Monday, February 25, 2008

An afternoon at the ridge

Remember the last post I blogged about Semakau? The first photo features Pulau Jong. Here again is another view of Pulau Jong, from far.

Where were we this time? We spent the late afternoon at Kent Ridge, which is within our school. So what can you find in NUS?

Kent Ridge holds a secondary forest which is known as Adinandra belukar. Adinandra belukar is defined as a species-poor, anthropogenic heath forest dominated by tiup tiup.

Look at the dead tree on the right?

Look closer, there are birds resting.

Being a secondary forest, there will be remains of the rubber trees planted in the past. This photo shows the fruit of the rubber tree.

Alex was the plant expert around and he was collecting leaf specimens of plants he was unsure back to the lab so he can identify them and know Kent Ridge holds such flora.

Siyang was attracted to this ant harvesting nectar from the flowers. Alex shares this plant is at least from the genus mikania.

We had a few bird encounters too. This is a hill myna (Gracula religiosa). According to Chek Jawa online guide, Hill mynas eat mostly fruits, foraging for these high in the trees. They are particularly fond of figs. But they also snack on nectar, insects and small lizards. Hill mynas rarely land on the ground and prefer to stay in forested areas. They don't walk, and instead hop along branches.

Hill mynas can mimic other birds, and even whistle tunes and imiate humans. This makes them a favourite target for the caged bird trade.

Another bird we spotted was this drongo.

Another view of the beautiful drongo.

This is a Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis). According to Sungei Buloh online guide, Black-naped Orioles enjoy a wide menu of plants and animals. They are fond of fruit and berries, particularly figs. Black-naped Orioles rarely descend to the ground. They forage high in trees and usually say within the canopy. Nevertheless, they are not birds of the deep forest. Originally from coastal woodlands and mangroves, they have adapted to cultivated areas and parks and gardens.

Black-naped Orioles are not at risk and rank among the top 10 most common residents in Singapore. They have adjusted very well to humans and are found even in the city. They arrived in Singapore from Indonesia and became established in the 1920's-30's.

As we continued to explore the ridge...

Alex pointed out this tree...

and on top, there are creepers over the crown of that tree. Alex shares this is Entada spiralis. Click here to find out why it is called spiralis. The flowers shown here does not belong to the creeper. They belong to the tree (refer to previous photo) being covered by the creeper.

On yet another dead fall, we saw pigeon like birds. On a closer look, they are indeed pigeons. Rather, they are the uncommon pink neck green pigeons.

Also on the same dead fall was a pair of the hill myna.

Although common in Singapore in the past, the Hill mynahs are now considered rare residents and are listed as CITES II. Besides Pulau Ubin, these birds are also found in Pulau Tekong Besar, the central catchment forest and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

A closer look at the pink neck green pigeon. Do note that only the males have the pink neck. Pink-necked Green Pigeons eat mainly fruits. Their colourful attire allows them to blend perfectly in the foliage of fruiting trees.

Towards the end of the trip, we found huge boulders with signs of marine evidences.

Look at the barnacles. They are evidences that someone took these huge boulders from the seashore up to the ridge. Looks like I can't run away from marine habitat. Haha.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Training at Semakau intertidal

I went to Semakau Landfill area as a trainee for future guides and we set off from Marina South Pier. And I'm always amazed at this island that some say look like a pimple, some say like a pau. This is Pulau Jong.

According to a local story, a Chinese junk was attacked by Malay pirates one night when the island now is. Just as the pirates were about to board the junk, the captain awoke, and uttered such a frightful yell that the sea spirit turned the whole junk into an island.

Interesting myth isn't it? This island has even more interesting marine life that I hope to visit one day if possible.

While going through the landfill tour, Luan Keng was talking about the great billed heron (Ardea sumatrana) and immediately someone pointed from the bus this one. According to the Bird Ecology Study Group, this bird is claimed to be the tallest resident bird in Singapore. However, this bird is confined to rocky shores and mangroves, mainly on offshore islands and the west coast. It is also locally endangered with only about 20 plus birds left. Internationally, the bird is near-threatened.

After braving the mosquito infested coastal forest especially for those who wore sexily (including Justin), we were out at the intertidal flats discussing about mangroves and the high shores. Walking down, we notice a number of freshly placed bubu traps with chicken or duck claws as bait.

And we saw this man dragging more traps at a far distance away. This is an example of the pressures our marine habitat has to take.

This is a noble volute laying eggs! Volutes are carnivorous as they prey on bivalves, enveloping the victim completely with their foot forcing the bivalve to finally open from exhaustion and lack of oxygen. These pretty snails used to be common but now threaten due to 'harvesting' from humans and habitat lost.

This cute shaped cockle is called a heart cockle. The one we found today is in a stunning red colour!

It lives in shallow waters of sand and mud. Do you know that all cockles are hermaphroditic, which means they possess both the male and female sex organs (like the flatworm). Sadly they are threatened due to over collection. Don't you think they are better to be alive to form a complete heart than collected dead with detached sides of a broken heart?

The underside of the cockle. In blue, contrasting to the stunning pinkish red. What a rare beauty!

Can you see the rather transparent tentacles of this highly camouflaged scallop filter feeding bits of organic stuffs from the waters?

This is a mushroom coral. Mushroom corals are solitary single animal that are free living. Unlike most corals, most mushroom corals are attached to the reef only when they are small.

And this is yet another type of mushroom coral called the sunflower mushroom coral. Look at the tentacles, aren't they interesting?

This is another stunning sunflower mushroom coral! In lime green somemore. Wow.

