Monday, September 19, 2011

Bukit Brown Cemetery on 16 Sep 2011

Last Friday, we went to Bukit Brown Cemetery, hoping to spot the sambar deers as there were many reports of sightings there. We did not encounter any of them, unfortunately, though I just heard recently that there was a road kill nearby like a week ago! We still managed to see a number of interesting stuff though :)

This was the first time I saw such a huge whip spider in Singapore - the previous ones I saw were probably at most half the size! Despite the name, it is actually not a spider (order Araneae), but a related group of arachnids from the order Amblypygi.

This is a true spider, a tarantula! We saw several of them in their respective burrows.

There was also a scorpion on one of the trees.

And on the same tree, a few assassin bugs.

We saw several frogs around, though I only took photos of this cute banded bullfrog.

There were quite a few scops owls too, but they were quite shy and I only got a few photos.

The most abundant night bird here should be the nightjars - they were everywhere!

A few fruit bats were spotted.

I was really surprised to find a colugo here, as the vegetation was rather patchy with not many tall trees.

It was out on the news that this area will be developed soon. Wonder what will happen to the wildlife when that happen...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

International Coastal Cleanup at Semakau on 17 Sep 2011

It was great to be back on Pulau Semakau, and this time, for a coastal cleanup! I was helping International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) to coordinate the cleanup effort on Semakau, and this year we had 85 volunteers from HSBC, and 21 from Renesas Electronics Singapore.

I met up with the group from HSBC at 7am to follow the boat they chartered to go to Semakau. As this was the second time HSBC participated in ICCS, administrative work at the jetty progressed a lot smoother and faster compared to the previous one.

We reached the island about 8.30am and met up with the volunteers from Renesas. After convincing everyone (almost) to visit the toilet (out at the cleanup site there are no toilets), I conducted a briefing at the Semakau Visitor Centre to go through the work procedures and safety issues that the volunteers should take note of.

Special thanks to NEA which kindly provided 2 buses to take the volunteers to the entrance to the cleanup site. The HSBC volunteers arrived at the cleanup site first, as their assigned location was further away (i.e. they had to walk further to reach the lcoation).

The volunteers from Renesas had with them various interesting rubbish-picking tools!

To reach the shore, we had to walk for about 5 min to cut through a mosquito-infested secondary forest. It so happened that the deciduous Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa) had just shed their leaves, covering the forest trail with a layer of pretty yellow and red leaves!

Out on the shore, the Renesas volunteers were assigned to clean up the southern portion of the shore, and the site was about 500m long.

The HSBC volunteers werre assigned to do the northern portion of the shore.

The first few groups from HSBC had to walk about 1km before they reach their cleanup site. The shore here was full of debris from the sea.

Some of the rubbish could only be retrieved with a stick and going on all fours!

The amount of trash on the shore was so bad, that I seriously thought we did not even managed to clear 30 percent of them by the time we were done and the tide was rising.

The groups did a quick check on the headcounts before heading back into the forest.

Out of the forest and back on the road, it's time to weigh the rubbish collected!

Couldn't resist taking a photo of Amitha in her brightly coloured pants as she was weighing the rubbish.

For the heavier bags, it's easier to weigh with a stick so that two volunteers could share the load.

And here are the Renesas with the rubbish they collected - a total of 13 trash bags and 96.5kg worth of rubbish.

While the HSBC group collected 72 trash bags of rubbish weighing a total of 337kg.

And here are all the collected trash. Compared to the last coastal cleanup, we certainly collected a lot more rubbish in terms of volume, but a lot less (about half) if we look at the total weight. This was probably because we have already cleared most of the heavier trash left by the villagers who used to live on the island (including things like furniture parts etc) during the last clean up near the forest trail.

Since there are no regular recreational beach goers on the island, and the shore is only visited by those participating in nature walks or research work, most of the new trash come from the sea, and these are usually not as heavy as the ones left by the previous islanders. And rather unfortunately, we could only clear the heavier trash nearer to the forest tail, as it's just not feasible for the volunteers to lug along the heavy trash and walk for like 1km to reach the main road, when they could spend more time collect the smaller and lighter rubbish.

Due to the limited transport available on the island, and there was another major event conducted concurrently on the island, we had to wait for quite a while (either under the hot sun or in the shady but mosquito-infested forest) before we could proceed for the post-cleanup activities. But anything was better than having to walk under the hot sun for a few km to reach the activity sites! :P

The HSBC volunteers proceeded to the southern-most point for the island for a picnic and kite-flying, while Renesas went for a educational tour of the landfill. Both activities took about an hour, and we left Semakau about 12.45pm, slightly delayed due to the transportation issues.

Both groups collected a total of 85 trash bags of rubbish weighing 433.5kg, but there were still so much rubbish left on the shore! We certainly need more volunteers to clean up this shore on a more regular basis, and also, more strong volunteers to carry out the heavy trash that got left behind when the islanders were relocated to mainland Singapore!

Detailed results of the cleanup had been posted here. Thanks Siva for the update!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Otters and Other Animals at Sungei Buloh on 2 Sep 2011

It's been a long while since I had a good walk at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and hence I decided to pay it a visit with Peiting last Saturday.

We decided to head to the main bridge first, and I was glad we made this decision as a pair of Smooth Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) in the river! The tide was rather low, and hence the otters had no problem catching the fish that they love to eat.

After the meal, they headed back to shore.

One of them got onto the river bank and started rolling on the black sand, probably to dry itself.

The other soon it, and both otters spent about 5 min rolling before they moved up the river bank.

They rested for a while by the freshwater pond, before heading back into the river.

There were several Plantain Squirrels (Callosciurus notatus) among the trees, and this one was feeding on a Sea Almond (Terminalia catappa) fruit.

We saw a lot of jumping fish in the disused prawn ponds. Still not exactly sure why they were doing that - but I would think it's not likely to be due to predators in the water, as these fish were quite huge.

We only saw a few migratory birds - suspect they have properly flown out of the reserve to nearby mudflats since the tide was low. Managed to catch a shot of these Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) in flight though.

Peiting was commenting that she hadn't seen the Oriental Pied-hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) at Sungei Buloh, and not too long later, we saw a pair of them on a figging Ficus superba!

They were feeding on the figs, but did not appear to be too successful as this male one kept dropping the figs it was handling.

At the river, we also saw this Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) catching a fish!

Just as we were leaving the reserve, we encountered two fighting Malayan Water Monitors (Varanus salvator). The one on the right (back-facing) eventually lost and ran away. But what a fight they had! Lots of twisting, grabbing, wrestling, splashing, clawing... as a smaller female watched nearby...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

CCNR on an Early Evening (2 Sep 2011)

Decided to check out the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) with Kok Sheng in the early evening. There was a huge bunch of photographers ahead of us, and we had thought that the noise they made would have driven all the animals away. Surprisingly though, we still spotted quite a number of stuff!

Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus kanchil)
Possibly less than 50m away from where I started, I spotted a Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus kanchil) resting among the undergrowth - and to think that the noisy bunch of photographers was less than 50m away from me!

Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus kanchil)
It stood up after a while...

Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus kanchil)
And started licking some of the nearby leaves. Not sure what it was trying to, since it did not munch on any of the leaves, but just licked.

Lesser Mouse Deer (Tragulus kanchil)
We saw a total of 4 Lesser Mouse Deers - two of them were together!

Horsfield's Flying Squirrel (Iomys horsfieldi)
And right above our heads when I spotted the first mouse deer, there was a Horsfield's Flying Squirrel (Iomys horsfieldi)!

Horsfield's Flying Squirrel (Iomys horsfieldi)
Later, 2 more appeared! Here's another one!

Horsfield's Flying Squirrel (Iomys horsfieldi)
They were just chasing each other on the tree (there were two of them above) - not sure if it's some kind of courtship behaviour?

Malayan Colugos (Cynocephalus variegatus)
There were the usual Malayan Colugos (Cynocephalus variegatus), which we saw 4 of them.

It's amazing that despite our forest being so fragmented, there're still many interesting wild life living in them.

Unfortunately, I have encountered several poachers in our forest as well - for their own selfish reasons, they trap and remove these wonderful wildlife from our forest, and it's no wonder that many of our native mammals are now rare and endangered. If you see any poachers in our forest, do contact the National Parks Board, so that they can take the necessary actions against them!