Friday, March 30, 2007

Nesting Bloom!

An amazing day for me, as its not everytime I can get to see 3 bird's nest in a row! Including the sunbird's nest I saw last time, I had saw 4 nests in NUS in a week!

An oriental white eye. A very chubby but tiny bird of maybe about 10cm. It was named due to its white ring surrounding the eye. Infact, its genus name of Zosterops means "girdle eye" in greek. It was nesting on a sea almond tree.

The common, but charismatic yellow vented bulbul. Nesting on a fern.

The stunningly beautiful pink-necked green pigeon, on a Simpoh-Air. Males are colorful with their characteristic pink neck while the females are uniformly green. (Update) Saw the female bird today, seems like they both taking turns to incubate?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pereskia grandifolia

I was surprised when I passed by the shrubby Pereskia bleo again. I saw a flower, but eh, its not the typical rosy red flower that I saw some time back! More on Pereskia bleo

It has purple pink petals, yellow stamens (male parts) and white pistils (female parts). Totally different from the flower I saw previously. I had thought at first that this plant is monoeious (separate male and female flowers on a same plant) but it cant be since both reproductive organs are on a single flower. And won't be economical to produce 2 different flowers serving the same purpose I guess.

A search in the net shows that this flower belongs to another closely related cacti, Pereskia grandifolia (hope I din mis-ID). Looking more closely, its leaves do look different from Pereskia bleo, being more smooth and less wrinkled. Think my neighbor planted multiple mixture of seedlings causing them to grow so close together that I can't differentiate.

Pereskia grandifolia (also known as Rose Cactus) has similar medicinal properties as Pereskia bleo. This genus is widely known scientifically as being the primitive cacti genus that has not evolve to grow in arid conditions. This is seen by their persistant leaves and non-succulent, woody stems.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Trip to Sekudu

Wow, its indeed refreshing to smell the fresh seawater and the open sea. This will probably be the only time I can afford to go for more trips before my exams. hai..

Sekudu is one of my most wanted to see offshore islands, mm, mainly becos of the frog boulder (will talk abt it later). It lies close to Pulau Ubin and in visible range to Chek Jawa. Heard fr Ron that this trip was planned for the Republic Poly sea cucumber team who wanted to have a look here.
Some satellite images from Google Earth, showing the tiny island Pulau Sekudu at the South and part of Ubin up North with CJ at the East side of Ubin.
Scaling up, the place looks barren and practically lifeless, with only some large boulders visible. Well, but as the famous saying always goes, we shouldnt judge things by its surface. The frog island is teeming with life too.

Sun was not up when we reached, which me and Dickson was rather unprepared for (no torches). Luckiy Alvin lend us one and also the sun came soon after.

The first thing that caught my attention is this abandoned fish trap left there. On closer inspection, a dead file fish was found. Theres a live thunder crab in there too!

Ria suggested getting it out and we managed to get a small opening from the wire mesh. Then came the great battle as Ron tried to poke the creature out with the metal chopsticks. The ungrateful crab, kept snapping at Ron and Alvin but finally it was out, but still pretty tramatised, with its huge crushing pincers up and ready for another round of fight. Think that picture will be seen in tidechaser, wildfilms or blue heaven's blog soon.

Haiz :( Here was when I lost grip of my cam and the flash is gone..... My trusty compact cam.... Perhaps its an indication I should change to a new one. But still rather depressed abt it. +_+'' The pict above was taking later without flash and after the crab had calm down.

Also found a slug that Ron ID as the XXX seahare (to be confirm ;p). Seahares still have remains of a shell under their skin and internal gills, unlike nudibranchs. They also have 2 wavy sails along their back.

Another one that Alvin found wrapping itself tightly. Some strange yellowish insides sparked Ron's curosity.

A toadfish, in the same puddle with the seahare. Alvin tried to make a film of toadfish feeding by dropping a fish into the puddle but apparently it had no appetite that time, even wen we tried maneuver the fish towards it using the multi-purpose chopsticks (sux, still cant find where sells it).
fish bait for the toadfish

A pair of mating flower crabs just beside the seahare too.

Egg capsules of spiral melongena? Looks like it, with the notched tips.

A rather hairy filefish or leatherjacket. They were named due to their rough skin.

Fan Shells seems to be very common at sekudu. This bivalves have much of their tapered ends in the sand with only their razor sharp mouth sticking out. This is one sure reason to tell pple to wear footwear when visiting the intertidals. :)

Healthy signs of recovery. All the carpet anemones are looking well. And spotted quite a few miniature size baby carpets (placed my booties beside for a size gauge). Ron mentioned about the wealth of pencil sea urchins, blue sponges, nudibranchs before the freshwater impact from johor straits. Pity can't see them now.

Din really go all out to search for interesting stuff today cos kept fiddling with my camera to try to get it working. But as with all trips, always have a first time, like the seahare, filefish and crabs having sex.

Being my first trip here, of cos, I must pay a visit to the iconic frog statue in Sekudu. Pulau Sekudu, also known as frog island, is said to be named due to a swimming competition btw a pig, elephant and frog to reach Johor. All 3 animals did not make it and the frog turned into sekudu while the other 2 form Pulau Ubin.

Such a broad grin :D Sometimes vandalism does bring abt a sense of identity to a place doesn't it? Just as the "broken soul cliff" at Sentosa too.

And back to shore, where we had a short breakfast at Changi Village and I had to rush back school to prepare for my annual guitar concert. Man, marvellous concert it was (best in my 3 yrs in GENUS), as all the songs are pretty audience-friendly and dramatic. Now I wished I had forced some pple to go for it.

update>> hey my camera's flash is back!!! yeaaa

Sunbird's Nest

Just 2 days back, Dingli showed me a finding, a sunbird's nest in NUS! The nest was hanging on just on a stung of wire. I cant believe that it was built at such an obvious spot where any1 can see it. But cos of I'm not going to say where it was. ;p

Peeking inside, there were a few babies (look at the yellow beak). Aren't there adorable? Hope they can survive to become adults.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Rose.... Cactus?

