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!

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!

Creature of the Month – Robber Fly

Robber flies belong to the Asilidae family within the order Diptera. Like all true flies, robber flies have only 2 wings.  They also have a distinctive hollow space between their 2 large compound eyes which distinguishes them from most other kinds of flies.  They are powerfully built with stout, spiny legs and a dense moustache of stiff bristles on the face.

(A common robber fly)

(A common robber fly)

Robber flies are particularly abundant in sunny, dry habitats. They are generally found in forested areas such as Venus Drive, Lornie Trail, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, etc. According to the Book “Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development”, at least 17 species have been recorded in Singapore.

(Female & Male of another common robber fly species)

(Female & Male of another common robber fly species)

Over the years, I have seen and photographed a few robber fly species but, sadly, despite my effort searching over the internet, I am unable to identify the species names of these aerial stunt flyers. Here are some not so commonly found species.

(Uncommon robber fly species)

(Uncommon robber fly species)

The most attractive robber fly species in Singapore, in my opinion, is the Ommatius sp. As far as I know, there are only 2 persons who have photographed this rare robber fly in Singapore. My friends, Rey Aguila shot one at Pulau Ubin in 2007 and Allan Lee captured it at Venus Drive last week. I had only seen it once in Malaysia at Endau Rompin State Park. It was very skittish and flew off after I took a few shots.

(A rare robberfly)

(A rare robberfly)

The name “robber flies” reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits where they attack in flight and feed on mostly on other flying insects such as wasps, bees, moths, beetles, plant hoppers, grasshoppers, dragonflies, etc.

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(A robber fly having breakfast)

Robber flies wait patiently on branches or logs and rush out to attack when suitable prey flies by. They use its bristly legs to intercept the prey by grasping it around the head or back. They then make use of its strong proboscis to inject the victim with saliva containing digestive enzymes that paralyze the victim and liquify the insides. The robberfly then suck the juicy meal through its proboscis. These images below show how good they are in catching a wide variety of preys.

(Robber flies with various preys)

(Robber flies with various preys)

Although robber flies are one of the most formidable predators in the insect world, they are sometimes prey for other larger creatures such as birds, spiders, assassin bugs, praying mantids, and even other bigger robber flies as shown below:

(Robber fly eating robber fly!)

(Robber fly eating robber fly!)

Some people may be interested to know whether robber flies bite human?  Under normal circumstances they don’t unless by accident or if provoked.  I have seen many robber flies in the wild but have never been bitten before.

Robber flies exhibit minimal courtship behavior. Instead, the male pounces on the female much like an act of prey acquisition. Copulation is accomplished in a tail-to-tail fashion with the male and female genetalia interlocked.  Flight is not completely inhibited during mating. Similar to dragonflies, the duo has no trouble flying around in this condition ie. the male generally towing the female backwards.

(Robber flies in love!)

(Robber flies in love!)

Robber flies mating are rather difficult to find.  I was therefore very excited to spot a pair at Zhenghua forest last year but they flew off and disappeared before I could position my tripod. About an hour later, I found this pair about 10 metres away from where I sighted the earlier ones. Could these be the same pair? If yes, then robberflies mate for a long period!  I shifted my tripod a little and it surprisingly produced two different backgrounds as follow:

(Same mating pair of robber flies but with different backgrounds)

(Same mating pair of robber flies but with different backgrounds)

From my searching of information on robber fly, I have the feeling that it is not well studied in Singapore or in South East Asia. But there are lots of information in the web written from other parts of the world.

References:
Singapore Biodiversity – An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development
Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia