“Tarantula Fishing” at Bukit Fraser, Malaysia

During our 3 day trip to Fraser Hill, there was no doubt that we were going to head out to explore and discover the creatures of the night. Our goal was to look for the 3 species of Tarantulas that Fraser Hill is known for, mainly from the Coremiocnemis Genus. They are Coremiocnemis hoggi, Coremiocnemis cunicularia and Coremiocnemis obscura (ranked in order of rarity). To sum it all up, we had a pretty productive trip, scroll down for more photos and a video!

Being a nocturnal species, Tarantulas are more active at night, look carefully and you just might spot some long hairy legs sticking out of a hole. In the day, these burrows would just appear to be plain, empty holes in the ground. Take a look at some of my shots of these arachnids in their natural environment~

Some of these photographs are light 2 image stacks.

Disclaimer: Locations for macro shoots would not be disclosed to protect the arthropods from poaching.

Look at how the colours blend in with the environment!

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

Tarantulas whether they are arboreal or terrestrial species are ambush predators, waiting in their burrows for crickets, roaches or even small mammals like mice to come along. These spiders have poor eyesight but that does not stop them from being formidable hunters, the tiny hairs that cover their body are hyper-sensitive to the surrounding environment, sensing and feeling out any vibrations close by. Once the potential prey comes close enough, Tarantulas strike with insane speed and accuracy (arguable haha), injecting venom from their large fangs.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

“Tarantula Fishing” (not an official term) is essentially teasing the arachnid out of its burrow using an object like a stick or blade of grass. When coaxing, think “cricket” and gently brush along the parameter of the burrow and you will see the Tarantula slowly creeping out of its burrow, waiting to strike. Some species are more skittish than others and would not stay out for long once out of its burrow, take a video that you can review later for your own purposes.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi> grabbing the stick we used.

Look at that deep purplish-blue colouration! Coremiocnemis hoggi can be identified by the two hind legs that are “bushier” than the other legs. This was also the first shot I took where the entire spider came out of its burrow. Its sheer size was astonishing.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

This is a widely known method used by biologists, scientists, hobbyists and photographers/film makers (just to name a few), for a myriad of purposes like observation, documentation, research etc. Do note that the spiders are not harmed in any way and this is just part of their natural behaviour. Needless to say, continuous attempts to coax the same spider out from its burrow would cause unnecessary stress to it and it would probably just stay in the burrow and ignore you.

One of my favourite shots from the trip!

Entire spider out from its burrow.

Fun fact: This species of Tarantula is named after Stephen Hogg, a.k.a. the Stephen of Stephen’s Place in Fraser. He observed and documented these spiders years before they were officially described.

Another method people use to coax the spider out from its burrow is the “flooding method” where a low pressure stream of water is introduced into the burrow and the spider will naturally exit the burrow. I’ve seen people do this to rehouse their Tarantulas at home and it seems pretty effective (we did not do this).

Sling

There is definitely a healthy population of Tarantulas in the area we found them. Burrows were rather close to one another and we saw many slings (lingo that refers to baby spiders, or early instars). Juveniles are hard to ID as they mostly look similar but this one is probably hoggi.

<Coremiocnemis cunicularia>

Another species known to be found in this area is Coremiocnemis cunicularia and it has a pretty similar colouration to hoggi but does not have the bushier hind legs. This particular individual has a really dark, black colouration and its a possible cunicularia.

<Coremiocnemis cunicularia>

This species is rather uncommon as compared to hoggi and we probably only encountered only 2-3 of them. Some Tarantulas stayed in their burrows and some did not come out enough for us to get a positive ID.

Still awaiting a positive ID of this one, but it could possibly be the rare obscura. The temperament of this individual was so different from the rest. It was daring enough to grab onto the stick, refusing to let go and kept its pursuit. Watch the video I compiled below to see what I mean!

Being the largest spiders in the world, they inject fear into the majority of people, but do know that although they inflict a painful bite, their venom is not potent enough to kill and is only comparable to a bee sting. As long as you keep a distance and respect the arachnid, you would not be harmed!

