Mortonagrion arthuri Fraser, 1942

Family: Coenagrionidae
Scientific Name: Mortonagrion arthuri
Common Name: Arthur’s Midget

Mortonagrion arthuri is a locally rare species of damselfly which is confined to mangrove habitats around Singapore, particularly Pulau Ubin, Pulau Semakau and Sungei Cina.

Their natural habitats are inlets of mangrove swamps where they like to rest on the tip of an emergent twig of mangrove trees.

Male has two color forms.  Blue form and yellow form. The blue form has blue stripes on the side of the thorax and blue postocular spots; while the yellow form has similar features but in yellow. Male also has distinct blue spots on the segment 8 of it’s abdomen.

Females are duller in color. It has brown thorax with similar stripes to the male. Young female also has the distinct spots on it’s abdomen. Older female has the spots completely obscured.

In general, males of mortonagrion arthuri are more rarer than females.

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Female mortonagrion arthuri. Notice the blue stripes and blue spots on the abdomen. This specimen was found at Pulau Ubin.
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Same female as above.
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Another female at Pulau Ubin. This is a much older female where the abdomen is almost black with no visible spots on it’s abdomen.
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Another old female. The end of the abdomen are almost covered with earth. A sign of ovipositing on muddy soil.
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This female was found at Sungei cina. An old female with a muddy abdomen.
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Same female as above. This picture shows a brownish thorax with yellowish strips and postocular spots.
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An interesting view of the front which shows the dark brownish eyes and black face. Notice the “dracula-like” mouth!.
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Another female at sungei cina. This is a younger female with distinct blue spots at it’s abdomen.
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A lateral view of the above female.

Males of this species are generally hard to find. I have seen a couple of females at Pulau Ubin but not a single male.

I have better luck at Sungei Cina, where I managed to captured a couple of males both in blue and yellow form.

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Blue form male #1. It has distinct blue stripes and spots on it’s abdomen. Also notice the unique shape of it’s postocular spots
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Male #1. side view.
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Male #1. Lateral view
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Male #1. Frontal shot showing the interesting facial features.
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Male #2. Young male, blue form.
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Male #2. Dorsal view. Notice the unique postocular eye spots, slim blue stripes and blue marks on the abdomen’s segment 8.
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Male #2. Appendages are black The superior appendages are shorter than the inferiors.
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Male #3, yellow form. taken against the swampy mangrove.
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Male #3. Lateral view. Notice the small spots at the side of the abdomen.
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Male #4 yellow form. Why is this specimen looks abit greenish in color?
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Male #4. yellowish / greenish male form.
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Male #4.

In Singapore, not many photos of this species has been available in the internet. I hope these photos could add to the archive of the diversity of odonata found in Singapore’s natural environment.

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Dragonflies & Damselfly of the mangrove swamps

In this post, I would like to showcase a few species of dragonfly and damselfly which could only be found in the mangrove swamps around Singapore’s coastal regions. Areas which I had visited include Sungei  Buloh Wetalnd Reserves, Pulau Ubin, and the mangrove swamps around the North Western part of Singapore.

Some species are uncommon such as mangrove dwarf (Raphismia bispina) whilst others are rare, such as the elusive mangrove marshal (Pornothemis starrei) and Arthur’s Midget (Mortonagrion arthuri).

  1. Raphismia bispina (Mangrove Dwarf)

They are uncommon species and one of the few dragonfly species that lives and breeds in the salt water in mangrove swamps. I have seen and recorded this species at Pulau Ubin, SBWR, and Sungei Cina.

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Young female Raphisma bispina. It has clear wings. The eyes are brown on top and yellow below. It has mottled yellow marking at the side of it’s thorax and yellow streaks along the abdomen.
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An older female where the yellow markings at the side of the thorax and abdomen are obscured.
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A sub-adult male. The thorax is slated blue with some yellow streaks at the side of the abdomen.

2. Pornothemis starrei (Mangrove Marshal)

This species is rare in Singapore. I have come across it once at SBWR and Pulau Ubin and a few occasions at sungei cina.

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A female pornothemis starrei.
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A male pornothemis starrei. It is slightly metallic black with white pruinescence on the dorsum of the thorax.

3. Mortonagrion arthuri ( Arthur’s Midget)

Mortonagrion arthuri is also a mangrove species and could be found at Pulau Ubin and Sungei Cina.

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A female Mortonagrion arthuri resting at the tip of the root of mangrove tree. It has brown thorax with blue stripes. Similar to males, it also has distinct blue markings on segment 8 of the abdomen.
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An older female. The blue markings on the abdomen is already obscured and could not be seen.
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A male mortonagrion arthuri. Male has two colour forms. This is a bue form which it has blue stripes on the thorax and blue postocular spots. Notice the distinct blue markings at segment 8 of the abdomen.

