Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fruits of Bukit Timah

A backlog only posted now as I needed help in ID-ing these forest fruits. I was helping MS again at BTNR again for his surveys two weeks ago.


It was really a good time to see lots of interestingly shaped fruits, especially the shuttlecock shaped ones. The above shows the Keruing, Dipterocarpus caudatus ssp. penangianus. Left: matured, centre: immature and seed eaten up, right: a mutated form of the fruit.


Some others, from the left, Ptericymbium tubulatum (Malvaceae), Shorea curtisii (Dipterocapaceae), Shorea leprosula, Vatica odorata (Dipterocapaceae).


And also other intricately shaped fruits dispersed by the wind. Top & left: Pentace triptera (Malvaceae), while the other two belong to some unknown climbers.


At a particular location in the forest, it was covered with many Kokoona reflexa (Celastraceae) fruits. Some were already germinating and I found this pair looking like rabbit ears.


It was also the season for our native jackfruit (Artocarpus lanceifolius) and the long-tailed macaques were greedily gorging them high up the tree and throwing the leftovers on the forest floor. We had to duck carefully to avoid being bombed.

MS found this Spiny Terrapin (Heosemys spinosa) crawling slowly on the forest floor.

He mentioned that most of the time, big ticks were stuck on them and sure enough, there was one at the hind leg. Luckily none of those were on me during my previous horrifying tick encounter.


As John had helpfully pointed out, "these are the common Asian honeybee Apis cerana, which can indeed sting, although they are generally not aggressive if not provoked."


Of course, the star of the trip was when we were back at the counter. Apparently, someone had rescued a juvenile Colugo, Galeopterus variegatus and passed it to Nparks for safekeeping. Isn’t it super adorable? However, the sad news when I went back again last week was that it had refused to be fed and had died… Alas…

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nocturnal Changi

Today I decided to go the end of Changi Beach for a short predawn intertidal trip. Glad to have the company of Diana and also getting a free ride to and fro from her.


The first creature we saw was a Horned Ghost Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) that seemed to be have one disabled eye.


Another common crustaceans was the Moon Crab (Ashtoret lunaris). These rounded crabs have eight paddle legs, allowing them to slice with ease into the sand for a quick concealment.


The Bladder Moon Snails (Polinices didyma) were all active at this unearthly hour searching for it’s next meal.


I was glad to see a Thorny Sea Cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) extending it’s feeding tentacles like a blooming flower.

This leopard-skin sea cucumber is very abundant on the shore; we saw at least 20 of them! It’s a pity that an ID have not been placed on it yet. Update: This cucumber has been identified as Holothuria ocellata, possibly a new record in Singapore (though it had been spotted frequently prior to this).


I found this dead flower crab which was already surrounded by it’s scavengers, the Dog Whelks (Nassarius sp.). They can apparently very sensitive to dead matter through the use of their long siphon.


The Sand Stars (Astropecten sp.) is another echinoderm very common on the shore probably due to the abundance of button shells which they are known to feed on.


Some Slipper Limpets (Crepidula sp.) occupied a Noble Volute shell together with an Orange Stripped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus).

White short spine sea urchins (Salmacis sp.) littered the seagrass habitat, grazing on the vegetative cover.


We were also excited to see several big prawns crawling about the sandy floor.


There was also an sea anemone that was detached and floating aimlessly in the water.


Sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) feed on tiny detritus and animals found in the sand.


True to its name, the File Fish (Possibly Chaetodermis penicilligerus) have a rough skin that can give a nasty cut as I experienced when I tried to released one from a trap.


Lastly, a live troughshell, Mactra mera with a tiny bit of siphon sticking out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cheng T’ng

I am back at Bukit Timah Hill again. Was actually here with MS to help him with his CTFS surveys last week but I have not blogged about that yet, since needed his help for some IDs.

It is really a good time to visit BTNR now as it is the masting season, where lots of big trees will flower and fruit. One of these trees is Scaphium macropodum.