Watch the simple video compilation I did to show you how these shots were taken. Disclaimer: I had no intention to do a video in the first place so you could probably tell its pretty messy~ video is unlisted on Youtube.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqSi71-QZxg

The Tarantulas shared this wonderful habitat with other spiders like the Huntsman Spider you see above. I could not find an ID for this one but it has a gorgeous pair of chelicerae. Black stripes and a dash of blue in front? I’ve never seen that before on a huntsman. Do dm me if you know huntsman this is!

This one had an overall redder coloration but with similar chelicerae. Possible Lunula?

Other interesting ambush predators you can find there are the Funnel Web Spiders, much smaller in size than the Tarantulas with smaller burrows. These guys are way more skittish and don’t stay out at all, at most a second or less.

Lastly, the elusive Malaysian Black Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus) can be found in that area as well. It is one spider with a really unique round abdomen! This specimen was not extracted from its home, but instead, this was just a really unusual and pretty sad sight to see.

You will rarely find Trapdoor Spiders out of their burrows especially in the day, they cannot survive in hot temperatures and stay in their burrows to keep cool. We chanced upon this huge Trapdoor Spider crawling and tumbling across this sandy slope in the scorching Sun with no burrow in sight when we were birding in the morning (this was shot with a telephoto lens). Naturally we returned to the location at night and found that this individual had been crushed along the roadside, probably a victim of roadkill.

If you want to see how the trapdoor hunts and how its home looks like, check out this video done by bugsnstuff on Youtube.

It will give you a good idea on how interesting this species is 🙂

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#macrophotography #singapore #biodiversity #wildlife #discovery #insects #arthropods #photography #malaysia #bukitfraser #fraserhill #hoggi #coremiocnemis #tarantula #spiders

Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand (Part I)

During my 3 week road trip touring both the North & South islands of New Zealand, I chanced upon a large array of wildlife the country had to offer. This was not a pure photography trip and the wildlife photographed were all seen during hikes, along the roadside where convenient to stop and other random places we visited. Definitely a bugger to miss some of the common yet beautiful endemic birds but I was so lucky to even spot species like the Royal Spoonbill on a random wetland I drove past, amongst many others like the rarest penguins in the world. There were of course the really common birds which I did not pay much attention to. I also had a chance to visit the famous Gannet colony where I could observe and document their unique behaviour. This series is split into 3 parts to retain the best resolution and viewing experience.

All wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon EOS 7D mark ii and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. All rights reserved.


One of the highlights of the trip happened when we visited the Katiki Point Lighthouse (10min drive down south from the Moeraki Boulders). Katiki Point is a protected area due to its breeding population of the endangered and rare Yellow-eyed penguins amongst other birdlife in the area. We arrived 30min before closing and tried our luck, following the coastal path and looking down to the beach.

<New Zealand Fur Seals>

The first animals I spotted were the New Zealand Fur Seals , some carefully camouflaged with the rocks and seaweed on the beach (looking like plump sausages). We saw a great deal of these seals throughout the trip in various locations but the best shots were taken at Katiki. It was almost sunset and the tide forced one of the seals to get up from his slumber and move further into the beach. I was lucky to capture that moment when the seal was thrashing up sand with those flippers!

The photos in the slideshow above were taken at the Nugget Point Lighthouse. Just wanting to show you how well these seals camouflage. Can you spot it?

<Yellow-eyed Penguins>

We were told that the Yellow-eyed penguins should be returning home from sea at any time now but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Thankfully, I managed to spot just one individual at the far end of the beach with my lens. Shots were from high above but i’m definitely pleased with these record shots. Came here with no hopes of seeing any but what an experience that was! Other species that we saw were the nesting Red-billed Gulls, Southern Black-backed Gulls and Variable Oystercatchers (Torea).

<Red-billed Gulls>


The famous trek to Roy’s Peak was a fulfilling one, definitely worth it lugging up that heavy gear.

< California Quail>

One of the birds that kept appearing during the trek was the gorgeous California Quail. Check out those beautiful colours and the unique forward-drooping crest it has! The female is the one in brown~

Besides the wonderful endemic species of birds, many introduced bird species (mostly from Europe) also call this place home.

<Common Redpoll>

After many failed attempts, I managed the following shot of the Common Redpoll. Skittish and sparrow-sized! Pretty happy with this one (cause it’s the only usable shot -.-).

