11 June 2011

Singapore-Hong Kong Butterfly Hospitality

Singapore-Hong Kong Butterfly Hospitality!
Visit by the Hong Kong Lepidopterists Society

It all began with an email from James Young, the 2010 Chairman of the Hong Kong Lepidopterists Society to ButterflyCircle member Horace Tan, to request for some assistance on information of good butterfly watching locations in Singapore. A small group of the HKLS members, led by Arex Li, and which also included the former Chairman of HKLS, Dr Lee Ping Chung would be visiting Singapore for a butterfly watching/photography tour.

Unfortunately, the HKLS trip dates clashed with another trip that some of the senior BC members were making to Perak, Malaysia. Other senior members were also away, either for work assignments or for holidays. The organisation and assistance to the HKLS entourage was therefore left to BC member Anthony Wong. This is Anthony's story about the HKLS visit :

"After a few emails between Arex Li and me, about which locations are good for butterfly watching in Singapore, I learnt that the bunch of 6 veteran butterfly watchers from HKLS had planned fulfil their goal of spotting species of Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae) and Skippers (Hesperiidae) in Singapore.

HKLS members working as a team with supplementary flash lighting to improve a shot

The locations of the itinerary had to be changed to places which were less accessible, a tougher terrain to walk, and lunch had to be taken out of the picture! These guys and gals are certainly hardcore with an insatiable appetite for butterfly watching.

A Ciliate Blue sunbathing during the outing with our HKLS friends

Day 1
After picking them up from their hotel, we zoomed to Dairy Farm Nature Park to rendezvous with ButterflyCircle members Ben Yam and Yao Yang. The gloomy weather did not dampen the HKLS visitors one bit and I can recall Arex jokingly saying that the dark clouds are just an illusion, and after saying so, the intrepid bunch decided to brave the weather and pressed onwards into the trails.

Dr Lee proning to get the butterfly's eye-level shot

A short drizzle, followed by strong sunshine and suddenly butterfly activity was at an all-time high for the day. A pristine Yamfly (Loxura atymnus fuconius) popped by to play. Everyone had lots of fun chasing this skittish butterfly and this certainly boosted the morale of the party. There was one point of time where the Yamfly stood still and long enough for “creative” lighting to be applied!

A cooperative Yamfly came out to play and posed for our HKLS visitors!

After a good day out in the field, everyone headed back hungry and tired. Dinner arrangements were covered by Mark Wong and we brought the group to Lao Pasat (Old Market) to savour the local delicacies such as BBQ stingray, Satay (Skewered Meat), Oh Luak (Oyster Omelette), just to name a few.

Are they going to finish ALL that food on the table??

Day 2
As the group got ready and planned to head out early in the morning, the weather on this Sunday was exceptionally wet for Singapore and probably one of the wettest day in the month. There were flash floods in certain parts of Singapore and our famous Orchard Road got flooded again! As it was raining cats and dogs, we had no choice but to hole up in the hotel and wait for the storm to pass.

Our bored Hong Kong visitors playing card games at the hotel, thanks to the heavy Sunday morning thunderstorms

One for the album - posing with BC's Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore!

That happened around noon time and Dr Lee did not want to waste another second and we headed to the Butterfly Lodge at Oh’ Farms for a round of shooting whilst waiting for the sun to shine.

HKLS and BC members at Oh' Farms. Left - Right : Anthony, Chung Pheng, Kwai Yin, Rachel, Dr Lee, Yeok Keong, Arex, Manson, Gigi and Benjamin (front)

A glimmer of hope came with the sky starting to brighten up. After a quick discussion with ButterflyCircle members Chung Peng and Ben Yam, we decided to head to a nearby reservoir nature reserve.

HKLS and BC members at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park

Our Hong Kong friends were rewarded with a number of Hairstreaks that came out in the afternoon after the heavy downpour. There was even a hungry one that kept on puddling on us. The catch of the day was the Pale Mottle (Logania marmorata damis). The leader and former Chairman of the HKLS group Dr Lee explained to me that this species is not found in Hong Kong and this is a new species to almost everyone in the group.

Arex Li demonstrating the latest Kung Fu Panda 2.0 pose for butterfly shooting

The group was very enthusiastic and made up for the wasted morning due to the rain, and continued to shoot till past 7pm! We ended the day with a scrumptious meal at the famous Rangoon Road Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Soup).

Day 3
Although it was still drizzling, the enthusiastic group headed to Singapore Botanic Gardens to check out some favourite butterfly hangouts.

I recommended that we should head to the Ginger Garden, as there were always quite a number of skippers flying around that area, and true enough, a Common Snow Flat (Tagiades japetus atticus) was seen fluttering around. The rain and cool weather made the butterfly rather docile, and everyone probably got a good shot of this butterfly.

HKLS members posing with Horace Tan at MacRitchie Nature Trail

ButterflyCircle member Horace Tan met up with the group for lunch and we decided to head to MacRitchie Reservoir to check out certain spots to look for the Flos sp as the weather is improving.

Horace showing our HKLS friends the host plant of Flos apidanus

At the boardwalk trails at MacRitchie, we were greeted by several Branded Imperial (Eooxylides tharis distanti) and Common Posy (Drupadia ravindra moorei) fluttering around the forest fringes, allowing most of our visitors to get close enough to photograph the these pretty long tailed Hairstreaks.

The past few days of wet weather made the paths damp and slippery, but we could see quite a number of puddling butterflies, which were obviously hungry due to previous days of rain. The HKLS members certainly took their hobby very seriously, even equipping themselves with elbow and knee guards so they can prone on any hostile terrain to get the perfect shot!

Since this was their last night in Singapore, we decided to celebrate and Mark and I brought them to the famous fish-head curry restaurant at Samy’s Curry @ Dempsey Road. ButterflyCircle’s founding member Khew SK joined us for dinner despite having just returned after a long bus ride from a butterfly expedition over the weekend.

Our HKLS visitors having a spicy but sumptuous curry dinner at Samy's Curry @ Dempsey Road

The evening was spent sharing stories about the butterflies as the HKLS members showed us videos of butterflies feeding and frolicking in Hong Kong and other parts of the world where they had visited.

It was an exhausting but exciting 3 days spent with the lively and friendly members of HKLS. I have learnt many things such as how to apply back lighting for butterfly photography, how to take videos of butterflies, as well as the different behaviours and habitats of butterflies from around the world.

We hope that our Singapore hospitality helped to make the trip by our HKLS friends more fruitful and enjoyable, although the weather could have been more cooperative!

Text by Anthony Wong ; Photos by Gigi Lai, Arex Li, Anthony Wong, Mark Wong and Benjamin Yam

Special thanks to ButterflyCircle members, Benjamin Yam, Chung Pheng, Horace Tan, Mark Wong and Yao Yang for all the help rendered over the 3 days showing the HKLS members around Singapore's butterfly-hunting grounds. Thanks also to Yeok Keong of Oh' Farms for showing the HK group around the Butterfly Lodge as well as giving everyone a lift to Upper Seletar Reservoir Park.

Further Reading & References :