01 June 2013

ButterflyCircle at Gardens by the Bay

ButterflyCircle at Gardens by the Bay
A Sunday Outing at Singapore's Premier Gardens at Marina Bay

ButterflyCircle members with COO Kenneth Er at Gardens by the Bay

The newly-opened Gardens by the Bay - Bay South Gardens, has very much been in the news since its official opening last year. Gardens by the Bay (or GB) (Chinese: 滨海湾花园) consists of three distinct waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central, set in the heart of Singapore’s new downtown Marina Bay, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir.

Satellite photo © CRISP and Gardens by the Bay Pte Ltd

Spread over a total land area of 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is an integral part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’. The aim is to raise the quality of city living by enhancing greenery and flora. The Bay South Gardens was officially opened on 28 Jun 2012 after the project was first introduced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his National Day Speech in 2005. Gardens by the Bay has become Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space, and a national icon, with its spectacular cooled conservatories and supertrees, changing the urban skyline at the Marina Bay precinct.

© Gardens by the Bay Pte Ltd

GB is built on a site that was reclaimed from the sea since the 1970's. Not many people remember that Singapore's shoreline in those days was quite different from what it is today. The map above shows the extent of land reclaimed in the 70's and 80's. Where GB sits today would have been right in the sea back in the 70's. The transformation from marine ecosystems and biodiversity to terrestrial habitats and biodiversity took over five decades to what it has become today.

Masterplan of Bay South Gardens © Gardens by the Bay Pte Ltd

I am happy and proud to have been involved in GB from the start of the project back in 2005. Back then, starting together with just a small team from the National Parks Board, we were just driven by the vision and the dream of what GB could be, for Singapore. Over a period of seven years, and the thousands of people involved who have contributed their creativity, hard work and unflinching commitment to the project, it was extremely satisfying to see GB finally opened to the public in June 2012.

Conservatories @ Gardens by the Bay by Darren Chin

Beneath the amazing structures and cornucopia of horticultural displays at GB, is the engine of sustainability. Before the two glass conservatories were built, a lot of research into architectural glazing and cooling technologies were done to ensure that the project will be sustainable in terms of energy consumption and long-term maintainability. Today, the cutting-edge tri-generation technology powered in part by bio-mass to generate its own electricity, coupled with the harnessing of waste heat to power the absorption chillers and regeneration of liquid desiccant makes the Energy Centre at GB a very energy-efficient airconditioning plant.

Beyond the built structures, biodiversity surveys covering indicator species of plants, birds, butterflies and dragonflies were conducted on site as the construction of GB progressed. As would be expected, the construction activities and human presence in the existing habitats created disturbances that kept the fauna away. However, as the horticultural palette changed and increased over time, whilst the various landscaping and planting schemes took shape, so did changes occur in the faunal distribution and density.

All around the site, once the flora was established and the number of species of plants increased on site, and the artificially-created water bodies in the form of lakes and streams stabilised, it was observed that the species counts for the indicator groups increased.

Not many people realise that Bay South Gardens cover a total of 54 hectares of land. A large percentage of visitors tend to associate GB with just the conservatories and supertrees (and the myriad F&B outlets). However, there are significant areas of the site that are now home to many species of birds, dragonflies and butterflies.

Almost a year after its official opening, and where the environment at GB has begun to stabilise, ButterflyCircle was invited to commence butterfly surveys of the site to ascertain the range of species that can now be found at GB. On Sunday 19 May 2013, a group of 15 ButterflyCircle members met at Bay South of GB to conduct its first butterfly survey on site.

After a quick briefing by GB's Chief Operating Officer Kenneth Er and his staff, Gary, Juliana and Edwin, the group was brought to the first location for the survey - the Fragile Forest area of GB. We travelled in style via the electric buggies and it saved us quite a bit of walking in the hot morning weather. The Fragile Forest area is a remnant patch of forested area that covered the original Marina South Park before GB was constructed. Many of the existing trees were conserved, and as GB progressed, more plants, shrubs and trees were added to the area.

The Fragile Forest area is adjacent to the Meadow, an outdoor lawn where musical performances are held. There is also an open car park area nearby. This part of Bay South covers about a third of the total site. Many parts of the area are left to grow "wild" and were teeming with wildflowers like Bidens alba, Widelia trilobata, Crotalaria retusa and so on. Several patches were also specially planted with butterfly-attracting plants like Stachytarpheta indica, Lantana sp., Ixora sp, Asclepias curassavica, to name a few.

ButterflyCircle members in action

It was therefore not surprising that ButterflyCircle members found quite a good number of species of butterflies flying about on that day. Over 30 species were sighted, and on subsequent visits by members, more species were added to the checklist for GB. The sighting of the Rustic (Cupha erymanthis lotis) was a pleasant surprise, as this species is more regularly observed at the forested areas of our nature reserves. Its appearance is likely to be attributed to the fact that its caterpillar host plants Indian Prune (Flacourtia rukam) and Batoko Plum (Flacourtia inermis) are cultivated at GB.

As it was a hot humid day that Sunday, the butterflies were active and skittish, making butterfly photography rather challenging. However, ButterflyCircle members, with their years of experience with butterfly observation and photography, managed quite a few attractive shots of the species that are found at GB.

A sample of the Pieridae species that can be found at GB

Many of the fast-flying Pierids like the Mottled and Lemon Emigrants were up and about early and fluttering amongst the treetops and flowers. Females of the Mottled Emigrants were observed ovipositing at the caterpillar host plant, Seven Golden Candlesticks (Senna alata). A number of Common Grass Yellows also made their presence quite obvious at flowering plants and also ovipositing at one if its several caterpillar host plants, the Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). The Striped Albatrosses were also flying erratically about, suggesting that its caterpillar host plant, Cleome rutidosperma must be growing nearby. Of course, the Painted Jezebel, probably the most widespread butterfly around, completed the Pieridae members at GB.