The hunter seekers did a great job on finding nudibranchs. And where we have four Gymnodoris rubropapulosa. 'Nudibranch' means 'naked gills'. The name comes from the flower-like gills found on the back of many nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are related to snails.

Nudibranchs are carnivores; each species usually feed on a particular type of prey, which is usually something that can't move, like sponges, ascidians, hard corals, soft corals, sea anemones, zoanthids, peacock anemones, sea pens and eggs of other creatures. Some nudibranchs, such as this species also feed on other slugs.

More nudibranch: this one is the ever-cute polka-dot nudibranch.

Wow, what a wonderful discovery. This is the first time I saw the Ceratosoma nudibranch (Ceratosoma sp.).

This must be the icon of the intertidal trips for the participants. The knobbly seastar are not venomous, although they are often brightly colored and covered with dangerous-looking knobs, nodules and spines.

We saw a number of sea cucumbers including the sandfish and this one is the stonefish sea cucumber which I have only seen once before at Hantu.

Flatworms are very fragile and might break or tear if handled. They move very quickly too and can disappear in an instant into some crevice.

Flatworms want to avoid being a female, since a female need to lay eggs which is energy-spending. Instead they want to poke their penis to the other party anywhere. Bigger flatworms especially love indulging in penis fighting.

Haven't seen this coral (Acropora sp.) for quite some time and am glad to see it again. Apologise for murky waters as tide was coming in.

While walking back, this octopus entertained us.

Night fell and soon we made our way back. Today's training was a fruitful one to my opinion as I've learnt a lot.

This lounge sofa part is on the ferry that we took today. It's really comforty and its also time for us trainees to take our group photo.
See you Semakau next time!

Dusky Leaf Monkey spotted in Singapore

I was told that the Dusky Leaf-monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus) was spotted by Hazelina Yeo on 19 Feb 2008, around 6.50pm. Wow!

According to The Primata website, the dusky leaf-monkey lives in the countries of Burma, Malaysia and Thailand. Don't think this is native in Singapore, so this might be an escapee.

This species prefers to live in closed primary forests, but is also found in old-growth secondary forests, plantation forests, and urban forests. It spends most of its time in the upper canopy levels of the forest.

The dusky leaf-monkey is a folivorous (leaf eating) species, but it will also consume fruit and flowers. Young leaves constitute a high proportion (52%) of the diet for this species. I was told that this monkey was spotted eating rubber leaves at the rubber tree.

All photos credit to Hazelina Yeo.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hantu's splendour

I have been to Pulau Hantu once before and that was an unforgetable trip as it was when I saw many marine creatures for the first time. Finally got a chance to return to this great place. This was made possible through Ria's CNY invitation. Thanks!

Today's a public holiday mainly celebrated by Chinese, so the Malays come to this island to enjoy a relaxing picnic life.

As for us, we headed straight to the lagoon when the tide was low. At the high shore, our first discovery (like how July describes in his discovery blog) was many of the common sea stars (Archaster typicus).

We saw a couple of this polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) at the coral reef area of the western lagoon. Don't you think they look really cute?

Though not as attractive, let's not forget about the tiny top shell with a turban shell among the rocks.

Corals are aplenty at Hantu and this soft coral is so huge, you just have to compare with the small looking boulder of hard coral at the left bottom side.

Hard corals are also gorgeous too!

This fiddler crab was obedient, apparently I displaced it from its hole so I think it's a bit disoriented. Nevertheless, it stayed there for us to take photo of this cute tiny crab.

Low tide time is also feeding time for the birds. We found this Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana). From the top right corner photo, you can see the fish in its beak!

These greenish looking things are not seagrasses, they are ascidians all over the sand area.

Soft coral and Gigantea sea anemone live side by side.

And there's a surprise in that anemone if you notice closer. There's a resident nemo!

Ron was excited when he found this huge nudibranch which is likely to be
Dendrodoris tuberculosa. Ron even told me it's one of the largest nudibranch in the world with records up to 25cm! Wow, what a great find.

According to the sea slug forum, this large, strongly tuberculate dendrodorid is easily identified by the colour of the underside of the mantle, which has a background colour ranging from pale greenish or yellowish brown to dark brown with large round white spots.

Though a more common nudibranch, I was very excited to see this Gymnodoris rubropapulosa. Don't you think the orange dots are so cute?

More nudibranch and flatworms. The only nudibranch is on top right, its bohol nudibranch (Discodoris boholensis).

The corallimorph at Hantu are pretty. These guys are also known as 'mushroom anemones' but they are not anemones. This is a very unique group of corals which is more closely related to zoanthids & stony corals than soft corals.

This one then is an anemone! It's my first time seeing the Pizza Anemone (Cryptodendrum adhaesivum). With a bit of imagination, it does look a bit like a pizza with the brown part resembling the crust.

A closer look at the pizza anemone with a white body as shown on left with yellow dots. You can also notice the brown and green tentacles of this pizza anemone.

More anemones, this one I don't know what is it.

The Heteractis magnifica anemones are still doing okay at the lagoon.

This featherstar is in pale yellow and tiny but it's really beautiful.

More crinoids. This stunning featherstar comes in black and white. Crinoids usually have a stem used to attach themselves to a substrate.

This octopus is very colourful, don't you think?

Ivan found this synaptic sea cucumber.

And I saw this transparent blob and found it weird. Upon closer examinations, realized its a jellyfish! Can you see a few tentacles from the inner ring circumference?

A small group photo of us out there! :-)

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