Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Matang with Nparks Volunteers - Day 1

Last weekend from 26-28 Sep 2009, I attend an Nparks volunteer trip to Matang in Peninsular Malaysia. The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve is the largest mangrove reserve in Malaysia, covering an area more than 40,000 hectares. I was really looking forward to this trip actually, hoping to see some rare mangrove plants.

We started the journey on 25 Sep night, and finally reached the reserve around 7.30am on the next day. Here's a quick shot of the gang just after we reached Matang.

Our chalets were in the middle of the mangrove forest, and we had to walk on a boardwalk to reach them. Several parts of the boardwalk were in rather poor conditions, and we had to be quite careful as we walked along. But guess that added to part of the fun :P

Along the boardwalk, I was very excited to see that many of the mangrove trees that were rather uncommon in Singapore were so common here, such as the Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata), which were fruiting like nobody's business!

What got me even more excited were the many Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) trees with its glossy fruits!

There were several Tengar (Ceriops tagal) trees. Though these were not exactly as uncommon as the previous 2 Sonneratia species, it was still nice to see so many of them here!

This was our chalet, which I shared with Dr Chua, Brandon, Jacky, Ali and Yusoff.

It was next to a forest of Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora), yet another uncommon mangrove plant back in Singapore! And we have a huge forest of them at Matang. Wow!

After settling down in our rooms, our next activity was to go for a talk given by the forest reserve staff. We walked along the boardwalk for about half an hour to reach the Interactive Centre(?) for the talk.

Along the way, we saw several gigantic bracket fungus growing on tree trunks!

The staff give a short talk about the reserve, especially on how charcoal was made. Apparently, Bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) was the preferred tree. Usually, only 30-year-old trees were harvested for making charcoal. We were also shown some of the byproducts from making charcoal. After the talk, we went for a break and were treated to some really tasty Nasi Lemak for breakfast.

After the meal, off we went to visit a charcoal factory. Inside these dome-shaped kilns, the Bakau Minyak logs were placed. A small fire was lit to dehydrate the logs, turning them into charcoal.

Over here, a new kiln was being built. It's all handmade form brick and clay.

Not far from the kiln, there was a pile of chopped-up charcoal, and a man was packing them into sacks.

Some of the charcoal was not cut down into smaller bits though. We saw this group of workers loading the charcoal onto a truck. Not sure where they were bring the charcoal to though.

After the tour at the factory, we made our way back to the reserve for lunch. We saw a few Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) on the boardwalk.

After lunch, we went ot the nearby jetty to take a look and saw many of these reddish Fiddler Crabs (Uca sp.) below. Have no idea what species they were though.

Another crab we saw was this one with rather long claws.

But the highlight at the jetty must be the Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)! We saw 3 of them, but unfortunately, due to a few screaming kids nearby, they did not stay long and swam away after a few minutes.

The next programme was a visit to the mangrove nursery which the reserve just started in recent years. The above were young Sea Hollies (Acanthus sp.). They had other mangrove species, such as Xylocarpus spp., Bruguiera spp., and and Rhizophora spp. too!

It was free and easy time after the visit to the nursery, and a few of us decided to explore another part of the boardwalk which we didn't explore earlier. And the moment we stepped onto the trail, I saw this Flying Dragon (Draco sp.) on the sides of a tree trunk. It certainly blended very well into the colours of the bark though, I must say! At this part of the boardwalk, we also saw lots of Gedabu trees with flower buds, and thus we decided to come back again in the evening to check if they will be blooming.

Heading back to the jetty area for tea, we had a pleasant visit by a Silver Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus cristatus)! Unfortunately, I did not managed to get a good frontal shot though.

At the jetty area, I also found a flower bud of a Berembang, which looked like it would bloom in the evening!

Another nice find at the jetty were a few Api-api Jambu (Avicennia marina). This mangrove tree was also quite uncommon in Singapore!

Also at the jetty, we spotted a Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)! It appeared to be feeding on the nectar or the stamen of the flower bud of the Perepat (Sonneratia alba).

Later close to dusk, we took a boat ride to see the synchronous fireflies! We passed by a rather charming fishing village along the way.

The fireflies were really awesome, but unfortunately, it was really too dark for me to get any photos... It was still a great trip though, to see the Berembang being lit up like Christmas trees!

When we went back to the jetty, I immediately went back to the Berembang flower bud I found earlier, and it was blooming! The flowers were really pretty with part of the stamen coloured pink.

The nearby Perepat was flowering too! Unlike the Berembang, the stamens are fully whitish in colour though.

We went to the patch of Gedabu, and they were also flowering! So I managed to take photos of all 3 species of Sonneratia in one night! Back in Singapore, this is certainly something that's very difficult to achieve! :P

Later in the evening, Dr Chua, Brandon and I went for a short walk around the boardwalk, hoping to find some nocturnal creatures. However, the forest was really quiet though with few animals except for lots of spiders, a few crabs, and the slug above.

It was a tiring day full of activities, but I really enjoyed the experience. The only thing that I really dislike were the uncountable mosquitoes, and I ended up with lots of stings on me when I woke up the next day. I must remember to bring mosquito coil the next time I stay overnight at a nature area.

See also:

Friday, September 25, 2009

RMBR Nature Guides Recruitment

Have you been wanting to volunteer for nature but don't know where to begin?

Sign up to be an RMBR Nature Guide!

As an RMBR Nature Guide, you will be required to help guide visitors during our various public intertidal walks.

Please ensure that you are able to commit to guide at least 4 times a year before you sign up. Our walks are usually conducted on weekends or public holidays.

