Best 10 Nature Images of 2016

At the end of the last 2 year, I enjoyed going through my photos and picking my favourite nature images.  It’s a fun exercise but I didn’t manage to do it on time this year. It is almost 3 months late!

While I still enjoyed macro photography, 2016 was my least active year since I took up this hobby in 2007!  With fewer shootings, it is normal that I don’t have many great photos. Only 10 images made the list this year!

#1 – Cousins of Hoppers

Grasshoppers and katydid are related and belong to the Order Orthoptera (meaning “straight wings”).  Although they were probably cousins, it was an unusual moment to find them resting happily on the same dewy perch.

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| F16, 1/4s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#2 – Change

It is not uncommon to see moulting of leaf-footed bug but this one stands out for the nice colour contrast which is really pleasing to the eyes.

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| F11, 1/40s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#3 – Complicated Relationship

This is not a fantastic photo but I like it because it is really rare to find three giant millipedes doing some kind of business together.  Were there mating or what?

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| F8, 1/25s, ISO 800, fill flash |

#4 – Sex competition

Mating leaf beetles at Zhenghua Forest is quite a common sight. On 16 April 2016, there were at least 10 pairs within a radius of one metre.  We were delighted to spot 2 pairs on the same perch.  It was a real challenge to get both couples in sharp focus. I am glad this image turns out well.

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| F16, 1/30s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#5 – In Love with Tawny Coster

Butterfly is one of the most difficult subjects to shoot as they do not stay at a position for more than a few seconds.  The best time to shoot them is when they are mating.  I was fortunate to get this beautiful pair with clean background.

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| F11, 1/20s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#6 – Mating Ladybirds

The strong sunlight at the back helps to bring out the details and lines of the leaf which makes this shot interesting.

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| F22, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#7 – Katydids Love Flowers

Two katydid nymphs enjoying their favorite breakfast.  A LED light was placed behind to get a backlighting effect.

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| F16, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash with backlighting |

#8 – Mushrooms Crossing

It was interesting to watch this caterpillar crossing from one mushroom to another. It can crawl pretty fast and I was surprised that it could hold its body in midair for a few seconds during the crossing as demonstrated in this photo.

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| F8, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#9 – Rob and Fly

Robber flies are also called assassin flies.  They are impressive predators that specialize in hunting almost all flying insects including this poor long-legged fly.  They have always been my favourite subjects but I have not shot them with prey for a fairly long time.  Glad to add this one in my collection.

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| F8, 1/15s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#10 – Luminuous Mushrooms

This a just an ordinary photo of a small cluster of luminuous mushrooms known as Mycena manipularis.   I have included here as it has been on my shooting wishlist since 2009!

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| F16, 30s, ISO 400, natural light |

That’s all folks!

Hutan Lipur Sungai Batang, Bekok – 23 April 2016

Bekok is a town located at the eastern side of the district of Segamat, Johor, Malaysia. It has a Recreation Rainforest known as Hutan Lipur Sungai Batang. It lies on the south western entrance to Taman Negara Endau Rompin, the second largest national park of West Malaysia. The locals go there to picnic and to dip into the cool fresh waters of the mountain stream.

Map of Bekok final

(Map leading to Bekok)

I joined Nature Photographic Society, Singapore on a macro photography outing here on 23 April 2016. This was my third trip to Bekok waterfalls. The meeting point was at the first Petron Petrol station after Tuas Second Link. 21 of us gathered at 6.45 am, drove to Kulai, Yon Lai Restaurant, for breakfast. Thereafter, we took the North-South Highway and exit at Yong Peng. Then moved north pass Chaah along Jalan Labis and arrived Bekok at 10.20 am, approximately 200 km of driving.

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(Breakfast at Kulai)

Before we commenced our photography, let us take group photo at the entrance of Bekok waterfalls.

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(Photo Credit : Tony Png)

There is a crystal clear stream near the entrance which was the main area for our macro photography.

