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.

img_9502

| 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.

img_9603

| 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?

img_9568

| 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.

img_0270

| 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.

img_1241

| 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.

img_2729a

| 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.

IMG_2976

| 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.

img_4871a

| 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.

img_4424

| 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!

img_2740

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

That’s all folks!

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 – 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.

The Wild Side of Singapore (SG50)

When people talk about wildlife in Singapore, they tend to focus on the bigger, rarer and unique animals such as crocodiles, otters, monitor lizards, long-tailed macaque, flying lemurs, etc., which was exactly what CNA did in their 2-part Wild City documentary show superbly done and narrated by the legendary Sir David Attenborough.

But the wild side of Singapore is more than that. We are surrounded by a wide variety of bugs and insects such as spiders, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantis, beetles, hoppers, leaf-footed bugs, etc., all over this beautiful city. This video features some of the behaviours of these common creatures which took me almost 8 months to film, edit and produce. My small contribution in celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of Independence.

I hope it lives up to my earlier promise that this wildlife video is “more dramatic, action-packed with a humorous touch”.

The Wild Side of Singapore!

Singapore is better known as a modernised city with first class skyscrapers and shopping malls but not many people are aware that we have a surprisingly diverse wildlife as well. Here are two short videos that I produced in 2013 showing some of the beautiful creatures that can be found in our limited forests and parks.

I hope to make Episode 3 in the near future.

Creature of the Month – Peracca’s Land Crab (Geosesarma perracae)

Crabs are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton and armed with a single pair of claws.  Crabs that most of us are familiar with are those found in the sea.  However, not many people know that, in Singapore, there are about 6 species of crabs that live in fresh water.   They are mostly found in steams and swamps in our forested areas.  Three of these species (namely Singapore Freshwater Crab, Johnson’s Freshwater Crab & Swamp Forest Crab) are believed to be endemic to Singapore which means that they can only be found in Singapore and nowhere else!  All the 6 species are said to be either locally vulnerable or critically endangered.

(Johnson's Freshwater Crab & Lowland Freshwater Crab)

(Johnson’s Freshwater Crab & Lowland Freshwater Crab)

Of these fresh water crabs, Peracca’s Land Crab (Geosesarma perracae) & Little Land Crab (Geosesarma nemesis), in my opinion, are the most beautiful because of their brightly red coloured appearance.  Both species are tiny crabs of about 15 mm in size.  These non-marine crabs can be found in streams in burrows of 5-20 cm deep.  They look almost identical and I have difficulty differentiating them.  Geosesarma nemesis is recorded to be restricted in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve & Bukit Gombak areas while Geosesarma perracae has wider distribution range which include Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Upper Peirce & Macritchie Reservoir forest.

(Geosesarma perracae, male & female)

(Geosesarma perracae, male & female)

The above is most probably a pair of Peracca’s Land Crabs as this was photographed in Upper Peirce Forest.  The male on the left has a brightly chilly red colour while the female has duller brownish colour.  Let’s us take a closer look at this handsome male crab.

(Geosesarma nemesis, male)

(Geosesarma perracae, male)

I was fortunate to photograph this male in standing pose. Crabs don’t usually stay in this position for long as it means they are preparing to move somewhere else.

(Geosesarma nemesis, male, in standing pose)

(Geosesarma perracae, male, in standing pose)

Here is a dorsal view:

(Geosesarma nemesis, male, dorsal view)

(Geosesarma perracae, male, dorsal view)

Women are normally more attractive looking than men but strangely, in the insect world such us dragonflies, butterflies, etc, it is the males that are usually the more good-looking ones. The females of the Peracca’s Land Crabs are no exception. They look plain and dull when compared to their charming males.

(Geosesarma perracae, female)

(Geosesarma perracae, female)

(Geosesarma perracae, 2 females)

(Geosesarma perracae, 2 females)

Given the fact that Chilly Crabs and Black-Pepper Crabs are Singaporean’s favourite dishes, I believe some of us may be interested to know whether these freshwater crabs are edible or not. The answer is a definite NO for two simple reasons. Firstly, there are so little fresh in such tiny crabs that doesn’t justify the effort of searching through our forests to catch them for food. Besides, this species is already classified as locally vulnerable and with the plan to construct the Cross Inland Line that cut through the southern portion of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between Upper and Lower Peirce and MacRitchie Reservoirs, it could potentially lead to extinction in Singapore! Hence, catching of these crabs for human consumption is strongly discouraged.

References:
A. First Record in Singaore of a Nepenthiphilous Crab, Geosesarma perracae
B. Have a Crabby National Day