Training will be provided, covering mostly the guiding techniques, and so do be prepared to read up on your own to improve you knowledge on our intertidal areas and their organisms. At the end of the training, guides will be required to write a guiding script and go for on-the-job training.

Please also ensure that you are able to attend the training below before you sign up:

24 Oct, Sat:
0900-1100hrs - Semakau Background and Common Session on Classification
1130-1330hrs - Ecosystems of Semakau, SOP, Guiding Technique & Script Writing

31 Oct, Sat:
1400-1600hrs - Guiding Practical

Note that we will be interviewing all applicants to understand what are their expectations, and also to ensure that that they understand what is required to be a guide.

If you are 15 years old and above, and is keen to become a nature guide after reading the above, please send the following details to by 1 Oct 2009:

- Full name
- NRIC or passport number
- gender
- nationality
- date of birth
- mobile number
- home number
- occupation
- email address you prefer to be contacted at
- name and contact of next of kin (for emergency contact)
- Imagine that you are a guide, and you are tasked to explain to your participants about these 3 organisms: sand-sifting sea star, nudibranch and seagrass. Write a short para on each of these organism as if you are talking to the participants.

After we receive your application, we will contact you to fix a date and time to meet up for a little chat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From Dairy Farm to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

When I bumped into WF and AL at Bukit Timah yesterday, they thought I was a bit crazy to walk all the way from Dairy Farm to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve under the hot sun. Haha. Well, guess that's me! Once I stepped out for a nature walk, it will take 5 to 6 hours to stop me.

Anyway, my morning started when I reached Woodlands mangrove around 7.15am with LK.

Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris)
This was to catch the flowering Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris). Had not been there since early this year. Thought I saw 3 trees my last time there, but only found 2 this time round. Guess I must have counted wrongly while rushing home for my reunion dinner the last time. Haha.

Anyway, after exploring the mangrove for a while, we went to the newly opened Dairy Farm Nature Park.

Dairy Farm Nature Park
This is the visitor centre, and is also where the old dairy farm used to be located. We went on for a walk along the Wallace Trail.

Fluffy Tit (Zeltus amasa maximinianus)
Was a little disappointed with the trail, but managed to spot this pretty Fluffy Tit (Zeltus amasa maximinianus). After that, LK called a cab and went off to prepare for he workshop at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, while I carried on walking to Singapore Quarry.

Singapore Quarry
Took me more than a hour to reach here. The sun was scorching hot, but I was rewarded with a really fantastic view of the Singapore Quarry!

Hairy Emperor (Anax guttatus)
Looking over the railing, I suddenly saw a metallic flash of blue and green over the water - it was a Hairy Emperor (Anax guttatus) dragonfly! This was my first time seeing a living specimen!

Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus)
A birdwatcher who was already there pointed out a Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) indulging in its catch on the other side of the quarry lake.

Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
In the quarry lake were several Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - small little duck-like birds with pointed bills. Unfortunately even with my 560mm zoom, the photos still turned out rather blur.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Here's a slightly better shot.

I then made my way to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus)
Along the way, I spotted many birds, but most of them were too fast for me to take any decent photos, except for this Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus).

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)
This Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) was spotted when I reached the reserve. It was rather cooperative and I managed to take a few decent shots.

Flying Dragon (Draco sp.)
As I was walk along the main road, a little Flying Dragon (Draco sp.) glided across right in front of me and landed on the trunk of a tree!

Common Tree Shrew (Tupaia glis)
A Common Tree Shrew (Tupaia glis) was scampering among the undergrowth, probably seeking insects or seeds to feed on.

Slender Squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis)
I saw this Slender Squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis) eating some kind of fruit, and quickly snapped a photo. Looked really cute as it went munching off the fruit.

Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis)
Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were a common sight in the reserve. This female monkey was seen with its baby.

Baby Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
The baby moneky looked really cute!

Malayan Colugo with Baby (Cynocephalus variegatus)
The highlight of my trip however, were the colugos, which I highlighted in a separate entry.

This was certainly my best Bukit Timah Trip so far, even though by the time my trip ended around 4.30pm, I was really very very tired :P

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Colugo, Colugo, Colugos!

Earlier this afternoon, I went to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve for a walk. I was looking high and low for colugos at the usual palm tree, but somehow they were not there. I eventually gave up and decided to head back home. But on my way out of the reserve, I happened to pass by the artificial hornbill nest created by Nparks, and decided to take a look if it has attracted any hornbills. And as I looked up, this was what I saw.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
It was a Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus), right on a tree next to the artificial nest! Colugos are usually more active at night and rest in the day, usually high up on trees.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
I walked around the tree to get a few shots of it sideways. The colugo is also called "flying lemur" by some people, though it is actually not closely related to the true lemurs found on Madagascar.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
It also does not fly, though it can glide for long distances from tree to tree, as it has a thin membrane between its limbs and tail. As I was taking photos of it, it was rather cooperative, and slowly turned its head...

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
...until I had a nice shot with both eyes! This cute animal is said to feed on leaves, young shoots and flower buds.

Malayan Colugo with Baby (Cynocephalus variegatus)
And then suddenly, a little head popped out below its armpit. It's a baby colugo! So it's a mama colugo with her baby! The baby apparently clings to the mama's flight membrane when the latter glides from tree to tree at night.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
Eric, the Nparks officer, later told me there was another one nearby. This was a young adult. It was suggested that there could be about 1500 colugos in Singapore.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
As the sun slowly sets, it started moving around the tree trunk to get away from direct sunlight. When sensing our presence, it looked down at us. Our presence did not seem to cause much alarm though, as it just stared at us for a while then turned its heard up again.

Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus)
Here's another shot of it taken from the second level of the visitor centre.

Today was certainly my lucky day! :)