Sunday, December 31, 2006

Birding at Hindhede

Just one day before the school holiday ended =( But I finally got a chance to go on a formal birding trip with Dingli who generously offered me to tag along. Had some nice prata at the Muslim shop opp beauty world for breakfast and he came for some coffee at a neighboring shop before setting off to Hindhede Nature Park, which I first heard of and went to. =S Apparently it was a good birding spot.

The crowd was horrible! The place was so packed with Homo sapiens...but well its a Sunday. Dingli promised me to show me at least 20 species of birds today and above us before the visiting centre, was a group of Asian glossy starlings. Thats one down.

White-rumped shama

I was stunned when we walked on the boardwalk leading into the park cos dingli keep telling me what bird was calling out. There was this distinct loud call very close by and he said it was a white-rumped shama. We found it in the shrubs very close to us. First encounter with something new to me.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

There was this trail full of mosquitoes and biting ants, ouch~~ I will never wear sandals and 3/4 pants again on a forest walk. Luckily Dingli had a can of OFF with him. Over here, there are so many racket-tailed drongos that I wasn't so as impressed with it now as previously. Like Dingli said, he will show me so many birds that I will get sick of it. Haha.. But its still amazing la~ ;p

Hindhede Quarry

And here we reached the Hindhede Quarry with a breathtaking view. I wonder why I never heard of this nice place before. The publicity of BT probably overwhelmed this little neighboring treasure. Here Dingli promised me that I can see a lot of birds here and he was right! Yellow-vented bulbul, Olive-winged bulbul, Straw-headed bulbul, Mugimaki flycatcher, Pied Fantail, Stork-billed kingfisher, Drongos and some more which I forgot (can refer to the list below). Also saw in the skies the White-bellied sea eagle, barn swallows and house swifts (still feel incredulous how he can tell the two apart being so high up). From afar, Dingli pointed out the calls of the hornbill which seems more distinctive to me then all the others. He also met two of his fellow lady birders and had a hearty chat with them while continuing looking out for birds.

Yellow-vented bulbul

A lazy Clouded Monitor laying flat on a tree nearby

It soon became sunny after around an hour and dingli suggested that we go back to the trail. We found this small Clouded monitor lizard which allowed me to take a good closed up picture. Dingli told me how to distinguish this from the more commonly seen Malayan monitor lizard.

Comparing the nostrils

The Clouded monitor lizard is similar in appearance to the Malayan water lizard except of their positioning of the nostrils. The clouded has their nostrils which lie mid-way btw the eye and snout while the Malayan Water has them nearer the snout (red circle). Picture of Malayan taken at Kusu and input from Dingli & Ecology Asia.

Red-legged Crake

This was the pict of the day I guessed. Apparently he told me this terrestrial bird is one rare species here and we saw two of them, close up. Can see why it’s so hard to spot, it moves so cautiously that I doesn’t even make a sound when moving among the dead twigs and leaf litter.

Laced Woodpecker

Heres another uncommon woodpecker he found when doing some bashing. Sorry for all the blur shots. Can't do fantastic ones using my compact camera.

Doing the chicken catwalk to lure birds? =p

Another new stuff learnt today was went he showed me this bee hive low at at tree trunk of a T-junction. He said those are sweat bees and will be attracted by our sweat. But they are rather non-aggressive although they still can sting.

small hive of the sweat bees

close up view

We intercepted with Dingli's 2 friends again and one of them told him she saw a orange-headed thrust. Man, hearing that, he bashed and disappeared into the forest again. I wasn’t so eager to follow this time cos the vegetation were much thicker now. But I changed my mind after he came out told me he found it. On the way, we flushed out a large-tailed nightjar which I thought looked like some oversized Javan myna. Mmm…but the thrust was really pretty and colorful.

Thats the last bird he showed. But we came across a female crimson sunbird. Too bad can't see a male with its flaming color. Singapore's unofficial national bird as he always called it, due to its color.

08 Jan~ Today, Dingli wrote out a complete list of the birds we saw and (he) heard.

White-bellied sea-eagle
Laced woodpecker
Common Flameback (H)
Rufous woodpecker (H)
Banded woodpecker (H)
Rhinocerous Hornbill (H)
Red-legged Crake
White-breasted waterhen (H)
Stork-billed kingfisher (UC)
White-throated kingfisher (H)
Barn Swallow
House swift
Greater racket-tailed drongo
Common lora (H)
Mugimaki flycatcher (R)
Brown-streaked flycatcher
Arctic warbler
Yellow-vented bulbul
Olive-winged bulbul
Straw-headed bulbul
Pied Fantail
Striped tit-babbler
Crimson sunbird
Little spiderhunter (H)
Black-naped oriole
White-rumped shama (R)
Orange-headed thrust (R)
Javan Myna
Common Myna
Asian glossy starling
Dark-necked tailorbird (H)
Large-tailed nightjar

