Friday, October 30, 2009

Crocodile, Otters, Emerald Dove and Fruit Bats at Sungei Buloh

Today must be my luck day! I saw a few of my favourite animals at Sungei Buloh!

Was so excited that even though I had not finished the slides for my volunteer training tomorrow, I was all prepared to stay up late tonight just to put up this blog entry first to spread my joy :P

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
The first animal was this Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). It was right below the main bridge when I reached the reserve in the morning!

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
During lunch time, it decided to come up for a sun tan!

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Just look at the sharp teeth...

Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Then it was the Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata). They were resting in the box near the freshwater pond when I went back to the visitor after seeing the crocodile in the morning! This was my first time seeing both crocodile and otters on the same day! There were a total of 5 otters that we saw, and 2 of them were swimming in the river, and at one point, was just a few metres away from the crocodile!

Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
One of the otters decided to go for a swim in the freshwater pond after a while.

Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
And here was it cleaning its fur after swimming for a while.

Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
I also saw one of my favourite birds, an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica), which was foraging among the vegetation right next to the visitor counter!

Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
Seemed like this dove had been ringed though, as I could see a metal ring on one of its legs.

Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
And it had found some seeds while foraging too!

Lesser Dog-faced Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis)
Marcus later show me some fruit bats! Looked like Lesser Dog-faced Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) to me, but since I wasn't really a vertebrate person, can't really say for sure.

Saw a number of other interesting stuff during these few days of workshops at Sungei Buloh. Will post more photos when I have the time! :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Record of Xylocarpus moluccensis on Semakau

Found this young Nyireh Batu on Semakau during a mangrove survey in February this year, but somehow slipped my mind to blogged about it, so this is really a very backdated entry :P

Nyireh Batu, Xylocarpus moluccensis
This the the young Nyireh Batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis) that I found during the survey. Heard from John a few months back that this species was previously not recorded on Semakau, but somehow, due to my busy schedule, forgot to confirm with him the ID (thanks a million for the help!) until recently.

Nyireh Batu, also known as Mangrove Cannonball (the common name for Xylocarpus spp.), bears round fruits resembling cannonballs, thus giving it its common name.

This plant is deciduous, and sheds all its leaves one or two times a year. Being a mangrove tree makes the wood rather saltwater-resistant, and thus the wood was used for building boats. It was also used for making furniture and houses, and as firewood.

This young Nyireh Batu was found a distance away from the forest edge actually. Does that mean that there could be a mature tree some where?

Sure hope to find one on a future trip!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stick Insect Country at Ubin on 25 Oct 2009

This morning, I met up with Dr Chua and Angie for to take a look at the Noordin area on Pulau Ubin. To save time, we decided to book a Mr Yeo's van instead of walking all the way to Noordin Beach.

The weather was very fine, and we were all in a rather cheerful mood, until we saw this.

Many of the benches were badly burned! We suspected that someone probably put charcoal on the benches to bbq their food. It's really unfortunate that some of the visitors to Pulau Ubin were so uncivilised and inconsiderate.

Unknown Climber
Near the shelter, Angie saw this climber which we didn't know the ID.

Berus Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii)
After walk for a short while, we reached our main objective for the day - the rare Berus Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii)! The seedlings that I saw during my previous trips were still there, but they had certainly grown quite a bit!

Berus Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii)
We were really lucky that the flowers were a low branch were blooming, and was able to take a number of closed up shots!

We spent quite a while taking photos of the flowers and seedlings before heading back to the main Noordin Beach area.

Sea Lime (Ximenia americana)
Along the way, we saw a number of Sea Lime (Ximenia americana) shrubs. Also called Yellow Plum, Sea lemon, wild olive and hordes of other common names, this plant has a very interesting hairy-looking flower.

Sea Lime (Ximenia americana)
The fruits were edible, though can taste a little sour.

Scale Insects (Superfamily Coccoidea)
On one of the leaves, I found lots of Scale Insects (Superfamily Coccoidea).

Rotan Tikus (Flagellaria indica)
Climbing on the Sea Lime was a Rotan Tikus (Flagellaria indica) with lots of fruits. The stem can be used to weave into baskets.

Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum)
On a nearby Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum), we found a few pairs of Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus) mating on the fruits. These bugs feed on the seeds.

Cicada (Family Cicadidae) moult
We decided to take a walk to another nearby mangrove area along the road. While walking, we found many Cicada (Family Cicadidae) moults.

There were quite a few Cicadas too! The insects feed on plant sap - somewhat like "mosquito" of the plant world :P

Rapanea porteriana
I went to check out the wild Rapanea porteriana I found during my last trip, and saw that it was bent over by some climbers! We removed the climbers immediately. Hopefully it will soon straighten up again!

