Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Week of Sungei Buloh with Nature Explorers

For most part of this week, I was at Sungei Buloh for a series of workshops for some primary school students in the morning, and guided walk for the students involved in the Nature Explorers programme in the afternoon.

Here are some selected highlights of the things we saw:

Finally, I managed to get a decent shot of the flowers of the mangrove trumpet tree (Dolichandrone spathacea)! Took this photo with SY's camera though, since I forgot to bring my camera that day. This back mangrove plant got its name from the trumpet-like flowers.

The Malay name of this plant is mata ayam, which means chicken eye. The ripe fruits were black in colour, and were about the size of chicken eyes, thus giving it its name.

During our lunch breaks, we usually took a walk to the boardwalk opposite Pulau Buloh. We could see many species of mangrove plants on the little island, such as the mangrove apple, Rhizophora spp., Bruguiera spp., Avicennia spp., and Xylocarpus spp.

The ball of nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) seeds always remind me of a soccer ball, probably due to its size. This is where we get our attap chee in our ice kacang.

I was glad to find the barat barat (Cassine viburnifolia) still flowering and fruiting too! This is one of the rarest mangrove plants in Singapore. The husk of the fruit is said to be used to stupefy fish, which the trunk is used as firewood.

We saw several black coloured golden orb web spiders (Nephila pilipes). This spider builds one of the biggest webs in the world!

We spotted several mangrove horseshoe crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) over the past few days. These horseshoe crabs are usually scavengers, but they also feed on clams and worms sometimes.

The lined nerites (Nerita articulata) are often spotted congregating in groups on trees. Field experimental studies have shown that this nerite is tree-specific, and will usually return to the same tree after a feeding expedition.

Several fishes can be seen at the main bridge area, including this stripe-nosed halfbeak (Zenarchopterus buffonis).

We saw several Malayan water monitors (Varanus salvator) this week, and one of them was even high up on a mature and tall Bakau Kurap!

I really regretted turning off my camera after taking a few shots of this paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi), because it actually launched off a high branch and glided down to another tree! This is my first time seeing a paradise tree snake gliding, even though all along I've known that it's able to do that.

The pink-necked green pigeon (Treron vernans) is probably the most commonly spotted pigeon at Sungei Buloh. This is a male pigeon. The females are duller in colour.

A number of yellow bitterns (Ixobrychus sinensis) regularly visit the freshwater pond at the visitor centre to hunt for small animals such as fishes and frogs.

The plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) is probably the most commonly seen squirrel in Singapore, as it has gotten quite used to human presence.

They usually forage for fruits and seeds among trees and undergrowth, but sometimes, they will come down to the ground as well if food is readily available.

I was quite happy to find a troupe of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) foraging for food among the mangrove trees, but yet shocked to see one of them picking up an instant noodle bowl and started licking the inside.

Somehow the problem of littering and how it will affect the organisms in an ecosystem suddenly become so real. While the macaques at Sungei Buloh were not as bold as the ones in Bukit Timah or the Central Catchment Nature Reserve that they will snatch food from humans, their habits have still been somehow affected by the irresponsible actions of some of our fellow human beings.

I longed to see the days where all the macaques in Singapore will stay away from humans and feed on natural food sources.

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