Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Lost Islands of Singapore

My friend, Shuyi, has written an article on "The Lost Islands of Singapore" and I thought it is a great writeup not to be missed.

"When I was reading One For The Road by local writer Julian Davison, an island called “Pulau (Malay for island) Damar” was mentioned. Davison used to visit this island with his family.

He recalled wading thigh-deep in the clear waters of the coral reefs and observing all manner of interesting marine life at his feet. A day at P. Damar was like a visit to the countryside. Little inlets, along a palm-fringed coastline led to Malay kampungs, half-hidden amongst trees. One could stay the night in a seaside bungalow fully accompanied by the therapeutic sounds of gently crashing waves and the scent of salty seaweeds.

The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Where is this island in Singapore? Why haven’t I heard of it before? Can I still visit it today?"

Read more about Shuyi's finds of some of our lost islands here:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sea fans overdose at Changi

At the lowest of the lowest tides ever possible, one can take a peek at what lies beneath the murky waters of Changi. Murky doesn't mean lifeless!

Look at this! I was totally overdosed with sea fans this morning at Changi! Today must be one of the most exciting intertidal trip because I am a fan of sea fans (duh). After Ria blogged about the sea fan garden, I have been waiting for today to come to see them for myself. Joining me are Agnes and Siyang. :-)

Exploring secret shores of East Coast

Earlier this month, I had a 3-hr cycle throughout East Coast Park to search for secret shores of East Coast Park. How wonderful it is to be able to find a super low tide to explore these potential spots with a small team. And altogether, four shore locations were visited!

I first went alone to check out the rocky shore found previously. Indeed, the now extensive shore during low tide is a typical rocky intertidal area with crabs like this swimming crab (Thalamita sp.).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Electric ray at Changi!

Yes, an electric ray was found this morning at Changi by Ria!

The electric ray is also known as the Numbfish (Narcine sp.). It was only sighted twice before in our shores, first by Cheng Puay at Chek Jawa in 2004 and then by Ria at Changi in 2005. We were all excited to see this special ray again today! It was electrifying enough to keep us awake for today's 2am sleepy hour field trip.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Greetings from Lembeh

Hi all! July, Juanhui, Chay Hoon, JH's friend Pei Shan and I are now in Lembeh, sharing our greetings on this short post.

This is where we are staying... NAD Lembeh

Friday, June 12, 2009

Semakau Public Walk on 12 June

6am and we are off to Semakau again! Woohoo!

My post today will be really short and sweet as I am frantically packing for my Lembeh diving trip, leaving tomorrow morning.

Before the sun actually came out from the east, there was already this glow on the cloud towards the west reflecting the rising sun's rays.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Semakau Public Walk on 11 June

5.30am and off we went to Semakau landfill departing from Marina South Pier! I bet most of you were still sleeping while the public walk kicked off.

And tada! We successfully landed at Semakau landfill and as you can see in this photo, it was still dark! But the participants in my group Great Billed Heron were all awake and excited to visit Semakau. Here we have Priscilla, Magdalene and their brothers taking a group photo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

10 new nature blogs to check out!

There has been a raising awareness about nature and much of that will not be possible with the role of nature blogs spreading awareness through photos, videos and words in different ways from different authors. Almost anyone who is computer literate can blog and blogging is just like expressing yourselves, sharing about things that you do not just enjoy for yourself.

Recently, there has been a great proliferation of new nature blogs being started up and I cannot resist not talking and sharing about these great blogs here! There are 10 of them for you to take a look, and each of them has high potentials to become a great blog. Most of them has a slight focus on marine life in Singapore.

As always heard, the numbering of blogs here does not indicate ranking.

The first blog to highlight is Mei Lin's Pyschedelic Nature blog. Mei Lin is a great addition of shore explorers team and she does science too, even with her first scientific publication already out. She is conscientious in updating her blog posts within one or two days after the trip.

Visit her Pyschedelic Nature:

The next blog will be yet another friend I've known from the Marine Lab and She's Kaiying aka Janette. Her Nature Calls blog is always well updated with lots of photos taken from the trip. Janette dives quite frequently and she recently started exploring our shores during low tide. I hope she continues to do it for the long term and shares with us more about our wonderful natural heritage!

Visit her Nature Calls:

This blog was first made known to us just today! And it is James Koh's new blog called Singapore Nature. James is also another new shore explorer whom we think has fell in love with our shores. He is very diehard and comes most if not almost all of the trips despite having to wake up everyday at unearthly hours. Most importantly, he is a photographer in profession and takes wonderful photographs. Nice and friendly in personality, and in addition he is good at spotting rare stuffs, James's new growing interest will definitely make his blog a good read about his great finds.

Visit his Singapore Nature:

Thanks to Luan Keng who constantly encourages her RMBR volunteers to blog, we have 7 new blogs up too as below! Some of the blogs may have existed for some time already, but to me they are new because I wasn't aware of some blog's existence until recently :P

The first one of the seven will be Henrietta's Running with the Wind blog. Henrietta is very active and responsible volunteer and what I admire from her is that she gives no qualms about speaking up for what she sees is wrong. She also blogs very detailed too!

