Mostly nature and photojournalism of amateur standard.

By: Amir Ridhwan

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Friday, 23-Mar-2007 12:30 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Feeding time- web weavers

 
 
 
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Animal behaviour in action has always been a fascinating photographic subject especially when we are talking about the big mammals or predatory birds. I can vividly recall the images from National Geographics magazine of a cheetah ensnaring an antelope in the savannah. The blood that smears across the cute kitty face of the cheetah gave such an awesome expression which is why the photo was in sucha high profile magazine and not likely to be found in fotopages.

One of the best image of animal is its feeding time. This is even more spectacular when captured in the wild. Being a poor amateur naturalist, I can only dream of photographing an osprey snatching a fish or something similar. I hope these web weavers meal time can be just as entertaining for you guys.


A Leucauge sp. feeding on a flying insect that got caught in its orb. Bukit Fraser.


What seems like a cicada meets its end in the deadly embrace of a Leucauge. Bukit Fraser


A Nephila pilipes having a big meal of a grasshopper. Bukit Tinggi.


A leaf-curling spider. Gunung Angsi.


A sheet web spider. Puchong.


Argiope. Bukit Belacan.


Argiope. Bukit Tinggi.


A leaf-curling spider. Puchong.

They are animals so we can't really blame them for such an uncouth table manners. Next I will present the hunters- non-web weaver which marauds the shrubs in search of prey.


Sunday, 18-Mar-2007 14:37 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Theridula caudata

 
 
 
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Order: Araneae
Sub-order: Araneomorphae
Family: Theridiid
Genus: Theridula
Species: caudata

This tiny spider is very attractive- the female is shaped like a heart while the male looks somewhat like a rice bug. There are 3 species under the genus Theridula in Malaysia and the species caudata is especially attractive due to its weird shape and the fact that its distribution is not as wide as its other 2 cousins.

It belongs to the family Theridiid which is one of the largest spider family with 96 known genus and 2267 species. While Theridula caudata is one of the smallest in this huge family, it can easily be found in Peninsular Malaysia due to its abundance distribution. The photos here are taken at 3 different locations- Bukit Fraser, Bukit Belacan and Batang Kali.

Females appears to look wider than males. You can distinguish the sex easily from the body shape- males have narrow bodies. The females have narrow yellowish legs while the males' are much longer and black. T. caudata can be found most of the time beneath a large leaf. They spin tangled webs with irregular shapes to trap insects.


Female. Bukit Fraser.



Female with egg sac. Batang Kali.

One interesting fact about T. cordata is the spiderlings are under the protection of a parent and can be found clustering beneath a leaf.



T. caudata spiderlings with a parent. Bukit Fraser.



Female (left) and male (right). Bukit Belacan.

If you find a shrubs with fairly large leaves, why not take a peek at the underside. You might find one of these lurking there, perhaps even an entire family!

Photos taken on the field using Olympus E-500 with Zuiko Digital 35mm macro lens. Natural lighting.


Tuesday, 13-Mar-2007 14:37 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Raptor watching at Tanjung Tuan

 
 
 
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I went to Tanjung Tuan near Melaka on Saturday to welcome the raptors in the annual migration back to the nesting site in Siberia. The event was made possible by the Malaysian Nature Society, MNS.



What on earth are raptors? They are carnivorous birds of prey that use their sharp beak and talons to hunt. It is a collective term that encompasses the eagle, hawk, buzzard, osprey, falcon, kite, owl and vulture.

Most of the raptors sighted in Tanjung Tuan is the oriental honey buzzard which belongs to the same family as the eagles. Their nesting area spreads from Siberia to northern Japan. During the winter they forage the tropical forests of south-east Asia looking for larvae of wasps and other small preys.

In early March every year they migrate back to their northern nesting sites by the thousands, many coming from the islands of Indonesia. From Sumatra they cross the Straits of Malacca to Tanjung Tuan which is the narrowest crossing distance. To conserve energy for the ten thousand km homecoming journey, raptors rely on the thermal lift obtained when the warm morning air push upwards so the can glide. Upon arriving at the cape of Tanjung Tuan they are mostly exhausted hence many will fly low. You can see a spectacular sight of so many raptors circling the sky after a long journey over the sea.





MNS did a fantastic job in organizing this event. There were many stalls and activities such as talks and performance shows to entertain the crowd while waiting for raptor flocks to arrive from across the sea. I was attracted in particular to the Leica stall where telecopes worth more than RM10,000 each are being displayed. There was a tame raptor from the Ayer Keroh zoo in one of the tent so visitors can see how it is up close and personal.



Since this is the first time in the area, I took some time to explore the mangroove beach. There was a jungle path from the stalls to the beach. It was certainly pleasing for me to find some spiders that I've never seen before actually hiding between the magrooves.



______________________________________________
MESSAGE FROM THE MUSEUM'S CURATOR

Photographers, you can socialize in the recently revived Pengukir Cahaya Forum at http://pengukir-cahaya.com/

Serious photographers, you should take a peek at the latest classes from Fototeacher.com, the leading provider of technical hands-on education in photography. http://www.fototeacher.com . Fototeacher.com has been playing a groundbreaking role in helping local amateurs and professionals to improve their skills and knowledge in photography.

