Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back Guiding at Chek Jawa

Today was the first time I guided at Chek Jawa after the mass death that happened at the beginning of the year. Though I've visited it several times for the past few months for either NParks events, Team Seagrass sessions or Kok Sheng's study, I was still kind of excited to be back guiding here again :)

And fortunately, it turned out to be a great day too!

Even before we stepped onto the tidal flats, we saw this juvenile black spitting cobra trying to swallow a toad! This snake is venomous, and thus whenever we see one, we would always treat it with respect and watch from a safe distance. Well, if we don't disturb the snake, the snake won't disturb us too! Let's face it, it has better things to do, like looking for prey which can better fit into its mouth. They swallow their prey whole, you know?

And here's a shot of the group before we got onto the sandflats. All smiles and energetic!

There were many mudskippers just under the boardwalk. This fish could survive out of water by storing water in it's mouth and gill chambers. It could breathe through its skin if its wet too.

Walking along the seagrass lagoon, I spotted this little pink sea cucumber among the sea grass. Do you know that sea cucumbers breathe through their anus?

Here's a much bigger one - the sandfish sea cucumber. This sea cucumber is edible, but must be properly treated before they can be eaten, as it contains toxins.

There were lots of striped hermit crabs among the seaweeds and seagrasses.

We saw several mangrove horseshoe crabs too. Horseshoe crabs are actually not true crabs, but are more closely related to scorpions and spiders.

There were many sand dollars too, and most of them were burrowing just beneath the sand.

Near to one of the hunter-seeker stations, we found this swimming anemone among some seaweeds. Unlike most other sea anemones that attach themselves to the substrate or other hard surfaces, this anemone is free-living and can actually swim around by pulsating itself!

Our hunter-seekers found us this sea star which I wasn't really sure about the ID, though I was pretty sure it's not a biscuit sea star (Goniodicaster scaber). Sijie had also asked me about this sea star some time back. Thought it resembles a Gymnanthenea laevis the most after checking through "A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore". This sea star can usually be identified by spine-like tubercles on the central radial plates, and the bottom surface is covered by bivalved pedicellariae (little oval-shaped structures) which you can't find on a biscuit sea star.

Such oval-shaped structures can also be found on the bottom surface of cake sea stars (Anthenea aspera), and for a while I thought it could be a juvenile cake sea star. But then spines on the top surface were not typical of cake sea stars, so most probably it's a Gymnanthenea laevis or a related species.

There were lots of brittle stars stranded on the sand bar.

Lot's of beautiful peacock anemones were spotted in the various tidal pools too!

And as it got a little darker, the sand stars started emerging from the sand like magic.

And yet another special find for today's trip - 2 file snakes found by our hunter-seekers! Unlike the black spitting cobra we saw earlier, this snake is not venomous, and thus we were more than eager to get close and personal with them :P

Here's fellow CJ guide, Chay Hoon, posing with one of the file snakes.

And one of the visitors from my group had a go too!

And here's a group shot before we finally had to leave the sandflats. Still all smiles and energetic.

We headed back onto the boardwalk, and as we walked towards the mangrove area, we noticed that the fiddler crabs were really out in full force!

And after making a quick loop around the mangrove boardwalk, we finally climbed up the 20m tall Jejawi Tower, which was named after the Malayan Banyan tree growing next to it.

Certainly, it was great to be back guiding at Chek Jawa. Although we didn't managed to see the knobbly sea star like the previous walk last month (the water was too murky for our hunter-seekers to find them), we still saw lots of interesting things, and that just shows that Chek Jawa is recovering well from the mass death, and still has plenty of things to offer!


koksheng said...

Thanks Ron for sharing those great experiences.

Great to see the animals doing ok. Was a bit worried of the recent Johor flood and rain :-)

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Thanks for the comments :)

Hopefully the monsoon rain this time round won't be as bad as the one last time...