Sunday, May 31, 2009

Filming at Semakau

Today, while the rest of the RMBR guides met at Marine South Pier for the guided walk, I was alone at Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal, waiting for a film crew. They were doing a TV programme at Semakau, and I was their guide for one of the segments. Come to think of it, this was my fifth appearance on a TV programme. The last time I did any filming was for an environmental video series, Earth Factor You about a year ago. Have not heard from them after the filming session, so hopefully that won't be the case this time round. Haha.

The film crew soon arrived, and we got onto the boat prepared by NEA. Was a little worried seeing them doing some filming during the boat ride and the sea got a little choppy at the beginning, but fortunately no one lost his/her balance :P

We soon reach the island. The film crew brought a whole load of equipment and it took them a while to get everything off the boat.

We soon got everything organised, and made our way to the intertidal area. As I had to guide and "act" at the same time, did not managed to take many photos of the organisms we saw. It was definitely still a good day with lots of things to see despite the heat :)

Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)
The first animal found by our hunter-seekers was this little Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda). Horseshoe crabs are very ancient animals, and were already around more than 400 million years ago! Generally, they are basically scavengers, but also feed on bivalves.

Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Family Synaptidae)
I found this Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Family Synaptidae) while crossing the seagrass meadow. This long sea cucumber feeds on organic particles by lashing its tentacles around to pick up them up from its surrounding.

After we crossed the seagrass meadow, the film crew decided to do a 360 degree shot. As you can see, it was so hot today, that one of the crew member decided to go topless...

Juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
I was really delighted to find that our hunter-seekers found us not one, but two juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)!

Juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
Here's the other one. The adult of this sea star is one of the biggest sea star found in local water, and possibly the heaviest too.

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
But the star of every Semakau walk is always the Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus). And we even saw one with 6 arms instead of the usual 5 arms!

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
Another knobbly we saw had the usual 5 arms. Understand that another group found 4 other knobblies nearer to the reef crest.

Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes)
The tide wasn't very low, but we were really lucky that we managed to see a Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes)!

Hard Coral
We did not managed to reach the reef crest as tide was already rather high, but we still managed to see quite a few huge colonies of hard corals.

The filming soon ended, and I went back to the main buidling with one of the NEA staff, Shawn.

Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Along the way, we stopped by to take a look at this pretty Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa). It certainly looked like it has grown bigger. This clam can grow up to about 30cm wide.

Back at the main NEA building was a curious scene, with lots of wet shoes and a tripod under the sun...

It's been a long and hot morning, and finally the film crew got to have some rest and food.

Hope I didn't do too badly during the filming. Haha :P

Saturday, May 30, 2009

First St John's Island Intertidal Walk of the Year

Yesterday, we were off to St John's Island for a guided walk. Kim was my assistant, and our group name was Fiddler Crab.

Acorn Worm (Class Enteropneusta)
We started with the sandy lagoon, and almost immediately when we stepped onto the shore, we saw the cast of an Acorn Worm (Class Enteropneusta). This worm feeds by swallowing the sand and process any tiny organic particles from it. The processed sand is push out of its backend, forming the coil of sand.

Pebble Crab (Family Leucosiidae)
This was my first time seeing a Pebble Crab (Family Leucosiidae) on St John's Island. This crab burrows very well, and the smooth carapace makes it look just like a polished pebble!

St John's Island is one of those few places left in Singapore that you can still see huge troops of soldier crabs (Dotilla myctiroides).

Clear Sundial Snail (Architectonica perspectiva)
The biggest surprise of the day must be this Clear Sundial Snail (Architectonica perspectiva) - my first time seeing it! Some more, it's laying eggs!

Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni)
The sandy lagoon also has several large Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni). Like other sea anemones, this animal has lots of stinging tentacles which it uses to sting small anemones that got too close to it. The tentacles will then work like a conveyor belt system to bring the prey to the mouth in the middle for it to feed on.

Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus)
There were lots of Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus) in the lagoon. We were quite lucky to see one with 4 arms, and another with 6 arms. But of course, the most common ones were still the usual ones with 5 arms.

Moon Snail (Polinices mammatus)
Several Moon Snails (Polinices mammatus) were also spotted in the sandy lagoon. This pretty snail is a fierce predator of small snails and clams! To feed, it will wrap its foot around its prey to try to suffocate it. It can also secrete an acidic liquid to soften the shell of its prey, and use its radula (something like a tongue) to slowly create a hole on it to feed on the soft body inside.

Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica)
After exploring the sandy lagoon, we headed towards the rocky shore. Along the way, we saw a Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica) with its pretty flower. In the olden days, the seeds of this tree were ground to a powder to stun or kill fish for easy capture. The poison can be destoryed by cooking. Being usually pollinated by moths, it blooms at night, and so we were really lucky that this flower still had not drop off yet.

