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Butterflies Galore! : Malay Baron

Butterflies Galore!
The Malay Baron (Euthalia monina monina)

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The Malay Baron is one butterfly species that displays sexual polymorphism*. It is particularly noteworthy that, in the Malay Baron, the polymorphism occurs in the males. In butterflies, polymorphism occurs more frequently in females than in males. In the Malay Baron, there are three known forms of the males - form-decorata, form-monina and form-gardineri. The species is represented by only one female 'form'.

The Malay Baron is a forest-dependent butterfly, and is seldom seen in urban parks and gardens, except perhaps for those which are in close proximity to the nature reserves in Singapore. All three forms of the males are seen with regularity, and in some instances, two or more forms are seen in the same vicinity.  This male form-decorata was photographed in the nature reserves feeding on the ripened fruit of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum)

*Polymorphism in biology occurs when two or more clearly different phenotypes exist in the same population of a species — in other words, the occurrence of more than one form or morph.

Butterflies Galore! : Great Orange Awlet

Butterflies Galore!
The Great Orange Awlet (Burara etelka)

This fast-flying skipper exhibits crepuscular* behaviour and is more often seen in the early hours of the day or late in the evening. With a wingspan of 50-60mm, it is a large species, by Hesperiidae standards, with only the Gangara and Erionota spp surpassing it in size. Males are predominantly brown on the upperside and unmarked, whilst the females are deep iridescent blue above. The undersides are orange-brown with pale orange cellular streaks.

This individual was photographed by ButterflyCircle member Huang CJ at around 7:30am when the butterfly was attracted to a flowering Syzygium tree in a nature park.  Besides being encountered feeding at flowers, the Great Orange Awlet has also been observed puddling at damp streambanks at times.

*Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is, during dawn and dusk.

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Yellow and Blue.

Over the last 2 days my spare time has been short but yesterday afternoon a trip to Hope Gap was in order. A Crimson Speckled Footman moth had been seen over the weekend and I would love to see another one of these very rare moths. There were quite a few butterflies flying in the warm late afternoon sunshine including several Small Copper and also some Clouded Yellow. I was lucky to see this Clouded Yellow settle. It was actually a helise with very pale upper wings.

Today I decided to visit my home patch. It was really relaxing after all the chasing of Long-tailed Blues recently. 11 species were seen, a very good number for October with another Clouded Yellow seen. Lots of Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. More usual Autumn butterflies included this smart Comma.
Then, just when I was least expecting it another male Long-tailed Blue appeared, well away from the other sites where they have been seen and some distance from the coast in the middle of the Downs.

Butterflies Galore! : Grass Demon

Butterflies Galore!
The Grass Demon (Udaspes folus)

This skipper's caterpillars feed on a range of "ginger" plants and is a widely-distributed butterfly in Singapore. Its host plants include Cheilocostus speciosus (White Costus), Costus lucanusianus (African Spiral Flag), Hedychium coronarium (White Ginger Lily, Butterfly Ginger), Zingiber officinale (Ginger), Curcuma longa (Tumeric), of this the last two are used as spices in Asian food and also for their medicinal qualities. The Grass Demon is a predominantly dark brown with white markings on its fore- and hind wings and is unlikely to be mistaken for any other Hesperiidae species.

This pristine individual was photographed by ButterflyCircle member Anthony Wong last weekend at a park connector. The Grass Demon is shown here, perched on the red buds of one of its caterpillar host plants, the White Costus.

Butterflies Galore! : Short Banded Sailor

Butterflies Galore!
The Short Banded Sailor (Phaedyma columella singa)

The Short Banded Sailor is one of several black-and-white striped (upperside of the wings) butterfly species in Singapore. Amongst the species that have a weaker gliding flight, the Short Banded Sailor can sometimes be confused with the two Neptis spp., the Common Sailor and the Grey Sailor. The Grey Sailor has grey undersides whereas the Common and Short Banded Sailors have orange-brown undersides. The postdiscal triangular patch in the Short Banded Sailor is rounded and not as angular and long as the triangular patch in the Common Sailor.

The Short Banded Sailor is common and is quite widespread in its distribution. It occurs from urban areas to nature reserves. One of its caterpillar host plants is the roadside tree, Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus), whilst in mangrove areas, its preferred host plant is the Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus. This individual, photographed yesterday, was feeding on the ripened fruit of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) in the nature reserves.

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With the weather cooling down later in the week the incredible Long-tailed Blue bonanza could soon be over. Thanks to Nigel for finding a superb male near Eastbourne yesterday. When I arrived it had unfortunately vanished amongst the vegetation but with a long search I relocated it as it flew from under my feet and perched in a bush. This may be my last sighting this year of this fabulous little butterfly, although I may be tempted to have one more look in the next couple of days!! After all it could be many years before any more fly over.

With a really still night last night I put out the moth trap hoping for some rare migrant moths. This unfortunately didn't materialise but I did get some more common moths that were new to my trap.
Green-brindled Crescent.
This was a real beauty but not easy to capture the subtle colours on camera.

Figure of Eight

Blair's Shoulder-knot.

Greening of Eco-Link @ BKE

Greening of Eco-Link @ BKE
A Safe Passage for Wildlife

The completed Eco Link spanning across the BKE

Way back in 1986, when the roads engineers of the then Public Works Department designed the Bukit Timah Expressway (or BKE as we acronym-mad Singaporeans know it by), their emphasis was to create an efficient transport link from the Causeway to downtown Singapore. Back then, probably the most efficient route took the expressway right through the Central Catchment, splitting the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from the rest of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Elbowed Pierrot (Caleta elna elvira) one of the species observed 

Over the decades that passed, nature observers lamented the fragmentation of the two major high biodiversity nature areas by the BKE. Animals separated by the BKE remained on the two sides and were unable to cross the expressway without the risk of being killed by vehicles. The expressway became an insurmountable barrier.

Lesser Harlequin (Laxita thuisto thuisto)

In 2005, the nature community and the government authorities mooted the idea of a nature or green corridor to re-connect BTNR to the CCNR. After some debate and feasibility studies, the location selected for this biodiversity-bridge was confirmed. It took some time for the realisation of this Eco-Link as there were issues like design, budget, effectiveness and environmental impact of the link to be dealt with.

After further delays, the contract was finally awarded to local contractor Eng Lee Engineering for a contract sum of $11.8M. The Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Eco Link was held on 30 Jul 2011. Today, slightly over two years after work commenced on the Eco Link, I attended the Greening of the completed Eco Link.

Group Photo at the Tree Planting site (via Twitter by ©Debby Ng)

This was basically an event to celebrate the completion of the biodiversity link with a tree-planting ceremony involving the nature community. The event was graced by the Minister of State for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee.

The morning started with an imminent threat of another thunderstorm. The NEA weather radar showed a massive front coming in from Sumatra, and it had begun raining cats and dogs in parts of Singapore. However, the nature community, being a determined bunch, braved the prospects of planting trees in the heavy rain!

When I arrived at the meeting point, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a decent crowd had already made their way to the Dairy Farm area. The dark rain clouds were also beginning to clear up, and it looked like the event was a go!

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MOS Desmond Lee hard at work digging the tree hole

The guests were ferried to the Eco Link by coaches, and before long, the group made its way to the top of the Eco Link, led by MOS Desmond Lee. After the traditional group photo, everyone got busy with the tree planting. MOS was even game enough to plant more than one!

As everyone took in the sights around the Eco Link and the speeding vehicles on the BKE below, I could imagine that this "narrow" 50m wide link could indeed be a bridge across which animals can use to move safely between BTNR and CCNR.

I was also told that the Eco Link will not be opened to the general public and will be kept inaccessible so that the animals that may use it will not be disturbed by human presence. There was also concerns that poachers may also use it as a convenient means to capture their prey.

MOS Desmond Lee entertaining the crowd with his handling of the Oriental Whip Snake

Very soon, all the trees were planted, and the group made its way down to the exhibition area and our much-needed refreshments. As if on demand, a couple of snakes showed up and got the attention of the group, including our Guest of Honour. As it was still cool and cloudy, I didn't manage to spot any butterflies in the area.

As for ButterflyCircle's involvement, members had earlier conducted a pre-construction survey in April 2011 in the area. On that single day alone, a total of 54 species of butterflies were recorded. A few rarities like the Lesser Harlequin, Malay Tailed Judy, Indigo Flash were spotted. After the contractors vacate the site and the vegetation recovers on the Eco Link and the surrounding forests, another survey will be conducted to ascertain the butterfly count.

