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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Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line?

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.

Cross Island Line 2

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.

CRL final

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.

(Libellago Stigamtizans taken at Panti Forest, Johor, Malaysia)

(Libellago Stigamtizans taken at Panti Forest, Johor, 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.

(Libellago lineate, male & female)

(Libellago lineata, male & female)

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 lineata engaged in behaviours such as fighting, mating, egg-laying, etc.)

(Libellago lineata engaged in behaviours such as fighting, mating, egg-laying, etc.)

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.

(Libellago aurantiaca, Male)

(Libellago aurantiaca, Male)

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.

(Libellago aurantiaca, male vs female)

(Libellago aurantiaca, male vs female)

Mating of any damselflies is a joy to watch, not to mention this cute and gorgeous gem in a wheel or love shape formation.

(Libellago aurantiaca, mating)

(Libellago aurantiaca, mating)

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.

(Libellago hyaline, female)

(Libellago hyaline, female)

The other two females have duller colours and therefore slightly less attractive.

(Libellago hyaline, females)

(Libellago hyaline, females)

The males have 3 colours form too with the bluish grey abdomen being the least good looking.

(Libellago hyaline, bluish grey male)

(Libellago hyaline, bluish grey male)

The metallic blue male is more handsome.

(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

But I like the glowing purple abdomen male the best.

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

(Libellago hyalina, glowing purple male)

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.

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

Reference : A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore

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)

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)

Behaviours of Libellago Lineata

I was fortunate to witness some interesting behaviours of Libellago Lineata recently.  I saw a few pairs of males involving in territorial fights on separate occasions.  When they fight, the two males would confront  and face one another in mid air. They hover a few seconds and make forward movements but without contact.  Usually, one would flee the area after a minute or so but it would come back shortly to challenge the temporary winning male again until the utimate victor is declared!

(Two males involving in territorial fight – 29 Sep 2010)

The winning male has the right of the territory usually within a small area of not more than 3 metres.  I was told that female Lineata normally perch high up in trees and would come down to find a mate when they are ready to do so.  I have seen 3 mating pairs within 2 days and what was interesting is that unlike other damselflies where they usually mate for a long period (sometime in hours), Lineata only mates for about 20 to 30 seconds! Within such a short period of mating time, getting a good shot at it depends alot on luck.  I only managed to shoot about 20 shots from the 3 mating pairs add together, most of which are not of the best quality but I am happy to have finally got a good record mating shot of this species.

(A mating pair in wheel formation – 29 Sep 2010)

  
After separation from mating, the female would perch on nearby floating log or large tree roots to lay eggs by submersing its adbominal tip into the water.

(A female dips the tip of its adbomen into water to lay eggs)

Based on my observation, the ovipositing process takes about 15 to 30 minutes.  During this period, the male will guard the ovipositing female from the disturbance by rival males by perching very nearby.  The female does not lay its eggs on a fixed spot, it would crawl usually forward as they ovipositing.  Sometimes they would fly away for a second or two but return to the perch.  During this egg laying process, there are good apportunities to shoot both the male and females in a single frame ie. side by side, back to back, facing each other, etc.

(A male guarding the ovipositing female)

Damselfly (30) – Libellago Lineata

Family : Chlorocyphidae
Common Name : Golden Gem
Status : Rare
Location : Lower Pierce Reservior

According to the The Singapore Dragonflies Book, this Golden Gem has only been recorded at Mandai forest stream.  The male has a similar thorax of Libellago Hyalina but it can be easier distinuished with its golden-yellow markings on the first 5-6 abdominal segments and black colour from segment 7-10.  The female is said to be bigger with greyish & dark marking on its thorax and abdomen.

(Juvenile Male – Lower Peirce Reservior, 23 Sep 2010)

The above damselfly was spotted perching on a dry twig near the edge of Lower Peirce Reservior.  From afar, based on at its colour and size, it looked like a female L. Hyalina to me.  But when I moved closer, I got the feeling that it could be a juvenile male L. Hyalina.  It was quite cooperative acutally but I could photograph only 3 shots due to my carelessness.  My tripod touched the twig accidentally when I moved closer causing it to shake violently.  It flew away and disappeared into nowhere!  I searched high and low for the next 20 mins or so but I could not locate it.

I seek Mr Tang’s advice on its id and he told me that this could be a juvenile male, L. Lineata.  It doesn’t quite look like what was described above as its colours have not fully developed yet.  A great find accordingly to him as it means that this species can be found elsewhere other than in Mandai forest.  He  asked me for the exact location which I obliged as he wanted to study this species further.  I shall visit this place again with the hope of shooting the adult species soon.

Afternote : I revisited this morning and was rewarded with this shot below.  The striking yellowish orange colour of this beautiful damselfly is particularly attractive to me.

(Adult Male – Lower Peirce Reservior, 27 Sep 2010)

(Male dorsal view – 27 Sep 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.

Dragonfly (35) – Aethriamanta Brevipennis

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Scarlet Adjudant
Status : Rare
Location : Lornie Trail

Aethriamanta BrevipennisIt is a small and short species but strongly built with broad abdomen.  The male is bright red in colour which looks a little like a small version of Orthetrum Chrysis.  The female is yellowish brown in colour.

(Male – Lornie Trail, 23 Aug 2010)
Today is my first encounter of this male species at Lornie Trail.  It preferred to perch lowerly, about 10 -15 cm above the reservior water and it appeared to enjoy perching under the bright sunlight.    As such, it is not easy to photograph and I could only manage some record shots.
(Male – Lornie Trail, 23 Aug 2010)

Damselfly (23) – Libellago Aurantiaca

Family : Chlorocyphidae
Common name : Fiery Gem
Status : Rare

Location : Upper Peirce, Endau Rompin National Park
 

Libellago is the most unique genus in Singapore with its wings longer than the body. They are rare, beautiful and require pristine habitat. Their behaviour is fascinating too. There are only three Libellago species in Singapore checklist, one of which (Libellago Stigamtizans) is already extinct here.

(Upper Peirce – 7 Dec 2009)

Although Libellago Aurantiaca is less rarer that Hyalina (see my previous post), it is my most wanted species to photograph. I pariticularly like its vibrant colour of red and yellow and I have been searching for more than a year. So you can imagine how happy I was when I finally saw one at Upper Pierce, the same place where I shot the Hyalina. They love to perch lowerly, just above the water making it difficult to get a good angle. I only managed a good record shot.  I have visited this place many times subsequently but this beautiful damselfly could not be found anymore.

Afternote : I finally got an improvement shot of this species but in Singapore.  This was taken at a swift flowing stream at Endau Rompin National Park.

(Endau Rompin National Park – 3 Oct 2010)