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!

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Macro Outings : July to December 2016

Due to work and family commitments, I was less active in macro photography in the 2nd half of 2016.  Although I visited a few macro sites during this period, I just couldn’t find the time to write about it until today.  Here are some highlights:

Gaharu Forest (2 July 2016)

It is a narrow nature trail that will lead all the way to Bukit Timah Visitor Centre.  This place is popular with trekkers, cyclists and nature lovers especially during weekends.

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(Mating Ladybirds)

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(Unity is Strength!)

Zhenghua Forest (13 August 2016)

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(Moulting Leaf-footed bug)

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(Leaf-footed bug nymph)

During Loop (13 September 2016)

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(Beetle & Mushrooms)

Segar Nature Trail (17 September 2016)

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(Katydid nymph & flowers)

Bekok Recreation Foresst, Malaysia (27 August 2016)

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(Mating Robberflies)

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(Black Spotted Rock Frogs)

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(Heliocypha perforate, females)

Panti Recreation Forest, Malaysia (24 September 2016)

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(Robberfly with prey)

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(Robberfly with prey)

Holland Woods (8 October 2016)

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(Lynx Spider vs Leaf Hopper)

 

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(Lynx Spider vs Leaf Hopper)

Venus Drive (5 November 2016)

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(Luminous Mushrooms, Mycena manipularis)

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(Luminous Mushrooms)

Old Ford Factory (26 November 2016)

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(Spider with prey)

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(Mushrooms Crossing)

That’s all folks!  Looking forward to a fruitful year in 2017!

Lentor Streams

Lentor Forest is a secondary forest located around the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Lentor Drive. It has two rare freshwater streams and houses endangered mammals such as the Sunda Pangolin, Banded-Leaf Monkey and Sunda Slow Loris.

Sadly, it was reported in the news that Lentor Forest is slated to be cleared to make ways for private homes.  Construction works will commence in 3rd quarter of this year.

Here is a video of my visit to this beautiful piece of nature before it is gone forever.

Macro Photography Outings – December 2015

December was probably the wettest month this year where it rained almost everyday. Fortunately, it rained mostly in the afternoon or at night allowing me to do my usual macro photography in the morning. I visited Zhenghua Forest, Chestnut Nature Trail, a night macro at Kampong Chantek Nature Trail and joined an intertidal outing at Loyang Beach.

On 13 December, it was raining the night before and continued until the next morning at 7 am. From my past experience, insects were not as plentiful on a wet day but, to our pleasant surprise, there were lots of wildlife activities at Zhenghua Forest. We spotted at least five lynx spiders having winged ants as breakfast.

(131215 - Zhenghua Forest)

(131215 – Zhenghua Forest)

Another winged ant was found trapped on a spider web. A common assassin bug came along to steal the breakfast while the spider was away.

(131215 - Zhenghua Forest)

(131215 – Zhenghua Forest)

Lynx spiders are one of the most formidable predators in the insect world but unexpectedly, they are no match for this worm-liked creature where it produced a gooey chemical substance to paralyse the prey. I witnessed two such attacks within a week. The other prey was a pitiful grasshopper. This worm is sensitive where it would release its prey and move away when disturbed.

(Worms predating on  lynx spider & hopper)

(Worms predating on lynx spider & hopper)

Grasshoppers were such easy preys as they became the food for a St. Andrew Cross spider & a huge praying mantis.

(Grasshoppers were easy preys)

(Grasshoppers were easy preys)

Praying mantis eats their prey alive. They usually start chewing from its prey’s head and slowly consuming the rest of the body.

(An unfortunate grasshopper)

(An unfortunate grasshopper)

Not surprisingly, there were plentiful of wild mushrooms here. This should be Marasmiellus candidus where they were found on the ground either growing on dead twig or leave. They are known by its small size, widely spaced gills and white colour.

(171215 - Zhenghua Forest)

(171215 – Zhenghua Forest)

My favourite was this pretty group of mushrooms gorgeously arranged with beautiful detail and light.

