Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Kalak Kambing at Our Northern Mangroves

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) is a rather rare mangrove climber in Singapore. According to Wee Fong and his colleagues who published a paper recently on the Status and Distribution in Singapore of Finlaysonia obovata, the genus was named after the famous naturalist George Finlayson, while the species name "obovata" means "reversed egg" in Latin. It is considered nationally critically endangered as it was estimated that there are less than 50 mature individuals left in the wild, with some evidence of decline or fragmentation in its habitat.

Last Friday and Saturday, I decided to check out the population at Sungei Kadut, Kranji Nature Trail and Sungei Buloh, and also to take a few photos of the flowers and fruits.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
The first individual I spotted at Sungei Kadut was climbing up an Api-api (Avicennia alba).

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
A number of them can be found in huge patches creeping over the river bank. Some of them were flowering too!

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
Most of them, however, occur in small bushes, such as the one above. There were at least 15 patches on both sides of the river, and I had not even walk all the way upper stream!

From my observation, it appeared that the ones that flower were the ones which managed to reach above the highest tide.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Flower
Most of the Kalak Kambing flowers I saw were purplish in colour. They are said to be pollinated by flies or beetles.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Flowers
Here's a look at the entire bunch of flowers and buds. A small fruit was in fact developing on the right side.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Flowers
Interestingly, there was another Kalak Kambing with cream-coloured flowers climbing on the same tree. See the cream-coloured flowers on top, and the purplish flowers below.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Flowers
Further away, I found another one with cream-coloured flowers.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Fruits
This one had a pair of small immature fruits too. Each fruit apparently contain numerous brown, flat, oblong-obovate seeds.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Fruits
Over at Kranji Nature Trail, one of the Kalak Kambing which I have spotted previously was bearing mature fruits! While some people felt that the fruits resemble buffalo horns, I personally felt that they always remind me of the Pringles moustache.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) Fruits
In the photo above, there were actually 2 pairs of fruits. Can you spot both of them? Just try to see where are the Red Weaver Ants (oecophylla smaragdina).

I also went to check out the few Kalak Kambing that I had spotted at Sungei Buloh previously, but unfortunately, none were flowering or fruiting.

Thanks to Marcus and Peiting for accompanying me on these trips! :)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Crocodiles and Otters at Sungei Buloh

Made 3 trips to Sungei Buloh recently, and was really lucky to spot 2 crocodiles and several otters there!

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Here's one of the Estuarine Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) that I spotted on Saturday.

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
And here's a close-up of it taken just now when it was right under the main bridge.

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Here's the other crocodile which I photograph on Saturday. I personally thought this one has more yellowish/brownish coloration, while the previous one is more greyish in colour. Not sure if it was due to the sunlight or what.

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
When I saw it again earlier today, it appeared to be stalking a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)! So guess Peiting might be right afterall!

Somehow, both crocodiles appeared to be keeping a safety distance between each other - either one on each side of the river bank, or each side of the bridge.

Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata)
And earlier, we were exceptionally lucky, as not only we saw 2 crocodiles, we saw a family of Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) too!

Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
They eventually decided to ran over to river to catch some fish to eat. Wow! The students with me were all really excited.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
Last Friday, before we went to Sungei Buloh, I managed to get Marcus to accompany me to go to Sungei Kadut to check out the Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata) there, and a number of them were flowering. While this climber is rather uncommon else where, there is a good population here, with more than 15 individuals. And that's before I eventually decided to stop counting.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
On Saturday, I also managed to get Peiting (thanks a million for providing the transport) to accompany me to check out Kranji Nature Trail, which I had spotted a Kalak Kambing previously. And it was actually fruiting with huge fruits! Somehow, the fruits always remind me of the Pringles moustache... There were lots of Red Weaver Ants (oecophylla smaragdina) on the fruits. Unfortunately, all the Kalak Kambing that I had spotted previously at Sungei Buloh were neither flowering nor fruiting. Still, I had taken a number of photos of the ones at Sungei Kadut and Kranji Nature Trail, so guess will put up a separate entry (update: the entry is up!) when I have the time.

Atlas moths (Attacus atlas)
Not too far away from the Kalak Kambing, we saw a pair of Atlas moths (Attacus atlas) mating! These moths are considered the biggest moth in the world in terms of total wing surface area!

Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
We saw this Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) near the visitor counter at Sungei Buloh. In fact, this was like the third or fourth time that I had seen it here, foraging for fruits and seeds on the ground.

Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)
While checking out the crocodiles and otters at the main bridge, I managed to get a shot of this Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) too. This is the largest kingfisher in Singapore.

A smaller kingfisher we saw was this Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris), which can be commonly spotted in many parts of Singapore.

Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata)
At Sungei Kadut, we saw a small flock of Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) feeding on grass seeds.

Fruit Bats
Marcus was rather happy to find that the fruit bats were still at the same spot he showed me the last time.

Wasp Hive
And near the bats' roosting area was this wasp attending to its larvae.

Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris)
At the entrance to Sungei Buloh, I found the Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) fruiting! Even though this was planted, it was still quite exciting to see this rare mangrove plant fruiting.

Tumu Putih (Bruguiera sexangula)
Further away in the reserve, another mangrove plant which was rather rare in Singapore was flowering! It was the Tumu Putih (Bruguiera sexangula), and this plant was a naturally occurring one!

All three trips were certainly rather fun and fulfilling for me. And somehow, with the crocodiles appearing so often these days near the main bridge, I just can't wait to find time to go there again soon!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Semakau Trips Over Last Weekend

Last Saturday and Sunday, I was back on Semakau for a Project Semakau survey and a guided walk. Here are some of the interesting things I saw.

Porcelain Fiddler Crab (Uca annulipes)
This Porcelain Fiddler Crab (Uca annulipes) came with a bluish tint on its back. Not sure if it's due to the minerals in the environment, but even the other species of fiddlers we found here have a somewhat bluish carapace.

Heart Cockle (Corculum cardissa)
I found this Heart Cockle (Corculum cardissa) and several other groups found a few too. Appeared that they were in season. Could it be because Valentine's Day is just round the corner? Haha. Just kidding :P

This cockle is over-collected in some places and made into shellcraft. Certainly do not wish to see that happening in Singapore.

Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.)
There appeared to be a lot more Hell's Fire Sea Anemones (Actinodendron sp.) compared to last time. This sea anemone gives really painful stings.

Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni)
The Haddon's Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) has short and sticky tentacles which it uses to sting and trap its prey. The tentacles then work like a conveyor belt to bring the prey to the mouth in the middle.

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
On almost every trip to Semakau, we could see Noble Volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) laying eggs!

Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Family Synaptidae)
This longish animal is not a worm but a Synaptid Sea Cucumber (Family Synaptidae).

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
There were so many Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) that I lost count of how many I saw. Will have to look though the survey data sheet to get a feel of the numbers. Some groups saw more than 20 of them in their zone, while others did not see any at all. We only covered about half of the main intertidal area, and my guess was there were probably a few hundred of them at Semakau.

Pentaceraster mammilatus
Ying Wei's group found the Pentaceraster mammilatus that July found in January.

Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.)
There were lots of Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.), and some of them were almost as big as a dining plate!

Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
We also saw many fat Funeral Nudibranchs (Jorunna funebris), and here's one of them.

Bigfin Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sp.)
Many of the volunteers were really excited to see Bigfin Reef Squids (Sepioteuthis sp.).

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
As I was helping with the survey, I found this pretty Spider Conch (Lambis lambis), which got its common name from its long spines resembling spider legs.

Mosaic Crab (Lophozozymus pictor)
There was also a small Mosaic Crab (Lophozozymus pictor) - the most poisonous crab in Singapore.

Coelocarteria singaporensis
Coelocarteria singaporensis, a sponge named after Singapore! This sponge is very common on Semakau.

Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichpus horrens)
There were several small Dragonfish Sea Cucumbers (Stichpus horrens). I wonder if we just missed the breeding season.

During the guided walk on Sunday, I was doing the coordination work and thus only took a few photos.

Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
Among the few photos I took was this one which showed an Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis).

Sunflower Mushroom Coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)
This neon green neon green Sunflower Mushroom Coral (Heliofungia actiniformis) appeared to be in rather bad shape.

Acoel Worms (Family Acoela)
It was infested with Acoel Worms (Family Acoela), which are believed to feed on copepods or secretions from corals or other sessile animals. While I have read that they seldom cause the host any harm, I really wonder if that's true, since this mushroom coral certainly look a lot more miserable than how it looked before it had these Acoel Worms.

