Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse on 27 Dec 2008

Finally, we got to visit Sultan Shoal Lighthouse! Built in 1895, this lighthouse was located about 8km away from the southern tip of mainland Singapore.

Jurong Island
On the way to the lighthouse, our boat passed by Jurong Island, which was reclaimed from several other smaller islands.

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse
After about 40 min on the boat, we could finally see the island with lighthouse!

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse
The lighthouse was a charming building painted red and white, and there's a little lagoon right in front of it. And of course, we wasted no time getting into it to explore!

Fiddler Crab (Uca tetragonon)
And with Prof Peter Ng around, we have no lack of crabby surprises. This is Uca tetragonon, a very pretty fiddler crab that I had not seen before!

Leaf porter crab (Neodorippe callida)
Prof Ng also found this little leaf porter crab (probably Neodorippe callida). In the day, this crab hides under the leaf, but at night, it swims upside down at the surface holding the leaf below, thus hiding it from predators swimming below!

Pseudoscorpion (Parahya submersa)
Yet another interesting find was this tiny intertidal pseudoscorpion (Parahya submersa). Related to spiders and scorpions (Class Arachnida), this arthropod belongs to the order Pseudoscorpionida. Like their relative the spider, pseudoscorpions can also spin silk. The silk is produced from a gland in their jaws, and is made into disk-shaped cocoons for mating or molting, among other functions.

Something that got me really puzzled was the many prawns jumping around on the dry sand. Why didn't they go out with the tide?

In the sandy lagoon, there were lots of nerites (Nerita spp.) too. It seemed that the above nerites could be indulging in some sexy business though. Hmm...

Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos)
We were rather delighted to see many mudskippers in the lagoon too. The one above looks like a gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) to me. Mudskippers are fishes that are able to survive out of the water for short periods of time by storing water in their gill chambers. They can breathe through their wet skins too.

Feather Star
A lonely feather star was spotted by some other volunteers in the shallow water.

Unidentified worm
Another volunteer found this worm, which I have totally no idea what it is.

Sea cucumber
KS spotted this sea cucumber, which I have seem similar ones at Sisters Island and Pulau Semakau before. I'm not exactly sure what sea cucumber this is, but searching through the WWW, it does look like some of the colour variations of Holothuria hilla.

Arabian cowries (Cypraea arabica)
After exploring the little lagoon, we decided to venture out to the rocky shore outside. Within a short time frame, we found two Arabian cowries (Cypraea arabica).

Zoanthids and hard corals
There were a few colonies of zoanthids and hard corals at the rocky shore.

Mushroom corals (Fungia sp.)
Several solitary mushroom corals (Fungia sp.), both mature and juvenile ones, we also spotted.

As the tide was not very low, we did not managed to venture to much to the coral reef. But we could see a few colonies of Acropora corals, which require clear water to do well. Thus, they tend to be less common in Singapore's sediment-laden waters.

Magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica)
Some of the majestic magnificent anemones (Heteractis magnifica) looked rather sad out of water, but once the tide came back, they will be spreading their tentacles and hold their oral discs upright again.

Brittle stars etc
I turned over a few rocks and found an abundance of life underneath! Under this one, there were 3 brittle stars, many little red sea cucumbers, clams, keel worms, limpets, barnacles etc! But if you have turned over any rocks on the sea shore, please remember to place them back to their original positions, or the marine life underneath may die from exposure to the hot sun or dry up!

Sea cucumber
Just before we head back to dry land, I spotted this reddish sea cucumber (probably Family Cucumariidae) sticking itself to a big rock.

Our boat soon arrived, and we were off heading back to mainland Singapore under the setting sun...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Langkawi - Coastal Stuff

Here's Part 2 of my Langkawi trip. Rather unfortunately, I think the shore near my resort was probably not the richest in terms of biodiversity, and so we only saw a few interesting stuff. If I ever go back to Langkawi again, I will probably choose to stay around Pantai Cenang instead of Pantai Kok - the former seemed more promising for marine life during our short visit there during mid tide.

This looks like an Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica) to me, though hard to say for sure since there are a few cowries with similar patterns.

Have no idea what sea snail this is. It has a very long and muscular foot, and moves around rather quickly.

This huge jellyfish was found stranded and dead on the sand.

There are lots of tiny little brittle stars on it. Wonder if they could be commensal brittle stars?

We saw many of the usual black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota).

And one little black long-spined sea urchin (Diadema setosum).

We only saw one sea star - this sand star (Astropecten sp.). Guess the beach near our resort was just not the right place for sea stars, so I was really a little disappointed.

We found a heart cockle (Corculum cardissa) though. I was quite glad to see it, since I had not seen one for quite some time already.

The moon crab (Ashtoret lunaris) is more commonly seen at night, so we were rather surprised to find one in shallow water on such a hot and sunny day.

We found many of these crabs at the upper shore. They live in burrows which resemble those of the ghost crabs. Not exactly sure what species they are though.

At the rocky shore, we also saw a few red stone crabs (could be Menippe rumphi), and lots of Sally-light-foot crabs (Grapsus albolineatus).

We also saw a pacific reef rgret (Egretta sacra) in the dark morph. Some pacific reef egrets are white in colour.

We also found time to visit the mangroves. This is the Ceriops tagal which can also be found in Singapore.

I also finally get to see Bruguiera parviflora in the wild. While it is rather rare in Singapore, it appears to be quite common here on Langkawi.

And on our way back to the hotel, we saw this huge cement factory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Langkawi - Terrestrial Stuff

Went for a short holiday with a few friends at Langkawi, Malaysia, last week. We saw quite a number of interesting things, so thought I'll highlight them in 2 blog entries.

There are a few explanation for the origin of the name Langkawi, with the more popularly accepted one being that "Lang" came from the word "Helang" which means eagle, and "kawi" means red. The name Langkawi thus refers to a red eagle, which is actually the brahminy kite. A statue of the bird can be found at Eagle's Square at Kuah Town on the island.

Unfortunately, while we saw several wild brahminy kite (Haliastur indus), there were a few captive ones too - a result of the tourism industry.

And also, a white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).

Other birds we saw include the oriental pied-hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris), which can also be found in Singapore.

Another hornbill which I'm not sure of the ID. Update: According to LK, this is the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis).

Lots of orange-bellied flowerpeckers (Dicaeum trigonostigma) were spotted on a figging fig tree.

On the fig tree, we also saw several of these squirrels, which I also do not know the species.

On the way to a waterfall, we saw this giant squirrel, which I though could either be a Ratufa bicolor or R. affinis.

We finally reached the Seven Wells Waterfall.

There were several dragonflies flying around the little rock pools, including the very pretty Trithemis aurora above.

Here's another look at the waterfall while we were in a cable car.

The cable car is probably the highlight of the trip for most visitors to Langkawi. It gives a bird's eye view of the surrounding mountains and sea, bringing you all the way up to the top of Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi’s second highest peak.

Here's one of the cable car stations on top of a mountain.

Near the summit is the Sky Bridge which spans 125 metres.

It's a very sturdy bridge, and I was in fact a little disappointed that walking on the bridge was not as scary as I thought it will be.

At the summit, you can also see this interesting mountain range which looks like a sleeping giant. And it's a male giant, as it has an Adam's apple...

And of course, we waited at the summit till the sun went down - it was certainly breath-takingly beautiful...

Back in the resort, nature was definitely right at our doorstep, and we found this huge tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) near our room doors, and it was probably close to 40cm long!

And I also found this very pretty moth, which looked like it has sliver linings on the patterns on its wings. Too bad SY wasn't with us, or he would probably be really excited to see this!