(Marasmiellus candidus)

(Marasmiellus candidus)

I am not a night macro shooter but when my friend suggested that we explore Kampong Chantek Nature Trail to look for wild mushrooms that glow in the night, I readily agreed! We were not disappointed even though we found only two individual Bioluminescent mushrooms. This was my first sighting of such a beautiful Mycena sp.

glowing mushroom

(19122015 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

Another delightful find was a huge Malaysian Orange Huntsman spider known as Thelcticopis modesta. First time seeing this beautiful hairy species too.

Hairy spider

(19122015 – Malaysian Orange Huntsman Spider)

We also found a frog nearby. I am not too sure about its identification but it looks like a juvenile Malayan Giant frog, about 6 cm in length. An adult of this species could grow into a 17.5 cm giant frog!

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(19122015 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

The last time I visited Loyang Beach was 18 months ago. It was an excellent place to shoot Orange Fiddle Crabs as there were easily thousands of them. Here is a video that I made in June 2013.

It was a beautiful late afternoon on Christmas Day. Most people wear beautifully to attend Christmas parties but 15 crazy photographers chose to get themselves dirty at Loyang Beach!

(Photo Credit : Allan Lee)

(Photo Credit : Allan Lee)

There were not as many fiddle crabs and tougher to shoot this time round. I could only capture some record shots.

(25122015 - Loyang Beach)

(25122015 – Loyang Beach)

Sand Bubble crabs are comparatively more cooperative.

(25122015 - Sand Bubble Crab)

(25122015 – Sand Bubble Crab)

Many seastars were sighted and the most unique one has to be the Spiny Seastar where the tip of its 5 arms are orange in colour.

(Common Seastars vs Spiny Seastar)

(Common Seastars vs Spiny Seastar)

A visit to Chestnut Nature Trail on 27 December marked my last macro photography shoot in 2015. Here are some decent shots from this outing.

(27122015 - Chestnut Nature Trail)

(27122015 – Chestnut Nature Trail)

2015 has been a good year for me, photographically speaking. I shall go through my best nature photos captured in the last 12 month in the next few days to pick my favourite twelve. So stay tuned!

Macro Photography Outings – November 2015

The haze season was finally over!  There were more rain showers in November which was good to hunt for fungi and wild mushrooms.  I found many of them at Zhenghua Forest, Kampong Chantek Nature Trail, Venus Drive and Sembawang Forest, a new macro site introduced to us by Endy.

These orange mushrooms appear to glow when a LED light was placed behind them.  My first sighting of such unique species found on a rotten tree trunk at Venus Drive.

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(221115 – Venus Drive)

Another group of rare fungi was found at Kampong Chantek Nature Trail. It has a very thin stalk with a tiny cap of about 2 mm.

(221115 - Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(221115 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

A cluster of small mushrooms was also spotted here.

(221115 - Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(221115 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

On November 28, Endy led us to a forested area near Sembawang. It is believed to be the last greenery from the early Malay settlement. We found quite a number of mushroom species at Sembawang Park, our meeting point.

(Kyaw Htay in action)

(Kyaw Htay in action)

This cluster looks gorgeous against the morning light.

(281115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

These two sets of mushrooms looks interesting too. Are they of the same species?

(281115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

From here, we walked about 200 metres cutting across some private residential houses to arrive at our new macro site.

(Our new macro site)

(Our new macro site)

Subjects spotted include various species of spiders, grasshoppers, katydids, changeable lizards, frog, mangrove crabs, dragonflies, moth, caterpillar, etc. My favourite image from this trip is a spider resting on a branch of backlit leaves.

(221115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

Although I have been to Zhenghua Forest many times in the past 2 years, it never fails to excite me. There are always surprises and new discoveries. Here is a common leaf beetles sandwiched between two dewdrops.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

Two months ago, I spotted for the first time, 15 leaf-footed baby bugs with their newly hatched egg shells nearby. This time there was only a lone baby next to 1 hatched and 7 un-hatched eggs. Now I know that freshly born babies are red in colour. They will change to black within an hour or so.

(301115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(301115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is a big group of 14 babies that were already turned into black colour and abandoned their egg shells.

