Gunung Belumut Recreation Forest – Damselflies Heaven!

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.

Belumut 2012 from Anthony Quek on Vimeo.

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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!

Damselflies – Cleaning Behaviours

I have seen on a few occasions where damselflies cleaning its eyes with their forelegs.   Surely this must be to restore good vision by removing dirt etc.

(Female Pseudagrion australasiae – cleaning its eyes)

(Female Euphaea ochracea – cleaning its eyes)

On other times, they would curve their abdomen downwards using their hindlegs to clean the appendages at the end of the abdomen as shown below.   Cleaning the appendages must be important because the male is dependant on them to grab the females pronotum, when he is reproducing, i.e. mating.

(Male Euphaea impar – cleaning its appendages)

(An immature femail Agriocnemis femina cleaning its appendages)

If you have other thoughts on why their perform the above acts, please share with me.

Damselfly (35) – Ceriagrion chaoi

Family : Coenagrionidae
Common Name : Fiery Coraltail
Status : Rare
Location : Bishan Park, Segar Road

My first sighting of this rare species was in 2008 at the forest edge near Segar Road. I didn’t had a good shot of the whole damselfly then as I was still new in macro photography. It was quite cooperative and I managed to take a close-up shot.

Image

My friend, CT Lim, spotted it again at SBG in Sep 2010. He kindly shared with me the exact location but it could not be found. I were excited when I learned that Mr Tang Hung Bun sighted it at Bishan Park. This time, Ong, Allan & I were lucky to have a slightly improvement shot of this beauty.

(Bishan Park – August 2012)

Ovipositiing of Damselfly (Egg-laying)

After mating, the female damselfly is ready to lay its eggs.  Different species has different methods of egg-laying process.  I particularly like the Heliocypha and Libellago species where the male will guard the ovipositing female from the disturbance by rival males.  The entire egg-laying process usually last about 1-2 minutes.  During this short period, the female would fly to different spots to lay its eggs while the male would follow closely wherever it goes.

(Heliocypha biforata)

(Libellago aurantiaca)

(Heliocypha perforata)

(Libellago lineata)

The male of some species such as Lestes praemorsus decipiens probably feel safer guarding its female by remaining in tandem through the egg laying process.

(Lestes praemorsus)

Most damselfly species would either lay eggs above the waterline or at the waterline. The most amazing one are those that lay its eggs below the waterline such as the Dysphaea dimidiata.

Lornie / Golf Link Trail – A dragonfly heaven!

I used to think that Venus Drive is the best place to hunt for dragonflies & damselflies.  I was wrong after my first visit to Lornie / Golf Link Trail on 14 Aug 2010.  Since then, I have been there for more than 10 times.  So far, I have seen or photographed a total of 13 damselfly species & 27 dragonfly species which represents almost one-third of Singapore species!  Most of them can be found at the edge of MacRitchie Reservior along Golf Link Trail as well as the forested areas along the Boardwalk towards Jelutong Tower.

(Golf Link Trail)

Damselflies

  1. Vestalis amethystina (Common Flashwing)
  2. Euphaea impar (Blue-sided Stainwing)
  3. Lestes praemorsus (Crenulated Spreadwing)
  4. Agriocnemis femina (Variable Wisp)
  5. Agriocnemis nana (Dwarf Wisp)
  6. Amphicnemis gracilis (Will-o-wisp)
  7. Archibasis viola (Violet Sprite)
  8. Ceriagrion cerinorubellum (Ornate Coraltail)
  9. Ischnura senegalensis (Common Bluetail)
  10. Onychargia atrocyana (Shorttail)
  11. Pseudagrion australasiae (Look-alike Sprite)
  12. Pseudagrion microcephalum (Blue Sprite)
  13. Prodasineura notostigma (Crescent Threadtail)

Dragonflies

  1. Ictnogomphus decoratus melaenops (Common Flangetail)
  2. Macrogomphus quadratus (Forktail)
  3. Epophthalmia vittigera (Pond Cruiser)
  4. Macromia cincta (Stream Cruiser)
  5. Acisoma panorpoides (Trumpet Tail)
  6. Aethriamanta eathra (Blue Adjudant)
  7. Aethriamanta brevipennis (Scarlet Adjudant)
  8. Aethriamanta gracilis (Pond Adjutant)
  9. Agrionoptera insignis (Grenadier)
  10. Camacinia gigantea (Sultan)
  11. Chalybeohemis fluviatilis (Green-eyed Percher)
  12. Cratilla metallica (Dark-tipped Forest-skimmer)
  13. Diplacodes nebulosa (Black-tipped Percher)
  14. Indothemis limbata (Restless Demon)
  15. Macrodiplax cora (Coastal Glider)
  16. Nesoxenia lineata (Striped Grenadier)
  17. Neurothemis fluctuans (Common Parasol)
  18. Orchithemis pulcherrima (Variable Sentinel)
  19. Orthetrum sabina (Variegated Green Skimmer)
  20. Pseudothemis jorina (Banded Skimmer)
  21. Rhyothemis obsolescens (Bronze Flutterer)
  22. Rhyothemis phyllis (Yellow-Barred Flutterer)
  23. Rhyothemis triangularis (Sapphire Flutter)
  24. Tholymis tillarga (White-barred Duskhawk)
  25. Trithemis pallidinervis (Dancing Dropwing)
  26. Tyriobapta torrida (Treehugger)
  27. Urothemis signata insignata (Scarlet Basker)

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)