Strolling around at our place

Over a couple of days, I had a few little strolls around on our land and the immediate surrounding land. I was armed with both of my cameras: an Olympus TG-4 with FD-1 flash diffuser for things I could get close to and a Canon Powershot SX60 HS for things I couldn’t.

At this time of year, much of the land is inundated with water, creating many marshy areas and even ponds. There is a wide variety of plants on the land and we are surrounded by a flooded forest of mostly young Melaleuca cajuputi trees.

I managed to photograph a few things but was frustrated by many I failed to snap and a period with a fogged up lens on the TG-4. This has been a recurring problem but it is is my only complaint with the camera.

I have decided to group the photos together, rather than provide a tedious chronological run-through of events. I will start with Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) as they were dominant, certainly in what I was able to photograph.

Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)

I managed to photograph at least 15 odonate species, the majority of those I saw were very small (e.g. Agriocnemis spp. and Nannophya pygmaea (a.k.a. Scarlet Dwarf)). I say at least 15 species because I saw a large number of immature specimens and they are often difficult to identify. These included some teneral (i.e. just emerged) individuals. There were many teneral specimens and I didn’t even bother to photograph most because I know they are almost impossible to identify.

Agriocnemis was, as usual, represented mostly by A. nana and here are a few photos that show some of the variation in colours and markings in this species. There might also be A. nana among the photos of immature damselflies (below).

 

I got a shot of one that seems to be A. minima.

…and another that could be A. pygmaea but that is rarely seen and I will be seeking confirmation of its identity. I suggest A. pygmaea because it lacks the lateral spots in the second abdominal segment, which are normally seen in A. minima.

Until recently, I had never knowingly seen Mortonagrion falcatum but now I am seeing quite a lot of them. I wonder if I had seen them before but dismissed them as the similarly sized Agriocnemis spp. I guess I will never know. The photos include an immature individual that I am assuming is this species but I could be wrong. There was also a mating pair.

 

Another similarly sized damselfly is Ischnura senegalensis.

 

Of the “normal” sized damselflies, I photographed only three species: Ceriagrion calamineum, C. cerinorubellum and Aciagrion hisopa. It is possible there were other Ceriagrion spp. but some are very hard to differentiate. Among the photos of C. calamineum is one of a male eating a smaller species of damselfly. I saw both separately and was just deciding which to try to photograph first, without scaring the other away, when the C. calamineum darted off and caught the other damselfly. I cannot tell what the other is because it is very young and has indistinct markings.

 

I took a short video of one damselfly eating the other but it is not great – I couldn’t keep the camera still enough.

C. cerinorubellum were, as ever, abundant in the flooded forest.

 

I took a short (poor) video of the tandem seemingly failing to form a copula. Maybe it was a joint exercise routine.

Aciagrion hisopa were fewer in number but I saw some, including a pair with the male keeping hold of the female, while she oviposited on a plant just below the surface of the water.

 

The most commonly seen dragonfly during these strolls is also the smallest in the region: Nannophya pygmaea. This is one of the few Odonata for which I know an English common name: Scarlet Dwarf. I learned (and am still learning) about Odonata from my Russian friend: Oleg Kosterin. All of the N. pygmaea seen were not fully matured and none was scarlet, though one was starting to turn red. They were seen in the marshy areas, along with the smaller damselflies (Agriocnemis spp., Ischnura senegalensis and Mortonagrion falcatum).

 

Neurothemis fluctuans was also abundant, as ever, but I failed to get a single shot of a “normal” female, only one androchromatic individual. Normally, females have colourless wings but it is not uncommon to see them with some pigmentation, as in the one photographed.

 

In the more open grassy areas, a few males of N. tullia were seen but I managed only one poor photo.

There were quite a few Brachydiplax chalybea chalybea in the flooded forest. The specimen in the second photo seems to be unusually dark, and not just towards the tip of the abdomen, which is normal.

 

Also in the marshy areas were a few Diplacodes nebulosa, mostly female. I saw and photographed only one male.

 

D. trivialis was also seen but only on the dry, sandy area right next to our house, and only three individuals were spotted.

I saw a beautiful female of Rhyothemis variegata hovering over a plant but it wouldn’t stay in one place long enough for me to take a photo, so I decided to catch it so I could photograph it and share its beauty. I released it unharmed.

 

The only other dragonfly that I managed to photograph was a female of  Orthetrum sabina.

To finish with Odonata, here are a few photos of immature damselflies (mentioned above)

 

UPDATE:

Oleg Kosterin has provided some insight into the immature damselflies. The first two photos are probably Agriocnemis nana and the last is probably Mortonagrion falcatum.

Hymenoptera (Wasps, Bees and Ants)

There were a lot of Hymenoptera about but I failed to photograph most. They so rarely keep still! Anyway, I will share what I managed to capture.

I saw a few Xylocopa spp.: the huge X. lapites; smaller X. caerulea; one with yellow hairs that could have been X. bryorum and X. dejeanii, which was the only one I managed to photograph, including my first sighting of a female. The males and females are quite different and, at first, I thought I had a new (for me) species. Thanks to John Ascher for correcting me.

 

I saw a few of Apis dorsata (Giant Honeybee) but they were hard to photograph, moving around in a carpet of vegetation. This was the best shot I could get.

I also saw a few stingless bees, including one that looked new to me but I failed to photograph it. The only shot I managed was of two Tetragonula bees visiting a Desmodium sp. (see below).

I saw I beautiful wasp that I now wish I had captured because it seems to be a Zethus species that I have been told could be a new species to science. I didn’t even notice the similarities until I looked at the photos on my laptop.

 

It is mostly the unusually shape of the abdomen that leads me to think this is the same genus. For reference, I have a bunch of photos of the one identified as Zethus in my Flickr account.

I saw a stenogastrine wasp tending its little nest compartments, which it had built on the underside of the stem of some kind of rush growing in the flooded forest. The shape of these wasps enables them to hover very well and many are adept at stealing food from spiders’ webs.

I also managed a photo of a nice scoliid wasp. Shame you can’t see its head.

Surprisingly, I only took two photos of ants. The first is a Diacamma sp. dangling from the burst fruit of Osbeckia chinensis. These ants have a powerful sting.

I saw this little ants nest of yet to be identified ants. There was a Siler semiglaucus jumping spider (see below) hanging around. They are known to prey on ants, including stealing their eggs and larvae.

The most notable of Hymenoptera that I failed to photograph were a large number of what appeared to be paper wasps (Polistinae) and an ichneumonid wasp.

Hemiptera (Bugs)

I saw surprisingly few bugs (as in insects in the order Hemiptera) and I don’t have much to say about the ones I managed to photograph, so I will just include a gallery of them. The names, as far as I know them, are on each photo. It includes: a stink bug, a large-headed bug, a leaf-footed bug, a froghopper, a leafhopper and a planthopper.

 

Lepidoptera (Moths and Butterflies)

There were not a great deal of butterflies around and most of the moths were well hidden or too easily disturbed. Anyway, I managed a few photos of butterflies and one moth.

From Nymphalidae, we have Danaus melanippus hegesippus (White Tiger), Junonia almana almana (Peacock Pansy), Junonia atlites atlites (Grey Pansy) and a Mycalesis sp. (Bushbrown). There were loads of J. atlites around but, as you will see in the photos below, I managed only one rather poor photo. By the way, for the time being I have pretty much given up trying to identify anything in the Mycalesis genus to species level.

 

From Papilionidae I managed a single shot of a rather mangled male of Papilio polytes romolus (Common Mormon). I briefly saw a female but she had no plans to stop anywhere near me.

From Lycaenidae, I saw only Catochrysops strabo strabo (Forget-me-not) and Zizina otis sangra (Lesser Grass Blue).

 

From Hespriidae, we have a Potanthus sp. and an unidentified skipper that might be a Polytremis sp.

 

I cannot even decide which family the single moth I photographed belongs in. It is a choice between Drepanidae and Geometridae but I am leaning towards the latter. The more I have learned, which is still very little, about moths, the more confused I have become over these two families.

Orthorptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids)

As with Hymenoptera, Orthoptera seemed to be almost everywhere but they were extremely skittish and I managed only three photos, one of each.