(151115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(151115 – Zhenghua Forest)

I mentioned in my earlier posts that leaf-footed bugs often vary in coloration between their 5 moults. Based on my observation, the colour of freshly moulted individual tends to have a mixture of purplish orange during their earlier moults but more towards pink when they moult in the later stage as shown in this image.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

Zhenghua Forest is also a good location to find mushrooms. This should be a Mycenoporella species.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is a large cluster of tiny mushrooms about 3 mm in size growing on a dead twig. Not sure about this species but their gills are beautiful when examined up close.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

One of my wish list is to get a shot of 2 pairs of mating leaf beetles in a single frame which is not impossible as it is common to find a few pairs in the early morning at Zhenghua Forest. I have no luck so far but this image of two mating species upon the same perch is something beyond my imagination. I first spotted the mating beetles but they flew off when I tried to get too close. It was a blessing in disguise as they landed on a leaf where a pair of grasshoppers were also having a private affair, some 3 metres away. The grasshoppers didn’t bother by the intrusion, it was the beetle pair that was a little uncomfortable where they moved and paused along the perch and sometimes moving under it. I was fortunate to get some decent shots before the beetles flew away again.

(301115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(301115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is certainly a superb moment of insect shot to end another fruitful month of macro photography!

Macro Photography Outings – October 2015

The hazy condition persisted in October but there were more days with good quality air particularly towards the end of the month. I was able to venture out once a week visiting 4 different macro sites.

On 4 October, I dropped by Kampong Chantek Nature Trail.  This was my 2nd visit since 22 August 2015.  Possibly due to the prolonged unhealthy air condition, I couldn’t find any interesting bugs and insects. However, I had no complaints as I found some really appetising wild mushrooms!  Here are 2 mushrooms which looked ordinary from the our naked eyes but when a small LED light was placed behind it, the lighting created a nice contrast, brought out the details and enhanced how delicate these mushrooms are.  Nian Huei commented that it reminds him of a parasol!

(Backlit Wild Mushrooms)

(041015 – Backlit Wild Mushrooms)

As I moved further into the forest, a bigger cluster was spotted on a dead log.

(A cluster of mushrooms)

(041015 – A cluster of mushrooms)

This was a similar cluster nearby and I prefer this bottom up view revealing the beautiful underside of these mushrooms.

(Bottom up view)

(041015 – Bottom up view)

Whenever my friends are not available to join me and I have to shoot alone, I choose to visit Zhenghua Forest as it is not far from my house and it is relatively safer to photograph here. It is also an excellent site to take insects with water droplets such as this adult katydid and a nymph sharing a dewy perch.

(24 Oct 2015 - Katydid, adult & nymph)

(251015 – Katydid, adult & nymph)

Two bigger dew drops with a young katydid caught my attention and I decided to do a close-up shot.

(A dewy katydid nymph)

(111015 – A dewy katydid nymph)

It was a great day to show affection to your love ones as exhibited by these brightly coloured cotton stainer bugs.

(241015 - Mating cotton stainer bugs)

(251015 – Mating cotton stainer bugs)

How about offering your partner a lovely flower that she could not refuse.

(241015 - Mating grasshoppers)

(251015 – Mating grasshoppers)

Leaf-footed bugs go through five moults before becoming an adult. They are most vulnerable during the actual moulting which usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. This was my first time witnessing a failed moulting disrupted by a predator, the lynx spider. An unusual moment of natural history.

(251015 - Failed moulting)

(251015 – Failed moulting)

On 17 October, Endy brought us to a new macro site at Kent Ridge Park. The main shooting ground was around a pond where different plants grow along the edge.

(171015 - A pond at Kent Ridge Park)

(171015 – A pond at Kent Ridge Park)

Dragonflies and damselflies are aquatic insects and naturally there were lots of them here.

(Female Common Parasol & Immature Variable Wisp)

(171015 – Female Common Parasol & Immature Female Variable Wisp)

Spiders were plentiful too such as this multi-coloured St. Andrew’s Cross Spider having a leaf hopper as breakfast.

(Multi-coloured St. Andrew's Cross Spider)

(171015 – Multi-coloured St. Andrew’s Cross Spider)

But I was most happy when someone spotted a shield bug. This was an adult Pycanum rubens of about 3 cm long.

(An adult shield bug)

(171015 – An adult shield bug)

It was really great to find two beautiful red nymphs on a young Simpoh air, their host plant, as I had not seen them since November 2011!

