Sunday, February 01, 2009

Exploring Pulau Ubin with RMBR Volunteers

This is the first Sunday after the Lunar New Year, and so we decided to have a gathering for RMBR volunteers to Pulau Ubin. Apart from enjoying the company of my fellow nature-loving friends, I was also hoping to find the Bruguiera parviflora which I didn't have the time to find during my last trip there. But alas! We took a long time to reach Noordin Beach, stopping to take photos of the many interesting stuff we encounter along the way, and thus I didn't have time to fully explore the area again! Still, this was a very worthwhile trip, because as usual, Pulau Ubin was packed with little surprises here and there!

Seashore nutmegs (Knema globularia)
First of all, many of the seashore nutmegs (Knema globularia) were fruiting! At one time, it was thought that this coastal plant was extinct in Singapore, until they found many of them on Pulau Ubin! The bright red fruits attract birds like the oriental pied-hornbills to eat and disperse the seeds.

Rotan tikus (Flagellaria indica)
So were the rotan tikus (Flagellaria indica)! This vine was used to make baskets in some places, but the quality is supposedly not as good as rattan. Interestingly, the young stems and leaves are sometimes used as shampoo to combat baldness! Hmm...

Nyireh batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis)
The nyireh batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis), unfortunately, wasn't fruiting though.

Chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea)
The chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea) is very common on Pulau Ubin. It was said that the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, got its name from this plant. Known as nilad in the Philippines, the plant grew in huge numbers on the shores of Manila Bay, and thus the place was called "Maynilad", which means "There is nilad".

Teruntum bunga puteh (Lumnitzera racemosa)
The teruntum bunga puteh (Lumnitzera racemosa) were blooming with pretty little white flowers, and some of them were also fruiting.

Bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata)
Several bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata) were spotted with their hypocotyls dangling off the branches. The long hypocotyl can grow to more than 60cm, and in some places, parents actually use them to cane their children instead of using rattan canes!

Tumu (Bruguiera gymnorhiza)
Several tumu trees (Bruguiera gymnorhiza) were also flaunting their cigar-like hypocotyls.

Berus mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii)
Unfortunately, the berus mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) we spotted during our last trip wasn't fruiting though. It had lots of flowers, but was too far and dark for my camera to take any decent photos, so I decided to take a photo of its trunk instead, because berus mata buaya in Malay means crocodile eyes, referring to the large lenticels on the bark.

Bruguiera sexangula
However, we have another surprise - it seemed like Nparks had planted a few Bruguiera sexangula on Pulau Ubin, and they are flowering! I can't wait to go back in a few weeks time to check out if the seedlings develop.

Golden web spiders (Nephila pilipes)
Other than plants, many animals were encountered during our exploration. The most obvious ones must be the golden web spiders (Nephila pilipes), since they make such huge webs! Again, I spotted one that has a totally black body, said to be a variation of this species.

Red parasitic spider (probably Argyrodes sp.)
And most of the time, on the web of the golden web spiders, you can find these little red parasitic spiders (probably Argyrodes sp.). Being a kleptoparasite, the little spiders feed off the prey of the bigger spider whose web they live on.

Male and female golden web spiders (Nephila pilipes)
But not all the little red spiders are the parasitic spiders. The one above on the back of the huge female golden web spider is actually a male golden web spider, and its so much smaller than the female!

Bagworm moth
A little bagworm moth which built its home by cutting branches off the plant it lived on, and pasting them on its body, forming a nice spiral.

Knight butterfly(Lebadea martha malayana)
The knight (Lebadea martha malayana) is a slow flier, making it rather easy for us follow it to take a few nice photos. Its caterpillar feeds on ixora congesta, a native ixora of Singapore that grew in abundance on Pulau Ubin. 3 sub-species of Lebadea martha have been recorded in Singapore, with the parkeri sub-species being more regularly spotted on mainland Singapore. The latter has pale mauve markings on its hindwing, instead of the reddish brown background found on the malayana sub-species.

Stingless bees
A colony of stingless bees have built a nest on the gate to Chek Jawa.

Cotton stainer bugs (Dysdercus decussatus)
We were rather amazed to see so many cotton stainer bugs (Dysdercus decussatus) on these leaves. These bugs feed on the seeds of the sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum), and they usually gather in huge numbers to make it easier for them to find mates.

Thespesia firebug (Dysdercus simon)
A closely related species, but much rarer in Singapore, was the Thespesia firebug (Dysdercus simon), which we found 3 on a portia tree (Thespesia populnea). They can be differentiated from the cotton stainer bug by the black head.

2 Thespesia firebugs (Dysdercus simon) and a cotton stainer bugs (Dysdercus decussatus)
On looking closely at some of the Thespesia firebug, I noticed an "imposter", a cotton stainer bug on the right above.

Longhorn beetle
A longhorn beetle was also found feeding on the leaves of the portia tree.

Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos)
There was this gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) on one of the prop roots of a bakau tree (Rhizophora sp.). Despite the splashing wave, it still managed to hold tightly to the root! That is because its pelvic fins are fused to form something like a sucker which allows it to cling tightly to any hard surfaces.

Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri)
The giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) is often spotted at the back mangroves of Pulau Ubin, and today we spotted several of them. This is the biggest mudskipper in Singapore, and in some places they are eaten as a delicacy.

Green crested lizards (Bronchocela cristatella)
We saw 2 green crested lizards (Bronchocela cristatella), and here's one of them. This is a native lizard, but are now less commonly encountered as they were out-competed by the introduced changeable lizard - a very real example of how introduced species can affect our ecosystem, and drastically affect the population of our native species.

White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus)
We were rather fortunate to see this white-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus), a rather rare native bird with a lovely voice. Unfortunately, this bird was often trapped by poachers for sale at the songbird market, and in fact, we bumped into some of the poachers today!

It's really unfortunate that we have so little nature spots left in Singapore, but yet there are various groups of people who don't seem to care much about preserving them.

Well, while that dampened our mood a little, the various interesting sightings still made this trip a really worthwhile one, even though I was having a flu and was really tired after the 8-hour trip. Haha.


Ivan said...

I must look out for that bee colony the next time I'm at CJ.

I commented on SY's blog saying that maybe the male Nephila was feeling suicidal.

That swarm of cotton stainers is sending chills down my spine. And maybe that cotton stainer on the Thespesius got confused.

Oh no poachers! What were they doing? And was any action taken?

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

We suspect they were trying to trap a shama. They saw our huge gang, they just evacuated. We told some of the nparks people later though.

neil said...

Great stuff as usual. Always nice to Nephlia spiders and mudskippers.

Sad to hear about the poachers. Thankfully British bird species arn't usually targets for poaching, although On Saturday I witness about 20 people taking shots at some native woodcocks - the saddest thing is its totally legal