Zhenghua Forest – 16 September 2017

Here is the trip report of an informal macro photography outing that I led on 16 Sep 2017.



The Wild Side of Singapore (2017)

I have not been actively shooting for the past 2 years. This video was produced in 2015 with some slight changes to the footages. Resharing this as it is my favourite out of the 4 wildlife videos that I made so far. Please turn on the volume to fully appreciate this short video.

Macro Outing : 2nd Quarter of 2016

I visited many places during the 2nd quarter of 2016 including my favourite hunting grounds at Zhenghua Forest, Rifle Range Nature Trail, Jurong Wood and Venus Drive.  There were 3 interesting new macro sites discovered by my friend Endy namely, East Wood II, Gardenia Forest and Gaharu Forest.

On 16 April, I led a macro outing to Zhenghua forest. We was upset to see that part of the areas was under construction. I have taken some of the best pictures here and so, I am afraid that this piece of precious greenery might be completely destroyed in the near future.

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(Construction at Zhenghua Forest)

Despite the super hot weather in the past weeks, we were lucky to find insects covered with morning dew such as this Leaf-footed bug nymph.


(Leaf-footed bug nymphs, Zhenghua Forest, 16 April 2016)

There were many adorable orange leaf beetles. We saw a group of more than 10 within a radius of one metre. We were particularly delighted when we spotted two mating pairs on a same leaf. We took turns to shoot but it was not easy to get both couples in focus.


At Rifle Range Nature Trail, a metallic blue robber fly sit quietly on a leaf.  My previous encounters with this species was that they were rather skittish in nature.  Hence, I was pleasantly surprised that this individual allowed me to get close and to take some decent shots.

A large cluster of wild mushrooms was spotted not too far away.  They should belong to Mycenoporella sp.


(Wild mushrooms, Rifle Range Nature Trail, 18 April 2016)

Here is a close-up shot showing the details of the underside pores.

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It has been more than a year since I last visited Jurong Wood.  It is a good place to find crab spiders with preys. This time, we found two crab spiders enjoying a delicious grasshopper and housefly as breakfast.

There were many butterflies here but they were too skittish to photograph.  Robber fly, skipper, praying mantis, red hopper nymph and dragonfly were much easier to shoot.

Eastwood II is new a site near Upper East Coast Road.  The catch of the day was this lovely pair of Tawny Costers.

Another interesting shot from this outing is two ants with some white subjects.  Were these Aphids?  I read that Aphids are sucking insects that feed on the sap of plants and secrete a substance called honeydew.  This sticky resin is a favorite food of ants, who actually “milk” the aphids for it by stroking their abdomen. The relationship between aphids and ants is symbiotic in that both receive some benefits from the arrangement


(Ants & Aphids, Eastwood II, 30 April 2016)

Gaharu Forest is another new macro site situated somewhere along Rifle Range Road.  It is 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.


(Beautiful sunrays at Gaharu Forest)


We found many different species of spiders with preys including two big-jawed spiders known as Leucoge decoratus and Striated tylorida, both having winged ants as breakfast.

Another winged ant became a victim for lynx spider.  They seemed to an easy meal for spiders.


(Lynx spider with prey, Gaharu Forest, 15 May 2016)

We had two night macro shoots and our target was to find luminous mushroom.  We found only a cluster of four at Gardenia Forest.


(Luminous mushrooms, Gardenia Forest, 1 May 2016)

There were more luminous mushrooms scattered at Venus Drive but mostly were only one or two individuals.

We were glad to find two cute little frog at Gardenia Forest namely Black-eyed Litter frog and Masked Rough-sided frog, my first sighting of these beautiful amphibians.

Scorpions were easily spotted at Gardenia Forest.

Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line?

It has been about 3 years since Land Transport Authority (LTA) first announced its plan to construct the Cross Island Line.   On 3 July 2014, it appointed Environmental Resources Management (S) Pte Ltd to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the section of the line around and though the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, targeted to complete this year.  Before LTA makes the announcement on the study of the EIA, I hope they would read this article that I wrote sometime ago on my dragonfly blog which I am reproducing here:

“In January 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced the plan of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) which would begin from Changi, passing through Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast, and terminate at Jurong Industrial Estate targets to be completed by around 2030.

Cross Island Line 2

I did not pay attention to this news until last week when a friend shared a link regarding a petition to save Singapore’s Forest Reserves initiated by Teresa Teo Guttensohn.  There was also an article on The Straits Time and TodayOnline dated 19 July 2013 where it mentioned that the Nature Society (Singapore) has opposed the future CRL and has proposed an alternative route that cuts southwards via Lornie Road around the reserve.

As a nature lover who enjoys photographing insects and bugs in forested areas, I am concerned after reading the impact of CRL on Singapore’s rich biodiversity as it would cut through the southern portion of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between Upper and Lower Peirce and MacRitchie Reservoirs. As an ordinary individual, one of the little things that we could do is help to highlight what would potentially be destroyed by the construction of CRL. In this regard, Ivan Kwan has done a superb job in his The Lazy Lizard’s Tales Blog where he pointed out that many of our threatened and endangered native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects, etc., live in these forests and any form of large-scale disturbance is likely to have adverse impacts on them. I am glad he included the uncommon Forktail dragonfly taken by me although I would have preferred him to mention Triangled Small Percher instead as it is classified in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008 as a critically endangered species which lives only in Upper Peirce forest. Since no damselflies were mentioned, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that there is possibility that Singapore’s most beautiful damselflies that happen to live in the affected areas could be extinct due to the construction of CRL.

CRL final

I am referring to the Libellago which is the most unique damselfly genus in Singapore with its wings distinctly longer than the body. They are rare, attractive and require pristine habitat. I have rated them as the most beautiful damselfly species in Singapore! We used to have 4 Libellago species in Singapore checklist but unfortunately, one of them known as Libellago stigamtizans (Orange-faced Gem), is already extinct here. The following image of a L. stigmatizans in flight was photographed in Malaysia.


(Libellago Stigamtizans taken at Panti Forest, Johor, Malaysia)

The remaining 3 Libellago species can still be found locally. They are Libellago lineata (Golden Gem), Libellago aurantiaca (Fiery Gem) & Libellago Hyalina (Clearwing Gem) and we should protect these Gems to the best of our ability.

Libellago lineata has a relatively higher chance of survival as it can be found at two locations, one at a protected area in Mandai forest not accessible by the general public, and the other one at Lower Peirce Reservior.

Lineata male and female

(Libellago lineata, male & female)

The behaviour of the Libellago genus is fascinating too. One of my most satisfying damselfly works is a series of images showing the unique and complete behaviours (ie. territory fight, mating,  egg-laying process, male guarding the egg-laying female) of Libellago lineata all taken at the edge of Lower Peirce Reservior.

Libellago lineata behaviour

(Libellago lineata engaged in behaviours such as fighting, mating, egg-laying, etc.)

Libellago aurantiaca has been recorded in Upper Peirce forest and Lower Peirce Reservior but both areas would be affected by the CRL. They are usually found in swift clear streams, typically with a sandy bottom and perch just above water as shown in the image below. I particularly like the male which is striking beautiful dressed in vibrant colour of red and yellow.

L aurantiaca

(Libellago aurantiaca, Male)

All the females of Libellago genus are less attractive with duller colours and L. aurantiaca is no exception. When both are displayed side-by-side, it is not difficult to tell which gender is more eye-catching.

Libellago aurantiaca

(Libellago aurantiaca, male vs female)

Mating of any damselflies is a joy to watch, not to mention this cute and gorgeous gem in a wheel or love shape formation.

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(Libellago aurantiaca, mating)

The most vulnerable of them all has to be the Libellago hyalina simply because their only home is at Upper Peirce forest. This is a precious species as it shows a great deal of colour variations, both in the female & male. The females have 3 different colours form and I like the one with a “tiger-skin” abdomen the best.


(Libellago hyaline, female)

The other two females have duller colours and therefore slightly less attractive.

hyalina females

(Libellago hyaline, females)

The males have 3 colours form too with the bluish grey abdomen being the least good looking.


The metallic blue male is more handsome.


(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

But I like the glowing purple abdomen male the best.


(Libellago hyalina, glowing purple male)

With a total of 6 colours, surely it must be the most colours form damselfly species in Singapore! While doing a search of this species over the internet, I have found images of female L. hyalina from other countries that look similar to ours. However, the colours of the males are  different from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia & Cambodia.  In other words, the 3 colours form of the male Libellago hyalina above could be uniquely Singapore that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth!  This makes it all the more valuable and should be protected at all costs!  In the event that  the CRL has to proceed  to meet the infrastructure development needs of Singaporeans, LTA should find ways to guarantee zero disturbance to our nature reserves and ensure the survival of at least the critically endangered species.”

Hyalina front view

(Hyalina, front view)

1. A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore
2. Two New Rail Lines and Three New Extensions to Expand Rail Network By 2013 (Land Transport Authority – January 17, 2013)
3. Environmental Resources Management to Assess Environmental Impact of Cross Island Line (Land Transport Authority – July 4, 2014)

Best 12 Nature Images of 2015

The clock seems to tick quicker as I get older.  To me, 2015 was incredibly fast-paced.  We are now just few hours away from 2016 already!

2015 has been a good year for me, photographically speaking.  I was fortunate to win a few photography awards both locally and internationally using my nature images taken in 2014:

  1.  PhotoVivo Singapore International Photography Award 2014/15, Projected Image Nature Section, PhotoVivo Bronze Medal
  2. Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year 2015, Merit Winner
  3. 62nd Singapore International Photography Award 2015, Digital Nature Section, FIAP Gold Medal Award
  4. 62nd Singapore International Photography Award 2015, Digital Nature Section, PSA Honorable Mention Ribbon Award.

It is time again that I go through my best photos captured in the last 365 days.  Here are my 12 favourite nature images, all made in Singapore, arranged in chronological order.

