Sunday, April 10, 2011

Semakau on 10 and 11 Apr 2011

I was on Pulau Semakau again during this weekend. On Saturday, we had a project Semakau survey, which I had to survey a zone on my own and coordinate the whole survey as well. On Sunday, we had a guided walk for secondary school students, but as we had enough guides, I only help with the hunting-seeking at the beginning, before going off to survey one of the mangrove areas.

The top find of the weekend for me would be this area which has several patches of the locally critically endangered Beach Tacca (Tacca leontopetaloides)! The tubers of this plant is said to be an important food source for inhabitants of many pacific islands.

Another interesting find would be this sea anemone. It looks like the Leather Anemone (Heteractis crispa), but the tentacles are way shorter than the ones that I have seen before. Was wondering if it could be a Heteractis malu instead.

Other findings include:

A little whelk (Nassarius mitralis) scavenging for food with its long proboscis.

A Mud Creeper (Terebralia sulcata).

Clypeomorus pellucida, which was also found in the mangrove.

Toothed Topshells (Monodonta labio) are rather common on the tree trunks and rocks.

The Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) which has short and sticky tentacles.

The Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), which has slightly longer but still as sticky tentacles.

This unidentified sea anemone is rather common on Semakau, but so far we still do not know what species it is.

The tub anemone is not a true sea anemone, though closely related. It lives in a tube, which it retracts into during low tide or when threatened.

The many little Flower Crabs (Portunus pelagicus) were rather aggressive when they saw me. Their spiky claws help them to have a good grip on their prey, which are usually small fishes.

On the way back on Saturday, I saw a swimming Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)! I have seen them crawling around, but this is the first I actually see one swimming near the water surface!

As usual, we saw a few Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) - the highlights of most of our guided walks! Our previous surveys actually revealed that there are possibly a few hundred of them on Semakau! One of the guides actually counted more than 200 during one of our trips. I had came across several dead ones though (usually broken into pieces), so there's probably eating them on the island.

The Black Sea Cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) is rather common on many of our southern islands, but somehow it's not commonly seen on Semakau.

And moving on to the plants...

The Beach Gardenia (Guettarda speciosa) is flowering!

Semakau has one of the largest population of the locally critically endangered Api-api Jambu (Avicennia marina). Just a quick walk by edge of one of the mangrove patches, and I already found like 10 of them!

Very abundant on the island is the Bakau (Rhizophora stylosa).

During the landfill tour today, I saw these floating structures on the sandy beach near the southern most point of the island., anchored to the substrate. Wonder what they were, though I somehow suspect it has something to do with the fish farms in the background.

Really hope that Semakau would better protected in the near future.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sungei Buloh Over Several Days in Apr 2011

We had to conduct a series of mangrove workshops last week, and hence I was at Sungei Buloh most of the time. The most exciting thing we saw was probably the black spitting cobra, which unfortunately I didn't take any photo. But apart from that, there were plenty of other sightings too!

Here's a bronzeback we saw near the freshwater pond. Caused quite a bit of commotion when it started slithering towards Wai Kit, then Tammy!

We had 2 sightings of the paradise tree snake. This one was right on the nipah palm along the mangrove boardwalk.

And there was this shore pit-viper which was among some sea holly near the first shelter of the mangrove boardwalk for a few days.

We saw quite a few fights between Malayan water monitors at the pond near the Visitor Centre. Somehow I thought they looked like they were dancing tango...

We saw quite a few green crested lizard too. This one was near the mangrove fern at the visitor centre.

Indeed, right around the Visitor Centre there were plenty to see, including the fruit bat hanging off the roof.

The smooth otters visited the freshwater pond almost everyday when we were there.

It's already early April, but many waders were still around! There was this huge flock of whimbrels that were always feeding near the main hide.

Are these greenshanks? Not too good with wader identification.

As usual, there were quite a few yellow-vented bulbuls in the reserve.

A pair had built a nest among the mangrove fern at the Visitor Centre, and there were 2 chicks inside! But one afternoon, they were suddenly gone! Heard from the NParks staff that they had seen snakes and rats trying to reach the nest, but were all chased away by the parent birds. Not sure if they were eaten or were strong enough to fly away.

On the next day, I found a pair of fledglings near the toilet area. Wonder if they were the same ones from the nest at the Visitor Centre, or from another nest. Did not see them previously though, so it's possible that they were the same pair.

My first time getting a photo of a male copper-throated sunbird, although it was somewhat out of focus... :P

Here's a female.

There were quite a few populations of jewel bugs among the mangrove trees.

The variable wisp is a rather common damselfly in Singapore. The above is a female.

And here's an immature male variable wisp.

On one of the mornings, I noticed that the mangrove trumpet tree is flowering! The flowers usually fall off by late morning.

I managed to find time to check out the naturally occurring tumu putih

One of the orchids planted by NParks was also flowering. According to WF, it should be a Cymbidium bicolor.

Guess there are always plenty of things to see at Sungei Buloh! :)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Aegiceras corniculatum at Kranji Mangrove

Last weekend when I visited the mangrove forest along Kranji Nature Trail, I found 2 young Kacang-kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum). As the main objective for the day was to hit the back mangrove, I did not spend time to look around for the mature plants.

However, since this plant has not been recorded recently at Kranji, I decided to go back again today to show HP from NParks the location of the plants. And of course, at the same time, we will be looking for mature plants!

I spotted a young kacang-kacang soon after we entered the mangrove, and commented to HP that there should be a mature plant some where, since there were quite a few young plants. And indeed, just a while later, HP's keen eyes spotted a mature Kacang-kacang!

Kacang-kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum)
And it was flowering!

Kacang-kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum)
The were a few fruits too!

Kacang-kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum)
The plant was rather short though, probably about a metre tall. HP commented that this plant didn't quite look very big, and she suspected that there should be a bigger plant.

Kacang-kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum)
True enough, as we searched on, I finally found a much taller kacang-kacang (probably more than 2m tall) just as we were about to leave the mangrove forest! It was flowering too. Today, we saw a total of 2 mature plants and 4 young plants. Really glad that now I do not have to go offshore to see this rare mangrove plant! :)

Other interesting stuff I saw over the two trips include:

Bruguiera hainesii
The very tall Berus Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) that's internationally critically endangered.

Merope angulata
There were lots of Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) here, and I saw a patch with at least 10 of them. This plant is critically endangered in Singapore.

Cassine viburnifolia
I also spotted a Barat-barat (Cassine viburnifolia) - yet another critically endangered plant in Singapore.

Elysia bangtawaensis
I also found this tide pool with several Mangrove Leaf Slugs (Elysia bangtawaensis). They looked just like pieces of fallen leaves until you took a closer look :)

Kranji Mangrove is actually a rather pristine mangrove, since it was not cleared for prawn farming like Sungei Buloh. Hopefully the NParks contractors would minimise the damage done to this beautiful mangrove forest when they build the boardwalk and other amenities under the Sungei Buloh Master Plan.

And guess I will be back soon to check out the kacang-kacang again! :)