Mangrove Tit-berry (Allophylus cobbe)
The Mangrove Tit-berry (Allophylus cobbe) were still fruiting. I was taking photos of the fruits when I noticed a small twig-like structure nearby.

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
It was a Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)! Just early when we left Noordin Beach, Angie was just saying that she hoped to see a Stick Insect, and I told her I could usually find a few around this area! This one was about 10cm long, I think.

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
And indeed, while taking photos of the previous Stick Insect, I spotted another smaller one which was less than 5cm long! Lucky that the Stick Insects were all on resting on green leaves, otherwise it would certainly be much harder to spot them, since they looked just like twigs!

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
While I spotted the first few Stick Insects, the top spotter for the day must be Angie! Her wish to see Stick Insects was certainly fulfilled beyond expectation, as she spotted most of the other Stick Insects along the way!

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
Here's another green-coloured Stick Insect with a hint of brownish tones.

Stick Insects (Order Phasmatodea)
And above, we saw two of them - one green and one brown - on leaves next to each other. Were they up to something sexy, I wonder?

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
Here's another brownish one.

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
And another greenish one...

We saw so many of them, that I decided to stop counting and taking photos, since they all look rather similar. Altogether, I think we saw close to 20 (perhaps more) Stick Insects!

As we went on, I was chatting with Angie and we decided that we should not take more photos of them unless it was a really huge one. And I told her that I had found a really huge greyish-brown one here before.

As we passed by a Penaga Laut (Calophyllum inophyllum), Dr Chua stopped to take at look at it. Just then, Angie shouted,"There's another one there. A BIG one!"

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
Indeed! This one was rather fat and was about 15cm long, and looked similar to the one that I was telling Angie about earlier!

Stick Insect (Order Phasmatodea)
As we were taking photos, I spotted another one on the same tree! Even bigger than the previous one!

What a day! I had never seen so many Stick Insects on a single trip before! In fact, the number of stick insects I saw today probably exceeded the total numbers I have seen for the past 25 years - ever since I move away from my kampong!

When I went back to tell my mum, she told me that my grandma used to keep them as pets and fed them with guava leaves, as the droppings from the Stick Insects can be used as some kind of medicine for asthma and stomach pains etc!

This was certainly a very enjoyable and fruitful trip!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Colugos and Babies

Went to Bukit Timah some time back to get a new pair of hiking boots, but was so busy these days that I didn't have the time to upload the photos until now.

Decided to take a walk before I got my boots, and was really lucky that I spotted colugoes again! And not one, but two! Or rather, four, to be precise!

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
I saw this Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) just before I turned into South View

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) with Baby
It was only when I walked one round and went back to the same spot about an hour later, that the little one decided to take a peep out! So we have a Mama Colugo and her baby here!

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
Not sure if she noticed me or was it due to the hot sun shining on it, it decided to move to the shaded side of the tree trunk after a while.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
Here's a shot of it from a different angle.

After I had taken enough shots, I decided to go to the visitor information centre to see if I can find any more colugos.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
Indeed, there was one on the Belinjau (Gnetum gnemon) tree right in front of the visitor centre!

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) with Baby
And she has a baby too! So cute!

It sure was my lucky day! And I eventually bought a pair of good hiking boots at a really reasonable price too! :P

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stung by a Stonefish

Not me, but LK.

Stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
Here's Mr Synanceia horrida, which was half buried in mud when LK stepped onto it, and landed her in hospital just a few hours ago. According to the doctor, her condition was alright, though the pain was still unbearable. Accordingly to what I have read, the pain can be so bad that it felt as if your leg got chopped off. Hope she will recover and get discharged soon.

The stonefish appeared to have suffered a rather bad injury too, with part of its skin being torn off. Hopefully it will recover from this ordeal as well.

Exploring our shores has its dangers, and even the experienced ones are not spared sometimes. So if you are new to intertidal explorations, please follow a guided walk organised by the various nature groups. At least the dangers are minimised. We are not kidding when we ask you to follow our trail, so that if (touch wood) anything goes wrong, the leading guide would get it first.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Semakau Walk on 18 Oct 2009

We were back at Semakau for a guided walk, and once again, I was the coordinator and hunter seeker. Assisting me with hunting-seeking were Meiyi and Kim.

Bakau (Rhizophora stylosa)
The tide was still quite high when we reached the reached the shore area. Thus, we decided to explore the high shore while waiting for the tide to go down. There were several Bakau trees (Rhizophora stylosa) in the area. These trees have prop roots spreading over a wide area that help them balance on the unstable mud.