So there you have it, a biodiversity bridge over an expressway, just for nature. There were concerns that the Eco Link would not be effective or is too narrow for animals to want to use it. Will all this effort will be in vain? To me, it is a little effort that may go a long way in trying to bridge the fragmented nature reserves. These reserves are important in the sense that the forest-dependent butterfly species are dependent on the preservation of this habitat. Although the Eco Link itself may not be directly beneficial to butterflies, since they can easily fly across the BKE, the selection of plants and regeneration of habitats across the bridge may help butterfly populations to spread between the two nature reserves.

An exhibition showing the flora and fauna of the Nature Reserves

The Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves are the last remaining remnants of a once awesome primary forest that covered Singapore. These are certainly worth preserving as our natural heritage, and as a home to an amazing diverse spectrum of flora and fauna. The controversy that surrounds the construction of an underground MRT line cutting across the southern part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in the MacRitchie Reservoir area stems primarily from the critical need to protect this precious 'green heart' that is home to an awesome biodiversity. That debate is still ongoing, and it will be another story for another time on this blog.

Text & Photos by Khew SK : Group Photo courtesy of Debby Ng

References and Past Articles about the Eco Link

  • From WildSingapore :
  • From the Biology Refugia :
  • From SGLinks :
  • From IYB 2010 :

List of Butterflies observed during the pre-construction survey on 9 Apr 2011 :

1) Papilio polytes romulus (Common Mormon)
2) Graphium sarpedon luctatius (Common Bluebottle)
3) Chilasa clytia clytia (Common Mime) (caterpillar)
4) Euploea mulciber mulciber (Striped Blue Crow)
5) Leptosia nina malayana (Psyche)
6) Catopsilia pomona pomona (Lemon Emigrant)
7) Eulaceura osteria kumana (Purple Duke)
8) Eurema blanda snelleni (Three-Spot Grass Yellow)
9) Elymnias hypermnestra agina (Common Palmfly)
10) Elymnias panthera panthera (Tawny Palmfly)
11) Mycalesis mineus macromalayana (Dark Brand Bush Brown)
12) Mycalesis perseus cepheus (Dingy Bush Brown)
13) Mycalesis visala phamis (Long Brand Bush Brown)
14) Mycalesis fusca fusca (Malayan Bush Brown)
15) Orsotriaena medus cinerea (Nigger)
16) Ypthima baldus newboldi (Common Five Ring)
17) Ypthima pandocus corticaria (Common Three Ring)
18) Tanaecia iapis puseda (Horsfield's Baron)
19) Tanaecia pelea pelea (Malay Viscount)
20) Lebadea martha parkeri ( The Knight )
21) Moduza procris milonia (Commander)
22) Hypolimnas anomala anomala (Malayan Eggfly)
23) Athyma nefte subrata (Colour Sergeant)
24) Junonia hedonia ida (Chocolate Pansy)
25) Junonia almana javana (Peacock Pansy)
26) Lasippa tiga siaka (Malayan Lascar)
27) Phaedyma columella singa (Short Banded Sailor)
28) Abisara saturata kausambiodes (Malayan Plum Judy)
29) Abisara savitri savitri(Malay Tailed Judy)
30) Laxita thuisto thuisto ( Lesser Harlequin )
31) Logania marmorata damis (Pale Mottle)
32) Acytolepis puspa lambi (Common Hedge Blue)
33) Caleta elna elvira (Elbowed Pierrot)
34) Eooxylides tharis distanti (Branded Imperial)
35) Iraota rochana boswelliana (Scarce Silverstreak)
36) Surendra vivarna amisena (Acacia Blue)
37) Zizina otis lampa (Lesser Grass Blue)
38) Jamides celeno aelianus (Common Caerulean)
39) Prosotas dubiosa lumpura (Tailless Line Blue)
40) Arhopala centaurus nakula (Centaur Oakblue)
41) Arhopala major major
42) Anthene emolus goberus (Ciliate Blue)
43) Zeltus amasa maximinianus (Fluffy Tit)
44) Rapala varuna orseis (Indigo Flash)
45) Rapala pheretima sequeira (Copper Flash)
46) Hypolycaena erylus teatus (Common Tit)
47) Neopithecops zalmora zalmora ( The Quaker)
48) Pelopidas mathias mathias (Small Branded Swift)
49) Tagiades japetus atticus (Common Snow Flat)
50) Tagiades calligana (Malayan Snow Flat)
51) Hasora badra badra (Common Awl)
52) Iambrix salsala salsala (Chestnut Bob)
53) Potanthus omaha Omaha (Lesser Dart)
54) Taractrocera archias quinta (Yellow Grass Dart)