07 May 2016

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Gardens by the Bay

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Butterfly Sanctuary @ GB

An overview of the Butterfly Sanctuary @ GB with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background

Singapore's premier waterfront gardens, Gardens by the Bay, have attracted well over 24 million visitors since it opened its doors in 2012. Its visitorship numbers have exceeded similar garden attractions in the developed world by quite a bit, hovering around 6 - 8 million visitors per annum. A visit to Bay South Gardens would never be complete without taking in the awesome exhibits at the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and the Supertrees!

Different views of the Butterfly Sanctuary @ GB

ButterflyCircle conducted a series of surveys at Bay South gardens some time back in 2013, and recorded nearly 50 species of butterflies around the gardens. All the butterflies were spotted outside the glass conservatories, of course, although there are often people who asked if there were butterflies inside the Flower Dome or Cloud Forest. One of the conservation visions of GB was to enhance the local biodiversity and to attract more species of fauna back into the site after the development was completed.

Birds galore at Gardens by the Bay

Indeed, the number of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other mammals increased manifold after the Gardens were completed and opened to the public. A family of otters was also regularly seen frolicking around the gardens, particularly areas which are adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. Despite the human crowd, it is interesting to observe that urban biodiversity continues to return to GB. Bird watchers and photographers are seen toting their "heavy guns" around the lush greenery at GB. The Common Kingfisher (which is ironically, quite rare), is often seen at GB.

And so I've often been asked, where can you find butterflies at GB? Butterflies are free-ranging in our open environment. They are generally thermally-sensitive creatures and have been observed to shun heat sinks like buildings and metal facades that radiate heat. You will more likely see butterflies in open gardens areas where there are nectaring plants.

Location Map of the Butterfly Sanctuary @ GB

A small area near the Meadows was set aside as a "butterfly sanctuary". Though not officially known as a butterfly garden, nor are there signs to indicate that it is, this small area of roughly 600-800sqm was planted with numerous butterfly-attracting plants. Both host and nectaring plants were judiciously placed in planting beds, with a wide path allowing visitors to walk up close to the plants to admire the pretty flowers and observe the butterflies feeding on the flowers.

A Plain Tiger caterpillar on Crown Flower Plant

Amongst the caterpillar host plants available are Blood Flower (Asclepias currasavica), Crown Flower (Calotropis gigantea), Seven Golden Candlesticks (Senna alata). Rattleweed (Crotalaria retusa) and many others. Colourful flowering plants dot the entire area with Lantana, Ixora, Cosmos, Marigold, Asystasia, Snakeweed and many others, making this quiet sanctuary a nicely-designed landscaped garden.

On a typical day, an observer can spot at least 10-15 butterfly species flying around. The most obvious species (and plentiful), is the Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus), flying leisurely around the flowers and often seen feeding on the red-and-yellow flowers of the Blood Flower plants. The fast-flying Lemon, Orange and Mottled Emigrants are usually around too, but are quite challenging to photograph, as they are skittish and tend to fly around non-stop.

The sun-loving butterflies like the Blue and Peacock Pansys can be regularly seen, dog-fighting amongst the shrubbery. The smaller Lycaenids like the Cycad Blue, Pea Blue and Gram Blue are sometimes seen flying skittishly amongst the flowers. Do remember to look out for the small blues like the Lesser Grass Blue, Pale Grass Blue and the Pygmy Grass Blue amongst the wild flowers growing at the turfed areas.

All the "Tigers" shot at Gardens by the Bay!

Amongst the other Danainaes, the various "tigers" are often seen - Blue Glassy Tiger, Dark Glassy Tiger, Common Tiger and Black Veined Tiger. There are also a number of Skippers zipping around in the early morning hours. The Yellow Palm Dart (Cephrenes trichopepla) is often observed and do keep a good lookout for this species basking in the sun.

Look out for the little butterflies at the Ixora bushes!

Over at the Meadows driveway and carpark, you can find the Javanese Ixora (Ixora javanica), Red Tree Shrub (Leea rubra), Bandicoot Berry (Leea indica) lining the planter beds. This area is pretty good for the shade-loving Hairstreaks like the Peacock Royal, Common Tit and Ciliate Blue. A quick walk around these flowering shrubs may sometimes pay good dividends as far as spotting these pretty Hairstreaks are concerned.

So, if you want some quiet time with the butterflies, do pop over to this little sanctuary at the Meadows. Unless there are big events planned at the Meadows, the butterfly sanctuary is usually quiet and serene. On most of my visits in recent months, I've had the whole place to myself for the entire morning! For those who drive, the car parks are always empty in the daytime and on weekends. The little garden is also close enough to public transportation networks and is a short walk away if you come by bus or MRT.

Butterfly Sanctuary @ GB is a convenient place for a butterfly "quick fix". It is also an ideal and safe place for beginners who are starting out to photograph butterflies, and near enough to amenities like a water cooler, public toilets and so on, if jungle-bashing is not yet your cup of tea. And there should be enough butterflies to keep you busy for an hour or two on each visit.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Chng CK, Khew SK, Loke PF, Nelson Ong and Anthony Wong.

* All the butterfly shots on this blogpost were taken at the Butterfly Sanctuary @ Gardens by the Bay