Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chek Jawa on 27 Mar 2010

Today, I was back at Chek Jawa for a guided walk. It was a very hot day, but I was really glad that it did not rain like the past few days.

With me was a really huge group, most of them from Schering Plough! And they knew one of our very own RMBR volunteer, Helen, who's also from Schering Plough. Schering Plough has a complex at Tuas, and right next to the complex was a really nice intertidal area with lots of marine life! We have been rather fortunate that Schering Plough had been giving us access to the intertidal area at Tuas.

Back to Chek Jawa, it was a really hot and sunny day, and the shore area felt rather quiet. Guess many of the animals are probably hiding from the heat. We still managed to see a number of interesting animals, though I did not managed to take many photos as this was a really big group, and guess I was too busy managing the group and forgot to take photos most of the time :P

One of the few photos I took was of this bronzeback snake (Dendrelaphis sp.). This was probably the most cooperative bronzeback I have seen so far. It was just slowly slithering around, and we could take all the photos we want! Not really sure exactly which species this was though.

At the intertidal area, we saw quite a number of marine life too, despite the heat. Here's an orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus). Despite the name, hermit crabs are not true crabs. They have a rather soft abdomen, and need to hide it in a dead snail's shell for protection.

There were a sand star (Astropecten sp. on the left) and a sand-sifting sea star (Archaster typicus) too. It is interesting to note that sea stars are actually brainless. Yet, they can move around, eat, shit etc etc etc. It's just really interesting to see that some animals can be so different from us, but they can get along with their daily lives just as well! Quoting from a movie, just having a brain is really highly over-rated. You can survive well without one! In fact, studies on some temperate sea star species shown that some sea stars can live for hundreds of years! Like I always say, no brain, no worries! Haha.

There was also a little horseshoe crab. Horseshoe crabs are really ancient animals. They are often called living fossils as they existed for more than 400 million years ago, even before the dinosaurs! And one reason that they are so successful is their rather unique way of dealing with bacteria infection. When a horseshoe crab is infected with bacteria, its blood will clot around the invaders, becoming somewhat gel-like, trapping the bacteria inside to render them harmless. And it is also because of this special property that make horseshoe crab blood so important in the biomedical field. Many of the drugs we take for various illnesses are tested with horseshoe crab blood for contamination before they can be consumed. And our scientist at NUS have come up with a way to clone the compound in the blood that gives it this special property, and hence less horseshoe crabs need to be caught for blood extraction these days.

We also saw other things like sea anemones, sea cucumbers, various snails, clams etc, but I did not have photos of them.

Here another group shot just after we completed all the stations.

This was something that we saw after the walk - a scorpion! Alan found it just behind the visitor counter. This was also my first time seeing a scorpion on Ubin! Apparently, the NParks staff found another much bigger scorpion, the black one, sometime ago. Unfortunately, it was a road kill, and they have collected and preserve the dead animal. Really hope to see a live one one of these days.

Anyway, all in all, it was good to be back on Ubin. Despite the hot weather, hope that the visitors had enjoyed themselves! :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Semakau Walk on 21 Mar 2010

The last few days had been all rainy days, and thus we were all rather worried that it would rain again today. Fortunately, the weather stayed cloudy, and we had a cool but dry intertidal walk at Semakau instead!

I was the coordinator and seeker again for this trip. Perhaps due to the wet weather for the past few days, we did not find as many things as some of our previous trips, but still, it was a great trip with in fact a rather interesting new sighting!

Dendrodoris sp.
And the new sighting I was referring to was this huge nudibranch. It's about 20cm long, and definitely the biggest nudibranch I had seen in Singapore so far. Initially I thought it's either a Dendrodoris carbunculosa or a Dendrodoris tuberculosa, but the tubercles (bumps on top) looked simpler, and it has these ridges running by its sides, forming some kind of broken rings around it.

Dendrodoris sp.
The underside lacks the distinctive white spots found on Dendrodoris tuberculosa, but is also somewhat different from the Dendrodoris carbunculosa I have found on the Net. It's mainly yellow, with a brownish middle and edge. Have dropped a message to the Sea Slug Forum. Hopefully will get a response soon. But even if it is Dendrodoris carbunculosa, it is still a new record for Semakau! We have seen Dendrodoris tuberculosa on a previous trip though. Update: Thanks Budak for the info, this is a Asteronotus cespitosus. Have also gotten a confirmation from Sea Slug Forum.

Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris)
Another species of nudibranch we saw was the Funeral Nudibranch (Jorunna funebris). Somehow this scene reminds me of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam.

Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichopus horrens)
There were quite a few Dragonfish Sea Cucumbers (Stichopus horrens). This ID is still a tentatively one. Hopefully SY can help confirm the ID soon :P

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
We saw a few Noble Volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) too, though they were mostly juvenile ones. One of the guides even saw one which was just a few cm long!

Anemone Shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis)
At our usual Giant Sea Anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea), we saw a pair of Anemone Shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis). The bigger one is the female, while the smaller one is the male.

Flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.)
We found a few of these little flatworms (Pseudoceros sp.) too.

Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
As usual, the star of the day was the Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus). This huge sea star can still be commonly found on Semakau.

Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa)
I have lost count of the number of photos I have taken of this Fluted Giant Clam (Tridacna squamosa). It was really huge now, probably close to 40cm across. When we first saw it more than 4 years ago, it was only like about 20cm across.

Heart Cockle (Corculum cardissa)
Compared to the Fluted Giant Clam that was sessile, this other clam, the Heart Cockle (Corculum cardissa), was free-living. Not sure if they were in season, but we had been finding a number of them recently.

Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum)
One of the groups spotted this Black Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum). Have not seen one during a guided walk for quite a while.

Spider Conch (Lambis lambis)
This Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) was spotted by another guide while crossing the seagrass meadow. I was looking high and low for it earlier among the seagrass, but couldn't find it. We had been seeing it around the same area recently.

Another thing we noticed recently was the large number of jellyfish. Which can be both rather exciting but scary to look at.

Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.)
There were quite a number of these Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.). This jellyfish can release stingers into the surrounding water.

Aequorea sp.
There were lots of these hydromedusae, Aequorea sp. This is actually a hydrozoan in the medusa form. Read from the Net that while they do sting, they do not usually cause much discomfort and may even be unnoticeable, except perhaps to those with sensitive skin. However, they were transparent and were almost invisible underwater, and I was a little worried that some students may be stung by it, and basically you won't know who might be allergic to the stings. Fortunately, the guides managed the students rather well, and none of the students waded into deeper water where lots of these jellyfish were floating around.

Stinging Sea Nettle (Chrysaora sp.)
This other jellyfish, the Stinging Sea Nettle (Chrysaora sp.), was also really abundant today. The smaller ones blended in rather nicely with the seaweed in the surrounding, and this jellyfish supposedly can sting rather painfully.

I was really glad that the guides did a good job today and the students and teachers did not misbehave. Phew.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Great Trip at Sungei Buloh (14 Mar 2010)

This has to be one of my best trips to Sungei Buloh so far, with quite a number of new sightings!

 Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
On top of the list will be this Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata). I spotted this climber, while Peiting spotted the fruits! I had found at least 6 other Kalak Kambing in the reserve so far, but none had been fruiting or flowering. So finally, here's one with the fruits!

Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris)
And the good luck did not just end there. I spotted this naturally occuring Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris)! It was a rather mature tree. I would say it's at least 10 metres tall, if not taller. And it's flowering and fruiting too! I certainly must come back again earlier to get some nice shots of the flowers, as they usually wither around 8 plus in the morning.

Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata)
And even more surprising, I noticed a few shorter trees near the Berembang, and I realised that they were Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata) trees! Like it's relative the Berembang, this was also a rather rare mangrove plant in Singapore!

Tumu Putih (sexangula) Flower
Yet another rare plant found in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was this Tumu Putih (Bruguiera sexangula), and it was flowering too!

Tumu Putih (sexangula) Fruit
I also found a small little propagule developing. Again, I certainly must revisit it again in a few weeks time to check if it has matured.

Barat-barat (Cassine viburnifolia)
Another rare mangrove plant, the Barat-barat (Cassine viburnifolia) was flowering and fruiting too!

Jeruju putih (Acanthus ilicifolius)
A number of other plants were also flowering, and while they may not be as rare as the previous ones, they were still rather pretty. The above is a Jeruju putih (Acanthus ilicifolius), which has lilac flowers.

Jeruju hitam (Acanthus ebracteatus)
Looking rather similar to the Jeruju putih is the Jeruju hitam (Acanthus ebracteatus). This plant has white flowers instead. They are often called Sea Holly due to their spiky leaves, which resembe those of the Christmas holly.

Jeruju (Acanthus volubilis)
The Jeruju (Acanthus volubilis), on the other hand, does not have spikes, though the flowers are white in colour too. It is often seen in its climbing form, climbing up other mangrove plants.