 

Miscellaneous Other Insects

Just a few more insects that I managed to photograph. Here we have two tortoise beetles, two robber flies, nasute termites and the ootheca of a praying mantis.

 

My biggest disappointment was failing to photograph what I think was a mantidfly (Mantispidae). I have seen only a few of these and, if this individual was one (I only got a fleeting glimpse), it looked significantly different to the others I have seen. “Next time!”, which is my stock exclamation whenever, which is pretty often, I miss an opportunity to photograph something that looks particularly interesting.

Spiders

Again, I saw loads of spiders but failed to photograph most. In particular, there were a lot of spiders running around on the mud/sand and amongst the grass. I didn’t manage a single shot of any of those but suspect most were wolf spiders (Lycosidae).

There were several Tetragnatha spiders on messy, horizontal webs, one with a damselfly as prey. It had separated the head and thorax from the abdomen and was busy devouring them.

 

Also with prey was a jumping spider (Salticidae) but it is hard to make out what the prey is. If I had to guess, I would say a young orthopteran.

 

The only other jumping spider I saw was the Siler semiglaucus mentioned above. These are so beautiful.

There was a Nilus sp. (fishing spider). They use the surface tension of the water in a similar way to other spiders use webs. They can also go under water to catch small fish and tadpoles.

…and a wold spider (Lycosidae) doing a pretty good impression of a fishing spider.

Birds

Again, many birds seen but not photographed. In fact, only three photos to show. I do find that, when strolling around, it is easy to concentrate on either the larger, further things (like birds) or the smaller closer creatures (like everything above) but not both, so one always takes precedence. The birds photographed were: Lanius cristatus (Brown Shrike), Pycnonotus goiavier (Yellow-vented Bulbul) and Phaenicophaeus tristis (Green-billed Malkoha). All taken from quite some distance and without the aid of a tripod or monopod.

 

I failed to photograph loads, including but not limited to:

  • Psittacula alexandri fasciata (Red-breasted Parakeet), which I was very close to at least twice but didn’t see until it flew away in its characteristically noisy fashion. I wonder if they might be nesting here because one seemed to fly from roughly the same place on two separate strolls. These are fairly common round here but heard far more often than seen. I have published a few photos to Flickr.
  • Cinnyris jugularis (Olive-backed Sunbird), which was flitting around in a tree very close to me but always the wrong side of a leaf before it flew off. I have managed to photograph these in the past, and published to Flickr.
  • Irena puella (Asian Fairy Bluebird), I think, which seemed to fly from the very tree I was stood under.
  • Streptopelia chinensis (Spotted Dove), which are an everyday sight around here and I have many photos already, some of which are published to Flickr.

Frogs

Frogs are also pretty adept at getting out of sight without being photographed. I heard a lot splashing into the water without me even seeing them. I managed to photograph only three. One is Hylarana erythraea but I do not know the others and hold little hope of finding out. One is only a partial photo but it does show some quite distinct markings and the other seems to be a young individual and, as such, is probably very hard to identify.

 

UPDATE:

The two frogs that I expected to be unidentifiable have been identified by Alexandre Teynié . The first (second photo) is Hylarana macrodactyla and the second (third and fourth photos) is Occidozyga martensii.

Plants

This section will show only a small number of plants because I did not set out with the intention of photographing plants, with the possible exception of Utricularia spp. (Bladderworts) of which we have quite a variety here, but photographed a few that caught my attention.

Utricularia

Utricularia spp. are carnivorous plants known as bladderworts because they have bladder-like structures on their root systems, with which they catch small prey. Terrestrial species, like all the ones shown here, have very small bladders for catching very small prey (e.g. protozoa) moving around in wet soil. Aquatic species, which I have never seen, can have larger bladders and are capable of trapping things as large as mosquito larvae and fish fry. Amazingly, the bladders work by the plant creating a partial vacuum, which is sustained behind a trap door until prey comes along. The slightest touch is enough to break the seal of the trap door and cause the surrounding material (including the prey, if it is small enough) to be sucked inside. They are fascinating little plants! If you want to find out more about them, the Wikipedia page on them is a pretty good place to start.