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As in our previous outing, the Black-Spotted Rock frogs were plentiful mostly cling on rocks just above the swift flowing stream.

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(Black-spotted Rock frog)

When the frogs were in abundant, it was not difficult to spot 2 of them together.

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Frogs are photogenic subjects and it was no surprise to see our photographers trying to get the best angles.

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(Photographers in action)

We found a few Giant Asian Toads. They were huge and looked grouchy but still attracted many of us to photograph them.

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(Giant Asian Toad)

We spotted a few damselfly species. The most common one here should be Heliocypha perforata.  This is an elegant damselfly where the male as a distinctive blur markings on its thorax and abdomen.  The female, in comparison, is less colourful.

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(Heliocypha perforate, female)

One of the most interesting behaviours of this sun-loving species is when two males are involved in aerial territorial fight.  Getting both males sharp while they are fighting in mid-air are extremely difficult.

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Another gorgeous damselfly species is the common flashwing. It has metallic green colouration and  attractive clear wings that can sparkle with purplish iridescence when photographed at a correct angle with fill flash.

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(Common Flashwing, male)

Butterflies were not difficult to find too.

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(Lesser Darkwing)

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(Straight Pierrot)

There are many mini waterfalls, small in terms of height but not in terms of volume of water. Swift flowing stream making its way through numerous big and small boulders form the waterfall.

 

 

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We stopped for lunch at about 1 pm.  Most of us bought packet nasi lemak from Yon Lai Restaurant.

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After lunch, we walked through the forested path towards the upper stream where there are nicer refreshing waterfalls.

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Along the way, we spotted two lantern bugs. As they are very rare in Singapore, it was not surprising to see most of us taking turns to add this to our collection.

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(Lantern Bug)

At the upper stream, a small slender snake was spotted near the edge of the fast flowing water.  It should be a Haasi Bronzeback, a rare species of Dendrelaphis in Singapore.  It was extremely cooperative that didn’t move an inch for more than half an hour.  Here are two images, one taken with fill flash and the other with full flash.
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There are more waterfalls in the upper stream which were relatively taller and wider. Does it give you a sense of peacefulness and relaxation?

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We called it a day at about 4.30 pm. After washing up, the iMOG (Informal Macro Outing Group) leaders posed for a group photo.  This was their first overseas outing where all 7 leaders were present.

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(iMOG Leaders)

It was a tiring but rewarding trip. We headed back to Kulai for a well deserved yummy dinner!

Macro Photography Outings – August 2015

I visited only three macro sites in August namely, the Green Corridor, Kampong Chantek Nature Trail and Pasir Ris Park.

The Green Corridor is an uninterrupted stretch of greenery that runs the entire length of Singapore, from the old Tanjong Pagar Rail Station in the south to the border of Malaysia in the north!    We covered only a small part of the Green Corridor ie. starting from the Rail Mall and explored towards Bukit Timah Train Station.

The most prominent landmark at the Rail Mall area has to be the black railway truss bridge. Many Singaporeans come here during weekend for some photographs with the bridge.

(The black )

(The black railway truss bridge)

With greenery on both side of the path, this is an excellent trail for walking, cycling and at the same time serving as a wildlife corridor.

(Macro photographers in action)

(Macro photographers in action)

There were quite a number of wild flowers found at the site such as this pair of beautiful Lavender Sorrels (Oxalis barrelieri).

(Wild flowers)

(Lavender Sorrels in backlighting)

White Weed (Ageratum conyzoides) flowers are plentiful too, attracting many tiny Lesser Grass Blue butterflies to feed on them.

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

Kampong Chantek used to be a Malay village existed near the former Turf Club along Bukit Timah Road. It is now a nature trail where people, mainly from the nearby private residential area, would come here during weekend for a morning walk or hiking. The start of the trail is at the end of the long Jalan Kampong Chantek road in front of Murnane Service Reservior.

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

The first subject that greeted us was a bright green katydid. It stands out when shooting against a dark background with backlighting.

(Bright green katydid)

(Bright green katydid)

Just a metre away, there was another katydid, the most colourful one that I have seen so far.

(A colourful katydid)

(A colourful katydid)

I can’t help but to take a frontal shot of this beautiful katydid as well.  Unlike other common katydids, the eyes and legs are turquoise in colour.

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

Tree-stump spiders (Poltys illepidus) are not easily spotted during the day as they would remain motionless with the legs drawn tightly close to the body with just the eyes protruding between the legs. In this position they resemble part of a dead twig or a broken piece of wood hanging in the centre of a vertical web. I was fortunate to find one here, my first sighting of such a unique spider.

(Tree-stump spider)

(Tree-stump spider)

Kampong Chantek is a good site to find wild mushrooms during the wet days. There were hundreds of them sprouting almost everywhere when my friends visited the place a week before. Although most of them had dried out, we still managed to find a few interesting ones.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

(Close-up shot)

(Close-up shot)

Our star of the day got to be this group of yellow fungi that look a little like stalactites in cave! They were found underneath a fallen tree trunk which was quite a challenge to photograph. I had to lie very low on the ground only to take this record shot.

(Yellow fungi)

(Yellow fungi)

A visit to Pasir Ris Park on 29 August was a forgettable trip for me. It was windy and I couldn’t find any subjects interesting enough to photograph. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the good company of my regular macro kakis.

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

Hopefully, my macro outings in September would be more fruitful.

Macro Photography Outings – July 2015

The weather in July was still hot but it was a relieve to have occasional showers here and there.  I joined an intertidal outing in the east, visited a new macro site at Sultan Trail, explored Dairy Farm Nature Park twice and led a night cum day macro photography outing at Zhenghua Forest.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures during the intertidal outing on 4 July as the rain poured heavily earlier than expected.  Here is a candid shot of us in action.

(Intertidal outing on 4 July 2015)

(Photo Credit : Endy)

Sadly, this transparent shrimp living on a beautiful carpet anemone is the only presentable shot that I have from this outing.

(Shrime on seagrass)

(Shrime on Carpet Anemone)

The rain stopped at about 10 am and we decided to drop by Pasir Ris Park for a 2nd round macro shoot. We were fortunate to find a delicated parent of Olive-backed Sunbirds taking turns feeding their two chicks.

(Feeding at Pasir Ris Park)

(Olive-backed Sunbird feeding its babies at Pasir Ris Park)

A week later, we explored an abandoned mansion once belonging to a Sultan of Johor. It was hidden in the mass of vegetation between Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue. The mansion was built in the late 19th century and it was subsequently used as General’s headquarters and a military hospital. In 1942, about 700 medics and patients were killed by the bombing of the Japanese.

(The grand mansion in the background)

(The grand mansion in the background)

There were stories about the eerie mansion but with a big group of nature photographers, what was there to be afraid of.

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

Many spiders were spotted in this deserted place but I was most delighted when Teck Leong shared with me a tiny lynx spider having a brightly coloured red hopper as breakfast.

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

I had to leave early for work and here are a few images that I managed to photograph:

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

Citron Bug, scientifically known as Leptoglossus gonagra, is a member of the Leaf-footed bug family. I was fortunate to find an adult with two nymphs at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

(Citron bug nymphs)

(Citron bug nymphs)

They would use their strawlike beak to suck a plant’s internal juices. They seem to like feasting on wild bitter gourds.

(Adult & nymph)

(Adult & nymph)

Other subjects spotted include a planthopper and a relatively rare Grass Demon.

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

And it was nice to see a praying mantis covered with morning dew.

(A dewy praying mantis)

(A dewy praying mantis)

But I was most excited to witness a busy scene involving a female crab spider having a bee as breakfast, 2 male spiders fighting for the right to mate with the female, while many busybody flies wanted to have a share of the breakfast. Certainly quite a behaviour shot that is hard to duplicate, my favourite image taken this month.

(A busy scene)

(A busy scene)

July 18 was my turn to lead macro photography outing for Nature Photography Society of Singapore and I chose my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. A day before the outing, Allan, Sharon & I decided to meet earlier to do night macro. We invited those who signed for the day shoot to join us. Rajesh, Sia, Loh, Henry & Dion gamely took on the challenge. Eight of us met at the 24-hr Jin Shan (JSL) coffee shop at 3.30 am for some hot drinks before we commenced our night photography at 4.00 am.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

With the aid of a good UV LED touch light, we found more than 20 Lesser brown Scorpions! Most of them were lying motionlessly on tree trunks or dried leaves. We were lucky to find a mother having many young babies on its back.

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

Another interesting subject that caught our attention was a rare House Centipede (Thereuopoda longicornis). They are usually found in the forest in Singapore. They have a pair of long antennae, 15 pairs of very long legs, and are the only group of centipedes with large compound eyes. Looking at the way it ran from one place to another, they must be very fast hunters. Not an easy subject to photograph and I could only manage this record shot.

(A skittish house centipede)

(A skittish house centipede)

All of us were so busy shooting that we forgot about our originally plan was to stop the night macro by 6.30 am. Like small children, we played until forgot to eat! Suddenly it rained at 6.35 am. I like the way Loh’s put it: “The guy in heaven decided to sprinkled some waters to chase us to take breakfast”. So here we were back at JSL for a well deserved breakfast before we got ready for Part II’s day shoot.

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

As we entered the green vegetation of Zhenghua Forest, we found a lovely pair of orange leaf beetles enjoying their most intimate moment. We discovered later that there were more than 5 pairs doing the same thing around the vicinity! July could be a mating season for these adorable little creatures.

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

Not too far away, a pair of grasshoppers were also having a good time!

(Mating grasshoppers)

(Mating grasshoppers)

A good number of Leaf-footed bugs were sighted in the early morning with their exoskeletons next to them. They must had moulted only a short while ago.

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

At about 9.30 am when the sun was getting too hot, we moved into the forested area where we spotted a giant black scorpion crossing the walking path. This should be a Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus) measuring about 12 – 15 cm. It is uncommon in Singapore where it is restricted to the nature reserves. We were extremely lucky to see this one under the broad daylight!

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

There were a handful of wild mushrooms on the forest floor. Most were spotted on fallen logs but these 3 little ones were found on a dead leaf. A LED light was placed on top to give them a glowing effect.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These tiny ones are equally eye-catching.

(More wild mushrooms)

(Tiny wild mushrooms)

Here are some images showing our photographers in action to conclude this fruitful and fun outing!

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

Macro Photography Outings – June 2015

The month of June 2015 was very hot and dry which discouraged me to venture out for macro photography. I joined only two informal macro outings to Coastal Park Connector on 6 June and Windsor Green on 20 June led by my friends, Endy and Sharon respectively.

Coastal Park Connector is about 10 minutes walk from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. It was a beautiful sunny day with interesting clouds.

(Setting up our gears with nice clouds formation)

(Setting up our gears with nice clouds formation)

There were quite a number of Tawny Coster at the start of the trail. This butterfly species was first discovered in Singapore in September 2006. It was relatively easy to photograph them.

(Tawny Coster)

(Tawny Coster)

As we turned into the shaded walking path, there are ample greenery on both sides for us to explore.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

We found this cooperative uncommon spider which I do not know the ID. I had seen it before but only once at Chestnut Avenue.

(Uncommon spider)

(Uncommon spider)

There were many little craters made by the larvae of Antlions. These are greyish brown creatures with an oversized head, spiny jaws, short legs, and a soft body covered in bristles. Antlion, as its name suggests, preys primary on ants. They are the “lions” among ants, so to speak!

