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.

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 ūüôā

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

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.

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!

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.

Damselflies at Belumut – Mating

One of the interesting behaviors to watch in Damselflies is mating! What time do they usually mate? For how long? Any foreplay? What do they do after mating? etc.

I was fortunate to observe 7 pairs of mating damselflies at Gunung Belumut Recreation Forest during our recent recce trips. I have seen damselfly species mated for hours but those that I saw at Belumut were much shortly. Here are some interesting mating facts of 3 uncommon species that I was lucky to capture within the same day:

Libellago aurantiaca & Heliocypha biforata : mating time 11 am to 3 pm, female suddenly appears from no where and starts mating (in wheel position or love shape formation), mating lasts approximately 90 sec, after separation, female immediately lays eggs at nearby log while male stands guard. With such a short mating time, it is not easy to capture them in pixels not to mention refining your shots. I was lucky to be at the right place and right time.

(Libellago aurantiaca)

(Heliocypha biforata)

Neurobasis chinensis : mating time 4 to 6 pm; male and female would attach together in tandem first usually about 1 to 2 mins, very skittish when they are in this tandem position. No point moving closer as they would not allow you to do so. It is best to let them settle down to form a mating wheel position; mating lasts more than 4 minutes; after separation, male & female go separate way, not sure whether female lay eggs immediately.

(This is a Neurobasis longipes instead of Neurobasis chinensis)