Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monitor lizards and company at Sungei Buloh

It's a Saturday morning and I'm at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to guide a group of girls from PLMGSS. The trip was made special not only with the company of fellow students but also by the company of the flora and fauna in the mangroves.

Mangroves and Wetlands are considered as one of the 14 biomes listed in the world and it is amazing to be able to visit it at our own country in the comforts of the boardwalk.

Early in the morning while the little egrets are wading in river banks, suddenly a dog ran down and started to go around the birds. I did not witness the dog harassing the birds too much though.

I guess the main character of today's trip is definitely the Malayan water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator). They can be found almost at every part of the reserve, even at the pond of the river.

Or even at the side of the boardwalk...

Or even BENEATH the boardwalk as spotted by the girls.

Monitor lizards are like vaccum cleaners of the mangroves because they can eat anything that they can swallow. Their broad diet ranges from tiny insects, to crabs, molluscs, snakes, eggs (of birds and crocodiles), fishes, birds, rodents, small mouse deer, even other monitor lizards. They even eat rubbish, human faeces, and even dead bodies!!!

The special find of the day must be this pair of hugging monitor lizards spotted by the teacher! It might look bizzare to you at first, but as for me I knew of such a behaviour because Siva showed our class before of a video on them hugging with each other.

According to Ruo Yu's account at the RMBR intern blog, she mentioned:

"Also caught wrestling in action were two male monitor lizards. The video clip was shown again with excited ooos and ahhs from the students as Mr. Siva pointed out the object of the conflict - a female monitor lizard slipping of coyly into the mangrove waters. The males battle it out by just pushing each other about through a hugging (not mating) position. The winner would be the one who is able to hold on the longest without falling over. Following this, we were told how a scratch would be fatal to these creatures as the forest they live in are full of bacteria and flies that carry diseases. One can just die from an infection of a shallow cut. Fortunately, the battle doesn't involve hurting each other a lot; only a lot of pushing around. Nevertheless, this certainly makes me all the more thankful I'm human and living in sanitary urban areas."

Interesting isn't it?!

At the pond in front of the visitor centre, you might think that it might be a boring place to check out for birds. You are wrong! There are many professional photographers with the telescopic looking cameras doing ambushing. They are waiting for birds to land on the Simpoh Air plant and indeed, I witnessed different types of birds including the pink neck green pigeon.

And just at the pond in front of the visitor centre you can find several types of animals.

Like this White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus). They eat mainly on seeds, insects and small fish. They also nibble on worms and small snails; and snack on shoots and roots of marsh plants.

This shy bird found in the pond is a yellow bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis). Thanks Ivan for the id.

There was also this motionless common greenback (Hylarana erythraea) which I didn't really notice until much later.

Later at the boardwalk during the guided tour, the class witnessed a plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) crawling past the boardwalk in front of us! It was my first time to get so close to this cute squirrel. It's action was quick and thus no photograph. One of the students got it on her camera though.

The squirrel was carrying materials like dried leaves and twigs on its mouth which I wondered why. After browsing through the book "Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore’s Mangroves", I found a photo of a squirrel also carrying materials and it explained that it is for its nest, which is usually built on a fork in the tree.

At the end of the trip, it was time to take a group photo with the wonderful girls at the gallery.

And the mud-lobster mound display proves to be quite popular, good that they now know the importance of mud lobsters as keystone species of the mangroves.

There was a time for nature reflection for the girls to draw or write about today's trip and I was impressed at one of the girl's artistic talent.

We were surprised to also find a cotton stainer bug inside one of their bags which we mysteriously don't know how it fell inside. We didn't see these bugs at the sea hibiscus tress today though. Nevertheless, it was a great chance for them to see it alive before we returned this distressed bug back.

Towards the end of the trip, we were also fascinated by the different flora like this Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) with the pretty purplish flower that only last one day.

Another flower that also last for a day will be this Simpoh Air (Dillenia suffruticosa) flower that opens at 3am.

Most of us still wanted to stay longer to explore this fascinating place but we had to go eventually after a final group photo at the entrance.

Thanks girls and monitor lizards for your company on this great morning out at Sungei Buloh!


Ivan said...

Hmm? When did I become the frog expert?

Haha, the frog is most likely the common greenback (Hylarana erythraea).
(this link still uses the old genus Rana)

Oh, and that heron in the pond looks more like a yellow bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis).

Unknown said...

You can be counted to do the identifications! Haha, not like me, lazy to go check it out. Thanks!!

SD said...

The yellow bittern is correct. It's usually found among the water hyacinth areas near the visitor centre. Is that where you saw them?


Unknown said...

Yeap, I found it at the water hyacinth area near the visitor centre. Thks Shundeng for confirming!

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