(H) = Heard, (R) = Rare, (UC) = uncommon
Some names linked to pictures from Johnny Wee's FlickR photo album

Indeed he had delivered what he promised, seen more then 20 birds. Honoured to have such an experienced guide.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sungei Serangoon #2

Today went to the other side of Sungei Serangoon. Saw the usual suspects, little and great egrets, black-naped orioles, yellow-vented bulbuls and quite a few white-breasted waterhens which ran quickly into the bushes when they saw me. Of cos, I guessed they were more birds in the vicinity but I was too amateurish to identify anything. =p

looking at the gentle water current always seems so relaxing to me

Nursery of tiny fishes

The river was soon blocked by the trees so there wasn't much to see. I soon reached Sengkang, where the familiar fishing spot where Mervyn showed me last time was under some construction, a road I think, to connect to the opposite bank.

There was this photographer taking pictures of birds using his gigantic camera. For me, I couldn’t possibly do that using my own tiny camera. Instead, I climbed down the sloping riprap to see if theres any stuff to observe. That’s when I saw this lovely sight.

Scooping motions of the barnacles feathery legs to filter feed. Heres another video I took showing more clearly the scooping but more blurry.

Closed "mouth" of the barnacles

Barnacles filter feeding! This is the first time I saw this. Still remembered our TA Ngan Kee told us the comical way they filter feed. Indeed, it was quite cute. Barnacles belonged to the phylum arthropods and sub-phylum Crusteceans. Thus they are more closely related to shrimps rather than the common misconception that they are bivalves of phylum Mollusks. Some more facts from wildsingapore, Chek Jawa guide. The larvae are shrimp-like and able to swim freely till they found a spot to attach themselves head down to a hard surface and develop a hard shell over it. They are usually hermaphrodites but they do not self-fertilize. Instead they have a tremendously long penis to reach and fertilize neighboring barnacles.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sungei Serangoon #1

Today girl went to my house and I thought of taking a short walk opposite this canal where I saw some kingfishers last time. I wasn't into making myself wet or bash into some mosquito infested forest this time so this seems to be a perfect outing. And it did turned out rather interesting.

Before we reached, we came by this. Some inconsiderate person threw his leftover mango seed on the grass and it attracted a small group of honey bees.

The canal (which I realised it to be Sungei Serangoon later), was huge and the government had built a park beside it so walking along wasn’t a problem. The only thing was that the weather was scorching hot in the afternoon.

Was quite angry with myself that I didn't bring along a bino again. Saw quite alot of birds there, little egrets, herons, black-naped orioles, eagles, kingfishers and some which I thought looked like bitterns. Haiz...but they were all opposite the bank so I can't see them clearly enough to provide a clearer description to dingli for identification.

Grey heron in flight

White throated Kingfisher (perched on railing) and a monitor lizard stalking it (red circle).

A pigeon quencing its thirst

The Japanese fish

The catch of my day was this. Here was a group of uncles on a fishing trip. And when we turned back after reaching the end of the canal, the uncles were pulling up their fishing net. They caught quite number of fishes which they told me are "日本 fish", or japanese fish and are edible. Can't seemed to find this fish on the net, anyone know their actual common name?

6th Jan~ Thanks to Hai Ren for the identification. Interestingly, I found this comment on wiki. "In Singapore, Oreochromis mossambicus was introduced from Java by the Japanese during World War II, hence its local names, "Japanese fish" and "Java fish"."

Entangled by the fishing net

I also saw this red-eared slider trapped among the netting. Haiz...thats the problem with fishing nets. I asked the uncle if I can free it and he said ok. The poor terrapin was gasping and struggling frantically as I torn off the lines. After I freed it, it scrambled down the canal only to be caught again by the net. =S And so I had to dragged it up again and released it, this time away from the net.

freed at last

Off the canal on the way back home, we came across this beautiful inflorescence among the grasses and I can't help using my macro lens again.

Help...Anybody know what plant is this?

I thought I will end this entry with this picture, again which I extensively cropped to make the heron visible. Nature is all around and hopefully they will survive well amidst all this frenzy of development nowadays.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


A few weeks back, on Dec 7, I took this picture on a roadside pongpong tree (Cerbera odollam). Looks pretty weird that the entire stretch of pongpong trees along the road had these bumps. I emailed prof Tan who helped me consult his friend at Nparks.

"Pimples on pongpong trunk"

Heres the reply; apparently its nothing to be a cause for concern and no definite answers for its appearance.

"Such structures are not limited to Cerbera odollam. You can see them on Samanea saman (rain tree), Swietenia macrophylla and quite a few of our common roadside trees. From experience, they are often associated with epicormic growth (mainly, they are points where water shoots proliferate). I suspect that they may be just "callus like" tissues which have not decide what they should be, probably due to hormonal imbalances?"

