Thursday, September 9

M ... moth. M ... mmda.

of moths and the mmda...

the mmda has planted several ficus benjamina saplings along the length of commonwealth avenue and elsewhere in the metro in an effort, i suppose, to green the city.  i don't really know why they chose this particular plant (fast growing? none destructive? pollution tolerant?) but i'm glad they chose ficus, the birds love the fruit.  and adri & i discovered another creature which loves the plant.

the mmda has lined many of the metro's main roads with ficus benjamina. here's one on busy commonwealth ave.

one day, after i dropped off adri at commonwealth i received a text message from him describing how one of the ficus plants was covered with white caterpillars.  during the weekend, i got the chance to see the cats myself and to take photos.  we parked at the shell station beside the INK hospital and inspected the bush, right there on the sidewalk of commonwealth avenue.  i suppose the pedestrians and the hospital guard found our behaviour a bit strange. after our "it-turned-out-to-be-a-sphinx-moth-caterpillar-eating-the-rosal-bush" incident, we figured out that these tiny caterpillars eating up the ficus were moth caterpillars, and their little horned backs indicated they were probably some sort of sphinx moth. not wanting to agitate my mother by bringing home a slew of caterpillars (again), we decided to just wait and see.  we hoped that they would not require burying underground in their pupal stage... there was a bit of exposed ground where the ficus was planted, but it didn't seem very hospitable right there on the sidewalk.

several plain looking "horned" caterpillars:  a very recent expereince tells me these will become moths!

anyway, a couple of weeks later, adri announced that the cats had indeed metamorphosed into moths, and strange-looking moths they were.  i couldn't go and see them until the next day, a saturday, and i hoped that they would stay in place.  sure enough, there they were... we counted more than 20 small moths on the ficus. 

a newly eclosed moth next to its cocoon

that single ficus (and even its fence) was adorned with these funny-looking moths!

it was a bit strange that they stayed in place, i wonder why they didn't fly off.  anyway, there was a pair already starting the next cycle.

a pair starting the next cycle already

here's to the greening of metro manila for the crawlies!

Tuesday, September 7

care for invasive species with that?

kuya ramil was carefully snipping of the whiskers of the very fresh river shrimp(lets) my mom had bought from the market when he asked me, "gusto mo ng janitor fish?" sure enough, in the half kilo of very fresh, still jumping shrimp, he had found 4 baby janitor fish, 2 still very much alive, inspite of being out of water for probably several hours.

it makes me wonder just how much ecological havoc these creatures have caused in our rivers and lakes.

Wednesday, September 1

puddle, puddle, toil & huddle

The Molawin Creek at the Makiling Botanic Gardens has not yet recovered from the very dry summer and much of the creek bed is still exposed. So on our last visit, Adri & I were distracted from birding by the butterflies that were sipping minerals from the damp ground, a process aptly called puddling.

a pair of v. dejone jostling for position (spot the c. roxus in the picture)

we spotted several mapwings (c. maenalis)

Why do butterflies puddle?  Well, the explanation I always come across is that it's to extract important minerals (like sodium) which the butterflies can't get from their normal sugary nectar diets.  The sodium of course is needed for several physiological activities (but let's not get into molecular biology here!).  While puddling, you can see the butterflies ejecting the excess fluid (in filipino: sumisirit), much like pee-ing!

dragontails (l. meges) hardly stand still enough for a photo except when puddling

But the thing is, when butterflies puddle, it's a wonderful sight. They may puddle on the ground, on rotting fruit, on dung, urine or even carrion.  They often do so in high numbers (well higher than one), and it's a great opportunity to take photos of butterflies which otherwise never perch long enough for a decent picture.

there were more than this pair of c. roxus on the creek bed

this common jay (g. doson) and dragontail were taking turns "pee-ing"  (you can spot a drop on the tip of the dragontail's abdomen)  it was like they were engaging in pataasan ng ihi!

I've always thought of puddling butterflies as a social activity, but, these puddling butterflies probably only congregate because of the available prime puddling spot.  I've seen butterflies so "drunk" they become immobile and ignore even the most distracting movements.

some dragontails puddle with their wings laid out flat

Still... it's nice to imagine them exchanging the latest butterfly gossip in (im)proper lady-like fashion!