Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I grew a mistletoe

As the title said, the mistletoe seed of Dendrophthoe pentandra which I placed on a Vitex pinnata tree germinated!


Can you see the two small leaves coming out from the seed? :)

Merry Christmas!

Life in wastelands

I made two recent trips to two patches of wasteland forest in Clementi. To say that they are wastelands is an understatement. While the diversity cannot be compared to our nature reserves, they are still teeming with life and sometimes host some rare species. And basically, a fun place to visit for some nature rambling in the vicinity.


YF and C investigating this exotic climber Syngonium podophyllum which has spread throughout Singapore after escaping from cultivation.


A Malayan Banyan, Ficus microcarpa stands majestically at the forest edge.


Here is how the interior looks like. Wild, messy and fun. As long as you can tolerate the mosquitoes and spider webs. :)


A magnificent specimen of a fig strangling a logan tree, Dimocarpus logan.


One of the nice thing about this forest is apparent abundance of the endangered fig, Ficus apiocarpa. This patch is literally covered with the climbing fig. I guess this is probably the locality with its highest density in Singapore. You can see it climbing on a durian tree here.


Figging time for Ficus apiocarpa, with many syconia on the ground. However it was impossible to take a picture of it on the fig as they were too high up the trees.


We also walked around the perimeter and found a sliverback fern (Pityrogramma calomelanos), which can create a pretty silver taboo using its silver spores.


A flowering Melicope lunu-ankenda tree, my first time seeing the flowers.


An unknown climber with a bright red fruit.


Another check off my butterfly species sightings, the Dark Brand Brown Bush.


And lastly, a white throated kingfisher perching on an Albizia tree.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Manuka Honey

KY passed me a bottle of Manuka Honey together with some dried specimens of the Manuka plant when he was in New Zealand recently.


The honey was so named because the bees collect nectar mainly from Manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium. KY said that it was a common plant there in New Zealand. It was said to contain anti-bacteria properties hence the honey was popularly consumed for sore throat and other ailments. It is said that the higher the UMF (unique Manuka factor) the better the quality of honey.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rainy Mandai

A, L, H, and I went for a walk along the now defunct railway adjacent Mandai mangroves.


Yummy ripe rambutan fruits.


Another new butterfly for me, Blue Glassy Tiger, which was very much abundant here.


My first time seeing the berries of this common native climber Paedaria foetida.


We found this two caterpillars possibly belonging to the Lime Butterfly (update: the caterpillars turned out to be of the Common Mormon) on the only mangrove plant belong to the Citrus family, Merope angulata. The plant looked very frail with few leaves though. It is nationally threatened with the status of critically endangered.


Many little mangrove propagules have established themselves.


A group of waders on the mudflat overlooking Johor Bahru.


L pointed out to this grisly hand from a tree. Creepy…


The ever resourceful Javan Mynas even don’t mind foraging in the mangroves!


Baby mangrove horseshoe crabs!


L pointed out these group of egrets when we on the Kranji MRT platform. Despite the heavy rain as shown, they still huddled on the canopy of the rain tree and endured the downpour. Beats me why though~

Think they might change their mind if its raining apples instead :p

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Do they really need to cut them down?

I was astonished (while retaining my usual bland expression) when A came back to the lab carrying a branch of Viscum ovalifolium, saying that some workers were pruning the Cratoxylum cochinchinense tree downstairs, and that he had took one of this mistletoe was had been removed from the tree.

Yup, Viscum ovalifolium is a mistletoe. They are semi-parasites, meaning that they penetrate their ‘roots’ into the host tree into their phloem only to absorb water and minerals from there. However, it can still photosynthesize and produce sugars by themselves, evident from their chlorophyll rich green leaves.


While I am happy to examine the specimen close up for once, I am unhappy to find out that all the remaining mistletoe was totally eradicated from its host tree the next day. The host tree was doing fine even with this semi-parasitic mistletoe leeching on it for many years.

The author of the new book on Singapore’s mistletoes, Francis Lim wrote that this species is ‘by no means common’. Indeed, this is probably the only locality that I have seen it. Its national status is common though, and that probably needs some updating.


Hope I am not sounding like a mindless tree hugger, especially after my recent complaint of tree cutting in the ST forum! I will probably apply mindless to those people who ordered these cutting/pruning actions instead. I am currently suffering now with glaring sunlight shining on my study table. I ache for the tree that has provided me ample shade for the past 20 years…

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Waterway @ Punggol

It was only two weeks since the launch of the Punggol Waterway but people are already flooding to experience this park with a newly created river which connects from Punggol to Serangoon Reservoir.


I was also there on a cycling trip with my friend. We were lucky to see many people attempting to fly giant kites in the shape of sotongs, jellyfishes, nemos, and octopi. Unfortunately, none of them got higher than a few metres.


The most amazing of the kites were these stunt kites. Each one was controlled by a single person, and they coordinated the graceful movements in synchrony with each other.