Amongst the Papilionidae, only the Lime Butterfly and Tailed Jay were seen. I am quite sure that the other urban Swallowtails, the Common Mormon, Common Mime and Common Bluebottle will be sighted sooner or later. The caterpillar host plants of these few urban Swallowtails are available, e.g. Citrus spp, Cinnamomum iners and Murraya koenigii

The urban Danainaes were well represented with the Blue and Dark Glassy Tigers, Common, Plain and Black Veined Tigers all showing up. A solitary male Striped Blue Crow was also observed.

Three out of four of our sun-loving Pansies were already resident at GB, with the Chocolate, Blue and Peacock Pansies appearing on the Sunday when we were at GB. The other Nymphalidaes were Rustic, Leopard, Leopard Lacewing, Autumn Leaf and Tawny Coster also joined in.

Amongst the Lycaenidae, the Peacock Royal made a surprise appearance. Its caterpillar host plant, Dendropththoe pentandra, must be growing nearby. Other common urban "blues and hairstreaks" made up about ten species, with notable species like the Slate Flash, Pointed Ciliate Blue and Plain Plushblue.

Hesperiidae spotted were the common urbanite species like the Small Branded Swift and Contiguous Swift. A number of our "foreign talent" Yellow Palm Darts were also observed at various locations in GB, indicating that a small colony has already taken hold, given that one of its caterpillar host plants is the Coconut Palm, which is found at GB. A Great Swift also made an appearance during the survey.

Part of the ButterflyCircle team enjoying a good rest at the Hill Street Restaurant @ GB

At the end of the very hot morning, ButterflyCircle members were treated to a nice lunch, complete with a good swig of 'fermented barley juice' for the so inclined, to put a nice touch to the excellent hospitality extended to our members by the Gardens by the Bay team. It was the first time I had lunch at the Hill Street F&B outlet, which served local fare at reasonable prices (for GB).

Subsequent outings by individual ButterflyCircle members generated the current checklist of butterflies below. I am quite sure that the list will increase in due course :
  1. Papilio demoleus malayanus (Lime Butterfly)
  2. Graphium agamemnon agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
  3. Danaus genutia genutia (Common Tiger)
  4. Danaus chrysippus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
  5. Danaus melanippus hegesippus (Black Veined Tiger)
  6. Ideopsis vulgaris macrina (Blue Glassy Tiger)
  7. Parantica ageloides agleoides (Dark Glassy Tiger)
  8. Euploea mulciber mulciber (Striped Blue Crow)
  9. Euploea phaenareta castelnaui (King Crow)
  10. Eurema hecabe contubernalis (Common Grass Yellow)
  11. Catopsilia pyranthe pyranthe (Mottled Emigrant)
  12. Catopsilia pomona pomona (Lemon Emigrant)
  13. Appias libythea olferna (Striped Albatross)
  14. Delias hyparete metarete (Painted Jezebel)
  15. Junonia hedonia ida (Chocolate Pansy)
  16. Junonia almana javana (Peacock Pansy)
  17. Junonia orithya wallacei (Blue Pansy)
  18. Euthalia aconthea gurda (Baron)
  19. Acraea violae (Tawny Coster)
  20. Phalanta phalantha phalantha (Leopard)
  21. Cupha erymanthis lotis (Rustic)
  22. Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
  23. Doleschallia bisaltide bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
  24. Zizina otis lampa (Lesser Grass Blue)
  25. Zizula hylax pygmea (Pygmy Grass Blue)
  26. Zizeeria maha serica (Pale Grass Blue)
  27. Lampides boeticus (Pea Blue)
  28. Euchrysops cnejus cnejus (Gram Blue)
  29. Prosotas dubiosa lumpura (Tailless Line Blue)
  30. Flos apidanus saturatus (Plain Plushblue)
  31. Tajuria cippus maxentius (Peacock Royal)
  32. Anthene lycaenina miya (Pointed Ciliate Blue)
  33. Anthene emolus goberus (Ciliate Blue)
  34. Hypolycaena erylus teatus (Common Tit)
  35. Rapala manea chozeba (Slate Flash)
  36. Suastus gremius gremius (Palm Bob)
  37. Polytremis lubricans lubricans (Contiguous Swift)
  38. Polytremis assamensis (Great Swift)
  39. Telicota colon stinga (Common Palm Dart)
  40. Pelopidas mathias mathias (Small Branded Swift)
  41. Cephrenes trichopepla (Yellow Palm Dart)
So the next time you walk around Gardens by the Bay and thought that there are no butterflies around, do open your eyes and look carefully. Who knows? You may add a few more species to the checklist.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Glenn Bagnas, Darren Chin, Sunny Chir, Federick Ho, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Koh Cher Hern, Loke PF, Billy Oh, Nelson Ong and Anthony Wong

Special appreciation and thanks to Kenneth Er, Gary Chua, Juliana Tan, Edwin and other staff of Gardens by the Bay for the excellent hospitality extended to ButterflyCircle members. Photo credits for candid shots of ButterflyCircle members to Darren Chin.  Maps and diagrams of Gardens by the Bay - credited to Gardens by the Bay Pte Ltd

Visit Gardens by the Bay! : http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/home.html


Unknown said...

This place is very nice for me to spend weekend with kids. Really breathtaking indoor forest with artificial waterfall and man mad trees are colossal and lighting setups in the evening time gives a feeling of paradise

Commander said...

Thanks, Richard. Yes, GB is a place that has something for all types of nature lovers. From the conservatories to the supertrees and the open areas with lots of biodiversity. :)

Unknown said...

Very excited about my SG trip!! Hope I can see all of them.