Saturday, November 14, 2009

Semakau with HSBC Volunteers on 14 Nov 2009

I was at Semakau today with the HSBC volunteers for a guided walk with their family members and friends. This is part of their celebration for the 1st Anniversary of Project Semakau. The tide was supposed to be rather high at 0.7m, and thus the original plan was to just take a quick guided walk at the area before the seagrass meadow.

I was helping out with hunting-seeking, and the group of hunter-seekers reached the shore earlier than the main group to set the trail. While it rained at mainland, we were glad that it was cloudy but no rain at all when we reached the shore area - the perfect weather for a guided walk!

Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus)
I quickly found the population of Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus) near the seagrass meadow. There were many of them, and there was even one with only 4 arms!

The others soon found other interesting organisms, including a Gigantic Carpet Anemone and a Sandfish Sea Cucumber, which I didn't had the time to take photos...

And that's because the rest of the visitors have already reached the shore, and so we had find things faster.

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
I went into the seagrass meadow, and was really lucky that I soon found the star attraction of Semakau - a Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus). Casey also found another one just a few minutes after I found the first one.

But as we carried on seeking for organisms, we noticed something unusual - the tide was still going down further! From past experience, we could hardly cross the seagrass meadow when the tide was 0.7m, but today tide was just weird! I would say its at least 0.5m if I based on my past experience, as we could walk all the way to the reef edge to even find the resident giant clam! However, water level was a little high at the clam, and so for safety reasons, we did not bring the visitors there - it could be very dangerous wading in murky water as you won't know what you are stepping on!

In any case, there were enough interesting things to see! We found several Noble Volutes laying eggs, and put down a flag on one of them. Forgot to take a photo of it though.

Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae)
I soon found this juvenile Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae), which I could usually found near the centre of the coral rubble habitat.

Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
Amitha found a very cute Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) with really pretty patterns on it. Nudibranch means "naked gills", refering to the flower-like gills on the back of most species. They are basically sea slugs, closely related to the snails but do not have a shell, or have a much reduced one.

Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni)
While heading towards reef, I found the resident green Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni), but did not place a flag there since we had found another carpet anemone earlier.

Acanthozoon Flatworm
I found at least 3 Acanthozoon Flatworms (Acanthozoon sp.).

Amitha found this cuttlefish. Have taken a number of photos, so will probably try to confirm the ID when I am back in office.

It has lots of little blue dots on its fins.

Cardinalfish and Hairy Crab (Pilumnus vespertilio)
I also found this cardinalfish, which unfortunately was cut into 2 by a Hairy Crab (Pilumnus vespertilio)! You can still see part of the crab's claws. The fish was still alive and struggling even though it was broken into 2.

LK later also found a Dragonfish Sea Cucumber, and I found a Kite Butterflyfish around the same area. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of them in the rush.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
I did remember to take a photo of this beautiful Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) though.

Pilsbry's Headshield Slug (Philinopsis pilsbryi)
And also, this Pilsbry's Headshield Slug (Philinopsis pilsbryi) which we had only seen a few times on this island!

On the way back, Peiting's group saw an octopus in a crevice on a rock. I was very sure that I had looked into that hole earlier while hunter-seeking, but the octopus wasn't there. Guess it probably just decided to emerge from the hole since it was getting darker and cooler.

Black Sea Cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota)
The top find of the day for me must be this, a Black Sea Cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota). While this sea cucumber is very common on most of our other southern islands, it's somehow rather uncommon on Semakau. A few of us had seen this previously, but no one remembered to take a photo! So now finally, we have photographic proof that it can be found here on Semakau. Thanks to Elaine and Sai Khoon for spotting it!

After the guided walk, the participants helped to pick up some rubbish on the shore, while the hunter-seekers headed back to wash the equipment. And along the way, we saw a turtle surfacing for air in the sea at our usual turtle spot!

After washing the equipment, we headed to the recreational area to join the others for a BBQ and kite-flying. All the while, the weather remained good, and we even saw at least 2 Black-tipped Reef Sharks in the big lagoon!

It certainly was a great day, which I think most, if not all the participants, enjoyed :)

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