31 December 2017

2017 - Looking Back : Part 2

ButterflyCircle 2017 - Looking Back...
The Year in Review : Part 2

In our concluding article for the year in review, we take a look at some of the work done over the past 12 months by ButterflyCircle and our collaborating volunteers and members. We continue to share information about various subjects about butterflies to the butterfly-loving community in Singapore. Readers who have questions or preferences for particular information about butterflies that they would like to see featured, are encouraged to leave comments in the feedback section of this blog. We will try to research and share information about subjects that are of interest to our butterfly community.

We did reviews of butterfly books by various authors in the region. Discussions about these books help to benchmark the different ways authors feature butterflies and convey the information to different types of audience. Amongst the books reviewed were the Butterflies of India by Isaac Kehimkar, Butterflies of Borneo and Southeast Asia by Kazuhisa Otsuka, Butterflies of Malaysian Borneo by Prof Fatimah Abang, Precious and Protected Indonesian Butterflies by Dr Djunijanti and Practical Guide to the Butterflies of Bogor Botanic Garden by Dr Djunijanti Peggie and Mohammad Amir.

Whilst these books are not the typical taxonomic or scientific tomes, they contribute to different segments of the butterfly-loving community in their respective countries. By making the books appeal to a wider target audience, these authors have been effective in showcasing butterflies of their respective geographies - whether in India, Borneo or Indonesia. These authors should be complimented for their effort in promoting the appreciation and information about butterflies.

Sample photos from our Butterfly Photography 101 series

And then for the butterfly photography community, five additional articles were added to the Butterfly Photography 101 series to complete the 7-part series that was started in 2016. These articles covered a wide range of subjects and technical discussions that every butterfly photographer should know. The initial articles back in 2016 dealt with photographic equipment and magnification devices used in macro photography.

Sample photos from our Butterfly Photography 101 series

The remaining articles in the series in 2017 covered more technical information like shutter speed, aperture, ISO (and the combination of all three in butterfly photography), exposure and metering, the use of fill-flash, composition techniques, stalking and the best places to look for butterflies.

Two of our butterfly-friendly parks and gardens at Ang Mo Kio-Bishan and Bukit Panjang

We then featured some Singapore butterfly photography locations - our parks and gardens. Did you know that there are actually over 300 parks and gardens and 4 nature reserves in Singapore under the management of the National Parks Board. All these 'pockets' of greenery are places which attract our floral and faunal biodiversity and much needs to be done to enhance these sites to conserve what little we have of our natural heritage in Singapore.

Two nature parks to visit in Singapore for butterfly-watching - Coney Island and Springleaf

We took a look at four Singapore parks - Coney Island, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden and Springleaf Nature Park. Covering a range of urban heartland parks and nature parks, these areas of greenery feature a diverse range of butterfly species depending on the catchment and habitats available in the vicinity of these parks. Working with the NParks and community gardeners, a variety of butterfly-attracting plants have been cultivated at these sites to attract a wider diversity of butterfly species.

One local commercial butterfly park, the Sentosa Butterfly Park was also featured. This butterfly park, which was set up some time back in 1987, is an example of how commercialism has degraded the original mission of nature conservation. Appealing more to tourists and collectors, the use of dead beetles and butterfly wings as pieces of 'art' collages was one instance of featuring insects in bad taste. The facility was also rather run-down and in desperate need for a facelift.

ButterflyCircle's booth at the Festival of Biodiversity 2017

ButterflyCircle collaborated with members from Nature @ Seletar CC and volunteers from Chung Cheng High School to set up a booth at the Festival of Biodiversity 2017. In its sixth run, the festival that aims to introduce our local biodiversity to the general public continued to draw curious crowds year after year. In 2017, the FOB was held for the first time at NEXX Shopping mall in central Singapore.

Mr Foo gives a show-and-tell session, complete with caterpillars and pupae, at Seletar Country Club

Talks and sharing sessions were held in the course of the year to engage the community and butterfly enthusiasts. Mr Foo JL of Nature @ Seletar CC group held at talk in March for a group of nature lovers with an outing at the Seletar CC Butterfly Garden. There was a show-and-tell with different species' caterpillars and their host plants.

Butterfly Talk to a group of teachers at Deyi Secondary School

I gave a talk to the Science Instructional Programme Support Group in April. Held at the Deyi Secondary School, the talk was a sharing and educational session to the teachers who were keen on starting butterfly gardens and learning more about butterflies. The session ended with a walk around Deyi Secondary School's own Butterfly Garden which featured a small area landscaped with butterfly-attracting plants and signages to educate the students visiting the garden.

Community Planting Day at Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

A few volunteers from the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden group then organised a Planting Day and invited the community to join in to set up the butterfly garden. We selected a patch of open greenery and set out to plant a series of butterfly-attracting plants in planter beds. The mayor and the grassroots representatives also joined in the fun in June 2017. Just after six months or so, the BPBG number of butterfly species has already reached 60 and counting!

ButterflyCircle's contributions to the community in Singapore

And then we featured the contributions of ButterflyCircle's involvement and contributions to the educational, conservation, community engagement and citizen science initiatives in Singapore over the years. These articles, over a three-part series, showcased the efforts of ButterflyCircle members' sharing of their time, effort and knowledge on various fronts ranging from publications, talks, outings, surveys, interpretative signage and community engagement.

