Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sarawak: A Walk with Grandpa

The young gentleman posing so graciously with Eileen in this picture is our grandson Ryan Raja Wong, aged almost 4-1/2 at this point (May 3, 2011). Readers of this blog will be seeing a fair bit of him in future postings.

Despite his apparent lack of seriousness he is proving to be quite an enthusiastic young naturalist.

Ryan will be accompanying us on a walk through the Sama Jaya Nature Reserve, an attractive and popular 38-hectare park in Kuching, Sarawak's capital. Shall we?

The park features two very popular paved jogging trails through a patch of urban kerangas forest. It's a good place for Ryan to see typical rainforest plants, like this vine creeping up a tree trunk, its leaves pressed closely against the bark.

It's not always easy to interest a small child in little things that fascinate his Grandpa, including richly-coloured young leaves (the colours may warn insects of protective toxins in their tissues) ending in graceful drip tips, the better to shed the frequent raindrops.

Flowers are an easier sell. This is a ginger, its twisting stem allowing each of its leaves unimpeded access to the sun.

This, I think, is a gesneriad of some sort.  I'm probably wrong.

Neurothemis terminata
Of course, Ryan finds insects endlessly fascinating. Grandpa likes them too, even common ditch-dwelling dragonflies like Neurothemis terminata.

Neurothemis terminata
Ryan has learned that Grandpa does not want him to chase these insects with the largest sticks he can find. Not until Grandpa has taken his photographs, anyway (and, my animal protection minded colleagues will be relieved to learn, not even then).

Ryan, who is flatteringly convinced that Grandpa knows everything, wants to know the exact name of every insect we see. Grandpa is embarrassed to admit that he hasn't the faintest idea what this little fellow is - a bug, perhaps, or a sort of beetle?

Assassin bug (Cosmolestes sp, Harpactorinae)
Assassin bug (Cosmolestes sp, Harpactorinae)
Grandpa does much better on this one - it is an assassin bug (Cosmolestes sp., subfamily Harpactorinae, family Reduviidae). I'm afraid that I try Ryan's patience trying to get a good shot of it.

Branded Imperial (Eoxylides tharis)
This tiny but spectacular butterfly is a Branded Imperial (Eoxylides tharis), one of a number of orange hairstreaks with black-and-white tails on the hindwing. Grandpa tells Ryan that a bird trying to eat this butterfly might be fooled by the tails into taking a bite from the wrong end. Grandpa doesn 't know the names of the ants in the same picture, though.

Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita)
Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita)
Here's something you don't often see in a city park - a female Crested Fireback Pheasant (Lophura ignita). I'm not sure how she got here, but apparently she is alone - a male that I gather once lived in the park has apparently died.

Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita)
She has not the least fear of people, including Ryan (once Grandpa has convinced him that chasing her would not be a very good idea).

Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Plants, insects and birds are all very well, but for a nature-loving four-year-old, you can't beat monkeys for sheer excitement. There is a troop of Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in the park, and encountering them is the high point of our walk.

Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
They seem as concerned about us as we are interested in them! We are as much primates as they are, of course. Are there grandfathers and grandchildren in their group, too?

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