Saturday, 30 April 2011

Love Them Bugs!

Bugs are mostly ecologically beneficial - to us, to the environment, to the earth.
Some bugs are pollinators and some are scavengers.
While some insectivorous bugs are biological pest control agents. 
Bugs are also composting agents in recycling biological matters.
And in the process, returning nutrients back to the earth.

Bugs being bugs, most of us are afraid of some or all them for one reason or another.
And sometimes for no reason at all.
Our natural reaction is to swat it, to kill it.
Sometimes without even knowing exactly what bug it is.
But simply because it is a bug.

Scary, ugly, creepy creatures.
They crawl, they walk, they fly.
They bite, they sting... they are pests!
Are they really all that bad?
Is it them or is it us?

Bugs have been more valuable to earth than humans can ever be!
While we are hurting earth, bugs have been nurturing it.
Without bugs, where would we be?
Love them or hate them?
Beastly or bizarre, they are still amazing, beautiful bugs!

These are some bug shots taken in recent weeks.

Is this a plant hopper?  A bizarre-looking bug on my wall...

This grasshopper is quite well-camouflaged as it rests among some plant leaves.

Squash bugs taking shelter and staying cool under a leaf.

A plant bug clinging to a stem could have been easily camouflaged as a grass blade.
An assassin bug on a vine and on the prowl.

One of the many species of bees on a bud of the crepe myrtle.

A carpenter bee checking out a stand of dead wood.

A brightly coloured, amazing looking green leaf bug.

Love them!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Spreadwings In Tandem

Came across two species of the spreadwings today. 
Both are already in my checklist.

Nevertheless, as I do not often find them, it is always nice to get the opportunity for more photos, and hopefully better photos, of these species.

The Platylestes heterostylus is pictured above (female) and on the left (male) while the Lestes praemorsus (male) is shown on the right.

Both these damselflies of the family Lestidae are very similar looking but for the colour and markings...

And finding this tandem pair of Platylestes heterostylus has certainly made my day!

A rare find indeed!

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Garden

Although the garden at my father's place could do with a little more tender loving care, I do love the fact that it is an unstructured garden and there are flower trees, fruit trees, ferns and various other plants everywhere...

Do you know... it is a fact that one of the best things you can do to a garden is to have a variety of plant species to attract different species of birds, butterflies and insects to promote a healthy environment for nature?  So the garden might be a little unkempt, but my father has certainly got the right idea for how a garden should be!

Here in this garden, you could hear birdsongs most of the day and could spot the Olive-backed Sunbirds, Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, Black-naped Orioles, White-throated Fantails, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Koels, Glossy Starlings, White-headed Munias, Tiger Shrikes, Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Jungle Mynas among others.  And previously, when the cherry tree was still standing in the garden, there would be bats flying around at night too.

In other words, this garden is a treasure trove if you have nature in mind and are looking for insects, creepy crawlies and such.  And that is one of the things I love most about this garden.  After all, a little unkempt does not exactly matter when it comes to nature but I would think messy and neglect is another thing altogether.

Anyway, on a recent visit, I came across a yellow caterpillar under a leaf of the jasmine plant and it was feeding on the leaf early in the morning.  By the afternoon, it had stopped feeding and was resting under the leaf.  After all, it was such a hot day!

It is a very nice looking caterpillar!

The next morning, I had a "wow" moment when I went to check on the caterpillar again.  To my surprise, it had started its transformation into a chrysalis overnight.

It is amazing, isn't it?

And it is just too bad that I could not just stay and keep watching the progress of the caterpillar's transformation day by day.

I wonder which species of butterfly is this?

And will it still be there a few weeks from now?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Little Hill

I have often taken photos of this little hill when it is raining and all misty.
And though it had showered last night, the sky had cleared up by morning.
Before the sun breaks through and while it is all quiet and still.
The sky is in total splendour beyond this little hill.

It promises of a another beautiful day...

Or should I say... "red skies in the morning, a shepherd's warning?"

Friday, 15 April 2011

Got What I Wanted!

I set out on the forest trail the other day, to look for damselflies in particular, and got what I wanted...  the Copera vittata damselflies!