As you would have guessed, Sheep are everywhere in NZ. Like everywhere. The juveniles are cute though.

<European Goldfinch>

A heavily cropped image of a Goldfinch. Took a better shot in Europe before, showing those vivid colours but this was all I managed. Juvenile was shot somewhere in the North Island.

<Silvereye>

I read that Silvereyes are common in NZ but this was the only one I saw the whole trip and it appeared for just that split second! Lovely feather details in this one.

<Common Chaffinch>

Chaffinches are common but rather skittish as well. Spotted this individual on a nice and rather open perch down the hill. Heavily cropped.

<Yellow Hammer>

Yellow Hammers are gorgeous balls of gold and pretty hard to photograph as well. This little bugger refused to turn around!

<Song Thrush>

Saw quite a few Song Thrushes throughout the trip and they almost always have food in their mouth. Who says only the early birds catch the worms?

<Dunnock (Hedgesparrow)>

Quiet and unobtrusive, this species is often seen on its own. Spotted only one the whole trip.


Milford Sound is an area with magnificent landscapes and it’s also the place with the highest chances of seeing the World’s only alpine parrot, the Kea!

<Kea>

These endangered parrots are highly intelligent and curious. Unfortunately, they are so used to being fed by people and you’ll often see them waddling about on the roof of cars and near parked vehicles. They have a gorgeous olive green plumage and orange feathers on the underside of their wings which I didn’t manage to capture.

<Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki)>

I took these images on board the Milford Sound Nature Cruise and we were told we were so lucky to see 3 of these endangered penguins as they are hardly ever seen during the day. Similar to the Yellow-eyed Penguins above, this species is also dubbed as one of the World’s rarest penguins with a breeding population of less than 3000 due to a large variety of threats. These shots are heavily cropped.

Near Milford Sound is a place called Glenorchy and I managed to photograph some cool species there too!

<New Zealand Scaup>

<House Sparrow>

<Banded Dotterel (Double-banded Plover)>

Thats all for Part I!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#newzealand #birding #wildlifephotography #wildlife #discovery #kea #penguins

 

Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand (Part II)

All wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon EOS 7D mark ii and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. All rights reserved.

The South Island is filled with amazing wildlife and the following shots were just random places I stopped by to shoot.

<Royal Spoonbill>

Spotted a pair of Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage on a random wetland we passed by. Super lucky that I was able to stop and make my down to the wetland. These are one of the six species of spoonbills and are the only ones that breed in NZ. Just watching them wade in the shallow water with that constant sweeping motion to hunt for prey just made my day! Only the adults in breeding plumage will have that yellow chest and those distinctive long feathers behind the head. Was so eager to just prone to get better shots but with a 3hr drive ahead, I just could not make that sacrifice. Definitely happy with these record shots! Royal turd in the last photo.

<Variable Oystercatcher>

<Goat>

<Welcome Swallow>


I shot some nice subjects in the North Island too. They’re rather common, but it was where I mostly got improvement shots~ The following shots were taken at Te Waihou Walkway, Blue Spring where 70% of New Zealand’s fresh bottled water comes from.

<Spur-winged Plover>

<Mallard Duck>

<Paradise Shelduck>

The female is the one with the white head and the male has an overall darker plumage.

<Black Shag>

The highlight was definitely documenting this Shag hunting for fresh water shrimp in crystal clear water!

<Purple Swamphen (Pukeko)>

Thats all for Part II!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!For more content, follow me at www.instagram.com/thru_de_lenz#newzealand #birding #wildlifephotography #wildlife #discovery #kea #penguins

Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand (Part III)

All wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon EOS 7D mark ii and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. All rights reserved.

Sometimes, you may find subjects at the most unexpected places and unexpected moments. We visited the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland to see the Lady Knox Geyser and to learn about the geothermal activities that was going on in Rotorua. Look at the shot below, find anything?

Let me help you out!

