Our second Singapore excursion took place at MacRitchie Nature Reserve. Located in the geographical centre of Singapore, the reserve is over 2000 hectares of forest and bio-diversity. We decided to explore a small portion of the reserve, starting at Venus Drive and finishing at Jelutong Tower deep in the forest. With conditions overcast and the rumble of thunder an ever-present portent of what may come later in the day we began our trek. With the air heavy and humid we had eyes and ears on full power. Our first sighting was this Spine-tufted Skimmer dragonfly.
The forest was alive with dragonflies and butterflies, the balmy conditions creating the perfect environment for insects to thrive, such as this Common Parasol, probably the most ubiquitous of Singapore’s dragonflies.
So far, the insects were getting our attention, but the bird action was big on noise but small on sightings. Jungle Fowl, Sunbirds and Tit Babblers could all be heard but were none too friendly for the camera. Stepping up for some lens action was this Dark Band Bush Brown butterfly.
It was only when we moved deeper into the reserve and under more canopy cover that we began to get some eye-level bird action. The sheer amount of greenery and dark cover the forest offers meant we really had to work hard to try and find our birds, let alone photograph them. An elusive Olive-winged Bulbul gave way to a far more friendly Orange-bellied Flower Pecker.
A really pretty forest dweller, small and extremely flitty, despite being so brightly coloured it took some patient stalking to find it and get a clean shot.
Our next sighting was courtesy of Mrs Sausage eagle-eyes (or in this case pigeon eyes) as she found this resting Emerald Dove.
We had just missed out spotting one a few moments earlier as it was spooked by some busy footfall along the pathways, but patience paid off as this dove was most intent on resting on its branch despite the comings and goings below.
As we followed the trail parallel to the Singapore Country Club, we were entertained by the zipping and dipping of Scarlet Basker dragonflies and the flittering of butterflies. This Chocolate Pansy among the most obliging and colourful of those we saw along this section.
This tiny Ape Fly was particularly hard to capture so this image serves as a record shot only.
We also found this bug, standing out quite starkly on the green leaves.
Mrs Sausage managed some close up shots of what we found out was a Common Assassin Bug. The very informative Into The Wild blog provided us with some grisly details as to how these insects operate. They apparently inject their prey with lethal saliva that liquefies the internal organs of their victim which the Assassin Bug then sucks out. What a way to go!
While Mrs Sausage was dealing with the Assassin, I was dragonfly chasing with this female Common Parasol.
On the same set of vegetation was this shiny, long antennaed Cricket.
Quite possibly the highlight of the butterfly sightings came on the path toward Jelutong Tower where we were both enamoured by a pair of dancing Branded Imperials, they were very mobile but we at least managed one picture that shows off their colouring and that unusual long tail.
The elegant flight and stark colouring of this Malay Staff Sergeant (thanks to Lau Jiasheng for the i.d) added yet another butterfly to our day, MacRitchie was brimming with interesting and varied life.
Our last dragonfly sighting of the day came with this almost golden female Common Parasol. I had to shoot this one between several overhanging leaves which have given the images something of a “through the keyhole” look about them.
Birds were back on the radar as we approached Jelutong Tower, this Dark-necked Tailorbird (identified by the MacRitchie expert Francis Yap) the first of some more hard earned shots.
We also had to shoot through several layers of huge leaves and overhanging greenery to get this Olive-winged Bulbul added to our days sightings.
With the thunder getting more frequent and the skies darkening we finally made Jelutong Tower. The views over the forest and the cool air at the top of the tower made the long walk worth every sweaty step!
Bird sightings at the top of Jelutong were hard to come by although we are sure we had a brief sighting of a Cream-vented Bulbul. Sadly this bird made only a temporary stop and we didn’t get the chance to get our cameras on this bird with its distinctive white eye-ring. The amount of bird calls and song we were hearing though was quite astounding. We managed to pick out a few, among them Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Black-naped Oriole but others were both unique and unfamiliar. There’s a lot for us still to both learn.
The storm finally hit MacRitchie and with it some heavy rain which we took as a sign to make our way homewards. Despite having our army surplus ponchos protecting us from the worst of the rain the humidity meant a quick stop to cool down was needed. We were joined at a shelter by a lone female Long-tailed Macaque. Mrs Sausage was the first to capture some quite emotional facial shots.
We think this female possibly has cataracts, the left-eye showing some definite blurry shine. It was also quite unusual to find a single Macaque, like most primates are they are social creatures and when you see one you can usually be sure there are others around. There were no other Macaques to be seen this time.
Our route out was largely uneventful until we arrived next to the country club again where we had Green Pigeons topping trees and a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.
With the rain falling steadily we packed away our gear and took a steady paced stroll back through the forest trail towards the Venus Drive car park. We were almost at the end of the trail when I thought I saw something in a tree but without binoculars or camera I was unable to be sure. I decided that the rain was too heavy to stop and pull either piece of equipment out of my bag and carried on down the trail. Something made me stop and look back though and staring down at me was the sighting of the day, a Colugo.
The Colugo is a flying, or rather a gliding mammal with a kite-like membrane allowing it to take to the air and glide from tree to tree. They are mostly shy, solitary, nocturnal creatures and the species found here in Singapore, known as the Sunda Flying Lemur is a protected species.
Due to the thunderstorm and heavy rain overhead our pics are not the best for this unique animal and the humidity meant our lenses were on the verge of fogging up in the conditions We hope they at least give some indication of the view we had as the Colugo clung to the tree trunk no more than 15 feet above our heads.
A most unexpected find and by far the most exciting one of our visit to the forest. It’s experiences like this that make trudging back along the long trail in the humid heat and pouring rain so worthwhile.