There were two male damselflies and one of them was in tandem with a female damselfly.  I wondered if I had missed the chance of getting photos of a pair in wheel?  Anyway, here is the pair of these damselflies in tandem.

And they were in tandem for a long time, which gave me lots of opportunities to take more photos though not all of them are worth sharing.  It is not the easiest task to hold the camera still when your adrenalin is pumping somewhat and you're trying to inch slowly, hoping you don't disturb the damselflies and lose them while you try to compose the picture.  And you're holding your breath to hold still and then your'e trying to breathe at the same time...

Anyway, after having been in tandem for some time, the female started flexing her abdomen inward and upwards and the pair went into wheel position in a flash. 

I was in luck!

And finally, a pair of Copera vittata damselflies in wheel position!

These damselflies were in copulation for quite a while during which I just sat and waited.  After about 20 minutes, copulation was completed and the pair remained in tandem for a long period before they disappeared, probably for the oviposition.

My next mission is to get photos of an ovipositing pair!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Did Curiosity Get The Better Of The Cat?

The Siamese Cat had been missing for almost two weeks. 

There had been no sign of him at all for breakfast and dinner.  During this time, only the Tabby Cat had been showing up for breakfast or dinner and only sometimes for both meals.  The Tabby Cat is always very fidgety when the Siamese Cat is not around. 

Is he missing his buddy too?

I thought the best for the Siamese Cat... perhaps he had found a home.  That he is getting more than enough food and attention each time he mews, such that there is no reason for him to want to go anywhere else.  At the very least, I am sure he is being fed by some of the other neighbours too?

But I had a surprise yesterday evening when I looked out the window to check on the water bowl.

The Siamese Cat had shown up at my doorstep. 
He was not on the shoe cabinet where I could easily see him but instead he sat patiently outside my door and waited.

When I opened the door to say hello, he greeted me with mews as well but had some difficulty getting up.  I could see that he is the worse for wear.  He was definitely not in the best shape, he was dirty, had a few scrapes, looked a bit scrawny and was definitely hungry.
And he tried but could not leap up onto the shoe cabinet.

Had he been out at war?

This above photo was taken yesterday while the other two photos in this blog had been taken some weeks ago.  You can see the difference in the Siamese Cat's state of well being.

Although it was not the usual dinner time yet, I put out a plate of food, which he ate hungrily, and then he slept the rest of the evening on the floor mat... till this morning.

I still do not consider them my pets though I feed them everyday. 

But I have to admit I have grown accustomed to the sight of them sleeping on my shoe cabinet...

And I am glad he knows to come here for food and shelter when he needs it. 
Home sweet home?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Truly A Graceful, Elegant Dance

I recently had the chance to observe the dance of a pair of damselflies.
And I wondered if it could be the ritual for their courtship-mating dance?

It was a bright, hot, sunny morning and the venue was at a small stream in an open area.  I could have easily missed the whole spectacle but for the ghostly fluttering movements that caught my eye.  I crept in closer and crouched down to watch and wait. 

This pair of Vestalis damselflies were just dancing in the breeze.  The female damselfly would always be at the front, facing into the breeze and fluttering her wings while the male damselfly would flutter just behind her, following her every movement.  And they would just be dancing on the spot like that.

After a while she would dash a few meters away, followed eagerly by the male damselfly and the pair would then dance on the spot again.  And they went on like that for quite a long while, going to and fro, to and fro, just fluttering away.

I crouched there in the hot sun and waited.  No wonder passers-by think I'm out of my mind, right?  But all I could think of was that this pair of damselflies would have to stop and perch at some point, isn't it?  And I had hoped they would perch near to me.

And they did.

Vestalis gracilis, male
Vestalis gracilis, female

So I managed to take photos of each of the male and female damselflies.  These are the Vestalis gracilis damselflies.

On several occasions, when the female perched on a stem of grass, the male would also stop to perch just inches away, at opposites and face to face with the female damselfly.  After a short break, the dancing starts again.  And the whole sequence is repeated.  Eventually, they went too far away and disappeared soon after that.

It is just too bad that I could not take photos when they perched face-to-face or even of their dance though I have the performance filmed in my mind's eye.