Visit her Running with the Wind:

Another active volunteer will be Mindy and her Spotlight's on Nature blog. Mindy, to me, is an intelligent lady. Not only does she blog about some of her trips, she also writes about other issues about conservation, science and nature. Her photos are also very nicely presented as well!

Visit here Spotlight's on Nature:

The next RMBR volunteer with a new blog will be Meiyi's Explore the Other Side! blog. Meiyi has been blogging consistently since last year and I do hope she maintains it that way. Simple blogs with photos that speaks a thousand words. I only found out this blog today :P Sorry Meiyi, hope it's not too late.

Visit her Explore the Other Side!:

Next up will be Agnes's Journey of all Sorts blog which she pens it as her personal blog. Good thing is that she did label nature trips as Guided walks so here's her url with the correct label below. Anyway, Agnes to me is a person whom is very excited about the marine life of our shores and doing much exploration recently including guiding as well.

Visit her Journey of all Sorts:

This greenish blog belongs to Wen Qing! It is named as Hand in hand with the Big M. Wen Qing takes spectacular photos and writes so very detailed about each creature in her blog. Such quality stuffs usually suffers from a backlog of posts waiting to be written since it takes lots of time. Hope WQ you can catch up and I look forward to read more of your accounts.

Visit her Hand in hand with the Big M:

This blog that I also only found out this week belongs to Eunice and it is entitled NaturallYours. Eunice also takes very nice photos and she has took lots of pride into putting up such a beautiful blog design. Wow. I'm impressed.

Visit her NaturallYours:

Last but not least, will be Ying Wei's new nature blog called Illuminate. She has recently done a debut post on her visit to the reclaimed land of Tanah Merah and hopefully more new posts will flood this blog, which I will also look forward to read.

Visit her Illuminate:

Wow, that's a lot of new and not-so-new blogs! Sadly, there also some older nature blogs that stopped updating with new posts for a long long time, some have been axed or killed by their authors. My number one wish for blogs will be that it will persist for a long time. Posts doesn't have to be that regularly, so long as once in a while the blog is still alive with new posts.

Tanah Merah Sandflat

Tanah Merah before land reclamation used to a stretch of natural shore with malay villages along the coast. And among which, Mata Ikan used to be a wonderful sandy shore where scientific studies were even conducted to study zonation in a typical sandy shore and another study on intertidal gastropods in the early 1970s. A post from the Good Morning Yesterday blog shows the natural shoreline photo from the past and more details on what life used to be in the past.

Sometimes, I really want to take a time machine to visit our pristine natural shores in the past before they were impacted by reclamation, sedimentation, poaching etc etc etc. Though it is indeed impossible to do so, we can at least now help our next generation save what is left.

Though Tanah Merah sandflat is not natural (because it was reclaimed), it is also not dead at all! When I was there with some friends this morning, there was also a family out at the shore admiring the snails and other marine life.

We arrived much earlier before sunrise to catch the low tide and among the creatures sighted today will be the Sand collars of moon snails (Family Naticidae). The sand collar is actually the egg mass of the moon snails.

And this is a beautiful Ball moon snail (Polinices didyma) prowling in the sand. It has opaque white bands on its pair of tentacles.

Another pretty moon snail encounter on Tanah Merah sandflat will be the Lined moon snail (Natica lineata).

Yet again, this moon snail is prowling with its large body!

Moon snails are fierce predators. They feed on bivalves and snails. A moon snail wraps its huge body around the hapless prey to suffocate it. If this fails, it has a gland at the tip of its proboscis that secretes an acid to soften the victim's shell. With some help from its radula, a hole is created. The hole is usually neat and bevelled.

The numerous Button snails (Umbonium vestiarum) is definitely one of the main diets of moon snails at Tanah Merah.

Another predator of the button snails will be this Flower crab (Portunus pelagicus). It was interesting to see the crab handling the snail!

Another noteworthy scene witnessed about the flower crab will be this find by James where two seemingly different crabs actually belong to one crab. One is alive, the other is the moult!

Other than countless button snails, this Tanah Merah sandflat is simply just thick with Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta). And once in a while, we encounter Sand stars (Astropecten sp.) which seem to be bigger at Tanah Merah as compared to other shore locations like Changi and Pasir Ris.

Andy and Collin later shared with me that they saw a large Common sea star (Archaster typicus)!

Later, there was a discovery of a white bucket with lots and lots of hermit crabs! We suspected that someone went around collecting them for fun, but eventually decided not to bring it home. Sigh. They were later all released back to the shore.

It's good for any ordinary people to visit and learn more about our shores and marine life. But sometimes, we just "love our shores to death" by doing more harm than help or appreciation.

Talking about hermit crabs, I caught this pair of Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius sp.) orange-handed doing some hanky panky. We decided to left them alone to do whatever they want.

We do not collect dead snail shells home because hermit crabs need these shells for home!

And their shell also give an idea of the range of snails that are living in the shore, yet burrowed when alive and thus not visible unless they are occupied by hermits later.