"We do know they are not indicators of internal rot or other structural inadequacies or anomalies. They also do not appear to give any added information on possible adverse tree health and is unlikely the result of pest attacks. As such, we have not dedicate much effort to elucidate the reasons behind the structure."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Macro shooting at Kusu

Today was a fine day. Good weather, no rain, not very hot and a good low tide finally. Kusu Island was my target for today, and probably one of my last adventure trips before the holidays ended. Made a silly mistake that today is not a public holiday thus messed up the boat timings… resulting in taking the 9am boat when the tide recedes at 4.30pm… Mm... the last and only time I went there was when I joined the BWV guide walk at 3am last July. Haa, the timing was horrible but that was my first experience of intertidal walk.

And so me and girl waited, and waited for time to pass and I took this opportunity to test my newly acquired supermacro lens, DCR250 for my underpowered canon A520. So began walking around the grass taking pictures of tiny flowers :p. Heres a nice one.

We also encountered some weird stuff and nice surroundings... There are quite a fair number of visitors around, mostly tourists and Indians. I wonder why so many Indians (just curious, I'm not racist). This island is so damn nice! Just like a nice little garden with a continous flow of cool sea breeze. I cannot imagine the day when this place is turned into a resort for the super rich.

A monitor lizard inside the turtle shelter?

Bonsai in the Tao temple and traveller's palms outside.

Wishing well pavilion A good time at the beach

Tide started to come down abit at 2pm and we started exploring. A nice surprise was that there were quite a number of fiddler crabs around. But it was so hard to get a good shot with my x4 zoom. Even the picture below I had to crop them to make it larger. Further down were a small group of mudskippers. Their jumping motions were really cute =). And this is the first time I saw that they have a reddish retractable sail on the dorsal side. Wonder what species are they.

Fiddler crabs

Cute mudskippers

Lots of spoon seagrass covering the lagoon floor. (Look, theres a tiny crab in the picture). Also home to this habitat were large amounts of these creeper shells. At first I thought they graze on the seagrasses but it was said that they are detrital feeders instead.

The beautifully designed polymorphic shell, Clithon oualaniensis. The shell patterns shows a huge variation among its species hence its name (check out this for a pictorial illustration). They are detritus and algae feeders.

Here was where I started going crazy using the macro lens. Quite cumbersome as I had to take it out and put it back again so many times and focusing also makes my back ache, not to mention taking pictures of shy creatures who don't stay put. From the quality of pictures I took, think theres still alot of room for improvement :( Can guess what are those below?

Snapping shrimp. They sure are good diggers. This one just took 5 sec to dig a hole away from me. Its also possible to hear the clicking sounds of their snapping there.

Spotted anything on the carpet anemone?

Anemone shrimp

rounded tips of tenacles of the carpet anemone

Long tube like tenacles of another large anemone

How to differentiate this from the omelette soft coral? Looks almost identical to me. But saw its central mouth and besides its tenacles closed up showed no individual polyps so this is probably an anemone. Mmm...been wondering about another question. How come we can safely touch these anemones without being stuck by their nematocyst? Why only the sticky feeling from their tenacles instead of pain?

Many fine feathers for filter feeding

Fan worms

See a reddish eye?

This one having a meal on its pincer.

The hairy crab, the master of camouflage. So docile them. But their legs are so sharp! ouch... Hairy crabs well, have alot of hairs all over their bodies to trap sediment on them, thus having the color and texture like its sandy, rocky habitat. The hairs also help to break the outline of its shape, making them less visible.

These were my biggest puzzle.

Found them covering an entire branching hard coral like some infestation. Later found similar ones on the other side of the shore behind the temple, with their polyps opened. >>

Mmm... Been wondering alot about zonathids lately. Are they these things?

This mess of slimely stuff should be zonathids ba. Got this gut feeling. But how to differentiate zoanthids from other corals or anemones besides them being colonial?

Many other interesting stuff that I saw, well, at least interesting to me...

Tube worm's home

Common Sea Star

Flowery soft coral, Dendronephthya sp.

False Clownfish, Amphiprion ocellaris

Snail. Mmm...whats with its one tenacle? shouldn't it have two?

Is this the flower of the spoon seagrass?

Menacing flower crabs all around the shore. Compared to the hairy crabs, they are good swimmers and will swim away quickly at the time rising their pincers protectively when approaching them. When cornered, they tried to hide and conceal themselves inside small sandy depressions and let the current wash a layer of sand over them. Must say it was rather effective, at least towards me.

Lots of pictures of corals that I dun have a clue what they are called. Well, I'll try to take closer pictures of them next time to identify them. Headache ar... But at least saw lots of corals today xD Mmm...wonder also why never saw any nudibranches before. Must be my eyes not trained enough to spot them. Also hope kind soul can answer my questions earlier.

Some of the beautiful corals I saw

Living corals and rubble

Today could be a marvellous day if not for eating and swallowing a chunk of uncooked chicken meat from long john silvers during dinner =S.

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