<Pied Stilt>

These little guys were so far away and well camouflaged that I only realised there were chicks when I zoomed in to check my shot. Aren’t they cute! Once again, you have to stay on the boardwalk (to prevent yourself from getting thoroughly steamed) and there was no way to get any lower…

<New Zealand Fantail>

This was hands down the most challenging species I encountered. These fantails move so quick and hardly stay put for more than a second. Couple that with the fact that they were always too far away, darting in and out of bushes in low light. To my knowledge, there are different morphs of Fantails in NZ, mainly the pied and dark morph. But one things for sure, once you see that signature tail, you’ll know you’ve spotted one!


Weather was pretty unpredictable during our trip and there was once we were just relaxing in the campervan at Tauranga Tourist Park before our Glowworm Kayak Tour that same evening. We were parked right next to a wetland and check out what I spotted!

<Sacred Kingfisher>

Two hungry Sacred Kingfishers taking turns to hunt small crabs in the mud. They always returned to the same perch and i’m so glad to have braved the rain to document this hunting behaviour. Flight shots turned out pretty decent as well! Light was terrible though…

My first encounter with the Sacred Kingfisher was at a random pit stop near Milford Sound

<White-faced Heron>

Even further away from the kingfishers, I didn’t have much luck on getting any nicer images than this one.

<Black Swans>

Largest bevy of Black Swans I’ve ever seen. Photographed near Pukeni Holiday Park at a place we stopped to have some fresh oysters.


If you’re a bird lover and visiting the North Island, you MUST visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony, just about an hours drive from Auckland. Thousands of Australasian Gannets breed there from August to March each year and you can get up real close to the colony. During my time there, I decided to document their behaviour in a series of photos.

<Muriwai Gannet Colony>

The main colony area is just a short walk from the carpark and theres another vertical sided island just out at sea that hosts more breeding pairs (2nd image). These large birds (~2m wingspan) nest extremely closely to one another!

First few Australasian Gannets that greeted us during the short walk to the colony. Perfect place to practice some flight shots! Light was really harsh and those shadows really killed many of my shots.

These birds perform elaborate greeting rituals by stretching their bills and necks skywards and gently tapping bills together. The males however, are highly territorial during nesting and mutual bill fencing was often seen. Really love the second shot cause they look so goofy!

Couples usually stick together for a couple of mating seasons!

From the onset of breeding, the male brings nesting material such as brown algae Carpophyllum, which he retrieves from the shallows. Both members of the pair form and maintain the nest mound, particularly when the surrounding ground is soft from rain.

The Gannet then lays a single egg and can only successfully incubate one egg over a period of approximately 45 days. Both sexes share the incubation duty, and later brood the chick on the top of their webbed feet.

Chicks would fledge, leave the colony and cross the Tasman Sea to Australia when they are about 100 days old. They only come back after 3 years to secure a nesting site~

These birds are plunge divers and spectacular fishers. They then feed their young by regurgitation. Didn’t manage to see any of that due to the time constraint but definitely worth the trip there to witness a massive colony of Gannets with my own eyes and through my lens. Only wished that I had more time and better light to work with.

Besides the Gannets, breeding White-fronted Terns share the location as well.

These terns are built for speed and superior manoeuvrability. Small fish have no chance against this dive-bomber.

After fishing, they fly back to their nests to feed their young. The terns were situated much further than the Gannet colony and all the photos are heavily cropped.

Size comparison between the two species.


Lastly, a gorgeous endemic bird that I have a love-hate relationship with, the famous Tui (honeyeater)

These honeyeaters are found in both the North and South islands and look absolutely exceptional. They have nice glossy feathers and that unique tuft of white feathers on their chest. I only saw 3 of them in total and the conditions were never right for a good shot. The second image was shot at the Auckland Zoo and even then, the harsh light was unforgiving.

So that mostly sums it all up, 3 weeks touring the North and South Islands. We saw many other species along the long drives but I’m happy with whatever I managed to see and capture. Didn’t have much expectations to get many shots but it seems like I had a really productive trip!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#newzealand #birding #wildlifephotography #wildlife #discovery #kea #penguins

The Curious Case of the Albino King

The last week of June was a pretty interesting one for the birding community when a member from the local Otterwatch group spotted an unusual white Kingfisher in a canal at East Coast Park.

Through the initial photographs, the bird was quickly identified as our resident Collared Kingfisher species which can be seen and definitely heard almost anywhere in Singapore. Does this species look familiar to you?