These Vestalis gracilis damselflies are as graceful as their name suggests and their fluttering dancing movements were certainly elegant.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Gomphidae - Ictinogomphus decoratus

Libellulidae - Trithemis aurora

Pics Of The Week!

What can I say... it's been a great week spending lots of time up close with nature.

These are some of the pics taken this week of some of the dragonflies and damselflies.

Lestes praemorsus

Copera vittata

Prodasineura laidlawii

Trithemis aurora

Ictinogomphus decoratus

Orthetrum sabina

Crocothemis servilia

Brachydiplax chalybea

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Another Great Day!

Look at that blue sky!  A great day to be in the outdoors!

And I have been out and about for twelve hours today, spending time with dragonflies and damselflies and with a great friend and putting my camera to good use. 

I had started out from the southeast of the island, went towards the centre, headed westward and ended the day in the northwest.  It's been an enjoyable day! 

Initially, I had intended to go to the forest trail and was thinking of looking for the Tyriobapta torrida again.  But on my way there, I decided to turn off to another area instead.  It was one of those spur of the moment decisions but I ended up spending a few hours at this place where there is a pond and a stream in an open area and this morning it was actually buzzing with dragonflies and damselflies and lots of other insects.

And It turned out to be a good move to follow my instinct.  I came across a very attractive looking damselfly in this place.  Another tick on the checklist!

It is really pretty, isn't it? 

And that yellow is rather striking!

This damselfly is the Libellago lineata of the family Chlorocyphidae.  The male damselfly has hindwing length of 17mm so you can imagine it is quite a tiny little creature. 

According to the Pocket Guide, this damselfly is widespread throughout tropical Asia.  Yet this is the first time I have come across it.  Probably because it seems to be rather discreet and hides well? 
Or has it recently emerged from the pond?  Or did it migrate here recently? 

I had managed to get only three photos of it from where I stood, haviing just taken a few photos of a spreadwing damselfly, and when I moved, it flew off as well. 

Despite its bright yellow colour, I could not find it again though I looked quite hard for it.

But I did find a yellow grasshopper later...

Quite a beautiful day indeed!

Odonata Checklist - Langkawi




Family Calopterygidae

Echo modesta (Laidlaw, 1902)
Neurobasis chinensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Vestalis gracilis (Rambur, 1842)

Family Chlorocyphidae

Heliocypha biforata (Selys, 1859)
Libellago lineata (Burmeister, 1839)

Family Lestidae

Lestes praemorsus decipiens (Kirby, 1893)
Platylestes heterostylus (Lieftinck, 1932)

Family Coenagrionidae

Aciagrion borneense (Ris, 1911)
Aciagrion hisopa (Selys, 1876)
Agriocnemis femina (Brauer, 1868)
Argiocnemis rubescens rubeola (Selys, 1877)
Ceriagrion auranticum  (Fraser, 1922)
Ceriagrion cerinorubellum (Brauer, 1865)
Ischnura senegalensis (Rambur, 1842)
Pseudagrion australasiae (Selys, 1876)
Pseudagrion microcephalum (Rambur, 1842)

Family Platycnemididae

Copera ciliata (Selys, 1863)
Copera vittata (Selys, 1863)

Family Protoneuridae

Prodasineura humeralis (Selys, 1860)
Prodasineura laidlawii (Forster, 1907)



Family Gomphidae

Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops (Selys, 1858)
Paragomphus capricornis (Forster, 1914)

Family Aeshnidae

Anax guttatus (Burmeister, 1839)

