Monday, May 28, 2007

Pitcher hunting

A short but interesting walk at NUS to hunt for some photo-friendly pitchers with KS. It wasnt that hard to find them as I was shown where they were during my ecology class and pretty abundant too. Pitcher plants are fascinating I'm sure to anyone, (I was so excited when shown by Lainie and Jinghui), being so cute and their carnivorous nature.

Pitcher plants are known in chinese as (zhu long cao) pige cage plants due to their shape resemblance to those pig cages of the past. Tropical pitcher plants (Old world pitchers) also have a cute name of monkey's cup as they had been seen quenching their thirst from this cup-shaped structure.

The adinandra belukar forest there is an acidic and low nutrient secondary forest. Pitcher plants can survive well in such places as they can obtain their nutrients through carnivory. Rem hearing from one lecturer that, the pitcher will not form if grown in well nourished soils.

Lotsa young ones on the ground

Nepenthes rafflesiana are very common here! Yup... it was named after our founder, Sir Stamford Raffles. In fact, as I was browsing, there were quite a number of flora and fauna named in honour of him. Apparently besides making here a busy port, he was also a biology enthusiast.

The parasitic flowering plants had also a whole genus named after him! The biggest individual flower in the world, Rafflesia arnoldii was also within the group. As shown above, adventurous Dingli taking a picture with the rare plant. Wonder hows hes doing over at Borneo? nw.

Tendrils of the pitchers (of tropical pitchers) will eventually grow into the pitcher trap, so the structure is actually a modified leaf.

Half rotten upper pitcher. Learnt from Ron and Budak that the plant actually have two differing pitchers. The upper pitcher of N. rafflesiana is thinner and slender. This is to trap winged insects or animals attracted to their nectary lure.

The lower pitchers of the N. rafflesiana are fatter and larger in size, often resting on the ground. It also have characteristic "wings" at the front, which is thought to serve as a guide for crawling insects leading to the nectar. The nectaries are located mainly along the "lips" (peristome) and underside of the "roof" of the pitcher.

They capture their prey by a pitfall trap, with slippery sides & grooves / hairs arranged so they cant climb back up. Eventually they will drown and be digested in the liquid present within the cavity.

N. rafflesiana has quite a few varieties and their pitcher size varies too, which can grow to a very large size, a record of 35cm. The largest species is N. rajah which is endemic in Mt. Kinabalu.

Each pitcher plant is either male or female bearing raceme (arranged vertically) infloresences. Right showing the inflorescene (duno their sex) and left the fruits?

There was another species of pitcher plant there, possibly the lower pitcher of N. gracilis. This was more interesting as it was so small that it took us awhile squirming our eyes to spot them. A 50 cent coin was placed for scale.

Macro view showing clearly the "wings".

More interesting and informative entries on pitchers
1) Budak
2) Earth
3) Nparks

Lastly... no poaching pls!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lost in Punggol

Din feel like going school today cos results will be out later the day. But staying at home with nothing to do is too unbearable for me either. So I thought I of visiting Punggol and also see what Pulau Serangoon is like. Perhaps it is an uninhabited island full of wildlife? We shall see later.

Punggol is still largely undeveloped even though the LRT system had already been built around the uninhabitable parts. In fact for those living nearby and learning driving from private instructors, this is the place they will bring them for initial test driving cos of the low traffic.

Some flowering plants common there. (Clockwise) A purple morning glory; their flowers open up during in the morning and curls during afternoon as seen in the picture. Clitoria sp flower. KS told me that this flower was rather uncommon now but it can be found everywhere! The roots of this flower has some medicinal properties but forgot lao...enlighten me again KS?

The 3rd flower, I'm not sure but knows that bees like to visit it. Fourth one is the mimosa, with their foldable leaflets sensitive to touch.

Multicolored Lantana sp. flowers. Although pretty, they are highly toxic!

Lucky there was a pathway going inside. This is what I call a red carpet welcome, with grasses growing as tall as me and swaying in the breeze. :)

Some succulent fruits of creeping and climbing plants. Looks like miniature water melons and cucumbers to me. Wonder if they are edible. The ants seemed to like the former, all the orange ripen fruits were eaten, leaving only the skin.

Sungei Punggol. Seems to be a site for water sports. Quite a few boats with angmohs water skiing.

Pulau Serangoon aka Coney Island in the distance. Haiz...din expect it to be another Jurong Island. Read from NLB website that it was unhabitated and a location for migratory birds...Guess it have some updating to do.

Update>> I think I might have mistaken the distant land for Coney Island. That might be Johor instead. Will check it out the next time to confirm.

A moth, duno its ID. Remembered it was very common when I was still small but seem to hardly see it now. Update >> apparently is a day flying moth with a wasp mimic.

Lots of birds seen and heard today, but too bad my camera optical zoom is rather inferior and I forgot to bring my binoculars. Hopefully I can capture better pictures after I purchase my new camera, powershot A710 next week. Current camera officially down lao, and too expensive to repair. :(

Some kind of parrot or cockatoo, judging by their noisy chatter. Theres alot of them around here!