(Antlion)

(Antlion)

We spotted more than a dozen of these little insects staying close together. They look like some kinds of shield bug numphs which none of us have sighted before. Here are five of them.

(Unknown shield bug nymphs)

(Unknown shield bug nymphs)

A pair of Spirobolid millipedes was found having a good time on some leaf litters. The non-stop movement of their hundred pair of legs was a pleasure to watch.

(Mating Millipedes)

(Mating Millipedes)

Windsor Green is an open field located alongside Venus Loop. As there is no specific trail, we walked along the side of the forested area. It was another hot morning but, fortunately, the tall trees provided us some shades for a while. The peaceful blue sky and beautiful moving white clouds helped to brighten the day!

(Another beautiful day)

(Another beautiful day)

We did not find a lot of subjects to photograph. After walking about 500 metres we soon reached a man-made stream where we found many skittish common dragonflies. Here is where I found a tiny lynx spider hiding under a Fringed Spiderflower (Purple Cleome).

(Lynx spider)

(Lynx spider)

Timothy sighted a pretty orange caterpillar with spiky hairs and shared it with us to photograph. Accordingly to butterfly guru S K Khew, it probably belongs to the Moth Circle.

(An unknown caterpillar)

(An unknown caterpillar)

Thereafter, we cut across towards Venus Loop. We spotted a number of Treehugger dragonflies here but I was more interested to shoot wild mushrooms found on a large fallen dead log.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These mushrooms look close to Filoboletus manipularis.

(Wild mushrooms on a dead log)

(Wild mushrooms on a dead log)

I hope July 2015 would be a more fruitful month for macro photography.

Macro Photography Outings – April 2015

After almost two months of dry weather, the rains finally arrived in April 2015. I was pretty sure that I should be able to capture some insects with dew. The best place to try my luck was none other than Zhenghua Forest.

An adult katydid was spotted on a dew-filled leaf. It was drenched with water droplets, so heavy that it hardly moved!

(12 April 2015 - Zhenghua Forest)

(12 April 2015 – Zhenghua Forest)

Not too far away, a young praying mantis was sighted under a leaf.

(12 April 2015 - Zhenghua Forest)

(12 April 2015 – Zhenghua Forest)

It was not difficult to find leaf-footed bugs with dew too.

(Leaft-footed bug with dew)

(Leaft-footed bug with dew)

So were katydid and long-horned hopper nymphs:

(katydid & long-horned hopper nymphs)

(katydid & long-horned hopper nymphs)

Cool, wet weather also means plentiful of wild mushrooms. This is because mushrooms thrive on moisture and have a very fast growth rate. We found many different species of wild mushrooms and of different sizes at NTU Hiking Trail. It was not an easy task to choose the best one. Here is one of them with a little katydid nymph perching high up to balance the composition.

(NTK Hiking Trail - 18 April 2015)

(NTK Hiking Trail – 25 April 2015)

A week later at Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail where I led a macro outing there, my friend, Endy, spotted a big cluster of wild mushrooms. He is a fan of wild mushrooms and here is a photo of him composing for the best angle.

(Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail - 2 May 2015)

(Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail – 2 May 2015)

I love wild mushrooms too and therefore I wouldn’t want to miss this chance to take some shots.

(Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail - 2 May 2015)

(Chestnut Avenue Nature Trail – 2 May 2015)

There were a few rare and uncommon subjects spotted this month such as this beautiful Black & Scarlet Cicada, scientifically known as Huechys sanguinea.

Black & Scarlet Cicada (Huechys sanguinea)

Black & Scarlet Cicada (Huechys sanguinea)

It was spotted by Sharon at Zhenghua Forest on 18 April 2015. I read that this unique cicada species was previously sighted only at Pulau Ubin & Kent Ridge Park.

Another rare find was a red moth which looks very much like the common cotton stainer.