Family Libellulidae

Acisoma parnorpoides (Rambur, 1842)
Aethriamanta brevipennis (Rambur, 1842)
Aethriamanta gracilis (Brauer, 1878)
Brachydiplax chalybea (Brauer, 1868)
Brachydiplax farinosa (Kruger, 1902)
Brachythemis contaminata (Fabricius, 1793)
Cratilla lineata (Brauer, 1878)
Cratilla metallica (Brauer, 1878)
Crocothemis servilia (Drury, 1770)
Diplacodes nebulosa (Fabricius, 1793)
Diplacodes trivialis (Rambur, 1842)
Hydrobasileus croceus (Brauer, 1867)
Indothemis limbata (Selys, 1891)
Neurothemis fluctuans (Fabricius, 1793)
Neurothemis fulvia (Drury, 1773)
Orthethrum chrysis (Selys, 1891)
Orthethrum glaucum (Brauer, 1865)
Orthethrum sabina (Drury, 1770)
Orthethrum testaceum (Burmeister, 1839)
Pantala flavescens (Fabricius, 1798)
Potamarcha congener (Rambur, 1842)
Rhodothemis rufa (Rambur, 1842)
Rhyothemis obsolescens (Kirby, 1889)
Rhyothemis phyllis (Sulzer, 1776)
Rhyothemis triangularis (Kirby, 1889)

Tholymis tillarga (Fabricius, 1798)
Tramea transmarina euryale (Selys, 1878)
Trithemis aurora (Burmeister, 1839)
Trithemis festiva (Rambur, 1842)
Tyriobapta torrida (Kirby, 1889)
Urothemis signata insignata (Selys, 1872)
Zygonyx iris malayana (Rambur, 1842)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Blue, Blue, Blue... Blue Is Beautiful!

I am still buoyed by the high of being on cloud nine having spent yesterday out exploring; when time stood still and I had been completely immersed in nature.

Add to that, to have this dragonfly flutter past my face and land to perch so close to me was an added bonus.

This dragonfly is the Tyriobapta torrida of the family Libellulidae.  According to The Pocket Guide, this dragonfly is "obvious by virtue of dark, slightly iridescent patch at hindwing base."  The male has hindwing length of 25-26 mm and these dragonflies can be found in forest swamps.

It is a beautiful dragonfly indeed.  And such a beautiful blue!

Sometimes, to have a dragonfly perched at such close proximity also makes it tricky for photography as I hadn't dared move much in case I scared it away before I could take any photos.

So these are the two best shots I did get and when I shifted again for a different angle, it did flutter away to land momentarily on a rock and then it flew off and disappeared...

Maybe I will find a pair of them the next time... who knows?

These dragonflies and nature itself always keep me in awe.

Who wouldn't?  After all, nature is just amazing... and nature keeps putting on such beautiful performances at sunset.  This is the view from my balcony this evening...

Here's a toast to nature!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Love Is In The Air...

We often complain the day is too hot.  Until it starts raining endlessly for days and days.  And then we start wishing the sun would come out.

Soon, it is back to square one.  It is a vicious cycle.

When will we stop complaining?  When will we start being grateful for everything that we do have, be thankful for a good night's sleep and greet each new day with a smile?

Anyway, the sun came out early this morning.  And a lot of people took the opportunity to get out there and enjoy the day, including myself.

All those algal blooms in those dammed streams have been washed away and the streams are flowing as clearly as it should be.  The water levels are up in those ponds.  And a lot of creatures are rejoicing. 

Who wouldn't?

Nature reigns!

Anyway, I came across a few butterfly catchers, a "hunter" with a heavy pack on his back and a pack of faithful dogs at his heels, and many, many more.
One of the butterfly catchers, the wife, is seen here taking a lunch break, looks like a husband-and-wife team... and look at that big net.  They don't look like locals and there was a "Kasina" rented car in the parking lot as well.  I certainly hope they don't catch all our butterflies to extinction.  Unfortunately, there is nothing much to stop them and my presence did not deter them... quite unlike the Japanese student cum butterfly catcher several weeks ago who did a 180 degree turn each time wchinner walked up towards him.  Frankly, it was quite hilarious!

And this "hunter", or poacher?  ...with his pack of dogs.  A large monitor lizard practically sprinted and clambered up a tree at great speed to get away from those dogs.  Quite a scene... though only recorded in my mind's eye and not on film.

That lizard's heart would have been pumping and racing mad.  But... beautiful dogs!  These dogs had a quick dip in the stream too.  Ahhh... those picnickers taking a dip and soaping themselves downstream unaware of what's upstream... I had a wicked thought!

These grasshoppers were certainly celebrating too!

And here's a Five-bar Swordtail Butterfly that got away...

Also, I think I might have another dragonfly to add to my checklist for Langkawi.