Sunday, August 30, 2009

Big Fat Puff Balls

Last Friday on my way to work, I saw a number of brown balls by the side of a grassy slope.

Puff Ball (Calvatia sp.)
Taking a closer look, I noticed that these brown balls had a stalk! They are fungi!

Puff Ball (Calvatia sp.)
Checked with LK and also the fungi guide book later, and realised that this is actually a puff ball, probably a Calvatia sp. This puff ball is supposed to be rather common, and can usually found on lawns, golf greens and open fields. And this was really huge for a fungi. Just compare it with the grass blades by the side - its almost 15cm wide!

Puff Balls (Calvatia sp.)
Here're 2 of them. There were like 5 or 6 of them on the grass patch. They apparently got their common name from their round basidiocarps and the way the spores of many species with soft basidiocarps are being "puffed out" by rain drops.

While I have seen puff balls before, I have never seen such big ones. Guess there're still a lot of nature stuff in Singapore waiting to be seen, but sometimes, you just need to be at the right place at the right time :P

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Walk at Ubin on 29 August 2009

Today, we went for a walk at Pulau Ubin with a few HSBC Green Volunteers. This trip wasn't meant to be a training trip though, but was more of a leisure trip. Wonder how many of them find it to be a leisure trip though, as we certainly walked for quite a while.

Broad Leaf Fig (Ficus auriculata)
Near Pekan Quarry, there were a few Broad Leaf Fig (Ficus auriculata) trees, and one of them was figging! This fig is edible, and is widely cultivated in the region.

Not too far away, we saw 2 kittens among the grasses.

Common Red Stem Fig (Ficus variegata)
While heading towards Noordin area, we saw several Common Red Stem Fig (Ficus variegata) trees along the road, and many of them were figging too!

We saw quite a few butterflies, but I only managed to take a photo of this skipper. Looks like a Pale Palm Dart (Telicota colon stinga), but frankly speaking, they all look quite alike to me, so can't really say for sure.

Praying Mantis
This praying mantis (Order Mantodea) was rather cooperative and stayed still for quite a while for us to take photos of it.

Antidesma velutinosum
This plant with grape-like fruits is Antidesma velutinosum. It is very common on Pulau Ubin.

Hoya verticillata
Along the way, we saw quite a few hoya, including this one, which is probably a Hoya verticillata.

Mata Ayam (Ardisia elliptica)
Several of the Mata Ayam (Ardisia elliptica) trees were fruiting too. "Mata" means "eye", while "ayam" means "chicken", refering to the ripe fruits that are about the size of a chicken eye.

Spider Wasp (Family Pompilidae)
After seeing it so many times, I finally managed to get a few decent shots of a Spider Wasp (Family Pompilidae)!

Spider Wasp (Family Pompilidae)
Apparently, it had caught and paralyzed a spider. In time, it would lay an egg on the spider.

Spider Wasp (Family Pompilidae)
This is probably a species that will seal the spider with its egg in a burrow, as we also saw the it attempting to dig a burrow. However, it seemed like the ground is too hard, and it gave up after a while and started flying around.

Gymnanthera oblonga
Just next to the spot where the wasp was trying to burrow, I saw a Gymnanthera oblonga. This plant was rather uncommon in Singapore as a whole, but was rather common on Ubin itself. I have also seen this climber on Semakau. Apparently, the leaves have two forms, and one of which is the long and thin form above.

Gymnanthera oblonga
The climber above is also a Gymnanthera oblonga, but exhibiting more rounded and fatter leaves.

Star Gooseberry (Sauropus androgynus)
We also came across this Star Gooseberry (Sauropus androgynus). This is commonly known as "mani cai" locally, and I used to have a rather big patch of them in my backyard during my kampong days. My mum used to stir-fry the leaves with eggs, and it was really tasty! Read online that there's some kind of toxin in this plant though, and so one shouldn't eat too much.

Rotan Tikus (Flagellaria indica)
The Rotan Tikus (Flagellaria indica) is a very common back mangrove plant at Pulau Ubin, and I managed to get a shot of the flowers with the fruits!

While heading towards Sungei Mamam, I saw a few leaves being folded up and it looked like there's something inside. Indeed, there's a huge spider inside! Have no idea what spider this is though.

And it had lots of spiderlings with it too!

RH spotted this jellyfish in Sungei Mamam.

Api-api Bulu (Avicennia rumphiana)
Along the river, there were many Api-api Bulu (Avicennia rumphiana) fruiting. "Api" means "fire", refering to the fact that this plant attract fireflies at night. Unfortunately, while I have seen this phenomenon in other countries, I have not seen it happening in Singapore so far...

Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii)
While we were heading back, I did a quick detour to take a look at the Bakau Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) at Noordin. This is an internationally critically endangered mangrove tree!

Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus)
While waiting for Mr Chu to pick us up with his van, we saw this Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus).

We headed back to my favourite coffee shop for lunch (deep fried sotong, kampong chicken, kangkong etc. yum yum... :P)

Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)
Finally after a really good lunch, we took a boat back to mainland Singapore. Along the way to the bus stop, I went to check out the Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) which was figging the last time I saw it, and indeed, the figs were still there!

