Reptopia @ Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo replaced the old Reptile House with a brand new “Reptopia” which opens in late May this year. The old Reptile House which was looking very dated with all the snakes in small glass tank enclosure. The new Reptopia is firstly air conditioned and very much more comfortable for visitors.  The old walk through exhibit which used to have the iguana and tortoises is now divided into 2 smaller areas with one of them featuring the Caiman crocodile and the other the same iguana and the tortoises.

The snakes and other reptiles are now housed in much bigger enclosures with different compatible species kept in same enclosures.Here are some of the snakes that are displayed in the new Reptopia. 

Ball Python

Green Tree Python

Reticulated Python

King Cobra

Keeled Rat Snake

Gabon Viper

Emerald Tree Boa

Western Diamond Backed Rattlesnake

Mangrove Snake

Sadly though, the number of snakes specimen has been reduced drastically. The Singapore snakes area is no more and the popular anaconda has been moved to the River Safari.

There are now a lot more lizards some of which I understand from some sources are confiscated lizards from the public. In addition, there are weird looking lizards like gila monster, beard dragon and skink.

Caiman Lizard

Fuji Banded Iguana

Gila Monstor

Bearded Dragon

Ornate Spiny Tailed Lizard

There are now several species of chameleon. I didn’t know there are so many species and so colorful too.

Parson’s Chameleon

Panther Chameleon

Yemen Chameleon

Last but not least there are a few rare frogs and even a tarantula.

Dyeing Poison Frog

 

All in, despite the reduced number of snakes, I think this new Reptopia is certainly worth a visit especially for those who are into reptiles.

Big Tree @ Gunung Lambak

The first time I went to Gunung Lambak was 2 years ago. Back then I thought it was a fairly easy hike/climb. In fact of all the mountains that I climbed in Malaysia, I rate this the easiest until Saturday’s climb. 2 years ago when I went there, I didn’t go to the Big Tree. I was told it was tough but people tend to exaggerate the toughness so I took that with a pinch of salt. 

Gunung Lambak can be divided into 3 parts – from the foot of the mountain where the waterpark is to the summit with the telecom station and from there to the Big Tree and return to the summit and lastly a relatively easier hike from the summit to the 2nd peak or false summit before descending to the foot of the mountain.

There is 2 ways to go up to the summit at this location where there is a sort of tea house manned by the nearby residents. The last time I came, we took the so called “difficult” route.  This time round, we were a bit lazy and took the easier route which is just next to the board.

Of course, there is always a catch and the easier route was a few hundred metres longer! But true to what they said, it was indeed much easier to tackle this portion notwithstanding 1 small part where we have to clamber up some steep trails.

Once we reached the summit, we decided to head down to the Big Tree. I didn’t go there the last time round so this time I followed the rest. I should have stayed with 2 smart ladies who wisely decided to wait for the rest of the group at the summit. It was a long 1.5 km walk down to the big tree. A very steep walk where thankfully if not for the rope that some kind soul had put up along the trail, I will probably be sliding down  all the way to the Big Tree. It was a long painful 55 minutes of slow walk down with me sliding on my bum twice. And for all the hard work, all we got was this big tree which one can easily find in say our Singapore Botanic Garden!

The worst part of this? The long climb back up. This has gonna be the most torturous 1.5 km I ever did with my calves and quads screaming in agony with every upward flight. Unlike other mountain, this was one continuous climb up with just a sort 20 metres or so of flat trail. But we did surprise ourselves by doing it 10 minutes faster than the descent!

Back at the summit I had my lunch there. There wasn’t much of a view up there though. Blocked by all the trees. Pity.

We descend with one group opting to go to the false summit. Me? I have enough for one day and opted to go down straight. And I am happy we made that decision because we were rewarded with sightings of the Dusky Leaf Langurs and the Pig Tailed Macaque! This is the first time I seen a Pig Tailed Macaque and it was a bittersweet experience between the pair of them were spotted around the water park area and the ice cream vendor was feeding it with ice cream!

Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin

I confess I have no idea there was such a place at Pulau Ubin. I only saw it when I went to shoot the Pesta Ubin Run recently. And I knew I have to come back to take a closer look at it.  Soback on Pulau Ubin over the weekend for a full day trek, we made a pit stop here to check out the scene. 

And my golly, there were indeed butterfly galore. Just walking alongside it, I could see a few butts flying –  a couple of Jeezebul and some Yellows. I knew I must explore the place in depth. But the hike training has to take priority and after just about half an hour of looking at the many different butterfly flying around, I have to move on with just 3 photo of butterfly out of the so many there. One Peacock Pansy, a Glassy Tiger and an unidentified butterfly or maybe moth.

Peacock Pansy

Blue Glassy Tiger

Unidentified Butterfly/moth

I consoled myself that earlier on right at the beginning of the day, I had got a photo of the beautiful Common Birdwing at the Assembly Area.

Common Birdwing

And there was bound to be other butterfly around although I swear I am so gonna come back to Butterfly Hill again just for the butts. 

Anyway, at the fruit farm, I managed to shoot a beautiful Lascar. Not too sure whether it is a Common or Malayan Lascar though.

Lascar

There was also a pair of Glassy Tiger flying around the same plant

Dark Glassy Tiger

On the way in to and out of Chek Jawa, there were a few butts flying around despite it being almost 4 pm. Despite being pressed for time, managed to get a photo of a Knight. Too bad the angle isn’t too good. It was too skittish and it didn’t help that there were many cyclists whizzing through and every time one of them pass by, the butterfly will take off.

Knight

I shall return and the next time it will only be butterfly time!

 

Pulau Ubin Night Walk

Went for a guided night hike at Pulau Ubin organised as part of the Pesta Ubin 2017 activities. The walk was conducted by the famous Subaraj Rajathurai, of Strix Wildlife Consultancy. Here he is briefing the group on the type of bats that can be seen on Pulau Ubin. 

It amazing that he can identify the bats flying up and down. And he does a good bird mimic too! But because the group is too big, we split into 2 groups and we followed his son who was just as knowledgeable.

And before long, he spotted the first snake for the night. A Common Bronzeback Snake high up in the tree. It simply amazing how they can spot something so small and indistinguishable in the dark. Can you see it in cropped photo? 

We spotted a lot of Four lined frogs including a mating pair.

Also a few Asian Toad

And apparently a rare Chorus frog which got our 2 guides all excited. 

And of course there were geckos and insect and this weird looking Hammerhead Flat Worm.

And also a moth

And a Huntsmen Spider

And after 2 hours of walking, we ended the night with another snake sighting. In fact 2 of them – both Oriental Whip Snake.

Oriental Whip Snake

Birds at Fraser’s Hill

After butterfly and moth, finally get around writing about the real purpose of the trip to Fraser’s Hill – the birds. This was a birding trip after all.

We reached Fraser’s Hill early in the morning. It was raining and we waited at Punchak Inn for the rain to stop. But that didn’t stop some in the groups from dashing out to take photos when they heard bird calls from around the car park area. Think those were Laughing Thrush and a Green Magpie. After the rain, we made our way to our first birding stop of the trip, the Jeriau Waterfall. Seems like there is a Silver Breasted Broadbill spot in the area. We went all the way in to the end and indeed the guys quickly spotted it. Everybody, including M got a shot of it before it flew off. Everybody except me. [sad] I was looking around for butterfly instead! But as a consolation, I managed to shoot a Slaty backed Forktail while the rest were waiting for the Silver Breasted Broadbill to return. Which it did not. And after a long long futile wait, we finally decided to leave and go on to the next site.

Next site is a road near to Bishop Trail. Apparently the birds here are so used to human that they will just appear. It seems photographers have been feeding them or baiting in the industry lingo and the birds appear whenever human turn up. And boy, did they turn up. A Spectacled Laughing Thrush was the first one to appear. This was followed by a few Ruofus Browed Flycatcher. Cute little bird.

Rufous Browed Flycatcher

Next was a Niltava but I missed that as I was walking around with M, looking for monkeys and butterflies. M spotted a Mountain Bulbul though, a fairly common bird in the area.

