Uncovering Butterfly Life in Alexandra Woodlands

Article: Uncovering Butterfly Life in Alexandra Woodlands

text by: Simon Chan

photos by: Wilson Leung, Spencer Yau, Susan Tsang, Ngo Kang Min, Amy Tsang

Jalan Hang Jebat, named after a 15th century Malaccan warrior whose closest companion was the famous Hang Tuah, is a minor road off Portsdown Avenue. This quaint section of Singapore became the setting of our fifth butterfly walk of 2019 on 7th July. Picturesque black and white colonial houses adorned one side of this road while the green corridor graced the other as all 14 participants led by Simon commenced our walk.

Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala), Alexandra Woodlands, 7 Jul 2019 copy 2.jpg

Chestnut Bob found at Alexandra Woodlands

From the tarmac road where some cars were parked, we could see a green grassy incline leading to a secondary forest. Once we were on it, we spotted grassland butterflies the likes of Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore), Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida), Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana), Common Five Ring (Ypthima baldus newboldi), Long Brand Bush Brown (Mycalesis visala phamis) and Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala salsala). A palm tree and a cluster of banana trees planted on the slope by the residents yielded some caterpillars of the Palm Bob (Suastus gremius gremius) and Banana Skipper (Erionota thrax thrax) respectively.

Blue Pansy female (Junonia orithya wallacei),  Alexandra Woodlands, Wilson, 7 Jul 2019 copy.jpgStriped Albatross (Appias libythea olferna), Alexandra Woodlands, 7 Jul 2019, Wilson Leung copy 3.jpg

A resting female Blue Pansy and a Striped Albatross.

Descending the slope, we were greeted by a pair of Striped Albatross (Appias libythea olferna) butterflies. The dusky female was tirelessly looking for the young shoots of its caterpillar host plant, Purple Cleome, while the whiter male looked on devotedly close by. Walking along the road, we stopped frequently to search for Plain Nawab (Polyura hebe plautus) caterpillars among the Saga Tree saplings but we could not find any. However, we knew that the butterfly is around on account of the webbed leaves.

Collared Kingfisher3 (Todiramphus chloris), Alexandra Woodlands, Kang Min copy.jpg

Collared Kingfisher scouting for prey

About 400 metres from where we were laid a small field with its recently mowed lawn. Oblivious to our presence, a Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) swooped down to capture its prey. It did this many times as it could pinpoint multiple targets easily due to the shortened grass. On one of the Melastoma bushes, a Lesser Dart (Potanthus omaha omaha) was resting on a leaf with its unique skipper pose -  forewings vertical and hindwings flat.

Caterpillar of Palm Bob butterfly (Suastus gremius gremius), Alexandra Woodlands, 7 Jul 2019 copy 3.jpgThe Baron (Euthalia aconthea gurda), Alexandra Woodlands, Jul 7, 2019 copy.jpgCaterpillar2 of Common Bluebottle butterfly (Graphium sarpedon luctatius), Alexandra Woodlands, Spencer Yau, 7 Jul 2019 copy 2.jpgCaterpillar of Banana Skipper (Erionota thrax thrax).jpg

clockwise from top left: Palm Bob, Baron, Banana Skipper & Common Bluebottle caterpillars on their host plants the banana tree, mango tree, banana tree, and wild cinnamon bush respectively.

Next we moved towards the Masjid Hang Jebat, a historical mosque built in 1952. Around the area was a wild cinnamon bush where the caterpillar of the Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon luctatius) was seen. A mango tree nearby had a caterpillar of the Baron (Euthalia aconthea gurda) perfectly camouflaged against one of its leaves. Another delightful wildlife spotted was the Plantain Squirrel (callosciurus notates) gorging happily on a ripe mango.

Plantain Squirrel2 (Callosciurus notatus), Alexandra Woodlands, 7 Jul 2019  copy.jpg

A Plantain Squirrel feasting on a mango

Walking on a concrete path along the canal, we finally reached Warwick Road with more colonial styled homes. On the way we spotted three Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei) females, two of which sported the usual totally brown hindwings. Only one had a bit of blue on its hindwings. A lone Peacock Pansy was seen feeding on the flowers of the Coat Button plant.

Huebers Wasp Moth2 - Amata huebneri Alexandra Woodlands Screenshot.png

A Hubner's Wasp Moth (Amata huebneri) seen during the walk.

From here we made a beeline for the big pond at the far end which is surrounded by a secondary forest. While the entire group went up the slope to the entrance of the pond, Amy decided to stay behind. She was at the right place at the right time! A Banded Swallowtail (Papilio demolion demolion) flew around her! We all missed that rare sighting but nevertheless was treated to a resting female Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus).

Common Mormon2 (Papilio polytes romulus) copy 2.jpg

A female Common Mormon resting.

Nearing noon, we doubled back to where we started. As we approached our cars, something fast flew past us. It disappeared into the bushes ahead. When it was airborne again, we were able to identify it as a Plain Nawab. And with that the walk ended on a high note!   All in, we spotted 20 butterfly species with 4 different types of caterpillars.

Shooting the Blue Pansy, Alexandra Woodlands, Jul 7, 2019 copy.jpgBlue Pansy female - 3_4 view.jpg

Participants trying to take a nice picture of the beautiful female Blue Pansy.