Here is the tree that can be seen just along the main trail at the start of Keruing Path.


Here is a close up of the fruit cluster.


The fruit is made up of a papery wing that aids in seed dispersal and at one end, a hard pericarp that encapsulates a seed. The wing structure causes it to spin, slowing it’s movement to the ground thus allowing it to move further away from the parent tree by the wind.


The seed when placed in hot water produces an edible jelly that is used in our local dessert, Cheng T’ng. I tried it, but unfortunately only managed to get a little jelly popping out here and there as shown in the picture.

Nparks happen to have a meeting here too and I met Adelle with her civet cat that was rescued at Ubin. Man, it was really damn adorable!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bomb Shell

I was on my way to Botanical Gardens last Friday for the lecture on Mangrove Insects. Unfortunately, I am not a frequent visitor here and ended up stopping at the other end of it. After walking aimlessly in big detour covered in sweat and realising that I started in at the opposite end, I decided to turn back since dark clouds were looming over me.

I was trying to enjoy the scenery and not to be too pissed about myself when I saw an Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis) flying over me and then perching on a tree branch. It was holding something between it’s beak and I dismissed it as some nesting material and walked on.


Suddenly, the bird flew, this time in front of me and dropped the object on the road. Making a U turn, it landed and was seemingly investigating it when it flew away, probably startled by my presence.

I went forward for a closer look and realised that it was a common land snail (Quantula striata). So the bird was trying to break open the shell to feed on the soft body. Though I’m not surprised to see it doing that, but its still interesting to see it first-hand.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

12 Jul St. John’s Intertidal Walk

I am back on another guiding trip with RMBR and this time I am leading a corporate group from Gammon Construction.


The weather had not been good for the past few days and a torrential rain was threatening to fall when we first started off to the island. Luckily, it only rained on the mainland.

I must first apologise for the lack in photos as many of them were very low quality thus unusable. It is always hard to take good ones during guiding.


We headed straight to the rocky cliff where we have a few interesting discoveries. First up was this flatworm, Pseudoceros sp.. Some species are known to practise the art of penis fencing so as to impregnate their partner without being stab and fertilise by the other and inheriting the cost of being a pregnant female.


An attractive fiery Fireband Murex (Chicoreus torrefactus) is a predatory snail that drills through shelled molluscs and suck out the flesh of the animal.


The hunter seekers managed to find a small black Sea Urchin (Diadema setosum). These spiny animals have a dorsal orange anal spot surrounding by five eye spots. They are very sensitive to light and their spines can hover and point in the direction of your hand if your shadow is over it.


Here is a Turban Shell (Turbo bruneus) with its rounded and polished lid which is used to clamp and enclose the shell’s opening tightly.

A Soldier Crab (Dotilla myctiroides) is an interesting crab that can walk forward unlike most crabs that can only walk sideways. I guess this has a lot to do with their leg anatomy; and walking sideways also allows burrowing crabs to creep in their narrow holes without getting stuck.

The find of the day is definitely this Mud Spiny Lobster (Panulirus polyphagus). It was found by my participants and I had initially thought that they were joking when they told me about it. Turned out to be a real one except that it was just the moult. This is enough to brighten my day though! Thanks to Richard for taking this candid shot of me using his DSLR.


And thus, we ended our walk by going to to TMSI for a short tour looking at Lionel’s coral nubbins and other stuff. :)

Eat Shit

HF and me are back in Central Catchment for the same reason, the banded leaf monkeys. Pity we didn’t manage to see them again though, even after sitting and waiting for a few hours. Instead we had a bunch of buzzing companions beside us…


Some things can be tasty for others even though not seemingly so for us. We found two blowflies gorging head first into the faecal matter together with a pool of their smaller cousins.