A stunningly beautiful bird, pity I cant get closer for a clearer picture. Anyone can ID? Else have to wait for a mth for Dingli to come back from Borneo... Update >> the bird is called long tailed shrike.

Yes, ultimately, walking aimlessly around without a decent map (only draw a rough one showing LRT lines...), I got lost... Spent the next hour dragging my body down the road before giving up and got on bus 82.

At the bus loop, it reached a small jetty where a few excited students await for the ferry to bring them to outward bound in ubin. So this is the place...srry I was too nerdy in the past to take part in all this activies ;p

Update >> This exact spot is also the National Heritage Site, aka Punggol Beach Massacre Site where about 400 Chinese civilians were killed by the Japanese in 1942 (WWII). This is part of a larger mass extermination of Chinese who oppose the Japanese (Sook Ching massacre) .

Nothing exciting or marvellous pictures to share in this entry but its cos I wasnt observant enough, not cos theres nothing much here. Will be back again wen I got a bike so can cover more ground :)

Anyway, my results turned out to be...superb!!! lolz... at least well above my expectations :D

Cannons at HDB?

Was walking around the neighborhood looking for a bicycle shop. Thinking of purchasing one even though my parents was violently against it, which I cant understand till now. haiz...

That aside, I came by this wayside tree and its large pink flowers caught my eye. They looked marvellous! And the interesting thing is that they sprout out all at the main trunk under the canopy, which makes the sight more amazing.

Consulted my Nparks 1001 garden plants guidebk and it turned out to be called the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis) introduced from tropical America. Interesting name right? But why is it called cannonball?

The fruits of this tree actually look like cannonball! Unfortunately, there wasnt any fruits there now for a sample picture but I remembered one of the nature blogs did showcased it. Anyone know where so I can link it?

Update >> Thanx to Samson for providing the pictures :) Look at those cannonballs! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Garang warriors at CJ Day 3, transect

Was rather prepared to get down right dirty and thirsty today but it was more than what I expected. Today was my 3rd day at Chek Jawa; me & Kok sheng's 5th consecutive intertidal trip; and today marks his first transect for his project. Today is also the international day for biodiversity! Heard its a public holiday in other countries... Y not here? It will be good to declare such meaningful holiday and create awareness.

Besides me and KS, there were also 3 of his friends who came to help out. A few back out last minute, giving him more headache to the already lack of manpower. I almost didnt wake up in time cos forgotten to set my alarm. Lucky my bio clock did its work.

Me reading GPS. I was rather stunned to hear Ria telling us at Changi point terminal (beachfleas going Sekudu at the same day) that this handy and tiny GPS has an error rate of 10m! Erm...I will pretend not to hear that.

My parther Khairul, meticulously taking the eastings to line the transect line. He was one garang warrior, not bringing any pants or footwear to change and kept getting his feet stuck in the mud at the seagrass lagoon. The only way to get out of it was to dig out his foot using bare hands. Lucky I have my trusty booties...

Raymond, another from team seagrass and weilin, the other pair taking the remaining 3 transects out of the 6. Weini was the 2nd garang warrior, also frequently getting stuck in the mud. Heard that she even fell down on the mud! But she kept on the positive side and her hearty nature brought some warmth to our tiredness.

And of cos our captain, KS running here and there to monitor and assist us. Heheh, u took this photo urself KS? Looks really imposing.

Wading through the muddy intertidals. My high ankled booties totally sunk inside.

Team seagrass gave us the fundamentals for doing the transect so it wasnt that hard. Btw sorry for not attending monitoring sessions for so long.

Din have the time luxury and time to go exploring today but we did some random shots. Here was a dog having some fun running about the far end of CJ shores.

Thick black smoke raising out from Changi. KS thought some accident had occured at the airport and I thought I might just take a picture to sell to the press ;p

A sudden thunderstorm just after we finished everything but nevertheless, still soaked.

Spent quite a long time cleaning and untangling the measuring tapes...

All in all, an extremely tiring, hot and wet day for us but a rewarding treat of fried horfun from KS makes me forgot about it. :) Got a nice dark tan too, but I was rather displeased by the bra lining look-alike tan that was form from wearing my singlet. =_= Have to wait for the next diving trip to even it.

Thanx to KS for providing most of the photos. Watchout his blog, wonderful creations for updates on this.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chek Jawa day II, Recee

Dragging our tired bodies to Changi for the 2nd day and 4nd intertidal trip. Sitting at Changi point jetty basement waiting for people to come, we saw a huge black cloud came over from the east and engulf the whole of Changi, and Pulau Ubin. Rain started to pour as we board the boat. Not a very good start...

I was always very unprepared for rain. Lucky Kok sheng had prepared an extra poncho for me and a ziplock to protect my electronics...phew. At Ubin, I again endured the butt pain (from yest bike ride) and challenging up slopes as Kok sheng went far ahead of me. Well, felt good in some way as I was in need of exercise too. ;p

We explored the southern arm of the sandbar which was also affected by the freshwater input last dec & jan. We found a few large carpets here.