I will start with a few known species. Here are U. odorataU. caerulea and U. geoffrayi.

 

This one is different from any I have seen before but only really in its colour. It has a very similar structure to U. uliginosa, which seems to be quite a varied species, and this could be another variation thereof.

 

The structure of the flower of the following plant is similar to that of U. geoffrayi. It differs in colour and also in the fact that its stem is very hairy.

 

Other Plants

Keeping on the theme of carnivorous plants, I will start with Drosera burmannii (a sundew). These have glandular tentacles tipped with sticky secretions that trap prey (usually insects or spiders). The plant is also sensitive to touch and can bend the leaves around its prey so as many as possible of its tentacles are in contact with the prey.

The following plant, a Burmannia sp. (Bluethread), is not carnivorous but it does have an unusual means of gaining nutrients. It is mycoheterotrophic, which means it has a relationship with fungus that allows it to obtain nutrients from other plants. The fungus forms a bridge between another plant and the Burmannia and nutrients pass through the fungus to the Burmannia. Burmannia are known to also photosynthesise but the species I have seen seem to have no leaves so I believe they rely entirely on mycoheterotrophy.

 

The next is a Desmodium sp. (or more than one) that is of particular interest to me because I once found a colony of Zanna sp. planthopper nymphs feeding on it. The Zanna sp. is still to be described. Oddly, Desmodium is very common round here and we have large patches at our place but I have never seen the Zanna sp. anywhere but one small location. Anyway, here are a couple of photos of the flowers, one being visited by stingless bees, as mentioned earlier.

 

Plants in the Melastomataceae family are extremely common around here so I tend not to photograph them unless they seem like a different species or, more normally, because they have interesting insects on them. However, the flower of this one looked in particularly nice condition so I snapped it and one of its fruit. I have this as Osbeckia chinensis but I have some doubts over all of my identifications of plants in this family, which were originally made based on the assumption that there were only two species around here. I now believe there are several species but have yet to sort them out.

 

In the same order (Myrtales) but a different family (Myrtaceae), Rhodomyrtus tomentosa has similar flowers and produces small edible fruit. The locals around here, including members of my family, go out picking them in a similar way to we used to pick blackberries in England.

The remaining few plants I do not know but, in the interest of actually publishing this post, I am going to leave it that way and try later to find out what they are. I will then update the post.

This one grows in marshy conditions and is not uncommon.

 

UPDATE:

The plant above has been identified as a Xyris sp. (a type of Yellow-eyed Grass) by Rich Ring.

This one forms a carpet over marshy ground. In fact, when I stood on it, I got a wet foot from the unseen water under the plant. This is the plant that was attracting Apis dorsata (see above).

 

UPDATE:

The plant above has been identified as Legazpia polygonoides by Mc Andrew Pranada.

The next one was growing in the flooded forest. It has quite unusual flowers, which will hopefully help with ID.

 

And finally, this one looks very like a Pandanus sp. but different to the usual one we see in these parts, P. odorifer.

 

UPDATE:

The plant above has been confirmed as a Pandanus sp. by Daniel Truong but with a choice of two, P. capusii or P. kaida. Hopefully, I will see it in flower someday and be able to sort it out.

So, that’s it for this time. Quite a bit but a fraction of what it could have been. To all the stuff I missed, “Next time!”.

UPDATE: Habitat

I forgot to include a couple of photos I took to give some idea of the general habitat. I should have taken more (e.g. to show the marshy areas and the flooded photos). Well, they are not far away so I could always add some photos later.

STOP PRESS

For those of you that have made it this far, there is a little bonus. While working on this post, I had popped outside on a few occasions. On one I was very lucky to see a gliding lizard (Draco sp.) in mid-air on its way between two trees. I didn’t manage to photograph but I did snap it once it had landed. It is difficult to distinguish Draco spp. without seeing their dewlap (flap under their neck) and/or their patagium (wings, sort of) and this one showed neither. It is probably D. maculatus (Spotted Gliding Lizard) because we have seen that here before.

On another occasion, a female of Papilio polytes romolus (Common Mormon), which I had missed early, came to feed at a pot plant just outside our house.

 

Author: Gerard Chartier

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