Naturally, many got excited about the sighting and flocked down to get their winning shot of Singapore’s first Albino Kingfisher. Pictures flooded online and kick-started a discussion to determine whether the bird is a victim of leucism or albinism.

Albinism vs Leucism

Both conditions may look similar but are vastly different. Melanin, a group of pigments present in most organisms, is responsible for giving colour to feathers, eyes, skin as well as hair. It is absent in vertebrates with albinism. These vertebrates would have pale eyes that are usually red or pink, and their bodies would be totally white. In contrast, leucism is the partial loss of pigmentation, resulting in the vertebrate being ‘patchy-coloured’ (but sometimes are completely white). The eyes however, are not affected by the condition. By looking at the eyes of this kingfisher, it is more probable that it is albino than leucistic.

We headed down on Saturday with hopes to see this unique bird (named ‘Fluffy’ by the birding community) and it was one of those rare occasions that we did not have to wait for him to show up! Photographers were already firing away as Fluffy perched on a low lying branch just across the canal. Unfortunately, due to the overcast sky, lighting conditions weren’t ideal and we ended up shooting in a light drizzle.

It was clear that Fluffy could not take flight and was struggling just to balance on the branch. The feathers on Fluffy’s tail are not fully developed which resulted in the inability to stabilise himself. The slideshow below shows Fluffy showing off those truly angel-like wings while preening! Simply gorgeous!

Upon hearing the calls of his parents nearby, and with great difficulty, Fluffy tumbled around and made his way to a fallen tree on the railings. Birders then got into position to capture the feeding. One of his parents came by with a freshly caught Cicada, one of the loudest insects on Earth.

Soon after, Fluffy coughed out pellet. In ornithology, pellets are formed by the undigested food of the bird’s diet and can include the exoskeletons of insects, plant matter, fish bones and fur. It was a pretty large one too!

Within the next 15-20 min, keen eyes spotted one of Fluffy’s parents hunt down a large Praying Mantis. The kingfisher then swung the prey repeatedly into the branch to disorient and keep the mantis from escaping. This was done to facilitate a smooth feeding and is a common practice with most parent birds feeding their young. Check out the feeding sequence below!

With more photos of Fluffy flooding online, we know he has been fed an array of vertebrates ranging from butterflies, mantids, beetles, bees, crickets, katydids, cicadas, small crabs, lizards and the list goes on and on!

It was apparent that Fluffy has an issue with his eyesight and difficulty flying. After we left the location, we heard that Fluffy had flew onto the cycling tracks a couple times and almost drowned in the water from the canal after falling in! Birders, Acres and other park-goers had to constantly watch over Fluffy to prevent him from getting rolled over by cyclist and to reduce the stress on the poor bird. Acres had also brought him to Jurong Bird Park for the vets to nurse him back to health. Further updates from avid birders were that Fluffy has since been reunited with his parents, feeding well and is looking healthy!

Impact of Albinism

The effects of albinism can be really severe in the animal kingdom. The lack of melanin results in the constant breaking and deterioration of the birds feathers and offers little camouflage against predators. Without the ability to retain heat, albino birds can sometimes freeze in lower temperatures as well. More often than not, albino birds also suffer from poor eyesight like in Fluffy’s case. They rarely survive past fledging but with the help from the community, Fluffy seems to be doing pretty well for now!

We can only hope for the best for this unique Kingfisher! Fluffy has also been featured on the StraitsTimes! check out the coverage here:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/albino-kingfisher-chick-draws-birding-community-to-east-coast-park

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#birding #wildlifephotography #collaredkingfisher #albinokingfisher #kingfisher #feeding #hunting

Rediscovered after a decade?

It started off as a casual shoot at a location we do not frequent. The night was filled with relentless mosquitos and the wet, muddy terrain made it even worse. It was also my first time seeing such large numbers of Golden-spotted Tiger Beetles, yellow Lynx Spiders, Swamp Eels and Crickets, all within a straight ~150-200m walk. Regardless of the sheer number of common subjects that night, it was a wonderful opportunity to practice and get improvement shots….until we spotted something amazing, something that kept us busy for a good hour or so. Well, before that and as always, here is a quick summary of the shots that night.

