Saturday, January 12, 2008

From Peirce to Bishan

Tide wasn't fantastic these few days, and thus a few of us semakau guides decided to go terrestrial for a leisure walk instead.

We started around 6.30am in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of some nocturnal creatures along the Lower Peirce Boardwalk. Armed with torches and laser pointer (hoping to point at any interesting stuff too far away), we walked into the dark forest. Unfortunately, luck wasn't with us and except for a few moths and mosquitoes, we hardly see any animals along the trail :(

Soon, we could see some morning light and which spelled the end of our short and uneventful night adventure. We soon came out of the boardwalk trail, sighting a few monkeys and squirrels along the way, and decided to head towards Venus Drive instead.

Bumped into fellow Chek Jawa guide R and a TP colleague, PB, who also performed with me in the TP musical, Moon People. Apparently she couldn't recognise me in my casual outfit. Haha. Thought it was funny when one of her friends asked if I was her students. Will take it as a compliment that I look younger than my age :P

As we walked into the trail, I spotted some movement on a nearby tree and saw a green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella), which was a native species. Unfortunately my camera's zoom wasn't good enough to capture it. Hopefully ST got some good shots. But spotting this uncommon lizard seemed like a good sign that we should have more interesting things waiting for us ahead!

Not too far ahead from the lizard, LK found a cute little slug. Well, sea slugs are among my favourite marine animals, and thus it sure was nice seeing their terrestrial counterpart. Slugs are basically snails without shells.

Walking along the muddy track, I saw notice something slithering over the wet ground. It's a terrestrial flatworm (Bipalium sp.)! Haven't seen a terrestrial flatworm for the longest time! Flatworms have very simple brains, and recently many studies were conducted on them so as to understand better how our more complex brains work.

This was also the first time that I saw a red assassin bug (Cosmolestes sp.?)! Usually I saw the yellow ones. In the photo above, you will be able to see a hook-like beak under its head. The bug will use this beak to stab its prey, and inject toxin into it. This paralyses the prey and breaks down its internal tissues into a partially digested soup, which the bug will then suck up.

Along the trail, there were also lots of snails. While most of them were quite small with a shell diameter less than 2cm, the one above was rather big with a shell diameter of about 5cm.

In some cases, you can find several snails on a single plant. Reminds me of Jay Chou's song, "Snail".


Very encouraging lyrics :P

As we did not intend to head further into the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, we decided to turn back after we hit one of the roads and went to Tomson Plaza for lunch. And after lunch, we had another destination - Bishan Park.

We found several penaga laut tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) in the park. This tree is a native coastal tree, and its wood was used to make boats because of its resistance to water. As it produces fragrant flowers and pretty leaves, this tree is often planted as an ornamental plant. Its pretty leaves with nicely arranged veins also earn it its common name - beauty leaf.

As we walked on, we reached a pond with a little "island" in the middle, and this place turned out to be the highlight of the day, because we spotted lots of interesting birds here.

I first spotted a white-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) on a rock next to the little island. And as we were trying to grab some photos of it, its chick appeared as well. Once in while, it would wade into the shallow water, poking its beak into the water once in a while, looking as if it was trying to hunt for the little fishes.

We aslo saw a common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) in the above photo and a white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), and you just need to watch them for a while to understand why they are called kingfishers! Every now and then, one of them would dart into the water, and everytime, they returned with a fish in they beaks!

And on the other side of the little island, I suddenly saw something brown in colour perching on a fern. It's a yellow bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)! Unlike the kingfisher which flew and darted into the water to catch fish, the bittern just stood near the water, and when it spotted its target, it stretched out its neck and grabbed the prey in a split second!

There was also a little heron (Butorides striatus) fishing at the water's edge. Like the bittern, we saw it hunting by stretching out and grabbing little fishes from the pond.

The were no lack of butterflies in the park too. The above looks like a Peablue (Lampides boeticus) to me, though can't say for sure since I'm not exactly that familiar with butterflies.

There were many dragonflies too. The above is probably a Sabine’s Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina).

And also... the flying dragons! I spotted four of them today! Also called the gilding lizard, it has folds of skin attached its ribs that it can spread out like "wings" and glide from one tree to another. The above is probably a common gliding lizard (Draco sumatranus). Can see that it was very well-camouflaged on the tree trunk.

Many of the trees in the park looked rather old, and most of them have several types of ferns growing on them. This one has a few staghorn ferns, birdnest ferns, lots of rabbit's foot
fern, and several shoe string ferns.

Today was really a lucky day for ST and I, as we finally managed to photograph some cicadas (Purana sp.)! There were two of them in the photo above. Can you spot them? Anyway, the whole Bishan Park was filled with the shrilling whine of cicadas today. Cicadas make this sound by vibrating two drum-like membranes at the base of its abdomen.

Our final destination is the herbal garden in the park, which we only managed to reach after 2pm as we were distracted by all the interesting things above. However, rather than the herbs, my focus was still on the animals :P

There were lots of day-flying moths (Syntomis huebneri) feeding on the nectar of the flowers of the herbs.

Lots of little butterflies were also spotted. Looks like the Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa) to me.

But more interestingly, we found a pair of mating Grass Yellow butterflies (Eurema sp.)! Chased after them for quite a while before we finally managed to get some nice shots.

Another of my favourite shots at the herbal garden must be this - a little lynx spider (Oxyopes sp.) on a little bunch of flowers!

Really, had not expected to see so many interesting stuff today. Will certainly find time to explore other parks of Singapore in future :)

Also check out the Manta Blog and blooooooooooo Blog for more stories on this trip!

No comments: