Friday, March 27, 2009

Pasir Ris Mangrove

Today, I met up with XF, his wife and his daughter for a walk at Pasir Ris mangrove. It started raining when we were in the cab, but fortunately stopped when we reached Pasir Ris.

After a quick look at the herbal garden, we headed for the mangrove boardwalk. Perhaps due to XF's beginner's luck, we managed to see quite a few interesting stuff.

The top find of the day must be this - a small population of Thespesia firebugs (Dysdercus simon) on a portia tree (Thespesia populnea)! It was initially thought that this bug could only be found in our mangrove in the western part, until we found a population on Pulau Ubin last December.

Not too far away from the portia tree was a sea hibiscus tree (Talipariti tiliaceum), and there was a huge population of cotton stainer bugs (Dysdercus decussatus) living on it. Unlike the less common Thespesia firebug, the cotton stainer bug has a red head instead of a black one.

There were lots of tree-climbing crabs (Episesarma spp.) on the trees, since the tide was still high. These crabs climbed up trees to escape from predatory fishes during high tide. The above crab has purple claws with white tips, so it's probably a violet tree-climbing crab (Episesarma versicolor).

Tree-climbing crabs are also called vinegar crabs, since they are sometimes pickled in vinegar by the Teochews, who will then eat them with porridge. The above crab with red claws should be the Singapore tree-climbing crab (Episesarma singaporense).

The giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) at Pasir Ris were really huge. They are the biggest mudskippers in Singapore, and can be really fierce hunters of smaller animals.

And this is one of the mudskipper's prey. I initially thought that it was an eel, since it was rather long (about 50cm) and was swimming too quickly for me to see carefully.

However, when it was chomped into 2 halves by the mudskipper, the second half started wriggling on the spot, and I could see that it was a segmented worm (Class Polychaeta)! This was quickly eaten by the mudskipper.

After observing the several segmented worms swimming by and got chomped up, XF spotted a real eel! it was really huge, at least a metre long. And things got really exciting when it managed to set its teeth on a tree-climbing crab!

It was twisting and turning. Not sure if it was trying to hit the crab against the substrate to kill it.

Apart from the mangrove fauna, the plants were out to impress too, with many of the sea derris (Derris trifoliata) in full bloom!

Several of the bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica) had developing their seedlings, which were attached to the parent plant. This is one of the most common mangrove plant in Singapore.

This fat cigar-like seedling belongs to the tumu (Bruguiera gymnorhiza).

This mangrove tree, Ceriops zippeliana, was only recorded in Singapore a few years ago.

The mature propagules of the bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) has a red collar. This plant is commonly planted in plantations to be harvested to make charcoal.

The bakau kurap has broader leaves and bigger propagules up to 70cm long.

The nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) is where you get your attap chee for your ice kacang. Several of them can be found by the sides of the boardwalk. The fruit is basically a cluster of seeds, and every seed will have one attap chee inside.

The Nyireh batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis) is rather commonly seen here compared to the other mangroves of Singapore. Unfortunately, all the trees I saw were not fruiting.

Apparently, Nparks have planted several rare plants here too, including the Rapanea porteriana above. This plant was once commonly found in the mangroves and coastal forests of Singapore, but is now seldom seen due to coastal development which destroyed most of its habitat.

This has been a nice little trip with quite a few surprise finds. Hopefully XF and family had enjoyed the trip :P

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Quick Walk Around Botanic Gardens

This afternoon, LK and I decided to go to Singapore Botanic Gardens to check if any of the plants there were flowering. The gardens was founded in 1859 by an Agri-Horticultural Society as a leisure garden and ornamental park. Management and maintenance was handed over to the government in 1874.

Spotted dove (Streptopelia  chinensis)
We entered the gardens at its headquarters, and saw several spotted doves (Streptopelia chinensis) foraging on the ground. They usually feed on grass seeds.

Blue marble tree or blue fig (Elaeocarpus angustifolius)
This tree bears little blue fruits, and is commonly called the blue marble tree or blue fig (Elaeocarpus angustifolius). Despite being called blue fig, it is not a fig tree, and is often planted for its pretty white flowers.

Within the gardens is a little patch of primary rainforest with a boardwalk, which allows visitors to have a closer look at the forest ecosystem.

The rattan is a common climber in our rainforests. It is a very useful plant which can be made into furniture or baskets.

Another climber is the liana, a woody vine which tangles itself up the canopy to reach out for sunlight.

Several trees in the forest were bearing fruits today, including this palm tree which I have forgotten its name.

Baccaurea sp.
When I went to Bukit Timah and MacRitchie a few weeks ago, the Baccaurea spp. were all flowering. And today at the Botanic Gardens, they were fruiting!

This unknown plant was very common by the sides of the boardwalk.

Greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)
We spotted a pair of greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) almost immediately after we stepped into the forest.

I spotted this dead cicada on a leaf. Not sure if the white stuff was part of it, or was it growing mould already.

Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea)
We saw a pair of Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea) mating. Unfortunately, they flew off when I took this photo and thus it was a little blurred.

Slender squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis)
I finally got a decent photo of a slender squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis)! Well, it's not fantastic, but at least it's somewhat clear, unlike the previous ones I've taken. This squirrel is said to feed on soft tree bark, fruits and insects.

After we emerged from the forest, we saw this dipterocarp (Family Dipterocarpaceae) blooming.

In fact, it was fruiting too! Can't remember the species though. Haha.

Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) flowers
Under a kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), the ground was covered with kapok flowers!

Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) flowers
And there were still lots of flowers on the tree!

Nutmeg (Myristica sp.)
If I remember correctly, this should be the fruit of a nutmeg tree (Myristica sp.).

We came across yet another flowering dipterocarp.

Plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus)
Another species of squirrel, the plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) was also spotted. This squirrel can be commonly spotted in some parks and gardens too.

Pink-necked green-pigeon (Treron vernans)
The pink-necked green-pigeon (Treron vernans) appeared to be quite common here, and we saw several of them. They can blend really nicely into the foliage though, and so it can be quite hard to spot them sometimes, especially when they keep still.

All in all, it was a good trip with plenty of flowers and cute little animals :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Wet Morning at Pulau Ubin

Due to the heavy rain the night before, everything was still dripping wet when I reached Pulau Ubin with a friend on Sunday. Fortunately, the rain had stopped when we arrived, and we could proceed with our exploration.

Durian flowers(Durio zibethinus)
The durian trees (Durio zibethinus) were blooming! Thinking about the yummy durians was enough to make me salivate. Was chatting with one of the older villagers (practising my Teochew at the same time), and he told me the durian flowers were exceptionally many this year. Can I look forward to a lot more durians as well in a few months time? Hmm...

Scaly breasted munia (Lonchura punctulata)
As we were walking pass a patch of tall grass, we saw several scaly breasted munia (Lonchura punctulata). They usually feed on grass seeds, foraging in small flocks.

Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata)
While we passed by a small stream, I noticed two rows of wild mangrove trees on either sides of it, some with the distinctive cone-shaped aerial roots (or pneumatophores). Taking a closer look, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were the uncommon gedabu trees (Sonneratia ovata). I had only managed to find another one previously along the Sensory Trail, though I have heard from Naparks staff that there were quite a few of them on Ubin. The fruit of this plant is edible.

This looked very much like the fruiting tree I saw at MacRitchie Reservoir earlier this month. Wonder if they were of the same species or related.

White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus)
Walking along the road, we heard a lovely bird call. It was a white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus).

Rotan tikus (Flagellaria indica)
We noticed many plants blooming or fruiting today, including the rotan tikus (Flagellaria indica). This vine was used to weave into baskets in some places.

Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans)
The nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) blooms all year round, so I was not surprised to see many of them flowering today.

Tumu putih (Bruguiera sexangula)
During my last trip here, I saw the tumu putih (Bruguiera sexangula) planted by Nparks flowering, and it seemed like they were still flowering today.

Tumu putih (Bruguiera sexangula)
In fact, one seedling had even developed! This mangrove tree was previously thought to be extinct in Singapore, until a population was found on Pulau Tekong.

Bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica)
Not too far away, another related species, bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica), was found. This is one of the most common mangrove tree in Singapore though.

Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora)
Yet another member of the same genus was this lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora), which was also flowering, but unfortunately for me, it has not developed any seedlings yet. The bark of this tree supposedly produces an odour which frightens away fish, while the seedling is eaten by some people.

Tengar (Ceriops tagal)
Several tengar trees (Ceriops tagal) can be found growing along the route we took. The trunk of this tree is sometimes used for building houses.

Ant house plant (Dischidia sp.)
Climbers like the ant house plant (Dischidia sp.) could be found on many of the mangrove trees. This one seemed like it would bloom soon!

Dungun (Heritiera littoralis)
The dungun trees (Heritiera littoralis) were blooming too!

Nearer to the back mangrove area, I tried looking for the chimney-building fiddler crabs (Uca sp.), but could only see the burrows. Not sure if they were hiding from the excess freshwater from the rain.

Bastard guelder (Premna corymbosa) with Atlas moth (Attacus atlas)
A bastard guelder tree (Premna corymbosa) was blooming too. I was about take a photo of the flowers when I saw that there were lots of Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) on it. The Atlas moth is the biggest moth in the world in terms of total wing surface area, and its wingspan is also one of the widest, up to 30cm.

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) cocoon
We saw quite a few cocoons of the atlas moth too! The brown silk of the cocoon is known as fagara silk in India, and is supposed to be more durable that those produced by the silkworm. In Taiwan, these cocoon are made into pocket purses.

School of Fish
We eventually reached the jetty at Chek Jawa, and saw a huge school of fish underneath!

Slender needlefish (Strongylura leiura)
Once in a while, a slender needlefish (Strongylura leiura) would come along, sending the school of fishes into a frantic dispersal.

Jellyfishes appear to be in season, and we saw many of them. Kind of hard to try to tell what jellyfish they were since they were quite far and the photo I got can't quite show the details.. Could be a Catostylus sp. I guess.

Pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
A few Pacific swallows (Hirundo tahitica) were spotted perching on the railings of the jetty at the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre when we are on our way back.

This was certainly a very fruitful trip for me, but due to the rain on the previous night, most of the photos of the plants did not turn out well since they were all wet. Well, guess I'll just have to pay Ubin another visit soon.