#1 – Double Twins

Leaf-footed bugs often stay close together when they are young and small which make them look bigger as a group to scare away any potential predator. This is a twin perching on a pair of beautiful wild flowers. Aren’t they look adorable?

| Zhenghua Forest | 1 February 2015 | F8, 1/60s, ISO 400, fill flash |

| Zhenghua Forest | 1 February 2015 | F8, 1/60s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#2 – Jumping Spider in Pink

A simple shot of a cute little jumping spider resting on an attractive backlit leaf. This image works mainly because of the fine composition, interesting colour contrast of the subjects and the lighting is appealing to the eyes.

(Rifle Range Nature Trail, 22 February 2015 (f8, 1/30s, ISO 400, fill flash with backlight)

| Rifle Range Nature Trail | 22 February 2015 | F8, 1/30s, ISO 400, fill flash with backlight |

#3 – The Dancer

The curve of the plant goes well with the shape of this tiny long-horned hopper nymph. A friend commented that the plant resembles a dancer! The nice natural lighting helps to hightlight the colours of the green hopper and the pink flowers which complements one another. The super long feelers are always problematic and often lead to compositional compromises. I chose to cut off one of them to reduce negative space.

Mandai Green, (f13, 1/20s, ISO 400, natural light)

| Mandai Green | 28 February 2015 | F13, 1/20s, ISO 400, natural light |

#4 – A Complicated Scene

This is quite a crazy image where it has so much activities involving a female crab spider having a bee as breakfast, 2 competing males fighting for the right to mate with the female, while many busybody flies wanted to have a share of the breakfast. A behaviour shot that is hard to duplicate.


| Dairy Farm Nature Park | 26 July 2015 | F11, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#5 – The Babies Sitter

A good fun shot where a group of 8 newly hatched leaf-footed bugs was with a bigger brother giving a false impression that it was babies sitting its younger siblings.

Zhenghua Forest, 20 September 2015 (f11, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash)

| Zhenghua Forest | 20 September 2015 | F11, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#6 – Dewdrops Keep Fallin’ On My Body

I love to shoot morning dew. The two big water droplets with its reflection make this shot stands out from the many dewy images that I photographed this year.

| Zhenghua Forest | 11 October 2015 | F16, 1/10s, ISO 400, fill flash |

| Zhenghua Forest | 11 October 2015 | F16, 1/10s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#7 – Red Shield Bug Nymphs

I had not seen this stunningly beautiful shield bug nymph since November 2011! So, it was really great to find two at Kent Ridge Park. A sweet image where the strikingly red bugs complementing well with the bright green leaf. The backlighting enhances the lines and textures and gives the overall image an artistic feel.

Kent Ridge Park, 17 October 2015 (f16, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash)

| Kent Ridge Park | 17 October 2015 | F16, 1/50s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#8 – Love is in the air

Another pair of bright and vibrant insects but this time it was two cotton stainer bugs having a Sunday morning delight! It has nice contrasting colours between the leaf and insects with soft background. Take a closer look and you would notice an interesting pattern on the back of the bugs’ shield. Did you see 2 human faces?

| Zhenghua Forest | 25 October 2015 | F16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash |

| Zhenghua Forest | 25 October 2015 | F16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#9 – Failed Moulting

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 are most vulnerable during the actual moulting which usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. First time seeing a failed moulting disrupted by a predator, the lynx spider. An unusual moment of natural history image captured with nice light.

| Zhenghua Forest | 25 October 2015 | F16, 1/20s, ISO 400, fill flash |

| Zhenghua Forest | 25 October 2015 | F16, 1/20s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#10. Sex Competition

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 leaf beetles but they flew off when I tried to get too close. It was a blessing in disguise as they landed on a perch where a pair of grasshoppers were also having an imitate moment, 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 & paused along the perch and sometimes, under it. I was fortunate to get some decent shots before the beetles flew away again.

|Zhenghua Forest |

| Zhenghua Forest | 30 November 2015 | F11, 1/100s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#11 – Delicious Breakfast

A praying mantis can catch other insects with its strong front legs. The front legs are lined with spikes and close in a certain way to have a firm grip on the prey.  They are commonly found in Singapore but strangely, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to photograph a giant praying mantis with a grasshopper as prey.   I was lucky to find a good angle to get at least both their eyes in focus.

| Zhenghua Forest | 13 December 2015 | F16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash |

| Zhenghua Forest | 13 December 2015 | F16, 1/25s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#12 – “White Flowers”

These are tiny white mushrooms where their caps are smaller than 5mm in size that grow on dead twigs or dried leaves. They look ordinary with our naked eyes and are therefore often overlooked by us. However, when taken up close, they are simply a sheer delight to see. The backlit effect again helps to bring out the lines and beautiful details of the gills.

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| Zhenghua Forest | 17 December 2015 | F22, 1/15s, ISO 400, Backlighting |

Thank you for taking the time to read all the way to the end of this post! I must apologise for the misleading title as these are certainly not the best nature images of 2015. They are just my personal favourites that I photographed in various parts of Singapore. I hope you enjoyed viewing these images as much as I enjoyed making them. Wishing all a Happy New Year and I look forward to more adventures in 2016!

Related post : My 12 Favourite Nature Images of 2014