Sunday, 27 December 2009

Protoneuridae - Prodasineura laidlawii

A Not So Dainty Damselfly


Came across this insect on one of my jaunts some months ago.  The above photo gives you an idea how it looked to me when I saw it for the first time.  It was a hot, bright day and there was a lot of reflection off every surface possible.

The next thing I noticed after that was its rather stocky torso and abdomen, so I had initially thought it might be a tiny dragonfly.  And then I realized that the wings were folded at rest, which indicated it is a damselfly instead.



This is the Aristocypha fenestrella of the family Chlorocyphidae.  The female damselfly is shown here and you can see the bulbous tip of its abdomen in the picture above.  For this species, the hindwing length is 25mm for the male and 26.5mm for the female.  According to the Pocket Guide, the males of this species have wings that are broad and strongly irisdescent but I did not find them that day.

Even more reason for me to keep going on my walks.....


Note:  The AsiaDragonfly website has identified this under the name of Rhinocypha fenestrella.



Sunday, 6 December 2009

And So It Is The Neurobasis chinensis!



Many thanks to Ian Choong, who has confirmed that the beautiful, green and graceful damselfly that I had thought might be the Vestalis species, is actually the Neurobasis chinensis, female, also of the family Calopterygidae.  This species is widespread in mainland tropical Asia and Sumatra.



I had needed that expert eye to confirm this and when it comes to Odonata of Peninsular Malaysia, he really is the expert here, having spent many years observing and studying them.



Since he has confirmed the identification of this species, I now notice the white pseudo-pterostigma on the hindwings too.  This applies to the females of this species.  I do hope to come across the male of this species one of these days.  From the Guide Book, the male looks like he'll really make heads turn.  It's definitely a wow!  So I am keeping my fingers crossed and now have renewed motivation to keep scouring Langkawi for it.



Previously, I had been looking at the thorax and appendages; literally everything but the markings on the wings!  And sometimes when you are looking for outstanding details in too many pictures of similar things for too long, they all become a blur and look the same!  Yet now, the markings on the wings seem so obvious.  I had been so blind to it.

Lesson learned.

And, as I would always say, learning never stop.



Odonata Checklist




Family Gomphidae

Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops (Selys, 1858)

Family Libellulidae

Acisoma parnorpoides (Rambur, 1842)
Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793)
Cratilla lineata (Brauer, 1878)
Crocothemis servilia (Drury, 1770)
Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842)
Hydrobasileus croceus (Brauer, 1867)
Neurothemis fluctuans (Fabricius, 1793)
Neurothemis fulvia (Drury, 1773)
Orthethrum chrysis (Selys, 1891)
Orthethrum sabina (Drury, 1770)
Potamarcha congener (Rambur, 1842)
Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842)
Rhyothemis phyllis (Sulzer, 1776)

Trithemis aurora (Burmeister, 1839)


Family Calopterygidae

Neurobasis chinensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Vestalis spp

Family Chlorocyphidae

Heliocypha biforata (Selys, 1859)

Family Coenagrionidae

Agriocnemis femina (Brauer, 1868)
Ceriagrion chaoi  (Schmidt, 1964)
Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842)
Pseudagrion microcephalum (Rambur, 1842)

Family Lestidae

Platylestes heterostylus  (Lieftinck, 1932)

Family Protoneuridae

Prodasineura laidlawii (Forster, 1907)



Saturday, 21 November 2009

How Eco Is This?

In recent months, dragonflies have not been at the top of the list of things that are keeping me busy.

In recent months, news of the setting up of an Eco Resort on Pulau Payar Marine Park have been buzzing in Langkawi.

And in recent months, works have commenced to clear up the area where the resort is sited, to refurbish the abandoned geodesic dome structures that had been built there in the 1990s and to get the resort ready for operations.

During these months, my friend, Wendy, and I have been coming up against walls in getting the attention of the relevant authorities to review and revoke the permit to operate this so-called Pulau Payar Eco Resort.

Apart from our article, titled "Langkawi's Jewel In The Crown May Disappear", being published in Malaysiakini - Letters to the Editor, letters and emails to the relevant authorities remain unanswered.

Our efforts thus far have come up to naught.

If anyone wants to know how green the owner(s) profess to run this resort, I am sure they can easily find the information online.

What I would like to write about here is how GREEN AND ECO IT IS NOT !