(Green Corridor)

(Green Corridor – 11 April 2015)

A very cooperative species allowing us to shoot from different angles.

(Shooting a rare red moth)

(Shooting the rare red moth)

Bronze Flutterer is an uncommon dragonfly and I have not seen it for more than 4 years! So I was delighted when Kyaw Htay spotted a male at NTU Hiking Trail. This is a sun-loving species that was not easy to get close. I only managed a few shots.

(Rhyothemis obsolescens)

(Rhyothemis obsolescens)

Leaf-Dwelling Daddy-Long-Leg is an uncommon spider that often hangs upside down in their webs. This was my first sighting of this unique species carrying egg-sacs. It has only six eyes where most spiders have eight!

(Zhenghua Forest - 12 April 2015)

(Zhenghua Forest – 12 April 2015)

An interesting find was a leaf beetle fell prey on a spider. A small LED light was placed behind to get a backlit effect highlighting the silk of the web. A friend commented that it gives an illusion that the beetle has 8 legs and preying on something. Do you see what he saw?

(Zhenghua Forest - 12 April 2015)

(Zhenghua Forest – 12 April 2015)

The rest that I photographed are more common in nature such as this triated Tylorida & a juvenile St. Andrew Cross Spider:

Spiders

A skipper, possibly a Lesser Dart:

(Zhenghua Forest - 12 April 2015)

(Zhenghua Forest – 12 April 2015)

A forest cricket:

(Zhenghua Forest - 12 April 2015)

(Zhenghua Forest – 12 April 2015)

A tiny ruit fly:

(Green Corridor - 11 April 2015)

(Green Corridor – 11 April 2015)

and finally, a conehead grasshopper to end this month’s fruitful outings.

(NTU Hiking Trail - 25 April 2015)

(NTU Hiking Trail – 25 April 2015)

21/2014 – Segar Nature Trail (18 October 2014)

I led an informal macro outing to Segar Nature Trail with 12 participants. I have been here so many times since 2008 and yet I turned in too early into a wrong road. The development at Segar was quite rapid especially the last 2 years where there are plenty of new HDB flats now.

Anyway, Arthur was already at the meeting point when Kyaw Htay and I arrived at 7.10 am. When most of the participants were here, dark clouds were seen moving towards our area. We feared that we might not be able to shoot today. We decided to try our luck at the greenery nearby so that we could run back to the shelter if it rained.

(Shooting near the meeting point)

(Shooting near the meeting point)

We found quite a no. of grasshopper species but I chose to photograph this one on a nice perch.

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It did rain for a short while but the dark clouds were quickly gone. Yes, we were going to have a bright sunny day! We moved further into the trail and soon we were shooting under the KJE Expressway.

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Subjects were not as plentiful when compared to our last outing here but we can still find praying mantises, leaf beetles, changeable lizard, butterflies, leaf-footed bugs, etc. Here is a pair of mating leaf beetles on a thin blade of grass. It was fairly windy and therefore I used full flash to get this record shot.

(A pair of mating leaf beetles in dark backgroung)

(A pair of mating leaf beetles in dark backgroung)

I waited for the wind to die down to get this photo in normal ambient lighting.

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A striking orange skipper was spotted sun-tanning on the grassy ground. With its wings half opened, I am not sure about its ID. My guess is that it should be a Large Dart (Potanthus serina).

(A Large Dart skipper?)

(A Large Dart skipper?)

Let us take a look at some of the photographers in action.

members in action

We took a break at 10.30 am. Endy, as usual, brought along biscuits and shared them with us.

(Let's have a break, let's have biscuits!)

(Let’s have a break, let’s have biscuits!)

Here is a katydid cleaning its feelers under the hot morning sun. My favourite shot that made my day from this outing!

(My favourite shot - Katydid)

(My favourite shot – Katydid)

We stopped shooting at 11.00 am and went to the nearby coffee shop for lunch and chit-chat.