16 January 2016

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Seletar Country Club

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Seletar Country Club Butterfly Garden

Welcome to the Seletar Country Club Butterfly Garden

Golf courses are large tracts of greenery that are, ironically, not very "green". A typical golf course occupies tens of hectares of land that is usually cleared of vegetation for the course to serve its purpose. Referred to as "green deserts" by Dr Richard Corlett (formerly from the NUS), the greenery on golf courses may mislead one to think that the greens are rich with biodiversity. This is usually furthest from the truth, as the amount of environmentally-unfriendly fertilisers and pesticides used to keep golf greens pristine and manicured can adversely affect biodiversity.

However, one man set out to at least make an effort to mitigate the "golf course effect" at his club. Mr Foo Jit Leang, owner of a private software company, wanted to show that golf courses need not necessarily be devoid of wildlife. During a visit by Prof Peter Ng of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and the Seletar Country Club Chairman, Mr Khoo Teng Chye, they challenged Mr Foo to try to create pockets of planted areas that can attract biodiversity to the club premises.

Armed with only his love for nature, and the information that he could get from available books and the internet, and amongst the nature community in Singapore, Mr Foo set out to plant butterfly-attracting host and nectaring plants at a small patch of land next to the clubhouse in 2012. Today, the Seletar Country Club Butterfly Garden, as it is known, occupies an area of about 500-600 sqm and is usually teeming with butterflies on a good sunny day.

Mr Foo and the visitors who spent time at the Butterfly Garden have, to date, spotted a total of 102 butterfly species at the three-year old project. On a good day, an observer can usually expect to see about 20-25 different species of butterflies, from the large Papilionidaes to the small and skittish Hesperiidaes. Combining host plants with nectaring plants around the garden, the SCC Butterfly Garden is now a magnet for butterflies, as well as other insects, birds and even small reptiles.

Different views of the SCC Butterfly Garden - from open areas to intimate corners for butterflies

This morning, I visited Mr Foo and the SCC Butterfly Garden. It was a bright sunny day when I arrived and the butterflies were already up and about, and feeding on the flowers of the String Bush and Shepherd's Needles bushes. A few Plain Tigers and Dark Glassy Tigers were chasing each other amongst the shrubbery.

I spotted a Leopard (Phalanta phalantha phalantha) ovipositing on its caterpillar host plant, the Batoko Plum. A Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus malayanus) zipped past me, stopping for a fleeting moment to feed on the flower of the Pink Snakeweed.

Mr Foo and our young ButterflyCircle member Jonathan Soong joined me, and we walked around the garden as Mr Foo shared his stories of the challenges of setting up the butterfly garden, and maintaining the momentum of his initiative. He had to "educate" the club's gardeners not to spray pesticides and not to pull out plants that they considered "weeds". Many butterfly host plants are what landscape designers see as invasive and ugly weeds. However, without these host plants, one cannot expect to see a wider variety of butterfly species. Mr Foo proudly shared that he has bred a total of 42 different species of butterflies found at the garden.

The "closed-loop" water-based habitat for butterflies, dragonflies and other critters

Besides the lush greenery that the Butterfly Garden showcases today, Mr Foo also brought us to the "closed-loop" stream nearby. This stream creates a water-based habitat with appropriate plants to attract dragonflies and butterflies. The body of water is constantly moving, using the topography of the land and a simple pump to move the water around. We noticed a number of the diminutive Pygmy Grass Blues fluttering happily around the bushes near the stream.

Walking back to the main Butterfly Garden, I spotted a hungry Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete) feeding on the flowers of the String Bush. It kept me busy chasing it for about half an hour, teasing me as it came close, and then quickly flitted away as I approached it. After a tiring game of cat-and-mouse with it, I finally managed to take a decent shot of it on the String Bush flowers.

The scorching overhead noon sun was taking a toll on us, and we quickly retreated to the clubhouse for a yummy lunch, courtesy of Mr Foo. Looking back at the Butterfly Garden, I would consider it a successful rehabilitation of a piece of land adjacent to a somewhat sterile golf course. The butterfly diversity is considered very good, and it took a simple initiative to populate an otherwise featureless piece of land with butterfly-attracting plants to rejuvenate the biodiversity.

Mr Foo sharing his stories about the Butterfly Garden

Mr Foo has gone on to spread his enthusiasm to schools, childcare centres, community gardens, and to anyone who is interested to set up a butterfly garden. He has unselfishly shared plant cuttings, seeds and always willing to impart his experience and knowledge to give a helping hand to our butterflies to survive and thrive in urban areas in Singapore.

"Green Desert" alert!! - a view across the Butterfly Garden to the golf course beyond

Mr Foo has also shown golf course owners that they can do something for nature, and to use part of the large tracts of land that these golf courses sit on, to support our local biodiversity, instead of maintaining their unsavoury reputation for being "green deserts" in Singapore. Interestingly, for a small island of only about 714 sqkm, Singapore has 21 golf courses! Imagine if small Butterfly Gardens sprout up in all these golf courses. We will need more people like Mr Foo to achieve this dream!

And so we have another local "garden" at the Seletar Country Club that is a haven for butterflies. Photographers and nature lovers can visit this SCC Butterfly Garden to have their fill of nature's flying jewels, and you might meet Mr Foo walking around and infect you with his passion for nature and butterflies!

How to get to Seletar Country Club Butterfly Garden

Driving/Taxi : From the Central Expressway heading north, use the exit 16 to Seletar West Link and turn into Seletar Club Road.  There is ample free parking at the premises.

By MRT/Bus : Drop at Khatib MRT, and cross the road.  Take Bus 85 to just before the TPE, alight and switch to Bus 103 and alight just before West Camp Road and walk to Seletar CC. Alternatively, take Bus 39 and alight at the stop before Seletar Camp G and switch to Bus 103 and alight just before West Camp Road and walk to Seletar CC.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Janice Ang, Bob Cheong, Foo JL, Khew SK, Koh CH and Jonathan Soong

Checklist of Butterflies Spotted at Seletar CC Butterfly Garden as at Jan 2016 (by Mr Foo JL)

  1. Common Birdwing - Troides helena cerberus  
  2. Common Rose - Pachliopta aristolochiae asteris 
  3. Common Mime - Papilio clytia clytia
  4. Lime Butterfly - Papilio demoleus malayanus
  5. Common Mormon - Papilio polytes romulus
  6. Common Bluebottle - Graphium sarpedon luctatius
  7. Tailed Jay - Graphium agamemnon agamemnon
  8. Painted Jezebel - Delias hyparete metarete
  9. Striped Albatross - Appias libythea olferna
  10. Mottled Emigrant - Catopsilia pyranthe pyranthe
  11. Lemon Emigrant - Catopsilia pomona pomona
  12. Orange Emigrant - Catopsilia scylla cornelia
  13. Common Grass Yellow - Eurema hecabe contubernalis
  14. Three Spot Grass Yellow - Eurema blanda snelleni
  15. Plain Tiger - Danaus chrysippus chrysippus
  16. Common Tiger - Danaus genutia genutia
  17. Blue Glassy Tiger - Ideopsis vulgaris macrina
  18. Common Evening Brown - Melanitis leda leda
  19. Common Palmfly - Elymnias hypermnestra agina
  20. Malayan Eggfly - Hypolimnas anomala anomala
  21. Great Eggfly - Hypolimnas bolina bolina
  22. Jacintha Eggfly - Hypolimnas bolina jacintha
  23. Autumn Leaf - Doleschallia bisaltide bisaltide
  24. Chocolate Pansy - Junonia hedonia ida
  25. Grey Pansy - Junonia atlites atlites
  26. Peacock Pansy - Junonia almana javana
  27. Blue Pansy - Junonia orithya wallacei
  28. Tawny Coster - Acraea terpsicore
  29. Leopard Lacewing - Cethosia cyane
  30. Green Baron - Euthalia adonia pinwilli
  31. Plain Nawab - Polyura hebe plautus
  32. The Apefly - Spalgis epius epius
  33. Lesser Grass Blue - Zizina otis lampa
  34. Pygmy Grass Blue - Zizula hylax pygmaea
  35. Cycad Blue - Chilades pandava pandava
  36. Gram Blue - Euchrysops cnejus cnejus
  37. Ciliate Blue - Anthene emolus goberus
  38. Pointed Ciliate Blue - Anthene lycaenina miya
  39. Centaur Oak Blue - Arhopala centaurus nakula
  40. Peacock Royal - Tajuria cippus maxentius
  41. Common Tit - Hypolycaena erylus teatus
  42. Chestnut Bob - Iambrix salsala salsala
  43. Palm Bob - Suastus gremius gremius
  44. Yellow Palm Dart - Cephrenes trichopepla
  45. Common Palm Dart - Telicota colon stinga
  46. Small Branded Swift - Pelopidas mathias mathias
  47. Lesser Dart - Potanthus omaha omaha
  48. Large Dart - Potanthus serina
  49. Plain Palm Dart - Cephrenes acalle niasicus
  50. Conjoined Swift - Pelopidas conjunctus conjunctus
  51. Dingy Bush Brown - Mycalesis perseus cepheus
  52. Dark Brand Bush Brown - Mycalesis mineus macromalayana
  53. Common Four Ring - Ypthima huebneri
  54. Palm King - Amathusia phidippus phidippus
  55. Short Banded Sailor - Phaedyma columella singa
  56. Malayan Lascar - Lasippa tiga siaka
  57. Dark Glassy Tiger - Parantica agleoides agleoides
  58. Pea Blue - Lampides boeticus
  59. Copper Flash - Rapala pheretima sequeira
  60. Black Veined Tiger - Danaus melanippus hegesippus
  61. Chocolate Albatross - Appias lyncida vasava
  62. Detached Dart - Potanthus trachala tytleri
  63. Cornelian - Deudorix epijarbas cinnabarus
  64. Slate Flash - Rapala manea chozeba
  65. Transparent Sixline Blue - Nacaduba kurava nemana
  66. Dark Malayan Sixline Blue - Nacaduba calauria malayica
  67. Blue Nawab - Polyura schreiber tisamenus
  68. Dark Caerulean - Jamides bochus nabonassar
  69. Common Line Blue - Prosotas nora superdates
  70. Formosan Swift - Borbo cinnara
  71. Colonel - Pandita sinope sinope
  72. Common Sailor - Neptis hylas papaja
  73. Leopard - Phalanta phalantha phalantha
  74. Common Banded Awl - Hasora chromus chromus
  75. Striped Blue Crow - Euploea mulciber mulciber
  76. Common Dartlet - Oriens gola pseudolus
  77. Chocolate Demon - Ancistroides nigrita maura
  78. Tailless Line Blue - Prosotas dubiosa lumpura
  79. Contiguous Swift - Polytremis lubricans lubricans
  80. Vagrant - Vagrans sinha sinha
  81. Bush Hopper - Ampittia dioscorides camertes
  82. Striped Black Crow - Euploea eyndhovii gardineri
  83. Plain PlushBlue - Flos apidanus saturatus
  84. Brown Awl - Badamia exclamationis
  85. Great Swift - Pelopidas assamensis
  86. Cabbage White - Pieris canidia canidia
  87. Besta Palm Dart - Telicota besta bina
  88. Grass Demon - Udaspes folus
  89. Common Red Flash - Rapala iarbus iarbus
  90. King Crow - Euploea phaenareta castelnaui
  91. Banana Skipper - Erionota thrax thrax
  92. Common Awl - Hasora badra badra
  93. Baron - Euthalia aconthea gurda
  94. White Tipped Skipper - Erionota hiraca apicalis
  95. Pale Grass Blue - Zizeeria maha serica
  96. Pale Palm Dart - Telicota augias augias
  97. Bamboo Paintbrush Swift - Baoris farri farri
  98. Vinous Oakblue - Arhopala athada athada
  99. Full Stop Swift - Caltoris cormasa
  100. Linna Palm Dart - Telicota linna
  101. Silver Forget-Me-Not - Catochrysops panormus exiguus
  102. Rustic - Cupha erymanthis lotis