It was all bright and sunny then, compared to the cloudy morning we had, lucky for us, I guess :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bukit Timah Walk on 28 August 2009

Today, we conducted a guided walk at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve for a group of staff from the Ministry of Health. They were a really pleasant bunch of people to guided - very interested in nature, and asked a number of good questions. As it had rained earlier, we did not see many animals since most were probably hiding. But still, the group remained very enthusiastic till the end of the trip.

Somehow for terrestrial guided walks, I tend to take less photos, so here are some of the few animals that we managed to see.

Tyriobapta torrida dragonfly
We can usually find a few Tyriobapta torrida dragonflies near the visitor centre. They can usually be found resting on the tree trunk. The above is a male.

Tyriobapta torrida dragonfly
This is the female. This dragonfly is a forest species that we can't find in the more open areas.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
I was really glad that we managed to see a female Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) with her baby near the visitor centre. They were so high up on a palm tree, that the photo turned out rather blurred.

We saw this little bird that looked like a white-eye, but has a yellow breast instead of a whitish one. Is it a juvenile or something different altogether?

Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
As we were heading out of the reserve, we saw a troupe of Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis). This one was eating an apple. Not sure where it got the apple from though. Did someone fed it, or did it dig it out from the rubbish bin, or did it steal from the nearby residents ? Hmm... We certainly do not encourage people feeding the monkeys, as they already have enough food in the forest, and by feeding them, they will be conditioned to get food from human in future, and eventually may even attack human for food!

Well, this was just a short one-and-a-half hour trip, but glad that we still managed to see a number of interesting stuff :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Semakau Walk on 23 Aug 2009

It was about 3am in the morning when I received an sms, asking me if we are going ahead with the Semakau walk. It was raining cats and dogs then, and I could hear loud claps of thunder. Well, the show must go on, or rather, the walk must go on! (As a matter of fact, I was having a bad cough and sore throat, and almost lost my voice after the walk, but the show must go on since I was the coordinator).

It's a rule that we will always proceed to go to Semakau even if we are having a thunder storm, for the simple reason we have already booked the boat, and the rain may stop after we reached the island.

Fortunately, the rain stopped even before we board the boat, and we had a really good trip with a lot of good finds.

Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens)
Even before we crossed the seagrass meadow, we already found several Dragonfish Sea Cucumbers (Stichopus horrens).

Swimming Anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi)
We also found several Swimming Anemones (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) among the seagrasses. These sea anemones can swim by pulsating.

Synaptid Sea Cucumber
Right in the middle of the seagrass meadow, I found this Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Family Synaptidae). This individual wasn't as long as the ones we usually see though - it was only about 1m long. I have seen those longer than 2m here.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
Helen (I think) found this Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) among the seagrass too. This snail has a very pretty underside. Can you see the pair of little eyes?

Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus)
Many of the Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus) were in the pseudo-copulation position. Their reproductive organs don't really meet, and they just spray their eggs and sperm into the surrounding water. The one of top is the male. It's believed that this position increases the chances of fertilisation.

Pear-shaped Moon Snail (Polinices mammilla)
I saw a narrow trail on the sand, and found this Pear-shaped Moon Snail (Polinices mammilla) at the end of the trail.

Ovum Cowrie (Cypraea ovum)
As we moved into the coral rubble area, YW found an Ovum Cowrie (Cypraea ovum) and was bringing it to me when I found another one. If you look closely, there're actually many of these pretty little snails at Semakau!

Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
I also found this juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae). Hopefully it will safely grow into a big adult!

Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
At the sandier patches at the coral rubble area, we found a few Sandfish Sea Cucumbers (Holothuria scabra). This sea cucumber is the one that we can find in the restaurants. It must be properly processed to remove its toxins before it can be consumed though.

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
This pretty snail is a Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis). It is a fierce hunter of other snails and clams.

Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.)
We found 2 Hell's Fire Sea Anemones (Actinodendron sp.). This sea anemone gives very painful stings, and thus the common name.

Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus)
The participants were in for a treat, as we found many Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus)! Seeing these big and pretty sea stars is always the highlight of any Semakau walk!

Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Semakau is one of those few places in Singapore where you can easily see the Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa).

We saw at least 3 types of flatworms today, including the one above which we have not been able to identify.

Black Phyllid Nudibranchs (Phyllidiella nigra)
I found these Black Phyllid Nudibranchs (Phyllidiella nigra) near the reef edge. Helen also found a Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) and a Black Margined Glossodoris Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata).

Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus)
At the reef edge, we also managed to find the resident huge Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus)! This sea cucumber has lots of 'eyespots' on top, which are believed to have some find of sensory functions and also help the sea cucumber to hold on to hard surfaces.

Radula Scallop (Comptopallium radula)
Not far away, I found this Radula Scallop (Comptopallium radula) under a sponge. This scallop is able to swim by flapping its shell!

Pinkish-brown Sea Cucumber
LK and gang came across this pinkish-brown sea cucumber which we still have not been able to identify.

Sea Star, Starfish
JL found this unknown sea star which was first spotted during the launch of Project Semakau!

Brittle Star
There was even a little brittle star stuck to the underside of this sea star!

Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
While heading back to the secondary forest, we came across this Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) on a Giant Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). These shrimps usually come in pairs. Not sure what has happened to the other shrimp.

After the walk, we went for a landfill tour. As we were shot of guides who had done the tour before, I had to do it despite my sore throat. Probably that's why I totally lost my voice at the end of the day. Sigh...

But still, it was a good trip. Hope the students who came for this trip enjoyed it :)