18 March 2018

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

In our earlier article on butterfly photography at our local parks, we featured the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park. Originally known as the Kallang Reservoir, the it was formed by impounding across the lower reaches of the Kallang River in 1910. In 1922, it was renamed Peirce Reservoir in commendation of the services of Robert Peirce, who was a Singapore Public Works Department engineer from 1901 to 1916. In 1975, a dam was built across the upper reaches of the Peirce Reservoir, splitting it into Upper and Lower Peirce Reservoirs thereafter.

A view of the 350m dam separating the Upper Peirce Reservoir (on the right) and the Lower Peirce Reservoir (on the left).  A 30m elevation separates the two reservoirs.

A view looking down at the Lower Peirce Reservoir from the dam 

A view of the Upper Peirce Reservoir with lush vegetation of the nature reserves along the reservoir banks

In this weekend's blog article, we visit the Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. In 1970, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) conducted feasibility studies for the construction of a new reservoir in the vicinity of Peirce Reservoir. The site was found to be suitable and construction started in May 1972. The works included the building of a 30-metre-high, 350-metre-long earth dam upstream of the existing dam, hence creating a new reservoir upstream of the existing one. This new reservoir was named Upper Peirce Reservoir, while the older reservoir was accordingly renamed Lower Peirce Reservoir.

A commemorative marker indicating that the reservoir was opened by Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1977

The Upper Peirce Reservoir was completed in 1975 and officially opened by then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 27 February 1977. Today, Singapore has a total of 17 reservoirs spread across the island. The Upper Peirce Reservoir covers a surface area of 304 Ha and has a capacity of about 27.8 million cubic metres of water.

The Upper Peirce Reservoir Park is a serene and tranquil park located to the eastern banks of the Upper Peirce Reservoir (UPR). This reservoir, together with the MacRitchie Reservoir, the Lower Peirce Reservoir and the Upper Seletar Reservoir, bound the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). The nature reserve acts as a water catchment for the reservoirs in the area and is considered a protected catchment.

The Upper Peirce Reservoir Park covers an area of about 5 Ha. Access to UPR is via Old Upper Thomson Road, via a gated access. The gate is open from 6:00am to 7:30pm daily. The scenic road is undulating (a challenge for cyclists and pedestrians, but excellent for an exercise workout) flanked on both sides by lush vegetation and tall trees. Do keep a lookout for various troops of the Long-Tailed Macaques who are used to visitors feeding them. Some of them may be a bit more 'friendly' than preferred as they often associate humans with food.

There is a carpark at the end of the road, with toilet and other basic park amenities like shelters, seats, rest areas and even water coolers. The 350m long earth dam ends in a golf course at the other side from UPR. The view of the serene waters of the Upper Peirce Reservoir (at the higher elevation) and the Lower Peirce Reservoir, some 30m below the earth dam is picturesque and beautiful.

The vegetation at UPR is largely native plants that are typical of the flora of the Central Catchment Nature Reserves. Some years ago, when the landscaping of the park for visitors was first started, the Javanese Ixora shrubs attracted a good variety of butterflies. However, these plants are now over their prime and what remains hardly attract any butterflies any more. It is hoped that the NParks will continue to cultivate more butterfly-attracting plants in this area so that visitors can enjoy the diversity of species that are present in the CCNR.

Walking around the open park areas, one can expect to see common butterfly species like the Chocolate Pansy, Common Mormon, Common Four Ring and several species of the Grass Yellows. Occasionally, a few Cruisers, Barons and various Hesperiidae can be seen on hot sunny days.

Exploring along the side road leading to the service reservoir and treatment plant where water from UPR is treated and stored, a visitor may be treated to some rarer species that live in the forests of CCNR. As there are not many flowering plants in the area, it is usually more challenging to photograph butterflies, but keep a sharp eye out for those that visit the flowers of the Bandicoot Berry flowers and other native flowering shrubs in the area.

There is an open area along this service road that has flowering shrubs like the Mile-A-Minute weed that may sometimes attract various species of butterflies in the early morning hours. Keep an eye out for ovipositing Malay Viscounts, Malay Barons and the odd OakBlue (Arhopala spp). that visit their caterpillar host plants in the area.

A walk down the service road to the water tanks and Treatment Plant can sometimes be fruitful with some interesting encounters

Walking further in towards the fenced Service Reservoir, one can sometimes encounter species like the Common Bluebottle, Lesser Jay and Five Bar Swordtail puddling in the damp areas in the drains. The proximity of the CCNR may turn out surprises once in a while and over the years of surveys and outings in UPR, there have been encounters with very rare species before.

Butterflies photographed at Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

Some examples of the rarities spotted at UPR include the Black and White Flat (Gerosis limax dirae), the Spotted Silverstreak (Iraota distanti distanti), the Golden Royal (Pseudotajuria donatana donatana), the Hoary Palmer (Unkana ambasa batara), Dark Banded Ace (Halpe ormenes vilasina), Green Imperial (Manto hypoleuca terana), the Great Imperial (Jacoona anasuja anasuja), The Grand Imperial (Neocheritra amrita amrita) and Banded Royal (Rachana jalindra burbona). So keep your eyes peeled and hope that you get lucky!

Upper Peirce Reservoir Park cannot be described as a 'butterfly haven', but its adjacency to the Central Catchment Nature Reserves may sometimes turn up something surprising and rare. A typical walk on an ordinary day may not yield anything more than some common species, so if that happens, just enjoy being out there in nature and the splendid views of the reservoirs and the lush greenery that surrounds you!

How to Get There :
By Bus:
Bus nos. 163, 167, 169, 855, 980.
Alight at the bus stop nearest to the Casuarina Curry Prata shop and walk along Old Upper Thomson Road towards Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. Be prepared for a long walk in and out!  Estimated walk in one direction is about 30-45 mins.

By Car : Follow the direction of Upper Thomson Road. Turn left before the traffic lights at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 into Old Upper Thomson Road. Follow the road until you see the entrance of Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. Parking facilities are available at the end of road near the toilet (Free parking). 

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Khew SK, Loh MY and Mark Wong