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!

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.

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(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!

Creature of the Month – Leaf-footed Bug

Leaf-footed bugs are members of the order, Hemiptera, and in the true bug family, Coreidae.  Leaf-footed bugs get their name from the leaf-like shape of the hind legs.

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(Leaf-like hind leg)

There are probably fewer than 5 leaf-footed bug species in Singapore.  The most commonly encountered species has a tiny head relative to its narrow brown body with pale markings across the wings.  They can grow up to 3 cm long.

(A typical leaf-footed bug)

(A typical leaf-footed bug)

Leaf-footed bugs are primarily plant-feeding insects by sucking the juice from the leaves, seeds, fruits, etc.  When it matures, the male will look for a female to mate.

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(Mating of Leaf-footed bugs)

After mating, the female usually deposits up to 20 eggs and are laid end-to-end in a single low along a stem or on a leave.  When first laid, the 1.2 mm barrel-shaped eggs are dark brownish in colour. The eggs hatch after about 5-7 days.  The freshly born babies are less than 10 mm and red in colour.

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They will change into black colour within a hour or so.

IMG_4438They will soon abandon their eggshells and start feeding.  When they are small and weak at this stage, they often stay close together to scare away any potential predator.  Sometimes, as a cluster which makes them look bigger:

 

(Together as a cluster)

(Together as a cluster)

Sometimes, in a straight line that makes them look longer:

(Stay together in straight line)

(Together in straight line)

When the juveniles grow and become bigger in size, they will move on and feed in smaller group.  Here is a gang of four:

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(Four Siblings)

Here is a group of three:

Modified by CombineZP

(Three Siblings)

And a twin:

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(Twin)

There are five nymph stages called instars and every leaf-footed bug has to go through five moults before becoming an adult.   The nymphs moult as they grow, looking more like an adult each time.  They often  vary in coloration between their 5 moults.  Based on my observation, the colour of the freshly moulted individual tends to be a mixture of yellow and orange during the earlier stage of moulting.  This following moulting image is most likely into its 2nd instar stage.

LFB Moulting

(Earlier stage of moulting)

However, the colour is more towards pink in the later stage of the moulting:

Moulting

(Later stage of moulting)

Regardless of which moulting stage they are in, the freshly moulted individual will change colour from their brightly yellow or pink to somewhat purplish in colour and eventually into a darker tone of grey within a hour or two.

(Changing of colours after moulting)

(Changing of colours after moulting)

The moulting process is not always successful.  In fact, leaf-footed bugs are most vulnerable during their actual moulting which usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.  Here is a failed moulting disrupted by a predator, the lynx spider.

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(A failed mouting)

It takes approximately 4 to 5 weeks between hatching and adult emergence.  Thereafter, adults mate and the life cycle of leaf-footed bugs continues.