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Sunday, 29 August 2010

Butterflies in Hong Kong (2)---Papaya smoothie party

When I came back from a short visit to UK yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to see a dozen butterflies having a smoothie party in my garden!

The hot and humid weather in Hong Kong is ideal for papaya trees. They can grow from a seed to a tree in just a few months. A couple of years ago, I planted some seeds from a papaya fruit in the garden and within a year, I had several huge papaya trees and hundreds of papayas!

I guess when I was away last week, some ripe papayas fell off the trees and became rotten. The decayed papayas attracted some fruit “eating” butterflies to my garden.
While most butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, the Nymphs (Family Nymphalidae) and the Browns (Family Satyridae) prefer decaying fruit juice. The butterflies that visited my garden belong to these two families.

Because of their feeding habits, most of the fruit “eating” butterflies are not as colourful as their nectar “eating” counterparts.  They are not fast flyers and tend to fly low in the undergrowth in semi-shaded environments. 

This is an Evening Brown on the left (and below), a large sized Brown commonly seen  in Hong Kong with a wingspan of 6-7cm.  Most Brown family butterflies have brown coloured wings with “eyespots” on both sides to mimic the eyes of large animals for self-protection.  As you can guess from its name, Evening Brown is mostly active at dusk. 

This is a Bamboo Tree Brown on the right, smaller than the Evening Brown with a wingspan of 5cm. The Bamboo Tree Browns are also commonly seen in Hong Kong.

Below is a Dark-Band Bush Brown, similar size to the Bamboo Tree Brown with different patterns on their wings. 

Thursday, 19 August 2010

My neighbours--A Pair of Nesting Red-Whiskered Bulbuls (2)

A few days later, the female bird started to spend more and more time in the nest (You can see the spider web used for attaching the nest to the tree branches) .  

When she was out, I noticed 3 eggs in the nest (The 3rd one can not be seen in this photo).

Three days later, one of the eggs had hatched. 

From that day, the parents started their hard work going back and forth to bring home all kinds of insects. 

The noisy little chicks were growing up very fast.

Stay tuned for the next unexpected event........

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Butterflies in Hong Kong (1)

Hong Kong’s sub-tropical climate and warm winter (average annual temperature is 23℃) provide a perfect environment for insects, especially butterflies. Hong Kong is home to more than 240 butterfly species and many of them are very colourful. Today, I will  introduce two types of butterfly to you.
Ten butterfly families can be found in Hong Kong. The most common one is the Swallowtail family (Papilionidae). This family of butterflies mainly live in tropical areas and there are 23 species recorded in HK.  

Because the adults have tailed hindwings, similar to the forked tail of some swallows, they earned the name Swallowtail.  They feed mainly on nectar and often come out on sunny days. So if you happen to visit HK, you will have a good chance seeing them fly around city gardens and country parks.
The one above and on the right is one of the Swallowtail family members, called Great Mormon. It is a very large butterfly and the wing span is about 12-15cm (4.7-5.9in). The female is more colourful , while the male is mainly black or dark blue. The one shown here is a female.

This one on the left and below is called Paris Peacock. Its size is smaller than Great Mormon, with wing span of 8-10cm ( 3.1-3.9in).  

Unlike Great Mormon, Its wings are covered with green scales scattered over a black background, very distinctive.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Lantern Bug

When I was out walking yesterday, I saw this intersting looking insect, called Lantern Bug.

The Lantern Bug (Pyrops candelarius), also known as “Lantern Fly” or “Elephant Bug”, is a tropical insect and related to the cicada family. Its contrasting colors earned its name, despite the fact that they do not emit any light at all.

There are about 30 species in Southeast Asia. They are about 1.5-3.0 inches long and have a wingspan of 2 to 2.5 inches wide, depending on the species.

Lantern Bugs are plant eaters. Its big “nose” in fact is an extended mouth, which is used to suck the sap from plants and trees. In Hong Kong, they mainly feed on Longan/ lychee trees, so it is called Longan Bug locally.

Lantern Bug is a very old insect and has been around for more than 300 million years. A famous myth is that persons bitten by Lantern Bug will die instantly unless they have sex within 24 hours. In fact, this bug  doesn’t bite and its long mouth is only used to suck sap from trees.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My neighbours---a pair of nesting Red-Whiskered Bulbuls (1)

Like me, Red-Whiskered Bulbuls are Hong Kong residence. When you visit Hong Kong, you will definitely come across Red-whiskered Bulbuls. Even if you don't see them on streets, you will see their pictures on postal stamps. Like the high rise buildings, this bird is a symbol of Hong Kong.

The Red-whiskered Bulbul belongs to the Bulbul family and is a fruit eating resident in tropical areas of Asia.  They also feed on nectar and insects.

The distinctive crest and the red-vent and whiskers make them easy to identify. The Red-whiskered Bulbul is about 20cm ( 7.9in) in length. They often perch on trees making loud calls. So it is not easy to miss this lovely bird.  
I have been lucky to have a pair of Red-whiskered Bulbul’s living in my garden in the last couple of years. These birds are very territorial especially during breeding season. Recently I was fortunate to have witnessed two Red-whiskered Bulbuls nesting in my garden.

This is the female on the right and the male on the left. One day, they decided to build a nest.
First, they "discussed" a possible location---a pine tree.

Then they spotted a huge spider web and decided to use it as building material. Before I could set the camera up, the spider web was tore apart.

Then the two birds started a vicious attack on the spider web,

The sticky spiderweb was then used as glue to stablize the fundation of the nest.

Within minutes, the spiderweb was gone.

Once the foundation was secure, the male bird started working on the nest, under the supervision of his partner. 

Within a couple of days, a beautiful nest was completed.