On the day when I first chatted with the cat auntie, she pointed out a short shrub on the grass patch alongside the pavement. She said this was planted by her neighboor and it had many medical properties, even anti-cancerous ones!

The Rose Cactus, Pereskia bleo is its name, from the family cactus. Yup, although it doesn't look like one but it is a cactus. According to wiki, this genus is the only one having persistant non-succulent leaves.

Thorns extending out. You can noticed many leaf scars here, as many neighbors had pluck them out for consumption, according to cat auntie. The leaves can be eaten raw or taken as a concoction brewed from dried plant. It was also believed to have anti-tumour, anti-rheumatic, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory activities. A study conducted showed that it may contain bioactive compound(s) to induce cell death of cancerous cells.

This was the reason that I posted this entry so late. Been waiting so long for it to flower! But sadly this is the best I can get. But now you know why its called rose cactus. =)

Updated 17 march~

Yeaaa! Finally saw a blooming flower of the cactus. My daily visits are not wasted :) Isnt it beautiful?

Updated 18 Mar~

Heres the fruit of the rose cactus. Kindly given by Samson, or aka Mantamola :) The flower is beautiful while the fruit looks cute ;p Mmm, seems like this plant is more common then I thought. Saw it again as a potted plant near NUS just now. But well, even the experts have to be sua ku some time before becoming who they are :)

Ty for Joe lai for the ID.
Ref: Methanolic extract of Pereskia bleo (Kunth) DC. (Cactaceae) induces apoptosis in breast carcinoma, T47-D cell line. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 96 (2005) 287–294

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Persian Stray Cat

3 days back, I found this Persian cat when walking from Fair field Primary to NUS. At first I thought the owner had taken it out for a walk so didn't think much about it. Later in the night, when me and girl walked back to the same place, we found it there again! Mmm... this is the first time I see a persian stray. Probably abandoned by some irresponsible owner. Hope theres some care-giver taking care of it now.

Pigeon Orchids in bloom

Seems like the pigeon orchid season is here. Many of them along clementi road had flowered in the past few weeks and heres one in NUS Science. (FYI they flower when there is a sudden drop 5 degree lower than norm temp, at least thats what I heard). Pretty orchids and I really appreciate the govt for planting them. Don't just slp next time on the bus! Watch out for them.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Changi Beach Walk

It was definitely refreshing to go on another field trip today, amid all the depression I was having, school projects, criticism, bad luck and others. Was on an ultimate low mood these days. As part of my ecology practical, we went inside a small secondary forest just next to Changi ferry terminal to do our sampling and were out in less then half an hour. The rest of the time was spent strolling along the coastline, while listening to my TA Lainie talk about the interesting coastal flora.

But somehow, my mind lingered off to the marine stuff more. After the practical, I stayed behind as it was nearer to take bus home from here. And so, taking this chance, I took a long walk along the beach to see if I can get lucky.

Intricate Button Shells of varying patterns and colors. It is said that none of them is identical!

A small cute sand bubbler crab resting on my hand.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of holes at the sandy shore. Basically, there seems to be 2 distinctly different ones. One bigger with larger balls dug out and another with smaller balls. What live in there?

The occupant of the smaller holes. An even smaller crab, possibly a sand bubbler crab. They feed on debris present on the sand grains. These grains were then rolled up to tiny balls.

Along the walk, I also saw some crab shells. This looks like the exoskeleton of the moon crab.

Fishes, alot of them along the way, but all were dead and most partly decomposed.
Bottom left, what looked like a mudskipper, with its eyes situated on top its head. Bottom right, a pufferfish, with its beak like teeth. Some puffers contained a powerful neurotoxin, called tetrotoxin also found in the blue-ringed octopus, located primarily in their livers and ovaries. The toxin blocks sodium channels in the nervous tissues (impt for generating nervous impulses), ultimately paralyzing the muscle tissue.

And more dead fishes, which I can't ID.

More dead stuff, a lump of jellyfish. It might be dead but its nematocyst can still sting.

Another one, which looks like of a different sp.

The second carcass of horseshoe crab which I found.

As I neared SAF ferry terminal, the intertidal zone opens out more seawards and I was pretty excited about it cos I had been wanting to come here. Is this the place that u and Luan Keng were telling me last time at the prata shop, Ron?

The shore expands out to the sea. I supposed it will go further as low tide is only 0.9m today.

Finally seeing some live stuff, but all were crustaceans. A swimming crab meancing its pincers when I disturbed it from under a brick.

A small crab which tried to buried under the sand when it saw me. But played dead when I scooped it up.

And finally a striped hermit crab inside a spiral melongena shell.

Lastly, I found 2 endoskeletons of the sea urchins, also called tests.

A pretty nice walk, I must say. Although my jeans, shoes and socks were totally soaked. Still don't really enjoy getting wet and do grumble abit even though I had gone for quite a few trips now. =)

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Eco Trip #4: Gunung Belumut

Since this is not in singapore, I shouldn't write such a long entry. Gunung Belumut is a hill in Malaysia and we were here to collect samples and record data of two freshwater streams, one at a plantation and another further upstream inside the recreational forest.

A horseface loach, Acantopsis choirorhynchos. Native to swift clear streams and likes burrowing in sand or gravel.

Dragonfly Larvae. Had long seen it in books but this is the first time I'm seeing it. Look at its huge zigzag jaws!

A serene view of the stream.
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