Want to play a bigger in the conservation of environment? Join the Malaysian Nature Society http://www.mns.org.my and contribute to save the planet. A lot of photography subjects are directly related to nature- from countryside landscape to sunset over the beach, and from wild spotted sparrows to the exotic horned spiders. Make a difference. Save the earth from the bloodsucking capitalists.


Saturday, 3-Mar-2007 16:28 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Jewel Spiders

 
 
 
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Order: Araneae
Sub-order: Araneomorphae (59 families in South East Asia)
Family: Araneidae (orb weaver)
Genus: Gasteracantha (shelled spiked spiders)

Gasteracantha spiders, also known as jewel spiders, are restricted to tropical and subtropical regions. They are easily identified by having hard and spiny abdomens. The bodies resemble shells with three pairs of spines which points upwards. There are also shallow imprints on the dorsal surface of their abdomen call segilla which is used by scientists to identify species. Many species have flamboyant colors and even very striking patterns making them one of the celebrated decorators of the rainforest.

The webs are constructed in open space sometimes between a tall branch and a short shrub. It is not uncommon to see the suspension thread go so long compared to the orb itself. One black Gasteracantha I found in Fraser’s Hill has its suspension thread starts from a small shrub the height of my shoulder and end up to a branch about 4 meters up across a road.


A Gasteracantha sp. building its web about 2 meters from ground. Image taken in Fraser's Hill.


A monotone black waiting at the center of the web. Fraser's Hill.

Due to their shell-like abdomens, some people mistakenly call them crab spiders which is in conflict with those from the family Thomisidae which consists of crab spiders and flower spiders. The common names for Gasteracantha are jewel spiders, horned spider, spiked spider and kite spider.

This is the first jewel spider I photographed. She was sitting at the center of its web and run up to a branch once she spotted that I'm interested in him. Since they like to build webs high up beyond the reach of ordinary humans, I had some difficult time trying to capture their image.


A brown jewel. Bukit Tinggi.


White Gasteracantha with its web between trunks of pine trees. Photo taken at late afternoon in Bukit Tinggi.

I found this one below near a stream twice. They are very small and very difficult to photograph. Even the slightest breeze will sway their webs.


A flamboyant yellow-orange. Batang Kali.

The Long-horned Orb Weaver- Gasteracantha arcuata
This is one of the most bizarre-looking spider. The female has two long spikes that grow from her side as in the photo below. No other spider is known to have such a long horn-like spike and the purpose is still yet to be known. You can find the female as featured here sitting at the center of her web somewhere near the tree tops. Only the female has such protruding feature. The male is much smaller and looks very plain.

Thanks to Abdhakam for showing me this spider which I have been hunting for quite sometime. I have been holding the other photos of this genus just to wait for this particular one which is one of the wonders of the tropics.


Web of a Gasteracantha arcuata. Bukit Belacan


An unfortunate fly flew into the web, sealing its own doom. Bukit Belacan.


View from under side. Bukit Belacan.

You can see more spider photos at Boogey's and Abdhakam's FP. Links are on the tabs.
____________________________________

I've been tagged by hellikonia, za and mynn. 3 vs 1, mana aci.

My weird things:
1. I am bad in learning language.
2. I take good pictures of bugs but lousy human portrait.
3. I have guns that cannot kill.
4. I forget dates, names and faces in minutes.
5. I keep getting lost even I've been to the place many times.
6. However weird I am, it's nothing compared to my siblings.

Rules:
>>People who are tagged should write a post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names.
>>Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your entry.



Saturday, 24-Feb-2007 17:31 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Argiope Spiders

 
 
 
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Another family of orb weaver is Araneidae. In general its members have a much shorter jaws compared to those of Tetragnathidae. One genus of Araneidae that is common in tropical countries is Argiope.



You can find them abundant in Malaysia. My first encounter is in Puchong where I stay. The images were not that good due to low lighting since the web was beneath an ixora shrub. The images here were taken in Fraser's Hill yesterday where these critters are protected by the law within the Fraser's Hill forest reserve.



One trademark of most Argiope spiders is how they hang themselves on the web. Two legs are always together in an X shape making an appearance as if they have only four legs. In Australia the are known as the St Andrews Cross as its common position resembles the relic symbol.

Another mark of Argiope is the presence if a zigzag band in a shape of an X called the stabilimentum. While it was thought that its function is to stabilize the web, this remains controversial. In some web the stabilimentum is very apparent as in the image below. It is believed that hungry spiders build less stabilimentum to make the web more invisible to preys, though it could mean weaker protection against predators.



The one here is Argiope versicolor which is common in South East Asia. It can grow it to the size of an adult's thumb and can be seen from quite afar due to its flamboyant colors. They build webs between tall grass or tree shrubs, usually not so far from the ground. Food is mostly flying insect that are unfortunate enough to be caught in the web. Males are much smaller than female and after mating, egg sac is placed into the web.



There are many species of Argiope. This one is rather small and brownish. I am not sure to which species it belongs but certainly a member of the large Argiope genus.



Argiope spiders are considered harmless to human. Their venom is designed to work against insects. Infact they rarely leave the web so you should not worry if they build a web near your place.


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