Although not exclusively associate with mangrove habitats, the following two species of dragonfly could also be found there.

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A male Orthetrum sabina ( Variegated green skimmer).
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A female Agrionoptera insignis (grenadier).

It is important to preserve our limited mangrove habitats so the rare species of plants and animals could continue to thrive there.

 

Pornothemis starrei Lieftinck, 1948

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Pornothemis starrei
Common Name: Mangrove Marshal

Mangrove Marshall is predominantly a mangrove species of rare dragonfly that can be found in mangrove habitat in most part of Singapore coastal areas. I have encountered this species at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau Ubin, and at the mangrove swamps at Western part of Singapore.

The male has a metallic black body with light bluish pruinescence on the dorsum of the thorax. It also has markings that look like “stars” on the synthorax, that differs between individuals. The abdomen is thin, dark and curved when view from the side It has a pair of attractive greenish-blue eyes.

Females are olive in colour on the sides of the thorax and are rarely encountered.

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Pornothemis starrei, male. Notice the dark green eyes and the predominantly black body.
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A younger individual male. The wings are clear. The light bluish pruinescence on the dorsum is clearly visible.
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Another male. Notice the unique markings on the synthorax of each individual.
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This male has a more prominent blue pruinescence on the dorsum and first 3 segments of the abdomen. It has a more rounded markings on the synthorax.
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Yet another male with an overall black abdomen. You can also notice the slight curvature of the abdomen.
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An old female with an olive body. It has the same appearance as the male but more stouter and bigger.
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Another female in dorsal view. Notice the hyaline wings and a little patch of brown at the base of the wings.
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A younger female in lateral view. The hind legs are quite long, and notice the prominent flags on each side of the abdominal segment 8.
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Very young female. The body is golden brown in colour with yellowish strips and markings on the abdomen.
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In live specimen, this young female has a very striking golden hue to her body.  
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Side view of the above female.
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Another young female in dorsal view.
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Profile view of the above female.

I have caught many males and females in pixel over a span of a few weeks of this elegant and rare species at the mangrove swamps of Singapore. One has to see the real specimen to appreciate the beauty of the species.

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Camacinia gigantea (Brauer, 1867)

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Camacinia gigantea
Common Name: Sultan

Camamcinia gigantea is a large dragonfly species that lives in open ponds, quarries and occasionally, forest pools.

I have observed this species many times, sometimes up to four to five individuals at the forest fringe at Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. It frequents flooded forest pools and may wander far from the water source.

It can co-habit peacefully with other smaller dragonfly species but may chase away rivals within a small territory.

The below photos are taken at a forest in the Mandai area where a small forest pools was formed after heavy rain and attracts a female and two male Sultans, a few Neurothemis fluctuans, a male Orthetrum testaceum and a male Potamarcha congener.

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Two rival males perching on a twig anticipating for a female arrival
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One male tries to dislodge another from his perch.
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He has successfully mated with the female upon her arrival. The other rival male has to wait in despair.
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Another photo of the two males perching side-by-side, one on top, and the other below.
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The same couple moves to the favorite perch while in tandem.
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This photo shows the smaller, but otherwise same coloration of the Neurothemis fluctuans in the background.
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You can observe the difference of the two species by the pattern of the wings and size.

Although rare, Camacinia gigantea may occur in numbers when there are adequate water source and at certain time of the year. It is a delight to watch them fly gracefully over the surface of the water and then perch peacefully at their favorite spot.

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Pseudagrion rubriceps Selys, 1876

Family: Coenagrionidae
Scientific Name: Pseudagrion rubriceps
Common Name: Orange-faced Sprite

According to the book of dragonflies by Mr. Tang, this very rare damselfly has been found only at two locations in Singapore. These sightings were at Toa Payoh Town Park, and at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

My sighting of this species were at a very remote location at the western part of Singapore. The place has a small running stream surrounded by short and weedy vegetation.

The male has a striking bright orange face with olive green on the dorsum. It has beautiful light blue on the sides of the synthorax and blue markings on segment 10.

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My very first “blurry” picture of this male orange-faced sprite. Do you see him? This picture shows the stream and vegetation where the damselfly was found.
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He landed on the long root of a plant near the stream. The orange-faced is very outstanding!
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A closer look at this species. It has beautiful combination of blue and green on it’s thorax.
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A ventral view of it’s synthorax. Notice the blue eyes spots.
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A lateral view of the male. The wings of this species is hyaline, but this individual has it’s wings tinted white.
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One of the most beautiful damselfly species I have encountered in Singapore.

It is sad that this species can no longer be found at Toa Payoh Town Park, but elsewhere in Singapore, it can still be found.

