Countless tropical danainines floated above the heads of visitors to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve last weekend, sipping from flowering trees, circling and chasing after each other, and drifting to a halt on twigs that lie just beyond reach. Some were blue glassy tigers, Ideopsis vulgaris, a stalwart of coastal woods and juvenile captive of entwining milkweeds that grow by tidal banks. Dark glassy tigers, Parantica agleoides, also joined this nymphalid melee, sailing through the understorey and sampling with buttery leisure the nectaries of a monsoonal outpouring.
The native vegetation by the welcome pond, now largely drained of its fluids and finned inhabitants, continue to provide nourishment to the reserve's friendlier phases. Common palmflies, whose caterpillars grow up amid the fronds of coconuts and other arecaceous trees, stain their probosces in the pulp of Melastoma bushes, which threaten to impinge upon the boardwalk that links the car park to the visitor centre. Sated, the satyrines rest on the broad leaves of simpoh ayer but seldom let their guard down, erupting swiftly when they sense untoward attention to circle the perimeter and alight on rather less tantalising blades.
Dillenia suffruticosa, whose foliage also serves the diverse ablutionary needs of sunbirds, flowerpeckers and national servicemen, fuels the flight of pink-necked green pigeons, which shed caution during breakfast in a safe haven, inching their way to the terminal clusters of shrubs that overhang the water to rip out scarlet arils from unfolded fruit. Green crested lizards bask on the uppermost layers of dense groves, while bronzebacks, betrayed by eyes that sparkle in the shadows of a low canopy, slide up the branches with strong, silent grace.
In the mangroves beyond the bridge, Sumatran sunbeams dazzle with wings that resist the politics of colour, flitting at close quarters but never settling for more than a moment of fire. Deeper in the swamp, there is also a colony of studded sergeants, the largest local member of a genus of non-commissioned officers, each of which bears a distinct livery of dots, dashes and studs. A few individuals inevitably stray from their regiment in search of fresh assignments, and one such vagrant had winged its way to the gopura of a shrine to northern migrants, where it stood stiffly to attention on a platform of party green and paraded its uncommon rank to inferior beings who struggle on foot to pass the muster of a sailor in full command of its fleet.