I am presenting to you evidence that open burning had been the preferred method in use to set fire to the forest floor to burn away and clear the shrubs, bushes and/or undergrowth within the resort grounds.  Now that the forest floor on that hill slope is burned bare and cleared, whenever it rains the water run-off into the sea below that slope will carry with it soil particles, causing siltation or sedimentation in the waters around Pulau Payar.  Add to that, should these people have used any weedkillers, chemicals deadly to marine life would also have been washed into the sea by the rain.


This picture shows an area of burned forest floor around the perimeter of the resort grounds.


In this next picture, smoke is still coming off the ground where it had just been burned and the trunks of the trees are charred black.


This picture is of a palm tree in another area within the resort grounds.  Notice the charred marks on its trunk.


Isn't open burning banned in Malaysia? 

Yes, we all know that enforcement of the ban is sadly lacking.  But among people who should know better not to do it, isn't it a fact then that open burning would be a blatant disregard of this ban?

Is open burning a green and eco practice?  Didn't the owner(s) of the resort claim to follow eco practices for the operations of the resort?  Shouldn't the owner(s) apply these eco practices to the works-in-progress leading up to its operations too?

Is this claim of an eco resort just a farce?  Merely a marketing gimmick? 

Or are they now going to claim that the fire had been accidental?

So... how eco is this resort, really?


Monday, 9 November 2009

Back To Red!

Red is a great colour!  I like red.  It is one of those bright, happy colours.  A splash here and there can brighten up a lot of things, including brightening up your day! 

Red is a strong colour and it can mean many different things.  A red heart to symbolise love.  A red flag to denote impending battle.  Red is anger!  Red is hot!  Red is inspiring!

Red also represent fire and fortune, good luck, prosperity and joy.  Red is associated with strong emotions - energy, courage, passion, aggression, life!  I am sure you can think of many more... red skies, red sun, red roses.

And, of course, red dragonflies!

It is no wonder then that seeing red dragonflies gives me a sense of happiness!  Bright specks of red dotting the green fields and blue skies.  Nature gives us a million happy moments to savour each day!



The Rhodothemis rufa of the family Libellulidae is yet another red dragonfly that is commonly found in Langkawi.  It is, in fact, widespread in tropical Asia.

Although I had thought it to be the Crocothemis servilia, I took photos anyway.  It was only later when I studied the photos closely that I realised it was a different species.  It was a lucky shot.  Lucky me!  The Rhodothemis rufa is distinguished from the red Orthetrum and the Crocothemis servilia by details in their wing venations.  Yes, they look very much alike for three different species.


Rhodothemis rufa




Crocothemis servilia








Orthetrum spp






The wing venations of the dragonflies are like thumbprints for us humans.  The Orthetrum spp has complete antenodal crossvein on its forewings and the Crocothemis servilia has three cell rows throughout the cubital field of its forewings.  The Rhodothemis rufa has two cell rows at some point along the cubital field and incomplete antenodal crossvein.  Although there are a few other details that might differ here and there, the wing venation is the main feature for identification and differentiation of these species.

Red means celebration too.  So, here's to another red dragonfly!



Sunday, 8 November 2009

Dragonfly Musings

I must admit that, of late, I am spending more time on books and not so much on hunting dragonflies in the outdoors.

So, here's an excerpt from one of these books.  A verse from a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson:


Today I saw the dragonfly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
- "The Two Voices" (1883), lines 8-15


It tells of a dragonfly nymph coming up from the pond, emerging into a sapphire dragonfly and then, later, flying away...



Monday, 26 October 2009

A Robber Fly

I was parking the car when I noticed an insect perched on a twig among the plants at home.  At first glimpse, my first thought, of course, was... "Another dragonfly!"

But it was not to be. 

It was some other insect and a strange looking one at that.  I realised it only after I got out of the car and got closer to have a look and saw that the head, compound eyes and wings are different from those of the dragonfly.



Curious as I was to have a good look and figure out what it is, I skirted around to get a frontal view.  From what I saw, I thought it was rather beastly looking.  I did not manage to get a good shot but looking at these pictures would give you an idea why I had those thoughts.



I have since found out that it is a Robber Fly, of the family Asilidae, and it is an aerial predator capable of immobilizing bees, wasps and other insects larger than itself.  According to Wikipedia, these robber flies attack and feed on other flies, beetles, butterflies and moths, various bees, ants, dragonflies, damselflies, some wasps, grasshoppers and some spiders.