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Oligoaeschna amata (female) & O.foliacea (male)

Family: Aeshnidae
Scientific Name: Oligoaeschna amata – female (Fӧrster, 1903) & Oligoaeschna foliacea – male (Lieftinck, 1968)
Common Name: Paddle-tail

On 25th September 2016, I was at the Central Catchment Nature Reserves and in the dense undergrowth of the thick vegetation, I found a male O. foliacea & a female O.amata.

These species are supposed to be very rare and only appeared in certain months of the year.

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Female O.amata.
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Side profile of the female.
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Another angle of the same female.
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Male O. foliacea. Both male O. foliacea and amata are very similar. It can be separated by the shape of it’s anal appendages.
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This should be a younger male.
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Side profile view.
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Idionyx yolanda Selys, 1871- female

Family: Corduliidae
Scientific Name: Idionyx yolanda
Common Name: Shadowdancer

Idionyx yolanda is a small and lightly built dragonfly inhabiting forest streams and swamps in the nature reserves. Although rare, it can be found in most forested areas such as Upper Peirce Reservoir, Upper Seletar Reservoir, MacRitchie Reservoir, and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

This female was found perching on a twig near to a forest stream at the Dairy Farm Nature Park.

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Female Idionyx yolanda. Side view. Very prominent yellow lateral band on it’s thorax.
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Green eyes and dark and thin abdomen.
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Dorsal view. This is an aged female.
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Heliaeschna crassa Krüger, 1899

Family: Aeshnidae
Scientific Name: Heliaeschna crassa
Common Name: Nighthawker

Heliaeschna crassa is very rare in Singapore. It inhabit swampy forests and are crepuscular. So far, I have bumped into this species only twice over the span of 5 years of my dragonfly hunting. Once in the forest near Upper Pierce Reservoir, and this one, near Chestnut forest. On both occasions, it’s appearance was caused by my unintentional disturbance while I was walking along the forest trail. My observation of this species is that it tends to be very sensitive to any movements in the surroundings. Once it flies off, it will never come back again. Also, it tends to perch quite low in the dense vegetation.

This is a pretty large species. The eyes of the male are bottle green. The thorax is green and somewhat flatten with greenish transverse flecks and the abdomen of this one is black, probably indicating this is an older male. It has 4-5 crossveins in the median space at the base of the wings.

The top of the frons is black w/o a T-mark. The wings are brownish tinted.

The most unique feature of this species is it’s anal appendages. The male superior appendages is thin and long with a somewhat swollen recurved tip pointing outward. The inferior appendage is very short and slightly recurved.

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This old male was taken in the chestnut forest in July 2016.
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A closer look at it’s appendages. Do you think it’s a H.crassa or H.idae?

This species is definitely one of the rarest species of dragonfly in Singapore. Unfortunately, I only managed to take a couple of shots before this male shoot off and disappeared into the forests.

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Heliogomphus kelantanensis (Laidlaw, 1902)

Family: Gomphidae
Scientific Name: Heliogomphus kelantanensis
Common Name: Malayan Grappletail

The Malayan Grappletail has turned up again in the CCNR of Singapore in July 2016. I have seen this very species of gomphid almost every year at the same spot at one of the streams in the Nature Reserve.

Normally I have seen at least two males individual hanging within the vicinity of the slow flowing stream, but this time round, I have only encounter a single male.

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This is a small gomphid. Total body length is only about 37mm. It is endemic to P.Malaysia & Singapore.
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It has bluish green eyes, olive green thorax and dark abdomen.
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My favourite gomphid species. It is very rewarding to be able to capture this species not withstanding the long and tiring trip in the nature reserve.
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Dorsal view of this male. It has clear wings and very unique anal appendages.

This species is one of the easiest gomphid species to photograph as it will tend to stay patiently at it’s favourite perch. Even if it’s disturbed, it will fly to a nearby perch and will stay for long period of time.

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Libellago hyalina, Selys, 1859

Family: Chlorocyphidae (Jewels)
Scientific Name: Libellago hyalina
Common Name: Clearwing Gem

July is definitely the breeding month for the Clearwing gems where I have seen many of these little gems scattering around an open patch of the forest in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. This time round, males are evidently more abundant than females.

Majority of the males are matured male which has a bluish grey abdomen. Younger male has attractive steel blue abdomen.

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This is an adult matured male. The abdomen is bluish grey in colour.
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Another matured male.
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Third male with the same colouration. This is the most common colour form.
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Adult male with amazing steel blue abdomen.

Females has a thicker abdomen and stouter in appearance. Young female has a golden orange body whilst older females are paler bluish grey in colour.

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Young female has a orange-striped abdomen. The pterostigma is white in colour.
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Another young female.
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Older female has a dull bluish abdomen.