18 March 2018

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

In our earlier article on butterfly photography at our local parks, we featured the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park. Originally known as the Kallang Reservoir, the it was formed by impounding across the lower reaches of the Kallang River in 1910. In 1922, it was renamed Peirce Reservoir in commendation of the services of Robert Peirce, who was a Singapore Public Works Department engineer from 1901 to 1916. In 1975, a dam was built across the upper reaches of the Peirce Reservoir, splitting it into Upper and Lower Peirce Reservoirs thereafter.

A view of the 350m dam separating the Upper Peirce Reservoir (on the right) and the Lower Peirce Reservoir (on the left).  A 30m elevation separates the two reservoirs.

A view looking down at the Lower Peirce Reservoir from the dam 

A view of the Upper Peirce Reservoir with lush vegetation of the nature reserves along the reservoir banks

In this weekend's blog article, we visit the Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. In 1970, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) conducted feasibility studies for the construction of a new reservoir in the vicinity of Peirce Reservoir. The site was found to be suitable and construction started in May 1972. The works included the building of a 30-metre-high, 350-metre-long earth dam upstream of the existing dam, hence creating a new reservoir upstream of the existing one. This new reservoir was named Upper Peirce Reservoir, while the older reservoir was accordingly renamed Lower Peirce Reservoir.

A commemorative marker indicating that the reservoir was opened by Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1977

The Upper Peirce Reservoir was completed in 1975 and officially opened by then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 27 February 1977. Today, Singapore has a total of 17 reservoirs spread across the island. The Upper Peirce Reservoir covers a surface area of 304 Ha and has a capacity of about 27.8 million cubic metres of water.

The Upper Peirce Reservoir Park is a serene and tranquil park located to the eastern banks of the Upper Peirce Reservoir (UPR). This reservoir, together with the MacRitchie Reservoir, the Lower Peirce Reservoir and the Upper Seletar Reservoir, bound the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). The nature reserve acts as a water catchment for the reservoirs in the area and is considered a protected catchment.

The Upper Peirce Reservoir Park covers an area of about 5 Ha. Access to UPR is via Old Upper Thomson Road, via a gated access. The gate is open from 6:00am to 7:30pm daily. The scenic road is undulating (a challenge for cyclists and pedestrians, but excellent for an exercise workout) flanked on both sides by lush vegetation and tall trees. Do keep a lookout for various troops of the Long-Tailed Macaques who are used to visitors feeding them. Some of them may be a bit more 'friendly' than preferred as they often associate humans with food.

There is a carpark at the end of the road, with toilet and other basic park amenities like shelters, seats, rest areas and even water coolers. The 350m long earth dam ends in a golf course at the other side from UPR. The view of the serene waters of the Upper Peirce Reservoir (at the higher elevation) and the Lower Peirce Reservoir, some 30m below the earth dam is picturesque and beautiful.

The vegetation at UPR is largely native plants that are typical of the flora of the Central Catchment Nature Reserves. Some years ago, when the landscaping of the park for visitors was first started, the Javanese Ixora shrubs attracted a good variety of butterflies. However, these plants are now over their prime and what remains hardly attract any butterflies any more. It is hoped that the NParks will continue to cultivate more butterfly-attracting plants in this area so that visitors can enjoy the diversity of species that are present in the CCNR.

Walking around the open park areas, one can expect to see common butterfly species like the Chocolate Pansy, Common Mormon, Common Four Ring and several species of the Grass Yellows. Occasionally, a few Cruisers, Barons and various Hesperiidae can be seen on hot sunny days.

Exploring along the side road leading to the service reservoir and treatment plant where water from UPR is treated and stored, a visitor may be treated to some rarer species that live in the forests of CCNR. As there are not many flowering plants in the area, it is usually more challenging to photograph butterflies, but keep a sharp eye out for those that visit the flowers of the Bandicoot Berry flowers and other native flowering shrubs in the area.

There is an open area along this service road that has flowering shrubs like the Mile-A-Minute weed that may sometimes attract various species of butterflies in the early morning hours. Keep an eye out for ovipositing Malay Viscounts, Malay Barons and the odd OakBlue (Arhopala spp). that visit their caterpillar host plants in the area.

A walk down the service road to the water tanks and Treatment Plant can sometimes be fruitful with some interesting encounters

Walking further in towards the fenced Service Reservoir, one can sometimes encounter species like the Common Bluebottle, Lesser Jay and Five Bar Swordtail puddling in the damp areas in the drains. The proximity of the CCNR may turn out surprises once in a while and over the years of surveys and outings in UPR, there have been encounters with very rare species before.

Butterflies photographed at Upper Peirce Reservoir Park

Some examples of the rarities spotted at UPR include the Black and White Flat (Gerosis limax dirae), the Spotted Silverstreak (Iraota distanti distanti), the Golden Royal (Pseudotajuria donatana donatana), the Hoary Palmer (Unkana ambasa batara), Dark Banded Ace (Halpe ormenes vilasina), Green Imperial (Manto hypoleuca terana), the Great Imperial (Jacoona anasuja anasuja), The Grand Imperial (Neocheritra amrita amrita) and Banded Royal (Rachana jalindra burbona). So keep your eyes peeled and hope that you get lucky!

Upper Peirce Reservoir Park cannot be described as a 'butterfly haven', but its adjacency to the Central Catchment Nature Reserves may sometimes turn up something surprising and rare. A typical walk on an ordinary day may not yield anything more than some common species, so if that happens, just enjoy being out there in nature and the splendid views of the reservoirs and the lush greenery that surrounds you!

How to Get There :
By Bus:
Bus nos. 163, 167, 169, 855, 980.
Alight at the bus stop nearest to the Casuarina Curry Prata shop and walk along Old Upper Thomson Road towards Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. Be prepared for a long walk in and out!  Estimated walk in one direction is about 30-45 mins.

By Car : Follow the direction of Upper Thomson Road. Turn left before the traffic lights at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 into Old Upper Thomson Road. Follow the road until you see the entrance of Upper Peirce Reservoir Park. Parking facilities are available at the end of road near the toilet (Free parking). 

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Khew SK, Loh MY and Mark Wong

11 March 2018

Butterfly of the Month - March 2018

Butterfly of the Month - March 2018
The Ancyra Blue (Catopyrops ancyra)

We are into the third month of 2018 already! Time and tide wait for no one, as the saying goes, and if you are waiting for things to play out in this Year of the Dog, don't wait too long. And if you are the type who makes bets against Lady Luck, you can only wish you were as lucky as the punter who pocketed more than S$6,000,000 in prize money for the 2018 Lunar New Year Toto Draw.

Two bits of interesting global news may make an impact on all our lives in the coming years. The first, coming from China, is the proposal to drop the presidential term limit. This would essentially allow President Xi to stay on as the leader of the world's second most populous nation beyond 10 years. This is a break from the unwritten rule of two five-year terms as head of the party. Supporters of this strategy say that this will ensure stability, consistency and the ability for long-term planning by the Chinese government.

On the other side of the globe, we have the US President imposing trade tariffs on steel and aluminium, threatening to set off a trade war with other countries. Consistent with his "America First" policy, President Trump continues on his strategies to protect US interests in terms of trade and commerce with the rest of the world. Whilst it is hard to predict the outcome of a trade war that the US may have started, we live in exciting times as we watch all these battles unfold, and wonder how it would affect us (or not).

An Ancyra Blue perches on the top of a leaf with its wings folded upright

In Singapore, the Budget 2018 has been announced, and the much-predicted increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by 2% was received with a lot of heated debates. Albeit it was an 'early warning' of the increase, which is slated to go up only some time between 2021 and 2025, there was generally an unhappy reaction to the news. After all, why would anyone be happy with an increase in tax and to pay more? The government continued to rationalise the need for the increase and explain why such an increase would be for the greater good of Singapore's future.

And then we had a Singaporean who tried to escape a jail term by attempting to leave the country via boat. His planned 'jailbreak' on a fishing boat heading for Malaysia was thwarted by a whistle-blower and our vigilant law enforcers. This brazen shot at escaping the long arm of the law was almost comical as the fishing boat headed out to cross the border in broad daylight was stopped by the Police Coast Guard. Apparently, it was not the first time that the boatman who was trying to ferry the criminal out of Singapore had done something like this, so perhaps some complacency set in.

Over to our Butterfly of the Month for March 2018, we feature a butterfly that was a new discovery for Singapore in 2004. It was first spotted on Pulau Ubin and recorded as a new find for Singapore. The early authors' checklists did not list the Malaysian species as being extant in Singapore. As it was uncertain as to whether it is the same subspecies as the Malaysian one, we have recorded this new find, the Ancyra Blue (Catopyrops ancyra) at the species level only.

An Ancyra Blue puddling on a damp dirt track

The Ancyra Blue was first spotted puddling along a dirt track along the Sensory Trail at Pulau Ubin. Although initially appearing like one of the Line Blues (Nacaduba spp), the sharper and more distinct white markings on the underside of the wings called attention to the possibility that it was something new to Singapore. Further investigations revealed that it was indeed a species that had not yet been recorded in Singapore. Subsequently the Ancyra Blue was observed in various parts of the main island of Singapore, even in urban parks and gardens.

A male Ancyra Blue sunbathes in the sunshine, show its blue upperside

The upperside of the male is dull blue with two small black tornal spots on the hindwing. The female is fuscous black with basal parts shot with iridescent blue on the forewing and a duller blue on the hindwing.

The underside of both sexes feature black orange-crowned tornal spots on the hindwing. These orange areas in spaces 1b and 2 are inwardly defined by a narrow dark line. The white striations on both wings are distinct and not diffuse. There is a white-tipped filamentous tail at vein 2 of the hindwing.

A female Ancyra Blue feeds on the flowers of the String Bush

The butterfly has a fast erratic flight but is often found perched upright on the top surfaces of leaves with its wings folded up. Occasionally, it is seen feeding on the flowers of plants like the String Bush. Males of the species are often encountered puddling at damp footpaths.

The caterpillars of the Ancyra Blue have been successfully bred on Pipturus argenteus and Trema tomentosa in Singapore. Both these host plants are common and widespread, which may explain the wide distribution of this species across Singapore - from the Central Catchment Nature Reserves to urban parks and gardens.

Whilst the Malaysian subspecies aberrans has been described as "rare in lowland forest", its Singapore counterpart cannot be considered rare as it has been observed with relative regularity, and in some instances, a small colony of the species was observed in its favourite locations near where its caterpillar host plants thrive.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by David Chan, Bob Cheong, Chng CK, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Michael Khor, Nelson Ong, Michael Soh, Jonathan Soong and Horace Tan