Ant House Plant (Dischidia major)
The Ant House Plant (Dischidia major) was not flowering or fruiting, but it looked so nice under the sun, that I decided to take a photo of it anyway. This climber has pitcher-leaves inhabited by ants. In return for the shelter provided by the plant, the ants bring organic debris into their "house" to be used by the plant as nutrients.

Nyireh Batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis)
Yet another rare plant we saw flowering was this Nyireh Batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis). Looking forward to see it fruiting soon.

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) Cocoon
We also saw a few Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) cocoons on the tree too!

Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)
We saw a Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) near the boardwalk! This was only the third time I saw this lizard at Sungei Buloh!

Droppings of palm civet
These looked like the droppings of a palm civet to me.

There were a pack of dogs in one of the ponds. Really hope the authorities can find ways to remove them soon. These dogs were certainly threatening the wildlife in the reserve.

Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Such as these Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata). We saw three of them today. In fact, I saw them yesterday while conducting a guided walk too. But I guess I'll never be tired of seeing these cute mammals!

Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
I have also seen the dogs disturbing Malayan Water Monitors (Varanus salvator). These lizards are the biggest lizards you can find in Singapore.

Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus)
We also saw a smaller relative of the monitor lizard, a male Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus). This lizard can glide from tree to tree! It appeared be performing some courtship behaviour, extending its large yellow throat flap.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
We saw lots of birds in the reserve, most of them are the migratory birds. There were a few resident birds too, such as the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) above.

Yellow-Barred Flutterer (Rhyothemis phyllis)
We had a hard time taking photos of this Yellow-Barred Flutterer (Rhyothemis phyllis), a rather common dragonfly. It was flying around so quickly, and I had problem focusing my camera on it.

Shield-backed Bugs (Calliphara nobilis)
I found quite a number of Shield-backed Bugs (Calliphara nobilis, Scutelleridae). These bugs are sometimes called Jewel Bugs too, due to their bright and shiny colours. They belong to the Superfamily Pentatomoidea, which includes the stink bugs (Pentatomidae) and shield bugs (Acanthosomatidae).

Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus)
The Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus) were another species we saw that gather in huge numbers. These bugs feed on the seeds of the Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum).

Batik Golden Web Spiders (Nephila antipodiana)
The were a few Batik Golden Web Spiders (Nephila antipodiana) among the trees. These spiders build one of the biggest and strongest spider webs.

We did not see the crocodile today, though I saw it last Monday. Didn't blog about it so thought I'll include the photos here as well.

Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Here's the Estuarine Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) that I saw last Monday.

Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rhynchops)
We saw a Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rhynchops) when we were sheltering from the rain in one of the shelters too.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
And last Monday, we also saw a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus).

In any case, I have been to Sungei Buloh so many times, and yet I was finding new stuff every now and then! That's something that really keep me visiting the reserve again and again!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mandai Mangrove on 7 Mar 2010

I was back at Mandai Mangrove last Sunday. This mangrove was one of the most well-studied mangrove in the world, but unfortunately, the area may soon be developed.

It has one of the biggest mudflat in Singapore, and lots of migratory birds come here to feed during low tide. However, I did not bring my zoom camera, and thus did not take any bird photos.

Iridescent Crab (Perisesarma indiarum)
There were lots of Iridescent Crabs (Perisesarma indiarum), and I was glad that I finally managed to get a few decent photos of them.

Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)
This Mangrove Horseshoe Crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) had so many barnacles growing on its back. I wondered if it found them to be heavy.

Male Mangrove Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnatha josephi)
This is probably a male Mangrove Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnatha josephi), but most Tetragnatha spiders supposedly look rather similar, so guess it's really hard to say for sure.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
I was rather happy to find a few rather mature Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata), many of them were climbing over nearby mangrove trees.

Beccari's Seagrass (Halophila beccarii)
The Beccari's Seagrass (Halophila beccarii) was every where. This seagrass can be commonly found covering wide areas in several of our northern mangroves which I had visited.

Brownlowia tersa Flowers
We were quite lucky to find a blooming Brownlowia tersa.

Brownlowia tersa Fruits
There were a few fruits too!

Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) Flower
However, the thing that really got me all excited was this blooming Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata)!

Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) Flower
Here's a freshly opened flower where the petals were still in good shape.

Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) Flower
And here's an older flower which was slowly withering.

Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) Fruit
We saw a number of fruits too.

Mangrove Lime (Merope angulata) Fruits
There were even some ripe ones, which were yellow in colour!

While I did not managed to find the Kacang Kacang (Aegiceras corniculatum) again this time round, it was definitely still a very rewarding trip!