Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sungei Buloh on 5 Feb 2009

This was my 3rd trip with students from PLMGS at Sungei Buloh. It was a rather cloudy day, and for a while, it actually looked like it would rain. Fortunately, the weather managed to hold, and we had a pleasant and cooling walk.

Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris)
Before the students arrived, I was there looking at the berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) again. It has a pretty reddish flower bud! Looked like it would probably start blooming either tonight or the following night!

My students soon arrived.

Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator)
And again, one of the first few animals we encountered was the Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator).

Bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica)
The bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica) is one of the most common mangrove trees in Sungei Buloh. I was really fortunate to spot this pair of twin seedlings. My first time seeing this too! I wonder what will happen if this pair of seedlings successfully get dispersed and grow into trees!

To deal with the harsh environment in mangroves, many mangrove plants have adapted to prepare their young as much as possible, and some like the bakau putih germinate while they are still attached to their parents! When the seedling eventually dropped into the water, they will first float horizontally. After soaking in sea water for a few weeks, they will eventually be bloated with water and start floating vertically, allowing them to sink into the mud as the tide goes down.

Sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum)
A common back mangrove plant found in the reserve is the sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum). The flowers of this tree blooms in the morning in yellow, but the colour darkens towards the end of the day, and eventually became orange in the evening. It will wither and drop by the following day.

Collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
As we were looking at the sea hibiscus, a cackling laughter was heard. It was a collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris). We even saw it darting into the water to hunt for fish! Apart from small fishes, it feeds on small crabs, shrimps and insects too.

Bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)
As we headed onto the mangrove boardwalk, we saw this huge bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus). The way the leaves are arranged allow it to trap leaf litter, and when the latter decomposes, the fern will be able to absorb the nutrients.

Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans)
I was rather glad to see that the nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) was still fruiting so that I could show the students where their attap chee came from. When I was a kid, I used to live in an attap house, and the roof was made from nipah palm leaves. Nipah palm is also called attap palm locally.

Api-api (Avicennia spp.)
The various aerial roots of the different types of mangrove plants were always an interesting sight. The ones above belonged to the api-api (Avicennia spp.). These pencil thin roots allow the api-api to breath atmospheric air, because the mangrove mud has very little oxygen to offer the plants growing on it.

Mangrove apple trees (Sonneratia spp.)
The cone-shaped roots belonged to the mangrove apple trees (Sonneratia spp.). You may also noticed that the mangrove tree roots usually spread over a wide area. That is because the ground in the mangroves is usually very soft and unstable. Spreading the roots over a wide area will give the plant more stability.

Bakau trees (Rhizophora spp.)
Meanwhile, the bakau trees (Rhizophora spp.) have prop or stilt roots. The trees are sometimes grown in mangrove plantations to be processed into high quality charcoal.

Tumu tree (Bruguiera gymnorhiza)
While the roots were interesting, they were certainly not as colourful as the flowers. These bright red flowers belonged to a tumu tree (Bruguiera gymnorhiza). I am certainly looking forward to see their seedlings in the near future.

Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri)
Mangroves are very important because they supports a huge variety of organisms, including many interesting animals. One of the most easily spotted one is the giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) above. Being the biggest muskipper in Singapore, they are also rather aggressive, and we sometimes see them fighting with each other for territories or mate.

Tree-climbing crab (Episesarma sp.)
The tree-climbing crab (Episesarma sp.) is another commonly spotted animal. They are also called vinegar crabs because some people pickle them in vinegar and eat them with porridge.

White-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
A few of the students who followed me more closely also got to see this white-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus). This bird normally feed on small fishes, worms, snails, insects and seeds by foraging at the water's edge, on the ground and in small bushes.

Jumping spider
Just before we left, I spotted this little jumping spider (Family Salticidae), which can jump from place to place up, with some species said to be able to jump up to 80 times the body length. It also has excellent vision, and studies shown it has four different kinds of receptor cells in its eyes with different absorption spectra, and it is possible that it can even see ultra-violet light!

We eventually ended the trip with a video clip on Sungei Buloh. I certainly hope that the students have learned something useful today, and will appreciate our mangroves more in future :)

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