There were several murals on the walls depicting the history of Punggol.


A view of the walkway.


There is also another walkway on the 2nd storey with displays of vertical greening.


We found a caterpillar feeding on the leaf of the mangrove fern, Acrostichum aureum.


The park is also a great place for kids. There is a small area for water play. There were even two water canons!


And a big sand pit. You don’t find any playgrounds like this anymore in our neighbourhoods.


A suspension bridge~


And a nice shelter. Notice the old bus stop at the background. It was preserved to add some nostalgia for the visitors.


Lastly, a nice silhouette picture of a couple when the sun was setting.

In all, a very nice park for people to relax, cycle, jog, and play. Some parts of the waterway, were yet to develop, and I understand that mangrove-themed plantings will also be done at the eastern banks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bird Race through the eyes of a novice

Through the persistence of WQ and L, I was roped in to join in the yearly Bird Race organised by the Nature Society. This year, the race will be conducted through the Rail Corridor and its adjoining forests and parks.

I had set my alarm to PM instead of AM, and as a result, I had to waste $20 of cab fare to fly down to Dairy Farm Nature Park to meet my friends and was late for registration. =.=’’


And off we go! Our team, the nOObs, was (obviously) registered as a novice team and we first headed down the Dairy Farm trail to the Singapore Quarry.


Along the way, we heard a lot of noisy chatter in the forest so we went in to find a bunch of Asian Glossy Starlings, which were pretty much found everywhere here.

However, we were rewarded with beautiful rays of sun flecks penetrating through the forest canopy~ so nice…


This was my first time in Dairy Farm Nature Park, and I get to admire this platform facing the Quarry, where we noted quite a few birds, some with the help of the expert teams and their awesome scopes.


Along the way, we found many large nests on Albizia trees and this reminds me of Dr Ho Hua Chew’s talk of the importance of these trees for the nesting of large raptors.


Seems like bees also have a liking for this tree. WQ found this bee hive high up on another Albizia.


We headed towards the Rail Corridor and were rewarded by a small flock of Scaly-breasted Munias flying among the tall grasses.


I find this stretch of the corridor a pleasant place to walk by, as there was a small stream flowing beside the trail, and a lot of dragonflies as a result.

The highlight of the day for me was not a bird, but rather a Common Bluebottle butterfly puddling around us. Another check in my butterfly list!


Some other fellow birders on a bridge at a distance.


We heard some loud crashes at one point of the trail and saw a changeable hawk eagle (kindly ID-ed by HC) fighting with some long-tailed macaques.

SD had previously witnessed, photographed, and subsequently published his encounter of this eagle catching a banded leaf monkey in Panti (Link), so perhaps this eagle was indeed attempting to subdue a macaque. We watched for awhile but the commotion subsided without us knowing whether the eagle was really successful.


It was noon when we reached Bukit Batok Nature Park, and the place seemed practically devoid of any bird calls. Fortunately, we were still able see to this Asian Paradise Fly Catcher,


and the loveable White Crested Laughing Thrush.


Our last stop was at Kent Ridge Park where we recorded a few more species, ending up with 28 species in all~

While I am not a bird fanatic, I did enjoyed myself thoroughly today, especially because of the good company. Also learnt quite a number of new birds! :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Butterflying in Orchard Road

Last week L and I went for a visit to the butterfly trail created by the NSS along Orchard Road. Really nice to have a butterfly hotspot at a convenient place for amateurs like me to learn more about butterflies.


Here is a Pygmy Grass Blue feeding on Lantana.


Plain Tiger feeding on Snake Weed.


Two mating Common Grass Yellow just under the cover of a Lantana leaf.


The Giant Milk Weed flowers seem to be a favourite for carpenter bees. Its legs are even covered with pollen!


I considered myself lucky to get a shot of this fast flyer, the Lemon Emigrant.


Just outside the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, a black-naped oriole seemed to be feeding on the fruits of the Royal Palm.


I was really excited to see a large butterfly fluttering about. This Common Mime rested on this Heliconia flower, allowing me to go close enough to take a beautiful shot.


We went to search under the leaves of Pseuderanthemum carruthersii for the larvae of the Autumn Leaf. Unfortunately, there was only remains of their empty pupal casts around.


The Singapore Rhododendron is another plant that the carpenter bees love. I thought this picture really shows how the flower is adapted to be pollinated by carpenter bees, with its stamens almost clasping on the bee so that the pollen can be caught on its body.


There are two magnificent trees that we saw along the way. One is this Ficus elastica just outside the National Museum.


The other was this huge Artocarpus elasticus with beautiful buttress roots.


We also took a visit to the National Museum to have a glimpse of William Farquhar’s collection of water colour paintings on Singapore’s natural history.


Turning back to the shopping district of Orchard Road, I had a pleasant surprise when I found a dense cover of nationally threatened Geophila repens in Istana Park.


Some of you might have watched the news of this public speed dating in Orchard Central. I was there! As an on-looker of course~ :)

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