A collage of butterfly antennae pictures and an upside-down butterfly - observation of butterfly behaviour in the wild

On the scientific front, we posted two articles - one on butterfly behaviour and another on the anatomical observations of the butterfly's antennae. The two-part article on butterfly behaviour in the wild highlights certain species' propensity to hide under leaves in the field. Not all butterflies behave similarly but a handful of species tended towards a habitual under-leaf typical behaviour. The antennae of butterflies took centre stage in an article that discusses the physical appearance and functions of the antennae.

It was a relatively active year for ButterflyCircle members and our collaborators in promoting the appreciation and conservation of butterflies in Singapore. It has been a fruitful 10 years, sharing information about butterflies on this blog platform, and we look forward to 2018 and more exciting news and stories about our winged friends.

2017 has been a generally challenging year globally and particularly in the region. Perhaps to me, it was also a 'forgettable' year, as some unfortunate and unpleasant events, both at the personal and at the workplace environment, added some painful learning lessons for the year. Nevertheless, we should look forward to starting the new year with a clean slate and with renewed optimism that things will always be better.

I would like to wish all our ButterflyCirle members, readers and friends a bountiful and healthy...


Text by Khew SK ; Photos by Khew SK, Loh MY and Or CK ; FOB17 Poster by Huang CJ

24 December 2017

2017 - Looking Back

ButterflyCircle 2017 - Looking Back...
The Year in Review : Part 1

We take a look back over the past 12 months in 2017 and reflect on the activities that the group has contributed to the knowledge and sharing of information about butterflies in Singapore and our neighbours in Southeast Asia. It has been quite eventful, although here in Singapore, the actual butterfly population seemed to have dropped a bit in some months. There was no haze to blame this year, so perhaps there could be other reasons to explain for the drop in the sightings of some species that were more regular in past years.

This year, we continued to share useful articles on this blog to benefit different groups of people with different interests about butterflies. Into its 10th year, since 2007, this blog continues to churn out at least an article every weekend to cover various aspects about butterflies - from ecology and biology of butterflies, to community activities and education, to photography and outings to butterfly-rich neighbouring countries. We end 2017 with a grand total of 855 articles over the past decade of blogging.

In the regular feature articles in the blog like the Butterfly of the Month articles, we continue to share information and colourful photographs of individual species every month. This year, we have completed a total of 122 species featured over the past 10 years since the Dec 2007 "centrefold". It has been an incredible journey of monthly articles about the local butterflies featured, plus a few personal anecdotes about the world we live in.

Our life history expert, Horace Tan, has worked tirelessly over the years, churning out articles with amazing details to document the early stages of Singapore's butterflies. Given that he has already covered a staggering 194 individual life histories on this blog, this forms nearly 60% of the extant species in Singapore! There are probably a few more that Horace has yet to complete, but probably with diminishing returns as we reach a level where only the rare or very rare species are left to be documented.

Our local host plant Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa) and three of the butterfly species that this plant supports in their early stages

This year, Horace added two more species to his meticulous documentation of Singapore's butterfly species with the inclusion of an update to the early stages of the Purple Duke (Eulaceura osteria kumana) and the Ganda Dart (Potanthus ganda). Horace also shared one article on the Larval Host Plants of Butterflies, featuring the Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa). At least 3 butterfly species have been successfully bred on this host plant in Singapore.

Six additional butterflies' favourite nectaring plants were featured in 2017

Our Butterflies' Favourite Nectaring Plants series added six flowering plants that our local butterflies are attracted to. This topped up our list to fourteen such nectaring plants that every butterfly garden should be cultivated with. Not all the plants are your typical landscaping material, and some of them are often considered as 'weeds' to gardeners. However, it is important to have the diversity of nectaring sources to attract a wider variety of butterflies.

On the social media front, the original FaceBook site set up for sharing butterflies of Singapore took a different direction and changed its focus more and more towards the international scene. This has pros and cons, but I feel that the original mission of setting up a sharing group that features Singapore's butterfly biodiversity first, has been diluted beyond recognition.

Hence a back-to-basics Butterflies of Singapore FB group was re-created in June this year. Whilst the community is a much smaller group now, there is better local relevance and focus on Singapore's butterflies and activities. The previous group concentrates on a global thrust which does not do much to promote butterfly conservation, community engagement outings and educational activities that are specific to our local scene. I will devote my time and effort to the local group and wish the more international-outlook group all the best in pursuing their own objectives, whatever those may be.

The ever-active and enthusiastic Mr Foo contributing his time and energy to encourage butterfly enthusiasts to participate in community butterfly gardens and sharing of knowledge

ButterflyCircle's collaboration with Foo JL's Nature @ Seletar Butterfly Group has also reaped dividends for butterfly conservation and education efforts that are more tailored towards, and of particular benefit to Singapore. It is important to leave behind a legacy that cultivates the next generation of butterfly enthusiasts for Singapore to ensure a sustainable conservation community that continues to be active locally so that nature continues to have a place in our lives, despite the pressure of intensive developments on our small 715 sq km island.

The original ButterflyCircle forum that was set up in 2004 is left to take on a more scientific and taxonomic purpose. It remains a very useful resource on butterflies, particularly when we still have the invaluable expertise of Dr Seow TL in the identification of the cryptic lookalikes amongst our butterflies. Although the forums have not been as active as before, the information that is relevant still comes in very useful from time to time.

In the next part of this article, we will share more of the educational and community engagement efforts that ButterflyCircle has participated in over the past year. As we head our to our respective Christmas Eve celebrations and parties with our friends and loved ones this evening, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our friends and readers a blessed and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Khew SK, Loh MY, Loke PF and Horace Tan