Coprophagy is the term for the the consumption of faeces. Besides flies, many other animals are also known to eat shit. Rabbits consume their partially digested vegetative diet to extract more nutrients. Juvenile elephants and hippos eat the faeces of their mothers to inherit good intestinal bacteria. Lizards, rats,hamsters, beetles and dogs are also known to do that. Perhaps we humans are actually the odd one out? ^^

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monkey Business

I was definitely glad to go with SD into the forest even though I was already pretty fatigued from guiding at St. John’s Island in the morning.

IMG_4648While strolling along the main road, we heard some rustle and saw a small group of young Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis). They were eating the fruits of the Giant Macaranga (Macaranga grandifolia).

IMG_4651Good to see them surviving off food from the wild rather than the snacks from people. The latter will cause them to raid and beg from humans, causing significant nuisances at times.

IMG_4658However, this is not the main highlight of this trip. While chatting away, we heard another loud rustle and saw the second native monkey of Singapore, the Banded Leaf Monkey (Presbytis femoralis) leaping away from us! These beautiful animals are very endangered here, with a suspected 20 or even less individuals left.

Here is a video of one of them feeding on the leaves. Pity I can only take a silhouette of it though. We sat there for about 30 minutes observing them till they were gone. You can check out more video footages from HF's website. She is doing her research on these primates now. If you have any sightings of them, please kindly inform her to help in her research and conservation of these animals. 

IMG_4665During that time, SD noticed a cute Spiny Terrapin (Heosemys spinosa) crawling in front of us.

IMG_4677Last but not least, we saw a Forest Snakehead (Channa lucius) guarding it’s young that were sleeping near the surface. These fishes are often captured to be kept in aquariums and it is good to see them still surviving in the wild.

We also got to see a big snake that lashed away right in front of us and gave us a huge fright. Unfortunately, it slithered too fast and we were unable to ID it. An extremely good day rambling in the forest.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rambling at Mandai

SD and me were at Night Safari today with DL who was doing a bird survey there. Interesting to be there in bright daylight instead of the dark when it is open to the public.

While waiting for them to come, I sat beside a peahen for company. Unfortunately, it decided to do it's "business" then (can you see the dropping?)...

Anyway, we were standing in front of the Cape Buffaloes' (Syncerus caffer) exhibit watching some woodpeckers and a barbet while these huge animals watch us curiously. It was pretty comical looking at their expression but don't be fool, these guys are actually the top 5 killers in Africa and we learnt that a vet here had a near miss experience with one of them.
I am not very into non-local flora and fauna, especially those in enclosures so I will not blog about them today. It is not possible for me to take any pictures with my camera too. Anyway, me and SD decided to visit the nearby Nature's Niche at Orchidville and he suggested walking there while seeing if there are any interesting things along the way.

He pointed to me a small group of Lesser Dog-Faced Fruit Bat (Cynopterus brachyotis) roosting above our heads. These flying mammals are active at night feeding on nectar and fruits.

We saw a Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) scrambling up a roadside tree while nodding it's head. I wonder what that signifies.

There was a nice view of Seletar Reservoir and we headed down for a closer look. The water was covered in a mass of green, a sign of eutrophication. There were also white foam floating along the edges of the water body.

An at the exposed flats, many fishes of the same species laid dead. Could this be the result of the algae or pollution? What fishes are these also? Update: These fishes appeared to be Eartheater Cichlids (Geophagus altifrons). Thanks to Ivan for the ID.

Nearby, I found a little wild flower growing among the grasses that I have not seen before. Can anyone help?

Lastly, while strolling along Mandai Road, SD discovered this large Dipterocarp fruit on the pathway! This means that there is actually a mature tree somewhere near us! The fruit can spiral like a helicopter using it's wings, helping to aid the dispersal of the seed it carries.

We tried searching for it's ID in Nature's Niche and I thought it looked like Dipterocarpus kunstleri from a Nature's Watch article. WF also suggested that it could be Dipterocarpus cornutus which was recorded by Ridley in Mandi some time back. I guess it will be awhile for us to see these strange looking fruits next time, since the mass flowering of these trees had just passed.
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