Friday, August 28, 2009

Rain out at Changi Beach

Last Sunday, during another of my guided walks, I was cursed and blessed at the same time. Cursed because it had been raining (again) from 2am to about 6am. Blessed because 6am was the time when we started off with our guided walk.


I was glad to find a Horned Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) after missing it the other time. They are scavengers and fierce predators at the same time, whereby it is known to pick off sea creatures, even baby turtles!


We found several Chitons crawling on an empty gong gong shell. These animals are protected by eight overlapping plates and this arrangement allowed them to curl into a ball when pried off the surface.


Here is a strange looking crab with very long antennae that I have never seen before. Could this be a kind of spider crab? Update: Just received info from CH that this is a masked burrowing crab (Family Corystidae). Budak also mentioned previously in his blog that the antennae were used to form a breathing tube when it is buried in the sand. Interesting new find for me!


I was glad to find the leopard sea cucumber (Holothuria ocellata) again. This burrowing cucumber have been recorded to be found at depths of 80m!


Under a long piece of plank, there was a big Swimming Crab (Family Portunidae) that had a broken claw. Fortunately, it can regenerate back the piece of limb after the next moulting.


Even though we did not manage to see the Sea Urchins again (sorry Mel), we were instead rewarded with another Echinoderm, the Cake Sea Star (Anthenea aspera)! This star is listed as vulnerable in our Singapore Red List.

Just as we were washing our feet, some anglers came by with a huge catch; an enormous stingray!


Though I forgot to take some pictures of my participants, I was lucky to get a snapshot of one of them at Changi Village where we had our breakfast.

Thanks to Sean for the photos of the chiton and sea cucumber.

Friday, August 14, 2009

“I Polunin” Exhibition

Today I decided to make an impromptu trip down to Centre for the Arts Museum with SD to visit the exhibition of Dr Ivan Polunin’s treasured collections of film, photos and other documents.

Dr Polunin has the largest collection of documentary footage of Singapore filmed between 1950 and 1970s, way before I was born.

A boy holding two sea otters!

A past-time of the coastal community, sailing competition using this vessel called a Jong.


Here is an abstract of Dr Polunin’s thoughts about this boat. Apparently these boats were made of Pulai (Alstonia augustiloba) due to its light wood.

On one of the walls were a mosaic of documents. SD pointed out two letters addressed to Dr Polunin from Sir David Attenborough, the famous nature broadcaster!

There were also other interesting documents penned by Dr Polunin about mangroves, coconuts, fireflies and other medical information (he was a doctor by profession) pinned on the wall. It is a pity that I can’t take them down from the wall to read!


Within the few glass cabinets in the middle of the room, there were also many old literature scattered untidily (or artistically, depending on how you see it) inside. I was fascinated by this paper about Kusu Island. It mentioned that during low tide devotees could walk from Kusu Island across a sand spit which join to another small outcrop. It was there where a keramat was located and people hang stones from the branches so that their prayers may be answered. Our current Kusu Island is probably the resultant of land reclamation joining these two islands together.

For SD, he was particularly ecstatic about this “Primate Literature” stacked in between other zoological documents. I think we pretty much felt like donkeys with carrots hanging over our heads. Can see but cannot touch…

We sat awhile there watching one of Dr Polunin’s documents, Sails Off Singapore filmed in 1958 at Pulau Sudong. A baby Sun Bear stole the scene in many parts of the film. I wonder if this bear was native to Singapore or if it was just some exotic pet. If it is the former, then this will be another mammal record for Singapore.

The kids in this coastal community who are probably to young to play with the Jongs or Koleh, made little boats made of coconut husks and leaves.

Dr Polunin surely captured many important images of our lost heritage. This exhibition is a must visit for all. Remember to grab a brochure and postcard of this exhibit from the counter too!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Three Moths

Running out of creative juices now so pardon me for the title. Anyway, during a recent frogging trip with D at BTNR, we found a few beautiful moths as shown below.


A commonly sighted species of Owl Moth, Erebus ephesperis
Family: Noctuidae
Subfamily: Catocalinae


A beautiful moth with a army-camouflage wing, Eudocima smaragdipicta
Family: Noctuidae
Subfamily: Catocalinae


Lastly, an unknown Hawk Moth suspected to be Cechenena sp.
Family: Sphingidae

Thanks to Roger for the latter two IDs and D for the taking the last pict.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guided walk at Sensory Trail

I had thought, damn! was I jinxed or something? Seems like it had been raining everytime I organise a walk (though this is just the 2nd time ^^). Nevertheless, I still decided to carry on with it though it was still drizzling after an hour of torrential rain.

Today I had the same group of friends from the last Changi Beach trip with the additional of LY, R and two German tourists. Great to show them what our natural heritage has.

WF had previously told me to watch out for the Pulai tree (Alstonia augustiloba) from the jetty and indeed, this mature elderly tree stood jutting out from the secondary forest canopy. It is believed to be over 100 years old!


R managed to spot four Oriental Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) just right a few metres up on a coconut tree just as we start with the walk. A pity that I was too excited to whip out my camera till they flew off to a nearby tower.

This was when SF spotted another big bird, the White Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) on the opposite tower. There were a pair perched there before another one swooped down with a show of aerobatic skill to attack one of the two.

Not a good representation of the plant but anyway, this Fig Tree (Ficus crassiramea) is said to be a rare species found only in Ubin and Tekong.

Here is a Banana plant (Musa sp.), not a tree as it is commonly called since it is not woody. A recent study shows that the ripen fruit actually glows brightly under UV light. The compounds come from the breakdown of chlorophyll and it probably aids fruit eaters that see using the UV spectrum.

This is a herb with an interesting name, Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea). The name comes from the tiny white flowers wrapped in pink bracts resembling a baby within a cradle.

This pretty herb with lush green leaves and pink flowers is known as the Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum). It probably has its name from one of the novels about Tarzan, whereby the mythical city, Opar is filled with gold and other riches. The roots of this plant is used as a substitute for ginseng, known as 土人參 in TCM.

Here is a candid shot by S when SF picked up an Indian Mulberry (Morinda citrifolia) to show me.

Probably the most interesting plant in the trail is the Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea). It is used as an anesthetic for gums and teeth last time. One can actually get the feel from it, but to know how exactly it is done, you will have to come down urself to the trail during a guided walk!


Because of the rain, I was unable to show my participants this interesting tiny creature in the sand. This is the antlion, the larvae of lacewings. They dig a pitfall trap in the sand and using their huge mandibles, snap shut on any small creatures that fall into the hole.

This is another picture taken during my trip here last week too. A grasshopper nymph eating was greedily chewing pollen from the Yellow Creeping Daisy (Wedelia trilobata). Look at the pollen all over its face!

At the mangroves, we saw this rare local mangrove plant, the Mangrove Apple (Sonneratia ovata). These are the fruits that have overlapping calyx wrapping over them, a characteristic of this species.

Another plant which I missed out was the pretty Maiden’s Jealousy (Tristellateia australasiae). This is an endangered creeper though it is widely cultivated to beautify hedges in urban Singapore.


It is a pity that my group missed the full bloom of this Egyptian Water Lily (Nymphaea caerulea). This is a scared plant revered by Egyptians in the past because when the flower opens up in the day, it reveals a bright golden centre set against purple blue petals, symbolising the sun god and creation of life.


Last but not least, the Lampin Budak plant (Claoxylon indicum). Translated from its Malay name, it literally means child napkin. The huge soft leaves are actually used as diapers last time!

Of course, the trail has more flora and fauna that I did not cover. I will leave that for the next trip here. Nice day out here though we had a perpetual drizzle throughout the entire journey.

Thanks to S for contributing the group photo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creeping Fig

The creeping fig, Ficus pumila is a common exotic fig used to cover the surfaces of overhead bridges and other structures.

There are two forms of these fig, the creeping ones have small little leaves while the others that extend outwards have bigger leaves as shown in the picture above.


And they bear big pear shaped fig fruits or more famously known as 无花果. The proper name for them are called the syconia.


QY sliced up it up into half for us to see the anatomy inside. These syconia contain both male and female flowers. The red ones are the female flowers and the white ones at the tip of the fruit where an opening called ostium are the male flowers. It is said that there are about 1000 male and 6000 female flowers in each fruit!

Many figs including this have mutualistic relationships with agaonid fig wasps. The female will squeeze through the ostia and lay eggs in the female flowers and die inside the fruit. Upon hatching, the males will mate with the young females and chew an opening to the ostia for their mates to escape. In the process, the females have to pass through the male flowers whereby pollen will be stuck on them.

And thus the female fly off to look for fig fruit to repeat the cycle, also bringing the pollen to fertilise other fig trees. The males which are wingless, die after fulfilling their husbandly role.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Guided Walk at Changi Beach

Last Sunday, I brought a group of friends to Changi Beach for an intertidal walk.

We headed over to the jetty to see if the crab traps there had any crabs. Unfortunately, there were none but instead, the entire place were covered by thousands of creeper snails. These snails consists of an assemblage of different species of snails that feed on detritus.

We saw a few headlamps over the sea wall and I went over to ask a Malay guy who was using a small axe hammering on the rocks what they were doing. He was harvesting oysters on the rock and I borrowed one to show my participants.


Unfortunately, as the day broke, so did the clouds and it rained heavily.


We had to retreat to the shelters where we observed a huge maggot wiggling in the sand. Any help with this ID is appreciated. Update: As commented by Anonymous, "Actually the "maggot" is not a maggot but infact its known as June beetle larvae or sometimes to be known as a tree shrub which is a favourite snack for aboriginal people.Its known to contain high protein..."

Luckily, the rain dwindled soon after and we carried on with the planned walk.
The special find of the day is definitely the Seahorse. Mel found this creature gasping for air on the sand and we move it to a tidal pool to wait for the tide to rise.


There were lots of little Sand Dollars (Arachnoides placenta) shovelling half-buried through the sand.

This unknown sea cucumber which I termed as the leopard skinned sea cucumber has finally been identified as Holothuria ocellata. Thanks to Karenne and Dr Lane for forwarding my picture to various marine experts in this field. A clearer picture can be found in my earlier Changi posting.

IMG_3888 (1)

Here is another unknown sea cucumber. Obviously, there are still many marine life left to be studied in Singapore.

Another related animal that we saw was this big Biscuit Star, (Goniodiscaster scaber). All of them belonged to the same group, the Echinoderms otherwise known as the spiny skinned animals.

This Flower Crab (Portunus pelagicus) seemed like a master of camouflage with seaweeds and barnacles growing over it.

There were also many hermit crabs that have anemones on their shells. It is said that some of them actively harvest these stinging animals to prevent predation from octopuses.

A larger species of hermit crab, the Orange Stripped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus) resided in the shell of the Spiral Melongena.


Lastly, a juvenile Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis). This is a predatory snail with a nice shell patterned with mountain ridges.

This is my first time organising my own proper guided walk and it turned out to be pretty successful. Looking forward to more in the future.

Thanks to Sean for using his photos for this post.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...