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.

IMG_6996

(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!

Advertisements

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.

IMG_9719

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.

IMG_3965

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

Macro Photography Outings – August 2015

I visited only three macro sites in August namely, the Green Corridor, Kampong Chantek Nature Trail and Pasir Ris Park.

The Green Corridor is an uninterrupted stretch of greenery that runs the entire length of Singapore, from the old Tanjong Pagar Rail Station in the south to the border of Malaysia in the north!    We covered only a small part of the Green Corridor ie. starting from the Rail Mall and explored towards Bukit Timah Train Station.

The most prominent landmark at the Rail Mall area has to be the black railway truss bridge. Many Singaporeans come here during weekend for some photographs with the bridge.

(The black )

(The black railway truss bridge)

With greenery on both side of the path, this is an excellent trail for walking, cycling and at the same time serving as a wildlife corridor.

(Macro photographers in action)

(Macro photographers in action)

There were quite a number of wild flowers found at the site such as this pair of beautiful Lavender Sorrels (Oxalis barrelieri).

(Wild flowers)

(Lavender Sorrels in backlighting)

White Weed (Ageratum conyzoides) flowers are plentiful too, attracting many tiny Lesser Grass Blue butterflies to feed on them.

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

Kampong Chantek used to be a Malay village existed near the former Turf Club along Bukit Timah Road. It is now a nature trail where people, mainly from the nearby private residential area, would come here during weekend for a morning walk or hiking. The start of the trail is at the end of the long Jalan Kampong Chantek road in front of Murnane Service Reservior.

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

The first subject that greeted us was a bright green katydid. It stands out when shooting against a dark background with backlighting.

(Bright green katydid)

(Bright green katydid)

Just a metre away, there was another katydid, the most colourful one that I have seen so far.

(A colourful katydid)

(A colourful katydid)

I can’t help but to take a frontal shot of this beautiful katydid as well.  Unlike other common katydids, the eyes and legs are turquoise in colour.

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

Tree-stump spiders (Poltys illepidus) are not easily spotted during the day as they would remain motionless with the legs drawn tightly close to the body with just the eyes protruding between the legs. In this position they resemble part of a dead twig or a broken piece of wood hanging in the centre of a vertical web. I was fortunate to find one here, my first sighting of such a unique spider.

(Tree-stump spider)

(Tree-stump spider)

Kampong Chantek is a good site to find wild mushrooms during the wet days. There were hundreds of them sprouting almost everywhere when my friends visited the place a week before. Although most of them had dried out, we still managed to find a few interesting ones.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

(Close-up shot)

(Close-up shot)

Our star of the day got to be this group of yellow fungi that look a little like stalactites in cave! They were found underneath a fallen tree trunk which was quite a challenge to photograph. I had to lie very low on the ground only to take this record shot.

(Yellow fungi)

(Yellow fungi)

A visit to Pasir Ris Park on 29 August was a forgettable trip for me. It was windy and I couldn’t find any subjects interesting enough to photograph. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the good company of my regular macro kakis.

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

Hopefully, my macro outings in September would be more fruitful.

Macro Photography Outings – July 2015

The weather in July was still hot but it was a relieve to have occasional showers here and there.  I joined an intertidal outing in the east, visited a new macro site at Sultan Trail, explored Dairy Farm Nature Park twice and led a night cum day macro photography outing at Zhenghua Forest.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures during the intertidal outing on 4 July as the rain poured heavily earlier than expected.  Here is a candid shot of us in action.

(Intertidal outing on 4 July 2015)

(Photo Credit : Endy)

Sadly, this transparent shrimp living on a beautiful carpet anemone is the only presentable shot that I have from this outing.

(Shrime on seagrass)

(Shrime on Carpet Anemone)

The rain stopped at about 10 am and we decided to drop by Pasir Ris Park for a 2nd round macro shoot. We were fortunate to find a delicated parent of Olive-backed Sunbirds taking turns feeding their two chicks.

(Feeding at Pasir Ris Park)

(Olive-backed Sunbird feeding its babies at Pasir Ris Park)

A week later, we explored an abandoned mansion once belonging to a Sultan of Johor. It was hidden in the mass of vegetation between Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue. The mansion was built in the late 19th century and it was subsequently used as General’s headquarters and a military hospital. In 1942, about 700 medics and patients were killed by the bombing of the Japanese.

(The grand mansion in the background)

(The grand mansion in the background)

There were stories about the eerie mansion but with a big group of nature photographers, what was there to be afraid of.

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

Many spiders were spotted in this deserted place but I was most delighted when Teck Leong shared with me a tiny lynx spider having a brightly coloured red hopper as breakfast.

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

I had to leave early for work and here are a few images that I managed to photograph:

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

Citron Bug, scientifically known as Leptoglossus gonagra, is a member of the Leaf-footed bug family. I was fortunate to find an adult with two nymphs at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

(Citron bug nymphs)

(Citron bug nymphs)

They would use their strawlike beak to suck a plant’s internal juices. They seem to like feasting on wild bitter gourds.

(Adult & nymph)

(Adult & nymph)

Other subjects spotted include a planthopper and a relatively rare Grass Demon.

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

And it was nice to see a praying mantis covered with morning dew.

(A dewy praying mantis)

(A dewy praying mantis)

But I was most excited to witness a busy scene involving a female crab spider having a bee as breakfast, 2 male spiders fighting for the right to mate with the female, while many busybody flies wanted to have a share of the breakfast. Certainly quite a behaviour shot that is hard to duplicate, my favourite image taken this month.

(A busy scene)

(A busy scene)

July 18 was my turn to lead macro photography outing for Nature Photography Society of Singapore and I chose my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. A day before the outing, Allan, Sharon & I decided to meet earlier to do night macro. We invited those who signed for the day shoot to join us. Rajesh, Sia, Loh, Henry & Dion gamely took on the challenge. Eight of us met at the 24-hr Jin Shan (JSL) coffee shop at 3.30 am for some hot drinks before we commenced our night photography at 4.00 am.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

With the aid of a good UV LED touch light, we found more than 20 Lesser brown Scorpions! Most of them were lying motionlessly on tree trunks or dried leaves. We were lucky to find a mother having many young babies on its back.

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

Another interesting subject that caught our attention was a rare House Centipede (Thereuopoda longicornis). They are usually found in the forest in Singapore. They have a pair of long antennae, 15 pairs of very long legs, and are the only group of centipedes with large compound eyes. Looking at the way it ran from one place to another, they must be very fast hunters. Not an easy subject to photograph and I could only manage this record shot.

(A skittish house centipede)

(A skittish house centipede)

All of us were so busy shooting that we forgot about our originally plan was to stop the night macro by 6.30 am. Like small children, we played until forgot to eat! Suddenly it rained at 6.35 am. I like the way Loh’s put it: “The guy in heaven decided to sprinkled some waters to chase us to take breakfast”. So here we were back at JSL for a well deserved breakfast before we got ready for Part II’s day shoot.

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

As we entered the green vegetation of Zhenghua Forest, we found a lovely pair of orange leaf beetles enjoying their most intimate moment. We discovered later that there were more than 5 pairs doing the same thing around the vicinity! July could be a mating season for these adorable little creatures.

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

Not too far away, a pair of grasshoppers were also having a good time!

(Mating grasshoppers)

(Mating grasshoppers)

A good number of Leaf-footed bugs were sighted in the early morning with their exoskeletons next to them. They must had moulted only a short while ago.

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

At about 9.30 am when the sun was getting too hot, we moved into the forested area where we spotted a giant black scorpion crossing the walking path. This should be a Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus) measuring about 12 – 15 cm. It is uncommon in Singapore where it is restricted to the nature reserves. We were extremely lucky to see this one under the broad daylight!

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

There were a handful of wild mushrooms on the forest floor. Most were spotted on fallen logs but these 3 little ones were found on a dead leaf. A LED light was placed on top to give them a glowing effect.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These tiny ones are equally eye-catching.

(More wild mushrooms)

(Tiny wild mushrooms)

Here are some images showing our photographers in action to conclude this fruitful and fun outing!

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

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”.

Macro Photography Outings – June 2015

The month of June 2015 was very hot and dry which discouraged me to venture out for macro photography. I joined only two informal macro outings to Coastal Park Connector on 6 June and Windsor Green on 20 June led by my friends, Endy and Sharon respectively.

Coastal Park Connector is about 10 minutes walk from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. It was a beautiful sunny day with interesting clouds.

(Setting up our gears with nice clouds formation)

(Setting up our gears with nice clouds formation)

There were quite a number of Tawny Coster at the start of the trail. This butterfly species was first discovered in Singapore in September 2006. It was relatively easy to photograph them.

(Tawny Coster)

(Tawny Coster)

As we turned into the shaded walking path, there are ample greenery on both sides for us to explore.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

We found this cooperative uncommon spider which I do not know the ID. I had seen it before but only once at Chestnut Avenue.

(Uncommon spider)

(Uncommon spider)

There were many little craters made by the larvae of Antlions. These are greyish brown creatures with an oversized head, spiny jaws, short legs, and a soft body covered in bristles. Antlion, as its name suggests, preys primary on ants. They are the “lions” among ants, so to speak!

(Antlion)

(Antlion)

We spotted more than a dozen of these little insects staying close together. They look like some kinds of shield bug numphs which none of us have sighted before. Here are five of them.

(Unknown shield bug nymphs)

(Unknown shield bug nymphs)

A pair of Spirobolid millipedes was found having a good time on some leaf litters. The non-stop movement of their hundred pair of legs was a pleasure to watch.

(Mating Millipedes)

(Mating Millipedes)

Windsor Green is an open field located alongside Venus Loop. As there is no specific trail, we walked along the side of the forested area. It was another hot morning but, fortunately, the tall trees provided us some shades for a while. The peaceful blue sky and beautiful moving white clouds helped to brighten the day!

(Another beautiful day)

(Another beautiful day)

We did not find a lot of subjects to photograph. After walking about 500 metres we soon reached a man-made stream where we found many skittish common dragonflies. Here is where I found a tiny lynx spider hiding under a Fringed Spiderflower (Purple Cleome).

(Lynx spider)

(Lynx spider)

Timothy sighted a pretty orange caterpillar with spiky hairs and shared it with us to photograph. Accordingly to butterfly guru S K Khew, it probably belongs to the Moth Circle.

(An unknown caterpillar)

(An unknown caterpillar)

Thereafter, we cut across towards Venus Loop. We spotted a number of Treehugger dragonflies here but I was more interested to shoot wild mushrooms found on a large fallen dead log.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These mushrooms look close to Filoboletus manipularis.

(Wild mushrooms on a dead log)

(Wild mushrooms on a dead log)

I hope July 2015 would be a more fruitful month for macro photography.