There was this rather big snail shell occupied by a hermit crab and it seems to resemble somewhat of a Helmet and Bonnet snails (Family Cassidae).

Another interesting dead snail shell will be this Frog snail shell (Bufonaria sp.).

This longish and spiny looking shell yet also occupied by hermit crabs are quite commonly found on the Tanah Merah sandflat. They belong to the Rare-spined murex snail (Murex trapa).

And that's not all, there is another dead shell with hermit crab and it is the Japanese bonnet snail (Semicassis bisulcatum). All the above three snail species were seen live before in our shores too, though occurence were rather rare. As mentioned, this could be due to the fact that most of these gastropods tend to be hidden by burrowing into the sand.

Nevertheless, one can still find living snails ike this drill!

And also this living Spiral melongena (Pugilina cochlidium) was also spotted.

Other than snails and hermit crabs, there was a couple of wormy find!

First will be this cute little peanut worm (Phylum Sipuncula). In the past, peanut worms were once so plentiful in Singapore that they were collected and fed to ducks.

The second wormy find will be this Acorn worm (Class Enteropneusta). The worm itself is in yellow in colour and what it is doing is that it is excreting coils of processed sediments by sticking out their rear ends at the surface of the sand. What they do is that these worms swallow mud and sand and process these for edible bits. After which, excretion takes place!

The different colours of the sand seen here suggest that the deeper sandflat is more anoxic or with a different and darker substrate.

Only one type of sea cucumber was seen today, and that will be a couple of the Smooth sea cucumber.

Tiny brittlestars was also sighted, this time by James on an orange sponge.

There were some fishes swimming around and most were difficult to photograph. This rare shot I got is a shot of a juvenile Rabbitfish (Family Siganidae).

And I managed to sort of chased and took a photograph of this nice-looking and cute Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos). It was solo and I didn't see any other mudskippers.

Ivan had an interesting encounter with the Blue-spotted stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) and Collin also saw many other fishes as well. :-)

Last but not least, the special find of the day for me will be this pair of Spotted moon crab (Ashtoret lunaris).

The larger moon crab was using its claw to hold on to the claw of the smaller one. This seems to be a sign of mating.

What is disturbing today will be the top layer of oil patches that came in with the incoming tides. And we smelled something wrong as well. Was there an oil spill or a bad discharge from somewhere?

Though reclaimed shores are probably not as glorious as the now-non-existent buried natural shores, what is done is already done. Let's just leave them alone by not introducing anymore impacts and life will reclaim the dead shores again to make it to a beach which is living and exciting to visit!

More photos from today's trip in my Flickr gallery.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hantu underwater world

There is an underwater world at Pulau Hantu. During high tide, one can dive off the island to discover the rich marine life that belongs to our Singapore waters. During low tide, the intertidal area of the shore and reef is exposed where one needs not to dive to catch a glimpse of the splendid underwater world of Hantu.

Pulau Hantu is just a stone throw's away from Pulau Bukom, where oil refineries and petrochemical plants are located. Yet, we are proud as Singaporeans to tell the rest of the world that coral reefs can reside next to such developments!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Burrowing giant clam at Hantu

I was out with the RMBR guides at Pulau Hantu at a super early 2.45am trip and one of my personal objectives is to find the giant clam(s) which I failed to find in all my previous Hantu trips.

And when I was already giving up (probably given up hope) towards the end, Eunice called out to me of her clammy find!

Wow, this is a Burrowing Giant Clam (Tridacna crocea)! Tridacna crocea also has many other common names, including the boring clam, crocus clam, crocea clam or saffron-coloured clam.

This species can burrow into rocks or corals by using their ridges of its thick shell to dig into the substrate by opening and closing quickly through the use of its byssal muscles. At 10-15cm, it is the smallest of the giant clams. Therefore, their burrowing behavior can help this small giant clam species to protect itself from predators such as sea stars and butterflyfishes.

The Burrowing Giant Clam relies heavily on the photosynthesis of the algae growing in its mantle which is brown in colour. They seem to have wavy 'lips' at the opening edge of the bivalve shell where the mantle lies.

Giant clams are known to have eye-spots at the edge of its mantle but I am not too sure if the brown dots here are the eye-spots. Maybe Mei Lin can help me clarify this.

Giant clams have often been overfished and the burrowing giant clam is listed among the threatened animals of Singapore, due to over-collection. This partly explains why we do not see them often in our shores on top of probably they are well camouflaged out of water. This is only my second time seeing this species in the wild. My first was at Raffles Lighthouse last year.

More Hantu-ey finds of the day to be posted soon when I catch up with my lost sleeps and time. Watch out for this space!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Searching for secret shores at East Coast

Yesterday, I need some form of a physical exercise so I cycled to East Coast Park! And I tried to kill two birds with a stone by searching for any hidden secret East Coast shores that might be undiscovered, just like Chek Jawa in the past.

East Coast is a long stretch of reclaimed land and it is definitely one of the shores that are under-explored. There was one stretch with lots of gorgeous sea fans but it has since been impacted and destroyed by unknown reasons. Just April this month, we went back to check and dredging was going on there now. Sigh.

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