Urrgghh!  I should dislike this insect and hate it for preying on dragonflies and damselflies!  I hope it did not just make a meal of the immature dragonflies that have been visiting me?  Is that why this guy is here?

But, know what? 

What is there to hate about this robber fly or any other insect or another creepy crawly or some other creature?  If anything at all, it should be all these other creatures hating man!

Yet they don't.

When you look at things in perspective, human beings are the largest predators of all.  It is us that have driven so many other creatures to extinction from our actions.  For these creatures, their instincts are for the survival of the species and the way it is with nature, things are kept in balance in the entire ecosystem until man intervenes.

For the majority of man, most "hunts" these days are to fulfil a want rather than merely to feed a need.  And in so many cases, it is always the want for more of everything to feed the greed of man.  And all for the sake of money and power.

It is never enough.  It is endless.

When will we stop hunting the species of the world to death?  When will we stop depleting our oceans and stop destroying our forests before they are all gone?  When will we stop the rampage and stop robbing earth?

We should appreciate nature for what it is.  We should care for what we have before it is all lost.

Each and every one of us should pledge to make conscious choices every day towards sustainable living.  Start today.  It doesn't take much to do that, does it?



Friday, 23 October 2009

Is This Funny?

Here's an interesting photo to share... 

Caught this pair of Ischnura senegalensis in the act recently.



Initially, I couldn't figure out what it was exactly that was going on as the first thing I noticed was the three sets of wings, meaning three damselflies.  Yet I could see the wheel position very clearly so what is that third damselfly doing?

Have a closer look here...



Seems like the female damselfly caught her food while within the male territory but before she could finish devouring her meal, the male damselfly caught up with her.  So here is the pair of them in wheel position with her half-eaten prey sticking out her mandibles!

And, yes, apart from mosquitoes and other flying insects, they do eat their own kind too.  It looks like this female Ischnura senegalensis had caught an Agriocnemis femina for lunch!  Or maybe it is an immature damselfly of the same species?

I can't decide... is this funny or what?



Monday, 5 October 2009

Blue Is Cool And Calming

Hard to believe it is early October already.  I suppose it is true that time seems to fly when you are busy or when you are having a good time.

Or when you are caught up with everything else in the world...

When too many things are happening around you at the same time and you get caught up in an endless game of catch, it can feel like you are just running and running and running and everything else becomes a blur around you except what you see directly in front of you.

And now that the running has stopped, I have looked around me and reoriented myself, I am playing catch up with these beautiful dragonflies again.  I have missed them!



This blue dragonfly with its big blue eyes is the adult male of the Acisoma panorpoides of the family Libellulidae.  Talk about staring into blue eyes!  

It is indeed another amazing looking little creature.  And, after all, blue is a cool colour! 



This male Acisoma panorpoides has hindwing length of 22mm.  This species can be easily recognised by the unique shape of its abdomen and the intricate patterns on its thorax.  They are found in open, often disturbed habitats and is widespread in tropical Asia.

Although a common species, it is not easy to spot these dragonflies as they often perch rather inconspicuously among vegetation in grassy swamps or padi fields.  It has certainly taken me quite a few months to keep looking for them and finally get a few good shots.



The female of this species has light yellow, sometimes greenish, colouring, with hindwing length of 24mm.  As you can see, she does not have the blue eyes like those of the male and it is greenish instead, but its markings and the shape of its abdomen are both unmistakable features to identify this species.



And here is a young, immature dragonfly of the same species, possibly a male judging by its colour, though he is yet to develop the full colours of the adult.  Even without the big blue eyes, it is a nice looking face staring back at you.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Simply Beautiful!

It was only yesterday that I found out I have more than one visitor among the ferns and potted plants at home.



This is the female of the Neurothemis fluctuans.  She is such a beautiful creature!



Judging by the perfect, undamaged, shiny wings, she is a young female.  Females of this species have hindwing length of 22-25 mm.  The wings are hyaline or transparent and there is also a very light yellow tint at the base of the wings.  They do not have the distinctive coloured wing patterns that you would find in the males

For a number of species of Odonata, you would not always find the females except when they come out to mate.  In most cases, after mating and laying their eggs, the females would fly away to their hiding places to rest until when they next come out again.

Elusive creatures. 

But isn't she simply beautiful?



Thursday, 24 September 2009

My Visitor Is Growing Up Fast!


This guy have been greeting me every morning for over a week now.  And I am quite certain he has made his home among the ferns, one of many among the potted plants in front of my window. 

Whenever the sun comes up early in the morning, he'll come out and bask in the sun. 

Sometimes I disturb him from slumber when I am watering the plants early in the morning and he'll then perch nearby on a twig or leaf to watch me and wait for me to finish.  He lets me get within inches of him.



It is an immature male of the Neurothemis fluctuans.  You can see the distinctive pattern on its wings though the colour of its wings is still a light brown tint.

Over the days, his colouration has become richer and darker as he grows into an adult.  The above pictures were taken on 19 September 2009. 

This morning I had the chance to take another photo of him.



In five days, his colour has turned to a darker brown.  He is growing up fast and will soon reach maturity.  And then, he will fly away to an area with water, probably the nearby padi fields, to stake his territory and begin looking for a mate.

Dragonflies often bask in the sun early in the morning as they need warmth for activity and during the day they maintain a certain internal temperature, which is quite high at approximately 43°C (or 110°F).  When morning breaks, the cold dragonfly has to prepare itself to get started for the day.  It will shiver its wings to create heat or stay perched in the sun until its thorax is warmed up enough to take flight for it to begin feeding and mating.



Sunday, 20 September 2009

Langkawi At Dusk

A Reddish Brown Species

On one of the days when I was out walking on a trail, I came across another Neurothemis species perched on a twig next to a stream.  It was not bothered by me at all when I got closer to have a look and then to take a few photos.



This is the Neurothemis fulvia of the family Libellulidae and it is easily differentiated from the Neurothemis fluctuans as it is slightly larger and has a reddish brown abdomen.  The hindwing length of the male is 28-31 mm.  Even the markings on the wings are different, namely the margins of the terminal hyaline area, which is roughly a convex.  Also, there is a tint that extends to its wing-tips.



Again, this species is widespread in mainland tropical Asia and commonly found around sluggish streams, mainly in lowland areas.

It is always a pleasure to sit on the grass next to a stream or on the edge of a pond and just absorb the beauty and serenity of the surroundings and listen the sounds of nature, the gurgles of a flowing stream, the music of the forest with the droning of some insects and a few birds chirping away.  All these have a very calming effect on the mind, body and soul.

And sitting there watching the activities of the dragonflies can be simply fascinating.

These are the simple pleasures in life.



Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A Brown Dragonfly

Lately, there have been so many other things on my mind and keeping me busy, such that I have not been out looking for dragonflies for a few weeks now.  And I miss it.  Yet I must admit there are quite a few species that I had come across earlier and still have not done anything about them for one reason or another.

Now that it has been raining quite a fair bit, it is about time I catch up on my checklist.....



This is the Neurothemis fluctuans of the family Libellulidae.  It is a common dragonfly often seen at various places throughout the island here and can be found around lakes, drains, marshes, padi and sometimes even in clearings far from water.  This species is widespread throughout tropical Asia.



This dragonfly has hindwing of 22-24 mm, its abdomen is mainly brown and it is easily differentiated from other Neurothemis species by the distinctive pattern on its hindwings.

I have also had the chance to come across a half-mature male of this species, before its wings attained full colouration with maturity, as shown in the picture below.



And then, early one morning just after the rain had stopped, I saw an immature male perched among some twigs in the bushes in my backyard. 



I wonder if dragonflies sleep in places like this in the bushes during the night?



Monday, 7 September 2009

Which Dark Dragonfly?

I was out kayaking this afternoon when, out of the blue, a dark insect flying overhead caught my attention.  And, of course, it had to turn out to be a dragonfly!

It was fluttering about 5m above, among the tree canopy, without a care in the world.  Its only concerns being the breeze blowing in its face, catching in its wings and lifting it in the air...

It is frustrating when I am not able to determine the species and I cannot even take a photo.  Well, at that height, there isn't any chance for any photos that would help in its identification anyway.  That's unless I have one of those super-duper megazooms that those National Geographic photographers use.  But, no such luck here!

Anyway, all I could see was the dark-coloured body and two pairs of completely dark wings against the bright, blue sky.  Almost like a silhouette!  Except, it was fluttering.  It must have rather broad wings since it is not one of those dragonflies that zap around.  Instead, it flutters and glides and then it flutters again... as if playing a game with the sea breeze.

I wonder which of the Rhyothemis species is this?  I guess this is something I will be pondering over for quite a while until I come across this dragonfly again.

