Sunday, October 26, 2008

The other side of St John Island

Shore explorers like me love the different islands of Singapore because we simply have lots of marine life to boast about. However, the islands also have another side, which is the more terrestrial side.

I have been going to TMSI St John twice a week and it's a good chance to refresh myself with great scenery once in a while. St John Island is an attractive island in many aspects.

Looking across is Lazarus Island where a connector rock bund has been built to connect St John to Lazarus.

The southern islands of Singapore are within reach from the city centre in all less than an hour.

From St John, we can also get a good view of the nearby Pulau Tekukor which has very spectacular coastal landforms.

This is another part of St John that you might not seen before.

It is at the back and we can see Big Sisters Island from there.

However, the currents here are VERY strong! Though the waters can be quite clear at time, it is kind of advisable not to dive or snorkel at this part of St John.

Nevertheless, we can still admire the coastal plants alongside.

Like Alex, who is a plant lover, he immediately went down to take a good photograph of the sea hibiscus.

Sometimes when the tide is very low, we can have a good view of the fiddler crabs from the jetty.

The terrestrial side of St John is also very interesting and lovable.

There are many cats that will run towards us, meowing away, mostly to ask for food. But they are really adorable. Some of them are super shy and refuse to let you touch, but a few are quite tame.

There are also wild hen, rooster and chicks in the island!

It's a great sight to see a family of chickens.

Ask yourself this question: What do you think can eat these chickens?

Just last week, a HUGE python was found!

Here is Chee Kong, the snake expert, with the huge female python. Using him as a scale, you can guage how large it is. I've never seen such a huge snake in my life before (from the wild).

I took the rare opportunity to take a closeup photo of this gigantic snake.

In overall, TMSI is a great place for research given the peace and tranquility you can get there.

Sometimes, I get to have sightings of rare birds like the pink neck green pigeon, kites soaring in the sky and lots of little birds flying in flocks.

If you don't know, you can sometimes spot peacocks at St John too. Their cry are like cat noises.

Not at St John though, the pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica) was spotted at Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal. They are petite and very cute.

The creation of God is all around us and we thank Him for creating these animals and plants to cheer us up everyday. It's wonderful to be able to visit St John Island and I believe other islands of Singapore also have interesting stuffs waiting for us to discover.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Not so low at Changi

Just came back from an evening trip at Changi with Chee Kong, Chun Fong and Mei Lin. Thank God the afternoon heavy rain stopped on time. However, somehow the rain could have increased the amount of water drained to the sea or there was a difference in pressure that led to a not so low tide at the shore today.

The tide table books says "Meterological conditions mainly caused by strong or prolonged winds or unusually high/low barometric pressure may cause differences between the predicted and the actual tides."

Despite the relative higher water level mark, we could still find marine animals! Which I am listing my sightings of the day below. Not going to describe too much though as I've decided to make this post a short and sweet one :-)

Beautiful cowries can be found if you take effort to look at the underside of rocks.

This is another smaller one. But please do flip back the rock to its original orientation or else other animals may dessicate to death.

More residents of the underneath of rocks include many many porcelain crabs.

And also this rock star or crown sea star.

At a more sandy-er substrate we can also find other great creatures.

Like this huge sand stars of another species.This one has a prominent orange line radiating from the central disk to each of its arm.

We also found a couple of these Gymnanthenea laevis or orange tipped sea stars.

This is a slightly bigger one found by Mei Lin.

And its pretty underside. Sea stars don't like to be upside down (so do we), so they quickly would want to turn themselves back.

There were also many brittlestars.

And the underside of the brittlestar that turned over faster than most sea stars.

Surprisingly, they were many of these green mussels. I noticed many mats of the Asian date mussels back on the shore.

I had an encounter with this bristleworm.

A closer look reveals their pretty iridescent colour.

Yet there's another type of worm, which has a tube.

This fan worm is beautiful and it comes in different shades of colours. However, it's pretty shy and will quickly hide back into its tube if you go closer.

It's good to see carpet anemones and also many many sand stars and crabs.

This anemone that hitches rides on snails was found again and I couldn't resist to take another photograph of it.

More anemones include this strawberry anemone.

And also this rather plain looking anemone.

How about sea cucumbers?

There are the ball sea cucumber where traditional Malay tonic called ‘Air Gamat’ is made from their body fluids which are collected and left to stand for several weeks. The tonic is a popular local remedy for faster healing of wounds and as a post-natal treatment.

Other than the usual thorny, warty, purplish sea cucumbers, there is also this one that seems to blend well with the sand.

At the end of the trip, we found this weird looking sea cucumber tha has white spots and yellow dots.

Looks like today's trip was not wasted though the tide wasn't ideally low. Glad to see my friends enjoying exploring at the seashore.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My humble nature gallery at Flickr

Dear folks, I've uploaded many of my nature-related photos onto my new Flickr page. Am very excited to be able to share all these wonders with all of you through still photography. Please pardon me if any photos are not nice as I don't have spectacular cameras.

Below are the sets of photographs you can view.

My favourites (if you want me to recommend) will be Raffles Lighthouse, Beting Bronok, Cyrene Reef and very close to our hearts... East Coast Park. Though the marine life at East Coast seemed to be badly affected by silt recently, I hope that it will recover given time.

I am, you may already know, a sea star aka starfish fan. Thus, have also created a set to share with you the amusing diversity and beauty of the sea stars of Singapore!

Now, who says Singapore waters cannot support marine life?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Semakau shore walk with fun children

My final year project and study load has kept me away from nature trips and it's good that I can finally enjoy one weekday off from today's Hari Raya holiday. Today is also childrens' day! And I can celebrate this day (though I'm old already) because I got to guide my wonderful group, Nobule Volutes, with five younger friends at Semakau landfill. They are Paul, Luke, Shawn, Jean and Gabby (hope I spelt the last name correctly).

This is Paul and Jean. Like kids, they come with inquisitive minds asking me questions like why is the wave white in colour and why doesn't the boat sink though it's so heavy. Good start to be a young scientist because in science, one has to ask questions to learn or discover something new.

They love FOOD and they were munching my seaweed and Mammi noodles happily away. Jean brought a packet of Lays potato chips as well!

Most importantly, they learnt a great deal about our shores and the wonderful creatures living in it! They were most fascinated about the wonders of starfish: being able to extrude their stomach to feed and also regenerate their lost arms. Another portion they could remember well is the importance of seagrasses as nursery for young marine animals. I bet they can remember that seagrasses are the only flowering plants that can be submerged in the sea. Hope they will grow up to love and protect nature :-)

Today's tide was lower than expected and we can see the charming giant clam out of the water. This giant clam is really a must see for every guided tour.

This is my second time seeing this pretty flatworm after about 1.5 years and the first time I get to photograph it properly. Wonderful to encounter this lovely flatworm.

Of course, what's a guided trip to Semakau intertidal without the charismatic knobbly sea stars? After which, our group had a grand finale finding the noble volute which we are named after. The sky dimmed very quickly and we had to walk briskly fighting against the commando mosquitoes at the forest with puddles of mud water in order to return to the road.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful first evening trip out for Semakau guided tours and the families and participants enjoyed and learnt a good deal of our marine treasures. I had the honour to also have marine biologist Dr. Peter Castro joining my group. He writes the Marine Biology textbook that my module is now using and is a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Glad to be able to share with him our very own Semakau marine life which was his first visit today.

I'll miss the adorable kids. Happy Childrens' Day to all children, and child at heart. :-)

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