(Red shield bug nymps)

(171015 – Red shield bug nymphs)

On 31 October, it was my turn to lead a macro photography outing on behalf of Nature Photographic Society, Singapore. Click HERE to read the trip report.

In summary, it was another fruitful month of macro photography.

Macro Photography Outings – September 2015

The annual haze crisis created by illegal agricultural fires due to slash-and-burn practices in Indonesia, has adversely affected the lives of Singaporean since 8 September where it crossed the unhealthy air quality of above 100 PSI.  On 24 September, PSI was at a hazardous level of 361.  The general advice to the public is to reduce all kinds of outdoor activities including photography.  I visited only Chestnut Nature Trail & Zhenghua Forest when PSI was dropped to a moderate level of below 100.

On 12 September, I led an macro photography outing of 12 participants to Chestnut Nature Trail. About 20 metres into the trail, there was a dead tree log with some wild mushrooms growing on it.   These same mushrooms were already spotted a week ago when I was here to recce this site.  Wild mushrooms usually rot within days but this batch certainly lived longer than expected.  Could you spot an insect in one of the mushrooms?

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

Chestnut Nature Trail is a popular place for cyclists too. We often heard them shouting “bike! bike!” as they rode pass us. Quite dangerous if we were to shoot along this shared walking / cycling path. Hence, we chose to shoot at a green vegetation some 250 metres from the meeting point.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

We spent the earlier part of the morning on the right hand side of the vegetation where there were a few variety of wild flowers and fruits attracting many common bugs and insects.

site action

The first subject that caught my attention was a female Nannophya pygmaea. This gorgeous dragonfly is the smallest species in Singapore of approximately 15mm long and a wingspan of only about 20mm.

(female

(Pygmy dragonfly,female)

We spotted many katydids and its nymph of various sizes and colours. These two are relatively fatter of about 30 mm long.

(Two fatter katydids)

(Two fatter katydids)

Giant Asian Mantises (Hierodula) were quite easy to find too.

(Giant Praying Mantis)

(Giant Praying Mantis)

When it was getting hotter at about 9.30 am, we moved on to the left side of the nature trail where tall trees provided some shades for us.

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Lying lowly on the shrubby vegetation was a big-belly St. Andrew’s Cross spider. These spiders get their name for the way their hold their eight legs in pairs to form an X shape. Besides their standard orb-web, they build additional white opaque zig zag lines on their webs, called stabilimentum. The zigzag lines of their webs match their leg positions, which lead some people to suggest that this helps give the appearance of longer legs.

St Andrew Cross Spider

Not too far away, there was a tiny crab spider quietly enjoying an ant as breakfast.

(Crab spider vs ant)

(Crab spider vs ant)

Other subjects spotted include a pair of mating leaf beetles, brown grasshopper, damselfly, metallic green tiger beetle, etc.

(Brown grasshopper, leaf beetles, damselfly, tiger beetle)

(Brown grasshopper, leaf beetles, damselfly, tiger beetle)

A week later, I visited my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. The stars of the trip had to be the leaf-footed bugs.  Adults lay barrel-shaped eggs in a single row along the underside of leave. The nymphs that hatch bear a passing resemblance to the adults.

(Newly-hatched leaf-footed bugs)

(Newly-hatched leaf-footed bugs)

It is not uncommon to see a group of leaf-footed baby bugs but this was my first time seeing them with their newly hatched egg shells nearby. A lovely sight where, if you look carefully, they formed an interesting pyramid shape.

I found a smaller group of 8 leaf-footed bugs earlier but with a bigger brother nearby giving a false impression that it was babies sitting its younger siblings.

(The babies-sitter)

(The babies-sitter)

Leaf-footed bugs go through five moults resulting in five instars before becoming an adult.  The nymphs moult as they grow, looking more like an adult each time.   They often vary in coloration between moults.  Below is a freshly moulted individual where it has an attractive mixture of purplish orange in colour.  My guess is that it is into its 2nd instar stage.

(A fleshly moulted bug)

(A fleshly moulted bug)

There was another moulted bug but looks likely to be in the final stage where its colour was already darken.

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With that, I end my report and look forward to more outings in October 2015.