Yet, when will I see it again?  Will I ever get to determine which species of dragonfly it is?  Will it be elusive?

It was such a chance encounter.  And it was rather brief, lasting only a few minutes.  And then, just as quickly, it disappeared out of my line of sight.

All I could do was look and wonder. 

And all I could do was enjoy the magic of the moment.



Saturday, 5 September 2009

Another Blue Damselfly

Since the padi fields have been flooded, I have found another haunt for my 'hunting'.  And it is also not far from home.  This is a pond with slow moving water, almost stagnant, and there are also grassy areas in the pond.  Another perfect spot for quite a few species of dragonflies and damselflies.

I had a field day!



This blue damselfly is the Pseudagrion microcephalum of the family Coenagrionidae.  I actually came across this damselfly a few months ago at another grassy pond but it was a large pond there and I could not get close enough for a good photo.  Even here in this small pond, I was still straining, but at least I can now get a good look at this damselfly.

The Pseudagrion microcephalum has hindwing length of 18mm and can be found on drains and ponds.  The females have patterns of olive green, pale blue and black and this species is actually widespread in the Indo-Australian tropics.  It has a paler blue compared to the Prodasineura laidlawii, so it is not as striking in colour but not less of a beauty anyway.

I did not see any mating pair in wheel position but I did come across a pair in tandem as they remain perched on a grass stalk after copulation.  Later, they flew about looking for a spot for the female to lay her eggs.



While flying in tandem looking for a suitable place for oviposition, I actually observed another male damselfly of the same species come near to this pair.  A short chase then ensued to get this intruder away while the pair still remained in tandem.

Finally, having found the right spot, the female proceeded to lay her eggs.  The male damselfly of this species engaged in contact guarding of the female in that the pair remained in tandem after copulation and during oviposition.



You can see from the photo above that the head of the female damselfly was barely just above the waterline while she oviposited into some grass stem in the pond.  At some point, she was completely dunked into the water and I could only watch in horror and amazement at the same time.



In the photo above, only the folded wings of the female damselfly could be seen out of the water.  Her whole head and body had been completely dunked into the pond during oviposition.

Seeing is believing.....

Anyway, you can see from some photos of odonata that these dragonflies and damselflies have tiny hairs on their heads and bodies.  And I have since learned that there are some species of odonata where the female would dive under the water's surface to oviposit.  These tiny hairs create a pocket of air so they would still be able to breathe while underwater, long enough to complete oviposition.

Amazing creatures, aren't they?



Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Everything Else But Odonata...

I went for a walk this morning and noticed that the flood waters have receded.  So here's a photo of the house in the middle of the padi fields, which is the same house that had stood in the middle of the 'lake' last week (click here to view earlier picture).



After that, I headed out to a forest trail.  Along the way, I could see signs of damages to lotus ponds and padi fields from all the rain and flooding this past week.  In areas that are developed, there were tell-tale signs and muddy marks where there had been flood waters.  In places where there are vast tracts of land and less development, you do not see that much damage or evidence of the floods.  Doesn't that make you wonder why?

I had to check myself.  The recent deluge of rain is Mother Nature trying to reclaim parts of the earth that man had been abusing for ages by clearing forests, defacing earth and putting in man-made structures without alignment to nature.  So is there a lesson to be learnt here from Mother Nature?

Anyway, I did not encounter too many dragonflies or damselflies out on the trail.  However, at one point when I looked up towards the sky, there must have been like a hundred butterflies fluttering around among the trees.  It was truly amazing!  I sat down on the trail and watched the butterflies for a while.

I should have known it would be a day for butterflies.  As soon as I got out of my front door, this butterfly was there to greet me...


The Hypolimnas bolina or Great Egg-Fly


And here are the various different species of butterflies on that trail, all fluttering around here and there at the same time.


Phalanta phalanta or Small Leopard


Euploea camaralzeman or Malayan Crow, female (?)


Euploea camaralzeman or Malayan Crow, male


Another Euploea spp


Euploea radamanthus or Magpie Crow


Ideopsis spp


Parantica agleoides or Dark Glassy Tiger


A mating pair of Euploea radamanthus


And the largest and most captivating of all is the Idea lynceus or Tree Nymph, which is found only in Malaysia...


I am still a learner at identifying butterflies and did some cross-referencing to check on the above names and species.  Should you spot any errors in the identification for the butterflies above, please kindly notify me.  I would also be most grateful to receive your feedback.