Black Phyllid Nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra)
We found a number of nudibranchs, including this Black Phyllid Nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra). This nudibranch was said to be able to secrete very toxic chemicals into the surrounding water when it's stressed.

Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus)
I also found this huge Ocellated Sea Cucumber (Stichopus ocellatus). If you look closely, you may see this Reg Egg Crab (Atergatis integerrimus) on the left side of this photo. I caught it initially, but got a little careless and it escaped! Fortunately, a few other groups still managed to spot it later.

All in all, it was a very busy but fun weekend!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Semakau Walk on 29 Jan 2010

Last Friday, we conducted our very first intertidal walk for the year 2010. My group was some students from MGS, and my group name was Flatworm.

The sky was really cloudy when we reached Semakau Landfill, but fortunately, the weather held.

Orange Fiddler Crab (Uca vocans)
After a tour of the landfill, we proceeded to the intertidal area. Once of the first animals I saw was this Orange Fiddler Crab (Uca vocans). This is a male crab, and it has an enlarged claw. This huge claw is somewhat like a handicap, as it required more resources to maintain, and also made the crab a more obvious target for predators. However, being able to survive with this handicap shows female fiddler crabs that it has the resources and superior genes to produce better offspring. And hence, the females tend to go for males with bigger claws.

Elbow Crab (Family Parthenopidae)
Marcus' group found an Elbow Crab (Family Parthenopidae), which got its common name from the way its long claws appear, looking just like bent elbows. It has tiny hair on its exoskeleton which traps sediment, allowing it to blend into the surrounding.

Hairy Crab (Pilumnus vespertilio)
Another crab which traps sediment is this Hairy Crab (Pilumnus vespertilio). This is not the shanghainese hairy crab that's served in restaurants though. In fact, this crab is usually mildly poisonous.

Group crossing seagrass meadow
Here's the group crossing the seagrass meadow, a very important habitat with lots of food and hiding places that serves as the nursery ground for many marine animals.

Gigantic Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea)
At the edge of the seagrass meadow was this Gigantic Carpet Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). It's an animal, and uses its sticky tentacles to sting small animals, which will be brought to its mouth in the middle.

Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
A pair of Anemone Shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) were found among the tentacles of the anemone. They hide among the stinging tentacles to seek protection from predators. Somehow, they are spared from getting stung by the anemone, as they have a layer of mucus around their body that somehow prevents the anemone from stinging them.

Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
There was also a Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra) at the edge of the seagrass meadow. This sea cucumber can burrow into the sand to hide from predators, and to seek for tiny organic particles to feed on. It is also the sea cucumber usually served in local restaurants. As they are toxic, they must be properly processed before they can be consumed.

Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus)
There were hundreds, if not thousands, of Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus) at the sandy area. The colour of the sea star matches the surrounding so well, that it can be rather hard to spot them sometimes, especially when they are in the midst of burrowing.

Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
The Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) appear to be in season, as we saw a number of really huge ones. "Nudibranch" means "naked gills", referring to the flower-like gills on the back of most species.

Cushion Star (Culcita  novaeguineae)
I was quite excited to see that the hunter-seekers have found us the 2 juvenile Cushion Stars (Culcita novaeguineae). We have been seeing them rather regularly during our trips.

Cushion Star (Culcita  novaeguineae)
Here's the other one we found. Cushion stars are believed to feed on corals.

Flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.)
Since our group name is flatworm, I was really glad to see that our hunter-seekers have found us one Acanthozoon Flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.)! This worm is really flat, making it very fragile. However, being flat has its advantages - this worm can squeeze into very narrow crevices to escape form predator or to seek prey!

Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus)
As usual, the Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) were the highlights of the trip. This sea star got its common name from the knobs on the top surface. It has a calcified armour to protect it from predation also.

Traditional group shot with knobblies
And here's the traditional group shot with the knobblies!

Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa)
Finally, we reached the reef edge and found our resident Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa). This huge clam can grow to 40cm across!

At this point, the sky was turning rather dark, and we decided to turn back and head towards the main road. We got up the bus just in time, as it soon started raining!

We were really fortunate that it did not rain earlier, and we still had a great trip with lots of interesting sightings!