Mountain Bulbul

Going back to the main birding area which was actually a drain culvert, I managed to shoot a White tailed Robin. Beautiful blue Robin. At least very different from the very common Magpie Robin.

White Tailed Robin

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Butterfly at Fraser’s Hill

Actually for my first oversea birding trip, I was just as excited that I can get to see butterflies and moths in addition to birds especially after reading posts from Butterfly Circle and others about the varieties there.  But the initial excitement quickly turned into disappointment when I didn’t spot that many butterflies as I thought will be able to.

Our first stop of the day after we reached Fraser’s Hill was the Jeriau Waterfall. I was hoping to see puddling butterflies along the banks but alas there wasn’t any, even though I walked up and down the length of the place many times. Perhaps the heavy dawn rain was the reason? I did see a few butterflies flying around – mainly Yellows and one or 2 Black/Blue butterflies but they were flying too fast for me to take any photos. Eventually we left the place around 11 am after the rest of the group gave up their quest for the Silver Breasted Broadbill. 

After lunch, the group went to a road junction for the Slaty Backed Forktail. And it was here that I finally got my first butterfly. Between trying to make sure I do not miss the birds and the butterfly, I had a hard time doing the balancing act but finally the egg was broken!

I think this is a Magpie Crow butterfly. There were a couple of them flying around near a small shelter and they were very skittish but eventually one landed on the ground just in front of me and I blasted away before it flew off. Incidentally, as this was a birding trip, I had only brought along a long lens certainly not very suitable for butterflies and other insects so all the photos are zoomed in from pretty far and crop to size for display purposes.

After check in, we went to the “Jelai Resort” which looks like a haunted house. But the butterfly hunt was looking up. There were a few flying around and eventually one settled long enough for me to take a decent shot. 

This is a Common 3 Ring if I am not wrong but it looks like the wings are pretty tattered.  I managed to snag another one later but it was in just as bad shape or maybe they are the same butterfly?

So day 1 ended with a big success for birds but not butterfly. The score was better for moths though but that will be for another post.

Next morning, we went back to Jeriau Waterfall. The group didn’t want to give up on the hunt for the Silver Breasted Broadbill and I was still hoping for more butterfly. Unfortunately again no puddling but there were a number of butterflies flying around. I managed some shots of them, most of them not very good photos though before I managed a slightly decent photo of a Grass Yellow.

I saw more of the black blue butterfly which I confirmed later to be Bluebottle but there is this other Black butterfly with a blue patch diagonally on its upper side which stopped briefing on one of the railings before it flew away. It came back later but all I managed to shoot was the lower side which was dull brown.

As far as I can cross reference from the Checklist at Butterfly Circle, this is a Horsfield’s Baron.  

I did see another butterfly. A Sergeant! And it was on the long lens of one of the group member. From where I was, I could only managed this awkward shot. 

And then on our way out, I finally got what I came for. Puddling butterflies! And at the carpark of all the place and not at the river bank. There were at least 4 species of butterfly including the beautiful Bluebottle.

There were also several Yellow coloured butterflies. 

Let me try and ID them: L-R Lesser Gull, Chocolate Albatross and Yellow Glassy Tiger (some expert reading this please correct me if I am wrong). I was so happy that I squat there and shoot and shoot until a car came and drove over the spot where the butterflies were puddling scattering all of them. 

Saturday was a good day for butterfly. After lunch, walking out of the Shahzan Inn, someone spotted a butterfly on a tree and started clicking. All of us joined in and this is a beauty. Remind me of a Discus fish.

I later found out this is a Pallid Faun and usually found up high in the forest and to see one so near and at eye level! I am a very lucky man. And to round off the day, I managed to get a nice shot of a nice Common 3 Ring butterfly. No tattered wings.

And that conclude my haul of butterfly for what is my first official birding trip and unofficial butterfly/moth trip (is there a equivalent term for butterfly similar to birding?). Not alot but still considering that I am a newbie at this and doing it along while the rest shoot birds, I am very satisfied with the results.