Wednesday, 6 January 2016

NSS Kids’ Fun with Beautiful Butterflies at Upper Seletar (Singapore)

By Amy Tsang, Photos by Amy Tsang, Lena Chow & Tea Yi Kai

The forest next to Upper Seletar Reservoir (located off Mandai Road in Singapore) is known for its rich and diverse forest butterfly sightings, including uncommon species like the Green Imperial, the Bifid Plushblue, the Plane, Sumatran Gem, Little Maplet and more. In 2012, Butterfly Interest Group (BIG) member Tea Yi Kai had a count of nearly 200 species in this area alone.  

Our 10-year old guide Tan Teong Seng with a Magpie Crow.

With the blessings of blues skies and bright sunshine, we had a great turnout of kids and their parents for our morning walk on 8 June 2013. Auntie Amy started by highlighting from the NSS Painted Wings poster the beautiful forest butterflies that we might encounter. She also gave a visual overview of butterflies and their world, including their main differences from moths and their interesting metamorphosis from egg to larva, pupa and adult. Children even had the chance to examine up close live samples of a caterpillar and pupa of the Lime butterfly.   

Once again, 10-year old Tan Teong Seng was the lead guide in this NSS Kids’ butterfly outing, with both Aunties Amy and Lena as assistants. Teong Seng first pointed out a number of Bush Brown species seen in the grasses fringing the forest. These included the Dingy Bush Brown (Mycalesis perseus cepheus) and the Smooth-eyed Bush Brown (Orsotriaena medus cinerea). We had good views of Chocolate Pansies (Junonia hedonia ida) and Common Grass Yellows (Eurema hecabe contubernalis) flitting at low levels. A Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra agina) and Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja) were also seen.

A male Archduke feeding on fallen fruit by the forest path. 
After skirting the forest fringe, we moved expectantly into the forest proper. At one spot, Teong Seng’s sharp eyes picked out an incredible 10 Common Fauns (Faunis canens arcesilas) and a number of Archdukes (Lexias pardalis dirteana) feeding on rotting fruits. Kids could see for themselves how well camouflaged the Common Fauns were against the carpet of dead leaves. Teong Seng next found a Common Lascar (Pantoporia  hordonia hordonia) in the same area. Unfortunately, this lovely orange-and-black butterfly did not stay long enough for a photo shoot. Walking on, there were sightings of two types of Posies – the Common Posy (Drupadia ravindra moorei) and Pygmy Posy (Drupadia rufotaenia rufotaenia). The latter is considered rare and caused excitement even amongst the seasoned butterfly watchers. 

The rare Pygmy Posy caused excitement even amongst the seasoned butterfly watchers. 
We also encountered other wildlife. Teong Seng pointed out an unusual treehopper that had fascinating ‘decorations’ on its back resembling a spider’s web, as well as a delicate damselfly, so slim and small that it is often missed. Auntie Gloria found a froglet suspended in the clear forest streams. 

Kids were vying to get a friendly Magpie Crow to land on them, by holding out their arms and standing still.

The trip highlight came right at the very end, when we paused at a sheltered pavilion for drinks and snacks. A friendly Magpie Crow (Euploea radamanthus radamanthus) kept weaving in and out of the shelter for more than 30 minutes, landing on our sweaty arms, legs, footwear and even bags for a salty mineral sip. Kids and adults alike were thrilled. Everybody tried to attract the Magpie Crow to land on them, by standing still and stretching out their arms. Of course kids could not help laughing and jumping around excitedly. We were all reluctant to leave. “I am delighted that the walk has ended on such a high note. I hope that more people will become interested in butterflies and their conservation,” said Teong Seng.  

The friendly Magpie Crow even settled on a child’s toe to sip her sweat.  

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