Red Berry Snail (Sphaerassiminea miniata)
There were many Red Berry Snails (Sphaerassiminea miniata) under the Bakau trees. I always find them to look really cute with their little eyes.

Olive Whelk (Nassarius olivaceus)
Meiyi found an Olive Whelk (Nassarius olivaceus). Like most other whelks, this fellow is a scavenger, and uses its long proboscis to "sniff" out dead animals.

Blue-striped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius longitarsus)
And finally, I managed to get a shot of a Blue-striped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius longitarsus) in its natural environment on Semakau! Somehow the ones at Semakau are so shy, and even though I can usually find a few of them on most trips, I never had the time to wait for them to emerge and take some proper photos.

Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens)
Soon, the tide was low enough for us to get near the seagrass meadow. The first animal I found was this Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens). This sea cucumber is sometimes collected to make Air Gamat, a tonic made from the body fluid of sea cucumbers.

Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus)
Not sure if it's my imagination, but the population of the Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus) appeared to be growing exponentially. They were spreading over a really wide area these days.

Hammer Oyster (Family Malleidae)
At the coral rubble area, I found a Hammer Oyster (Family Malleidae). This clam has its hinge at the top of the "T".

Juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
Also at the coral rubble area was this juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae). Interestingly, I found it around the same spot that I found it last month!

Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
Kim found this really fat Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra).

Wondering Cowrie (Cypraea errones)
I found this Wondering Cowrie (Cypraea errones) stranded upside-down on the sand. Not sure what had happened to it. I quickly put it in a small tidal pool and it started moving immediately.

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
I saw at least 3 Noble Volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) laying eggs during the trip. They really blend in very well to the surrounding with all the silt on their shells!

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
This juvenile Noble Volute still looked very clean though. Interestingly, I found it just a few metres away from the previous one. This pretty snail is very fierce hunter of other snails and clams though. It will sniff them out with its long proboscis, and then wrap its huge foot around its prey to suffocate it.

Red Maiden's Fan (Oceanapia sagittaria)
Semakau has lots of these very pretty Red Maiden's Fan (Oceanapia sagittaria), a sponge which I always find it hard to resist taking photos of.

I was really glad to find this unidentified sea star again. So far, none of the sea star experts I have asked know what species it is. Somehow I wonder if it could be a hybrid...

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
And the star of every Semakau trip must be the Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)! I had a hard time looking for this one. It appeared that many of the knobblies are moving back to the far left and right side of the intertidal area again.

Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum)
Near the reef edge, I spotted this Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum). It has venomous spines, which break easily upon contact.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
Meiyi found this Spider Conch (Lambis lambis), which has a small colony of Porites Coral (Porites sp.) growing on it! What a way to camouflage itself!

Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa)
At the reef edge, our resident Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa) had a little "operation", where KS and his friend collected a little of its tissue for the latter's research.

Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus)
Not far away from the giant clam, I found the resident Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus). This huge sea cucumber can often be found around this area.

Found this murex near the reef edge. Forgot how to tell the difference between Chicoreus brunneus and Chicoreus torrefactus (oops...), so guess will have to check with SK again to confirm the ID. Haha...

Pseudobiceros bedfordi
Bobby, who had finished his benthic survey, found this pretty flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi), which we sometimes called it the Persian Carpet Flatworm due to the beautiful patterns on its back.

Juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
Some of the benthic surveyors also found another juvenile Cushion Star.

Sunflower Mushroom Coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)
We managed to plan the route such that the groups got to pass by this lovely neon green Sunflower Mushroom Coral (Heliofungia actiniformis).

Acoel Worms (Family Acoela)
However, it was only when I got home to process the photos when I noticed these little brown patches on it. These were Acoel Worms (Family Acoela), which are believed to feed on copepods or secretions from corals or other sessile animals. Traditionally thought to belong to the phylum Platyhelminthes like other flatworms, recent molecular phylogenetic analyses suggest that they are something different altogether.

Maritigrella virgulata
Robert later found this Maritigrella virgulata flatworm, which I have only seen a few times on Semakau.

Orange-spotted Nudibranch (Gymnodoris rubropapulosa)
Several Orange-spotted Nudibranchs (Gymnodoris rubropapulosa) were spotted among the Sargassum seaweed. The one above was found by Kim. This nudibranch feeds on other sea slugs, and sometimes, even others of its own kind!

Moon Snail (Natica zonalis)
While heading back to the main road, I came across this brown Moon Snail (Natica zonalis) - another animals which I had only seen a few times on Semakau too!

Doing hunting-seeking is certainly rather stressful and tiring, but yet at the end when you see how the visitors enjoyed seeing the things that you have found, it just makes you feel that it's all worth it! :)