There were also quite a number of very small baby carpets there. Could this be a sign of recovery? Lets hope so. (My chopsticks were put there for scale)

Peacock anemones were all retracted back into their homes, perhaps to escape from the rainwater. Could this flexibility be the reason for them surviving better than the carpets? Not a single one was seen with their tentacles flowering and waving about.

A dead bivalve is a perfect round hole drilled into it. I always wonder how it got there when I was small (used to collect shells last time..opps). Apparently, it was created by the Moon snail which secrete acid to soften the shell and obtain the soft flesh inside.

Juvenile catfishes! Theres always something new each time :)

Mussels finding their new home at the new boardwalk.

The common resident of CJ, the huge stripped hermitcrab.

So many cake sand dollars!!! Gosh... Sand dollars are related to starfishes with mouth located at the centre and underside. They are detritus feeders.

Lastly, some beautiful and cute fiddler crabs. The males have one of their pincers enlarged several times, which is used for mating purposes; by waving it to their mates. They are not used for fighting or feeding.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Aftermath of Chek Jawa 1

My 3rd consecutive intertidal trip today...woa, its kinda fun though extremely tiring and takes up the remainder of my time (resting). Need to start reading up on my own honours project lao after this trips.

Today went to help out kok sheng in his UROPS project (on Chek Jawa) with Mr Siva as his supervisor. Managed to take the first bus to Changi, phew...thanx to kok sheng for pushing back the time or have to take cabby again.

The far left end of Changi Beach is lined with seagrasses. Worth to explore the next time.

Upon reaching Ubin we scrambled to our allocated bikes arranged by Nparks and cycled quickly to CJ. Woa...this is really a hell ride for me man. Never knew my leg muscles are so weak one. Soo exhausted when I reach CJ.

We went over to the coral rubble and found Ron and other CJ volunteers there, who were already exploring since 5 plus (we reached almost 8am).

Just in time to see them found a Melo melo. If i recalled correctly, it is also called the Bailer shell cos pple use to use these shells to bail water out of their boats. [Edit] Mmm, sorry a mistake, this is supposed to be the noble volute also =_+

Ron also showed us 2 stranded Copperband butterflyfishes. Apparently they were trapped in a bubu (fish cage).

They have a false eye at its tail end and its real eye is hidden by a copper band running across it. It was said that this will enable the predator to bit at the wrong end at the tail, thus allowing the fish to escape with minor injuries. For predators that prey from behind, they will be tricked to approach from its "rear" end, which is actually the front, thus allowing the fish to detect this danger and escape, spoiling the element of surprise

A red cowrie on a sea fan which I will surely miss if Chay Hoon didnt tell me about this. Can tell me its ID again? srry for my lack of memory.

kok sheng's focus is on carpet anemones since thats what his project is on. There were soooo many carpets at the other half of CJ! Looks like the rainy period did not affect this area.

Huge carpets, first time seeing such big ones. Must be older than me.

And more...

And more!

And there were also many peacock anemones around around CJ. Such a variety of colors!



And seemingly glowing green ones too.

I spotted this small little fish inside a puddle, about 3-4cm. Is this a toadfish, but I never seen such a small one before. As I flipped over the rock in that same puddle, I found a toadfish, this time im much sure with its big mouth and eyes and bigger size. So is that one above a baby?

Lots of ball sea cucumbers buried in the sand, I even found some at the northern sand bar. Btw, the part with exudes water is its anus right Ron?

Found four such sea stars during our exploration. Are they the biscuit seastars?

Slipper limpets hiding inside a Melo melo shell. These so-called limpets are actually not related to limpets (they just look like them). The interesting thing about it is that they stack on top of each other. The younger ones are males and when they get older, they will change their sex to females (aka protandrus hermaphrodites). Hence, the bottom most ones are the females and the upper most ones are the males.

The fearsome thundercrab, though I find it rather adorable nowadays. Learnt from the boatmen of my lab that they are actually edible, but only its pincers. Yup, some of my older labmates had sampled and survived so its probably true.

A bivalve with its siphon extended. It is actually sorta the feeding and breathing aparatus for the animal where water containing food and O2 is transport in and filtered.

Kok sheng hard at work

A crab covered with so many sand particles, algae and barnacles that I cant even ID it.

A close relative of Melo melo, the noble volute, with its attractive moutain designs on its shell.

Guess what we found?? A dead naked hermit crab! Yes yes, this is what will happen when u take the pretty shell home to display and rot there. Why not leave it where it is and let the hermit crabs have a home? Else they will all turned up like this.

Mass orgy of hermit crabs. Fighting for shells perhaps? Yes, another reminder not to take shells home or this will occur.

Exploring aside, we also went hunting abt the northern side of CJ for carpets for kok sheng's project, but only found a pitiful few. Nearly dehyrated there, tml tink will bring 2 waterbottles instead of one. And we dragged our tired bodies back to the jetty, braving those up-sloped roads again.

Back at the hawker centre, I found this signboard from a seafood stall. Hey we can all find them in our beautiful Singapore shores! (Stingray, sotong, Gonggong, prawn, chilli crab, mussels, cockles, flower crab and grouper fish)

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