Disclaimer: Locations for macro shoots would not be disclosed to protect the arthropods from poaching.

Tiger beetles are these cool metallic beetles with crazy huge jaws. If you stroll along any of our nature parks, chances are high that you will see tiger beetles on the ground, however, they are so skittish in the day that its near impossible to get close. Thankfully for us, we can safely admire and photograph them at night when they are more cooperative. Usually we would spot one or two individuals, but in this particular location, the numbers were crazy, easily 50 or more. Check out some of the shots below!

This particular species is the Golden-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela aurulenta) and its the most common Tiger Beetle we have in Singapore. Whats interesting about their mating behaviour is something called ‘Mate-guarding’ (the bottom two photos). The males use their large mandibles to grab onto the thorax of the female to prevent any other males from mating with his partner. This behaviour can last for a really long time until the male is satisfied that the other suitors are discouraged. First time seeing this!

Here’s the more uncommon Neocollyris celebensis. Only one individual was spotted that night and it flew away before I could get a nicer background…

Two species of Shield Bugs dropped by, namely the Giant Shield Bug (Pycanum rubens) (top) and Shield Bug (Cantao ocellatus) (bottom).

Hoppers

Spiders

This Garden Spider (Parawixia dehaani) we found had a much redder colouration than previous Garden Spiders I’ve photographed before. I actually checked my white balance multiple times just to make sure I captured accurate colours. I noticed that it has yellow hairs on the sides of its carapace too, something I have never noticed before. Gorgeous arachnid!

The World’s smartest spider, capable of designing tactics and assessing situations to hunt. This particular species is Portia Labiata and it was spotted hiding on the underside of some leaves. Interested in learning about why its named the smartest hunter? Check out this short documentary clip by BBC Earth to find out more 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDtlvZGmHYk

Lynx Spiders (Oxyopes birmanicus) were everywhere that night. Something interesting about Lynx Spiders are the long hairs on its legs that act as a basket to trap prey when it hunts!

Juvenile Crab Spiders waiting in ambush on a single blade of long grass.

Huntsman Spider and Twig Spider with egg sac

Here we go……if you are following me at @thru_de_lenz on Instagram, you may have seen all the hype where my friends and I chanced upon one rare and unusual critter. In my many years of venturing down the roads less travelled, I have witnessed a fair share of weird, strange looking creepy crawlies that never cease to amaze me. This one was no exception. To be honest, I was slightly creeped out by this critter that looked like it came straight out of some sci-fi movie, kinda like the first time you see a house centipede up close. Thankfully the sole specimen was feeding on a leaves that was within our reach and was cooperative in allowing us to properly document the sighting.

Wait. What is that?? Why does that caterpillar have 4 long legs?? It looked like mix between a stick insect, a centipede and a caterpillar. Excitement filled the air, we weren’t even sure if this species was even recorded in Singapore before! The second the caterpillar noticed our presence, it curled up into this defence/general resting posture and thats when we started shooting away! Soon after it got comfortable with us, it started feeding again, showing off those long thoracic legs.

Doesn’t it look freaky?! We managed to identify the species as a Lobster Moth Caterpillar (Neostauropus Alternus) and soon after I contacted my friend Sean, who specialises in entomology, he referred me to this publication by Dr T.M. Leong (https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/06/2008nis159-164.pdf) written in 2006 on the sighting of this species in Singapore. Prior to the publication, the only data collected on the occurrence of this species was from 88 years ago. This truly is one rare caterpillar. Do read the publication to learn more about this species!! Dr Leong has since been notified about the recent sighting.

So what do you think? Is this the best find of 2018 so far?

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#macrophotography #singapore #biodiversity #wildlife #discovery #insects #arthropods #photography

Macro Adventure 020618

Finally back with the MAC team for a macro shoot after a long hiatus due to school and work. It was a crazy and exciting night filled with intriguing and rare subjects! Furthermore, I managed to do some thorough testing with the new diffuser that I made and I’m more than impressed! The light is so soft and bright that it really brings out the textures in the subject. Look at the photos and let me know what you think! Do let me know if I got any of the IDs wrong and any help with the unidentified species would be greatly appreciated 🙂

Disclaimer: Locations for macro shoots would not be disclosed to protect the arthropods from poaching.

