My first trip to Singapore, long before I met Eileen and began spending a good part of my life in this part of the world, was in 1972, en route to a two-year stay in Australia. One of the few things I remember about it, oddly, was a birding trip to MacRitchie Reservoir, then an undeveloped mix of trees and scrub surrounding part of the island city's central water catchment.
It was forty years before I found myself back at MacRitchie again. This time - it was March 4, 2012, and we were on our way home from Sarawak - I was in the company of Eileen and her Singapore-based cousins Chris and Susan Chang. Chris and Susan had decided that I needed a day outdoors, and the reservoir - now (after a recent makeover) surrounded by a boardwalk, gardens and a well-tended parkland - was an ideal place to spend it.
As the author of two books on the subject, I am always glad to start a nature walk off with a turtle. I would prefer, however, that it be a native turtle! Instead, this is the ubiquitous Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), an import from the United States that was once the quintessential dime-store pet turtle, and is now a flourishing exotic over much of the world.
…and a Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus).
As you might expect in an urban park, there is perhaps more at MacRitchie for the insect-hunter than for the vertebrate-watcher. The place was so rich in dragonflies and damselflies that I have had to reserve them for a separate posting. Here, we can start with this crisply-patterned hoverfly...
Here are two more common swallowtails, this time members of the kite swallowtail group: a Blue Jay (Graphium evemon eventus)…
…and a Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon luctatius).
On to the brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae). This one, a member of the subfamily Satyriinae, is a Common Three-Ring (Ypthima pandocus corticaria).
This one, a familiar sight for readers of this blog, is Orsotriaenia medius cinerea. Yes, I know, it has a common name - the N-word, I'm afraid - but I'm sick of using it. Call it one of the bush browns.
This is a Bamboo Tree Brown (Lethe europa malaya), a much more spectacular butterfly than its rather drab English name might lead one to expect. The "bamboo" part refers to its host plant (the one its caterpillars munch on). It is supposedly rather rare in Singapore. Fabricius, who coined this species' scientific name in 1787, was obviously of a classical bent: why he named it after Hades' river of forgetfulness and one of Zeus's girlfriends (the one he picked up while disguised as a bull) I cannot say.
Unlike the Tree Brown, the Cruiser (Vindula dejone erotella) is common in Singapore, and indeed over much of Southeast Asia. This is a male (females are apparently much harder to find).
The female Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsea) is less striking than the male, but still attractive; this one seems a bit dilapidated.
The Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana) is another common and attractive butterfly, presumably named for its prominent eyespots and their resemblance to the ornaments in a peacock's train.
Southeast Asia is home to a number of startlingly beautiful hairstreaks (Lycaenidae), several of them (belonging to different genera) with bright orange on the wings and long, trailing white streamers on the hindwing. Are these sexual ornaments, or are they there to fool birds into attacking the butterfly at the wrong end?
Here are two examples: first, a Branded Imperial (Eooxyloides tharis distanti)...
After our stroll around the reservoir, we headed off for a bite at the popular Poison Ivy Bistro, which not only features good food but has a garden with approachable birds. These are Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata).
So is this much more richly-colored bird. The differences appear to have nothing to do with age, and it is possible that the population of this species in Singapore may include cage-bird escapees from more than one subspecies. This bird appears typical of the local race fretensis, while the bird in the previous set of photographs look more like the northern form topela, which normally ranges from China to Thailand.
This is certainly the tamest and most cooperative Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) that it has ever been my pleasure to photograph!
We finished the day with a brief stop at the Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve, a place that deserved considerably more attention than we could give it. My only photographic record is of this hefty Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) hauling himself, rather laboriously, out of a pond.