Sunday, November 08, 2009

Terrestrial Survey at Semakau

We made another trip to Semakau this weekend, but this trip was a little from the rest, as we did a land survey instead of going to the usual intertidal area. While this was not the first time I did a land survey on the island, it was the first time I did it with our RMBR volunteers, and it was a more extensive survey compared to my previous trips.

Even before we reached the island while on the boat, we "discovered" a "new species"! A human with a pig's head!!! Haha.

Anyway, we soon reached Pulau Semakau, and while the others headed for the landfill cells for their bird and insect survey, Marcus Chua, Weihan and I went to the forest for a vertebrate survey instead.

Crab-eating Frog (Fejervarya cancrivora)
We soon found a Crab-eating Frog (Fejervarya cancrivora) along the forest trail. This interesting frog is one of the few frogs which can tolerate brackish water. It feeds on small animals, including small crabs.

Crimson Basker (Macrodiplax cora)
We saw lots of Crimson Basker (Macrodiplax cora), a dragon species usually found by the shore. It was quite common on Semakau, but I hardly saw it else where in Singapore. Not sure if it was because much of Singapore's shore was developed, and thus its habitat was severely diminished.

We came across this pretty moth with rather interestingly-shaped wings.

Malayan Box Terrapin (Cuora amboinensis)
We were pleasantly surprised to find this Malayan Box Terrapin (Cuora amboinensis). I had used this trail so many times, but never had I seen a terrapin on it! The Malayan Box Terrapin are rather special among the terrapins, as the bony plates on its underside have a hinge-line, allowing the entire animal to withdraw into a fully closed shell. During my kampong days, we used to keep several of them.

One of our main objective for this trip was to find the brackish water streams which had lots of these little crabs. Hopefully our crab experts can help us confirm the identity of these crabs soon.

Asiatic Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)
One of the most common amphibian on the island must be the Asiatic Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). This toad is known to be able to secrete poisonous fluid from its skin.

One of the highlights of any Semakau night trips must be the numerous fireflies lighting up the trees! Here's one little firefly on a leaf.

Running on the sides of the rockwall were lots of geckos.

Shore Pit-viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)
And with so many little animals around, we were really hoping to find some of their predators. And indeed, Marcus spotted this Shore Pit-viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)! I had only seen the dark grey variety at Sungei Buloh before this. It was really exciting to find a different colour variation here on Semakau!

Shore Pit-viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)
This snake is very venomous, and its bite may even be fatal sometimes. Some how I thought this particular pit-viper was rather fat compared to the ones I had seen before, probably due to the abundance of food here.

Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
Later, we went back to the forest and found lots of this Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax). Interestingly, this frog lays its eggs in a foam nest on overhanging leaves or among twigs above a pong. The hatched tadpoles will be washed down to the pond when it rains.

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus)
We also saw this rather fluffy bird, which Gim Cheong later said was a Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus).

Near a pond, we found this greenish Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor). According to Marcus, you can tell this apart from similar-looking species by the 2 spikes at the rear of its face.

On the next morning, we borrowed bicycles from the NEA staff to take a quick look along the main road to see if there were any animals out sunning.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
But our best find turned out to be in the sea, rather than on land! At our usual "turtle spot", we saw a few Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas)! Me and my big mouth saying that I hoped to at least get a blurred photo, as I had seen the turtles here so many times, but never managed to even get a single photo. So it ended up that I only got a blurred photo, while Marcus and Brandon got some really great shots.

Back in NEA office, the bird people were busy ringing the birds.

The insect people also got many interesting insects, including this one which has the huge eyes and body shape of a dragonfly, but the transparent wings were closed at rest, and it has 2 long antennae. Really wonder what insect this is. Hmm... (Update: the above is an owlfly from the family Ascalaphidae. Thanks Marcus Ng for the info. According to Wikipedia, owlflies are dragonfly-like insects with large bulging eyes and long knobbed antennae. They are closely related to the lacewings, both from the same order Neuroptera. )

Anyway, it was a great trip with lots of interesting finds. Unfortunately, most probably I won't be able to attend the next terrestrial survey though as I will have to coordinate the Project Semakau survey on the same day!


budak said...

wah! so much good stuff! great work!

think the last insect is an Owl Fly, related to the lacewings:

Ron Yeo said...

Thanks for the info, Marcus! Hmm... now, I have both Marcus in this entry. Haha

Unknown said...

Turtle! :O I thot I saw a turtle popping out from the water but couldn't be sure as the van was moving rather fast.... Great to know they are there!