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

Unknown Damselfly – Amphicnemis gracilis or Amphicnemis bebar?

During my recent trip to Nee Soon Swamp Forest, a damselfly that I have never seen before was spotted near a small stream. My initial thought was that it could be a new species and this got me excited. It disappeared for a while but after some thorough search, I managed to get some record shots.

(Female - Nee Soon Swamp Forest, 20 Oct 2012)

(Female – Nee Soon Swamp Forest, 20 Oct 2012)

(Female – Nee Soon Swamp Forest, 20 Oct 2012)

After careful examination, it looks a little like the red form immature female Amphicnemis gracilis. As a male Amphicnemis gracilis was found nearby (about 2 metres away), I concluded that it could be another different colour form female A. graclis.

Male Amphicnemis gracilis – Nee Soon Swamp Forest, 20 Oct 2012)

I emailed to Mr Tang Hung Bun to seek his advise that his reply was “Since the location is Nee Soon, it can either be A. bebarn or A. gracilis. Females of these two species are difficult to separate.”.

According to the Publication dated 22 Dec 2011 by NUS, Amphicnemis species are very similar to each other in appearance and thus cannot be identified with certainty based solely on colour markings.

Amphicnemis bebar was last collected in 1994, and has not been seen in Singapore since.

Orchithemis pulcherrima – Most colours form dragonfly

O. pulcherrima is a relatively small forest dragonfly species, classified as common and abundant.  This species is interesting but confusing because of its many colour forms, sometimes related to age and sex as stated in Mr Tang Hung Bun’s book “Dragonflies of Singapore”.  The males can appear in five different colours while the females have at least 3.  Are they really common and abundant?  Yes, but only the red form males are most commonly found in forested areas in Singapore.  I have seen them at Venus Drive, Upper Seletar, Upper Peirce, Lornie Trail, Rifle Range, etc.

(Red form male – most common)

The same cannot be said to the other 4 males.  In particular, the dark form, black abdomen & brown adbomen in my opinion are uncommon and rare respectively.  It took me almost 3 years to complete my collection.

(Dark form, black adbomen male – uncommon)

(Dark form, brown abdomen male – rare)

(Male, orange abdomen – relatively common)

(Immature male, yellowish brown abdomen – relatively common)

The females have fewer colour forms.  I have seen about 3 forms so far.  I was fortunate to spot a mating pair at Lornie Trail not too long ago.  Unlike most dragonflies which mate briefly and separated within a minute, this pair lasted about 5 minutes or so allowing me to take some decent shots.

(Mating pair – Lornie Trail)

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 (30) – Macrogomphus Quadratus

Family : Gomphidae
Common Name : Forktail
Status : Uncommon
Location : Upper Peirce
This is an uncommon dragonfly spotted at Upper Peirce.  My personal experience with hugh forest species is that they are skittish and once they flew off, they disappear and never come back.  But this one was an exception.  It was quite comfortable with me so long as I maintained a safe distance of about one metre.  It would fly away only if I attempted to get closer.  But the lucky thing was that it would come back and perch somewhere nearby.  

(Upper Peirce – 5 Jun 2010)
As this was my first time seeing this species , I took as many shots as possible to make sure that I got it right. Being a large subject, the main problem was the difficulty of getting an acceptable background.  I chose to use a large aperture of f5.6 & f8 for most of my shots.

(Side view)
(Doing stretching exercise)

Dragonfly (27) – Pseudothemis Jorina

Family : Libellulidae

Common Name : Banded Skimmer
Status : Uncommon
Location : Upper Peirce, Eng Neo Ave
I have seen this uncommon black and white colour dragonfly at the forest edge of Upper Pierce. There were a few of them flewing non-stop without perching. I was surprised to see one perching quite far up at a small branch. Only managed a few lousy record shots.
(Upper Pierce – 19 Aug 2009)

I saw this dragonfly again at some bushes near Saddle Club (Eng Neo Ave) this morning. Unfortunately, the lighting was too harsh and it flew off before I could manage some improvement shots.

(Saddle Club, Eng Neo Ave – 5 May 2010)

Dragonfly (24) – Neurothemis Fluctuans

Family : Neurothemis fluctuans
Common Name : Common Parasol
Status : Very common
Location : Almost anywhere in Singapore where there are bushes near ponds, streams, lake, reservoirs, etc.

This is easily one of the most common dragonfly species that you can find in Singapore. They are so common that most of the photographers, me included, would give it a miss when seeing them.

(Male - Venus Drive, 25 Nov 2008)

(Male – Venus Drive, 25 Nov 2008)

(Female - Venus Drive, 24 Oct 2009)

(Female – Venus Drive, 24 Oct 2009)

Dragonfly (18) – Lathrecista Asiatica

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Scarlet Grenadier
Status : Uncommon
Location : Upper Seletar Reservior, Upper Peirce, Tagore Forest

This dragonfly is classified as a common forest species but I have seen the males only at Upper Seletar Reservior and Upper Peirce.  The female is less common as I have sighted once at Upper Peirce.  The thorax of both sexes are dark brown in colour with yellow stripes.  However the male species has a entire red abdomen while the female is brownish in colour.
(Male, Upper Pierce – 28 Jan 2010)

This males species looks quite similar to Agrionoptera Insignis.  One way to differentiate is that L. Asiatica has a narrower and straight-sided abdomen. 

(Side View Female – Upper Pierce, 12 July 2010)
(Front View Female – Upper Peirce, 12 July 2010)

I am happy to have captured an improvement shot of the male at Tagore Forest on 4 Sep 2010.

(Male – Tagore Forest, 4 Sep 2010)

Damselfly (24) – Prodasineura Collaris

Family : Protoneuridae

Common Name : Collared Threadtails
Status : Uncommon
Location : Upper Peirce
There are 4 Proidasineura species in Singapore namely Collaris, Humeralis, Interrupta & Notostigma). The blue marking on the head and thorax of Collaris and Notostigma look similar to me and I have difficulty identifying them. My guess is that this is a Collaris based on the white or blue marking on the tip of its tail. Again, I would appreciate it if someone could confirm it.
(Upper Peirce – 31 Dec 2009)

(Side view close-up – Upper Peirce, 31 Dec 2009)

Dragonfly (17) – Risiophlebia Dohrni

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Triangled Small Percher
Status : Critically Endangered

Of Singapore’s 124 recorded species of odonata, Risiophlebia Dohrni is one of the rarest. It is classified in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008 as a critically endangered species. This species can only be found in Upper Peirce. It is a relatively small size dragonfly with a unique unstraightened obdomen. Quite a cooperative species allowing me to take various shots.

(Upper Peirce – 21 Dec 2009)

(Upper Peirce – 21 Dec 2009)