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

Mandai Forest Stream

I have heard of the famous Mandai forest stream during my earlier years of photographing dragonflies & damselflies. I read that it was a good place to hunt for uncommon forest species. In particular, it was once thought that the beautiful Libellago lineata can only be sited there. I remember I tried very hard to locate this stream but without success. I gave up searching when I finally photographed L. lineata but at a new location at Lower Peirce Reservior.

In June last year, a Facebook friend, Ronnie Ang, managed to find the Mandai stream. I requested him to bring me along the next time he visits this place again. I was glad to receive his invitation last night. Although I was working today, I did not want to miss this opportunity. I met him and his friend, Albert this morning at 10.00 am and here is the stream that I once worked so hard to find.

IMG_3711 pp

(The upper stretch of Mandai forest stream)

The water level was quite shadow probably due to the recent dry spell. We soon found a lone male Libellago lineata & Common Flashing, a few Yellow Featherlegs, Orange-striped Threadtails, Blue Sprites and Grey Sprites.

While Ronnie stayed at the upper stretch to shoot Libellago lineata, Albert went further up to explore the lower stretch of the stream.

( A pristine forest stream)

(A long stretch of pristine forest stream)

As I had photographed the Grey Sprite only at Panti Forest, Johor, it is my wish to get some decent shots in my own country. Thanks to Albert who spotted a mating pair and kindly shared it with me. It perched fairly high up in a thin branch. With the wind blowing strongly, it was a challenge shooting them. Fortunately, the mating pair stayed very cooperative there for a long period. Here are my humble shots.

IMG_8822

(Mating Grey Sprite)

IMG_8798

(Using full flash, hence the dark background)

IMG_8771

I left at 11.45 am for work while Ronnie and Albert continued their hunt for odonates. I am certain that I would revisit this place soon. I hope to shoot together with Ronnie and Albert again.

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

Damselfly (16b) – Amphicenis gracilis, Male

I am happy to have finally photographed a male, Amphicenis gracilis. Typically of this species, it perched near a small pool of smelly muddy water under very dim surrounding.  It was pretty tough shooting in such poor lighting condition especially this damselfly is highly sensitive to the use of flash.  As such, most of my images are captured without flash such as this one:

(Lornie Trail - 21 May 2011)

The following image is the only acceptable shot with flash:

(Shot with fill flash)


I will certainly revisit this place to get improvement shots as well as close-up.
See related posts:

Dragonfly (41) – Nesoxenia lineata

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Striped Grenadier
Status : Uncommon forest species
Location : Lornie Trail, Venus Drive

According to the “Singapore Dragonfly Book”, this is an uncommon forest species which has been recorded  only in MacRichie Reservior and Kent Ridge.  It looks quite similar to Agrionoptera Insignis especially from the side view.  My way of differiating these 2 species are:

(1) N. Lineata is slightly smaller than A. Insignis;
(2) the dorsum of the thorax of N. Lineata is pale blue in colour; and
(3) for N. Lineata, only abdominal segments 6-8 are red in colour while the abdomen of A. Insignis is red throughout.

From the dorsal view, it also looks a little like the male Agrionoptera Sexlineata.

My first sighting of this species was along Lornie Trail just after the golf link.  It perched quite high up on a twig and I had to fully stretch the tripod on the board walk in order to get an eye level shot.  It stayed there for a long period without moving abit except glancing at me occasionally while I took pictures of it.  I wanted to get a dorsal view but it was too high up for me.

(Lornie Trail – 25 Aug 2010)

My 2nd sighting was at Venus Drive. Again, it was not afraid of me and stayed there for quite a while.

(Venus Drive – 2 Feb 2012)

Dragonfly (39) – Gynacantha Subinterrupta

Family : Aeshnidae
Common Name : Dingy Duskhawker
Status : Uncommon forest species
Location : Tagore Forest

This uncommon species is large in size with an unique and attractive turquoish green eyes.  The male has a green thorax with green and blue markings on the base of its abdomen.  There is a distinct, dark T-shaped mark on the supper surface of the frons.
This was my first sighting of this dragonfly at the forested area in Tagore Drive this morning.  My first impression was that it should be a Gynacantha Dohrni as both look so similar in terms of size, colours and design.  I had seen G. Dohrni about 2 to 3 times at Venus Drive more than a year ago and, if I recalled correctly, G. Subinterrupta should be slightly bigger in size than G. Dohrni.
This dragonfly perched on a small tree trunk near a fast flowing stream.  The surrounding was quite dim under the forest canopy making it difficult to photograph.  Although I could only manage some records shots on the dorsal view and some close-up shots of it, I am happy to have added this species to my collection.  There are many small branches and leaves surrounding the perch and when I tried to clear them away hoping to get some side view shots, it flew away and disappeared into the forest.
(Male – Tagore Forest, 040910)
Afternote : I joined the Informal Macro Outing Group at Thanggam forest yesterday.  My friend, Allan Lee,  found a uncommon dragonfly and knowing that I like to collect dragonflies, he kindly offer me to shoot.  The surrounding was quite dim and it was difficult to identify its id there.  Mr Tang later confirmed that it was a female G. Subinterrupta which looks similar to the male except for its duller colours. 
(Female – Thanggam Forest, 25 Sep 2010) 

Damselfly (27) – Podasineura Interrupta

Family : Protoneuridae
Common Name : Interrupted Threadtail
Status : Uncommon forest species
Location : Endau-Rompin Natural Park, Malaysia

This is an uncommon damselfly that frequents dark forest streams.  In Singapore, it can only be found in Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves but I have not seen one here yet. 

(Male – Endau-Rompon National Park, 31 Aug 2010)
My first encounter with this species was at Panti forest, Malaysia but I didn’t get any shots of it as I was busy shooting other species.  This was my 2nd sighting and it was spotted recently at a stream in Endau-Rompin National Park. 
(Side view – 31 Aug 2010)
The thorax of the male has nice bright blue bands on it as seen in the above image.  The upper part of the eyes is black and blue colour at the bottom half.
(Dorsal view – 31 Aug 2010)
One way to identify this species is to check the distinctive blue dorsal markings on it abdominal segments 9-10.  Also, there are two blue marks on the head near the eyes.  I hope to meet one in Singapore soon.

Dragonfly (37) – Chalybeothemis fluviatilis

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Green-eyed Percher
Status : Uncommon
Location : Lornie Trail

This is a small and thin uncommon dragonfly which is slightly smaller than that of the Diplacodes Trivialis.  As its common name suggests, both sexes have attractive green eyes.  The thorax of the male is metallic dark blue colour.  Accordingly to the Dragonflies of Singapore’s Photographic Guide Book, the female is similar but with brown colour on the dorsum of thorax and the wing base tinted with brownish yellow.

(Male – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010)

Similar to my 2 previous posts, this male was also sighted at the edges of Macritchie Reservior along Lornie Trail.  A skittish species which did not allow me to go nearer than 2 metres.  I could only shoot from the walking path looking down into the reservior water where this dragonfly perched just slightly above.

(Dorsal view – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010)

I was excited to witness a mating pair but unfortunately it lasted only for a minute or so and I was too slow to get a good shot at them.

(Mating pair – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010)

Dragonfly (34) – Aethriamanta Gracilis

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Pond Adjutant
Status : Uncommon
Location : Lornie Trail

Aethriamanta Gracilis is a small dragonfly which looks very identical to Brachydiplax Chalybea, except that it is smaller size and more open wing venation.  Similarly to B. Chalybea, males are more common than females.  There were about 8 to 10 nos. of male at some bushes along Lornie Trail and I think I spotted one female but I did not manage to capture it in pixel as it was flying without perching.  The males were quite skittish and therefore I could only manage some record shots.

(Male – Lornie Trail, 16 Aug 2010)
(Male – Lornie Trail, 16 Aug 2010)

(ID unknown – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010)

The female is said to be “yellowish brown in colour with black marking”.  Based on this description, the above image could be a female A. Gracilis which was spotted on 25 Aug 2010.

(Side view – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010 )
Afternote : After Mr C.Y. Choong commented that it is unlikely to be a female A. Gracilis, I wrote to Mr Tang H. B. for a second opinion.  He is certain that it is not any of the Aethrianmanta species as the venation does not match.  He also rules out the possibility of Trithemis festiva, judging from the markings on the thorax.  As this dragonfly was about the same size of Aethrianmanta gracilis, he felt that, for this reason, it is less likely to be Indothemis limbata.  However, he would not rule out this possibility as he has not seen a female Indothemis limbata himself.  He added that if it is really a Indothemis limbata, then this image could be the first female photo of the species taken in Singapore!  I have uploaded a side view shot (see above).
On 6 Sep 2010, I spotted 2 mating pairs but only managed to get a record shot (see right image) as dragonfly usually mates for less than a minute!

Damselfly (25) – Pseudagrion Australasiae

Family : Coenagrionidae
Common Name : Look-alike Sprite
Status : Uncommon
Location : Lornie Trail

After collected more than 50% of the damselfly species in Singapore, it is getting very difficult to add new species to my collection.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to spot this uncommon P. Australasiae at Lornie Trail this morning.  It was drizzing at that time but that did not stop me from photographing it.

(Female – Lornie Trail, 16 Aug 2010)
The female of this species should be rarer than the male.  The male looks very similar to P. Microcephalum where both are light blue in colour.  P. Australasiae is slighter bigger in size than P. Microcephalum.  Accordingly to Mr C.Y. Choong, the blue colour of P. Microcephalum is brighter than P. Australasiae but the ultimate confirmation on these two species is very much relied on the structure of their tail (anal appendages). Pseudagrion Microcephalum has longer anal appendages compared to P. Australasiae.  I have photographed both the male and female of P. Microcephalum but I am not sure whether I have shot the male of P. Australasiae as I did not know how to differentiate these 2 species previously.
(Female closeup – Lornie Trail, 16 Aug 2010)

On 25 Aug 2010, I have finally captured a decent shot of the skittish male.  Yes, it is indeed longer than P. Microcephalum and a strong flyer.  Not an easy species to photograph.  My next target is to shoot them mating!

(Male – Lornie Trail, 25 Aug 2010)