Assassin Bugs

We came across several species of Assassin Bugs and I will compile a species list of all the Assassin Bugs I have came across in a separate post in the future once I have more content. Assassin bugs are predatory insects that have a long beak that they use to pierce and suck those juices out from their prey. They are known to bite humans as well and in other countries, some spread the lethal Chagas disease (thankfully there aren’t any cases in Singapore). We were fortunate enough to document these fascinating predators feeding and you can clearly see that prominent long beak in action! Some species are also capable of incredible camouflage, do scroll down to learn more!

 <Inara flavopictara>

Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis cf. quadriannulata) sucking body fluids from prey

One of the highlights of the night! Finally coming across an Acanthaspis petax when I’m fully equipped with my gear. This Assassin Bug wears the carcasses of its prey by secreting a sticky substance and placing the exoskeletons on top of it. The prey masks the smell of the Assassin bug and enables this predator to live amongst its prey undetected! Absolutely an amazing bug and I had a hard time trying to get the ants in focus as well~ This species has been documented and featured so many times and heres a link to Micro Monsters where you can learn more in a short video (hosted by DavidAttenborough).

Similar to the Acanthaspis petax, the Masked Hunter excretes a sticky substance where dust and lint from the surroundings settle on its back to provide full camouflage! It probably serves as a deterrent cause I doubt any predator would want a mouth full of dust anyway. Look closely and see if you can spot its eyes! The 2nd shot is the same species shot in Malaysia~ Here are 3 other species we saw that night!

Valentia hoffmanni, Reduviidae / Unidentified, Reduviidae / Acanthaspis sp in respective order.

Spiders

Although there weren’t many Huntsman Spiders or Jumping Spiders around, we still managed to find some pretty cool Arachnids!

Here’s a comparison of the Female (top) and Male (bottom) <Ornamental Tree Trunk Spider (Herennia multipuncta)> showcasing sexual dimorphism at its best. You can usually find these spiders on the trunks of trees!

Gorgeous juvenile <Heteropoda Lunula> found hiding in between two leaves!

Unusual looking Orb weaver (Araneidae sp)

Two Harvestmen Spiders, one eating a mushroom and another with two yellow stripes at the sides.

Worms

We also came across the usual Hammerhead flatworm, one with an unusual grey and white colouration and an unidentified worm~

Other notable finds

The only cockroach that I’m willing to shoot (to date), the cute Pill Cockroach (Perishpaerus sp) that has just moulted which results in the red colour. They are usually just black. Doesn’t it look like its wearing shades?

Fly infected with Cordyceps. Should have spent more time with this subject but I was too tired after close to 6 hours of shooting. Tried to get to eye level but the stick was too short and was curved upwards 😦

Flatid Bug Nymph (Flatidae)! Really an unusual looking critter! It has four flipper-like feelers in front of its face!

These shots really show off how soft and spread the light is, you can “see” the texture on the subjects! The Asian Camel Cricket was so large that each time it hopped we could hear the cricket landing with a thud on those dead leaves! The only amphibians we saw were Asian Toads, Four-lined Tree Frogs and this Black Spotted Sticky Frog, laying in ambush to slurp up insects that cross its path.

From top to bottom:

  1. Possible Flatid Planthopper
  2. Wasps nest
  3. Snail with emerging shell
  4. Leaf Katydid
  5. Mantis (Leptomantella sp.)
  6. St Andrews Cross Spider
  7. Bark Scorpion (Lychas sp)

TOP find of the night

The rarest find of the night was a pregnant, female Boxer Mantis! I have personally only come across the nymph of this species and they both look spectacular! Heres a comparison, nymph was shot some time back

Don’t they look amazing! But WAIT there’s more!!!

Look at all those spikes! While shooting this mantis, we noticed that only at a certain angle, a beautiful iridescent blue can be seen on the inner-side of her front legs. Took a long time getting the shot especially after my focus light died on me~ Check out the results below!

Nature is simply mind-boggling and each shoot brings about new discoveries and lessons learnt! If you ever want to learn more about our biodiversity or macro photography in general, feel free to contact me!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#macrophotography #singapore #biodiversity #wildlife #discovery #insects #arthropods #photography