Land Hermit Crab (Coenobita cavipes)
As we got down onto the rocky shore, we saw a few Land Hermit Crabs (Coenobita cavipes). These hermit crabs are so adapted to life out of water, that they will in fact drown if kept underwater.

Small purple sea cucumber
The rocky shore usually has lots of animals hidden under the rocks, and we saw a few little purple sea cucumber under one of them.

Marine Spider (Desis martensi)
As we head towards the coral rubble area, we saw this Marine Spider (Desis martensi) scampering over the dead corals. This spider cannot survive underwater too. During high tide, it will trap air with its hairy body, and hide in little crevices. During low tide, it will emerge to hunt for small animals.

Porites Corals (Porites sp)
There were several huge colonies of Porites Corals (Porites sp.) in sandy areas among the rocky. Most corals look brownish in colour as they harbour a golden-brown algae which can photosynthesizes. Some of the nutrients will be passed to the coral, and in return, metabolic waste from the coral will be passed on to the algae as nutritional supplements.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
This pretty snail with intricate patterns is a Spider Conch (Lambis lambis). In some places, they were collected for food and for their pretty shells.

Leaf Slug (Elysia ornata)
Leaf Slugs (Elysia ornata) are sap-suckers which feed on the Green Hairy Seaweed (Bryopsis sp.). They are able to retain the chloroplast from the sap and use them for photosynthesis!

Persian Carpet Flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi)
This is a flatworm, and like its name implies, it is very flat. We usually call this a Persian Carpet Flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi) due to its beautiful patterns on its back.

Toadstool Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)
Huge colonies of Toadstool Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.) can be found in tidal pools.

Fan Worm (probably Sabellastarte indica)
Fan Worms (probably Sabellastarte indica) has lots of tentacles on its head to capture tiny organic particles. The live in a tube, usually made from sand and mucus.

Black Margined glossodoris Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata)
Our hunter-seekers found us a pair of Black Margined glossodoris Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata). The term "nudibranch" means "naked gills", refering to the flower-like gills on the back of most species.

Red Maiden's Fan (Oceanapia sagittaria)
St John's Island has one of my favourite sponge - a Red Maiden's Fan (Oceanapia sagittaria). While this looks like a little flower, it is actually an animal, and feed on plankton and other tiny organic particles.

And here's a group shot of the Fiddler Crabs!

I was really glad that this was, once again, a very successful walk with lots of great finds!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Underwater Garden at Tuas

Yesterday, the RMBR Nature Guides were back at Tuas to check out the intertidal area.

Coral Garden
What I like best about Tuas was the many soft corals and zoanthids. They were everywhere, just like flowers in a garden!

soft Coral
Some of the soft corals look really cute, like little puff balls.

soft Coral
Others look like a bunch of little flowers.

Hard Coral
Apart from the softies, we have hard corals there too. The above was quite a huge colony - about 80m wide.

Sea Anemone
Many sea anemones, yet another kind flower-like animals, were spotted. The above unidentified sea anemone looks just like a glass flower! We saw several huge carpet anemones too.

Sea Pen
There were a few red sea pens too, adding more colours to the already very colourful "underwater garden".

Sea Fan
Just as brilliantly coloured were the sea fans, and Tuas has many of them.

Sea Fan
Some of the sea fan colonies were really huge - almost a metre wide and tall!

Sea Whip
The closely related sea whips we saw were not that colourful though.

These branch-like stuff were no sea fans but hydroids. They can give really painful stings, leaving scars that take a long time to heal.

Another animal which gives painful stings is this jellyfish.

We noticed a shrimp scampering around it, even among its tentacles!

Ghost Shrimp
Another shrimp-like animal is this one. Looks like a ghost shrimp to me, though the colour is not as bright as the ones I have seen before.

Blue Shrimp
LK found this very pretty blue shrimp, my first time seeing it!

Laganum depressum Sand Dolalr
We found lots of these Laganum Sand Dollars (Laganum depressum), with many of them just below the sand surface.

Rock Star (Asterina coronata)
This Rock Star (Asterina coronata) was the only sea star we found.

Pink Thorny Sea Cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis)
The Pink Thorny Sea Cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) can be found among the seaweed.

Glassy Bubble Shells (Haminoea sp.)
There were lots of Glassy Bubble Shells (Haminoea sp.) on the muddy-sandy substrate.

Tiger Moon Snail (Natica tigrina)
The Tiger Moon Snail (Natica tigrina) is supposed to be a fierce predator of other shells. Wonder if it feeds on bubble shell?

Sea Squirts (Polycarpa sp.)
There were lots of Sea Squirts (Polycarpa sp.) at Tuas too.

Special thanks to Sheryl and Helen from Schering Plough for helping with the coordination work :)