 minutes, I found a small blue dragonfly perched on a pool of fallen branches near the road side. I alerted Loh and he confirmed that this was the male mangrove dwarf!

(A male Raphismia bispina)

(A male Raphismia bispina)

The males resemble Brachydiplax chalybea which usually perch motionless on an exposed branch for long periods, guarding their territories around a salty mangrove pool. This male fits into this description except that there wasn’t any salty mangrove nearby. I did find a small patch of muddy area with little water a few metres away. Anyway, another male was spotted high up at a branch near a spider web.

(Another male Mangrove Dwarf)

(Another male Mangrove Dwarf)

A third male was found and I took the opportunity to take the front view.

(Front view of the male)

(Front view of the male)

Here are 2 more images of the same male on the same perch. The different is that the male on the right was taken with Loh helping me to block the strong sunlight. Which one do you think is better?

(Same dragonfly, same perch but different lighting condition)

(Same dragonfly, same perch but different lighting condition)

I shot another male but this one didn’t have the blue on its thorax or abdomen.  Could this be a young or aged male?

(An aged male?)

(An aged male?)

I am glad to spot a few female mangrove dwarfs too. The female has a black coloured body with yellow marking on the side of the thorax and yellow streaks along the abdomen.

(Female)

(Female)

Here is another female:

(Female Mangrove Dwarf)

(Female Mangrove Dwarf)

Another view of the female:

(Front view of a female)

(Front view of a female)

In total, there were about 4 males and 3 females spotted within a radius of approximately 5 metres. Certainly a healthy sign of this species. I must thank Loh once again for sharing this site to me, otherwise, I would not be able to take so many decent shots of these cute little creatures.

Reference : A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore

Damselflies & Dragonflies @ Bekok Waterfall

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.

Bekok-Map

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.

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(Group photo at the entrance of Bekok Waterfall)

There is a stream near the entrance and it looks like a place full of damselflies, just like the stream at Gunung Belumut.

(A stream near the entrance)

(A stream near the entrance)

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.

(Podasineura interrupta)

(Podasineura interrupta)

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.

(Euphaea ochracea, Male)

(Euphaea ochracea, Male)

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.

(Aristocypha fenestrella, male & female)

(Aristocypha fenestrella, male & female)

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!

(Heliocypha perforate - Territorial fight )

(Heliocypha perforate – Territorial 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.

IMG_7373

(Tree-hugger, male)

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.

(Shooting lantern bugs overlooking the stream)

(Shooting lantern bugs overlooking the main stream)

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.

(Lantern bugs)

(Lantern bugs)

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.

(6 butterfly species feeding on sandy ground)

(6 butterfly species feeding on sandy ground)

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).

(Common Pierrot vs Common Jay)

(Common Pierrot vs Common Jay)

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.

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(Bekok Waterfall)

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.

(Toad & Frogs)

(Toad & Frogs)

Frogs in particular are photogenic subjects to shoot and it was no surprise to see my friends trying to get the best angles.

(Shooting the "prince charming"!)

(Shooting the “prince charming”!)

I personally find the Black-spotted Rock frogs most charming and therefore I had shot them with various angles.

(Black-spotted Rock frogs)

(Black-spotted Rock frogs)

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.

(A pair of Black-spotted Rock frogs)

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!

(Black-spotted rock frog having damselfly as lunch!)

(Black-spotted rock frog having damselfly as lunch!)

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!

(Photo credit : Hazel Han)

(Photo credit : Hazel Han)

After a tired but rewarding day, we deserved a good dinner at Cathay Restaurant in Kulai.

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

Reference : Wikipedia

Dragonfly (46a) – Idionyx ylanda, female

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.

IMG_8829

(Female, Venus Drive – 8 June 2013)

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.

IMG_8852

(Female, Venus Drive – 8 June 2013)

Can dragonflies and damselflies be good neighbours?

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:

(A male Libellago Hyalina sharing the same territory with a female Prodasineura collaris)

(A male Libellago lineata sharing the same territory with a male Pseudagrion microcephalum)

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:

(Three male dragonflies: Ictinogomphus decoratus, Crocothemis servilla, Orthetrum chrysis)

So, can dragonflies and damselflies be good neighbours?
Of course, they can 🙂

A male damselfly (Ceriagrion cerinorubellum) with a male dragonfly (Diplacodes nebulosa)

Dragonfly (45) – Macromia cydippe

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.

(Venus Drive – 28 Jan 2009)

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.

(Venus Drive – 28 Jan 2009)

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.

Euphaea ochracea (Malaysia Species)

In Singapore, there are 2 damselfly species under the family of Euphaeidae (Satinwings) namely Dysphaea dimidiata and Euphaea impar.  In Peninsular Malaysia, there is another species known as the Euphaea ochracea.

My first sighting was a single male at a small clear flowing stream in Endau Rompin State Park.  It was very skittish that I didn’t get any shot of it.  I saw another male a few months later at a relatively big stream near Mt Ophir.    This time, I managed some record shots.

It was only in Gunung Belumut last year where we saw quite a no. of this species.  The males prefer to perch on rocks or logs just above clear flowing water.

(A male perching on a rock surrounded by fast flowing water)

When they perch in such a manner, it is harder to photograph as one would need to go very low to get a eye-level shot. Also, the face of the damselfly would often look downward in the frame which is not nice to view. Hence, I would search for one that perch on a twig or falling branches as shown below.

(Euphaea ochracea, male)

The male has a distinctive golden brown/red body and wings making it very easy to recognise. I was lucky to spot a younger male where it has yellow markings on its thorax similar to that of the female. The wings are less golden than the mature male.

(Euphaea ochracea, younger male)

The female is less common than the male. I have only seen them in Gunung Belumut so far. Unlike the male, the female doesn’t perch so low and hardly on rock. They are often seen perching at least knee-level high on twigs or falling branches. Photographing the female is relatively easier than the male.

(Euphaea ochracea, female)

We have seen the younger male earlier, let us take a look at an aged female which has paler colour.

(Euphaea ochracea, aged female)

Since the female are less commonly found, I can’t resist to take a portrait of it.

(A smiling Portrait of a female, Euphaea ochracea)

The next time I see this beautiful damselfly again, I plan to take a portrait shot of the male. My wish is to photograph a mating pair!

Dragonfly (43) – Macromia cincta

Family : Corduliidae
Common Name : Stream Cruiser
Status : Rare
Location : Lornie Trail

According to the Book on Dragonflies of Singapore, this is a huge dragonfly which can be seen flying along forest trails near swampy areas.  It is a rare species which is knowm to be found at MacRitchie Resevior. They have beautiful bluish-green eyes and there is an unmistakable whitish band on the side of its thorax.

(Lornie Trail – 20 Jan 2011)

I was glad to spot this dragonfly hanging on a tree branch when I went with 2 friends for odonata hunting at Lornie Trail yesterday.  The eyes of this dragonfly are more bluish in colour and my guess was that it should be a female which was later correctly confirmed by Mr Tang.  It was quite cooperative and I managed to take both the dorsal and side views.  Unfortunately the sunlight was harsh and I couldn’t get a good shot of the dorsal view ie. the bright branch in the background is quite distracting.

Having said that, I am still happy with what I have as it is my first dragonfly post in 2011!

(Side view)

Dragonfly (42) – Pornothemis starrei

Family : Libelluidae
Common Name : Mangrove Marshal
Status : Rare
Location : Punggol Forest

According to the Singapore Dragonflies Book, this is a rare mangrove dragonfly species spotted only at Pulau Ubin, Mandai & Lim Chu Kang.  The male has a black thorax & abdomen with dull greenish blue eyes. Females are said to have olive-coloured thorax.

(Male – Punggol Forest, 13 Nov 2010)

During this morning’s macro outing with many of my friends at Punggol forest, we were lucky to spot 2 males at a small muddy stream.   The surrounding was quite dark and this species preferred to perch lowly just above the water making it difficult to shoot.  Fortunately, it was quite cooperative allowing us to take some record shots.From the dorsal view, it looks like a bigger version of Chalybeothemis fluviatilis.  I hope I did not identify this species wrongly.

(Dorsal view – 13 Nov 2010)

Dragonfly (42) – Orchithemis Pruinans

Family : Libelluidae
Common Name : Blue Sentinel
Status : Rare
Location : Upper Peirce Forest

This is a rare forest species which prefers to perch under shaded areas.  The male has dark thorax and abdomen.  Abdominal segments 2-4 are powdery bluish-white.  It looks very similar to the dark form of male Orchithemis Pulcherrima except that O. Pruinans is slighter larger and its abdomen is thinner and longer.  The white marking of O. Pulcherrima covers only the second and third segments of its abdomen. The female is said to be brown in colour which has not been recorded in Singapore.

(Male – Upper Peirce, 20 Sep 2010)

This male was spotted recently at Upper Peirce forest.  I have originally thought that it was an uncommon dark form male O. Pulcherrima, which I was glad to add to my collection.  Little did I know that it was actually a rare O. Pruinans making me even happier!  It is an easy subject to photograph as it stays at the fixed spot for a long period.  Even if it flew away, it would return or perch very nearby.  The only problem is the poor lighting as it always choose a shaded area to perch.  I saw quite a no. of them around the vincinity but I am unsure whether they were O. Pulcherrima or O. Pruinans now.

(Side view – Upper Peirce, 20 Sep 2010)

Reference : A photographic guide on Dragonflies of Singapore.