Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spectacular last morning low at Big Sister

Yes! For our very last morning low tide of 2009, we decided to visit the trip to Big Sister Island. And it proves to be spectacular!

We went to a stretch where it was my first time exploring. Ria wanted to show the giant clam there for Mei Lin to monitor. However, it was probably already covered with the huge extent of seaweed. Thus we couldn't find it.

Nevertheless while we proceeded on, we stumbled upon a stretch full of hard corals that are jam-packed together with soft corals, sponges, corallimorphs, zoanthids etc. It was truly spectacular to still find pristine stretches at Big Sister!

The corals of all sorts grow to quite a large size like this Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea). Can you spot a reef fish at the bottom of the coral? I didn't see the fish while taking this photograph until I reached home. Haha.

I must saw the range of life found on this splendid stretch is very colourful like the different shades of blue seen here from the hard coral and the sponge.

Just right at the edge of the reef flat where the reef crest is, I was simply stunned to see for my first time a super huge extent of the surface covered by blue foliose coral. And it was covered at every single inch with no gap in between! It was probably 2m wide or even larger.

The waves were splashing nonstop and It was difficult to take a proper shot of this spectacular sighting on the intertidal.

Ria saw a couple of Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) and both have nemos!

The nemos here are the False clown anemonefishes (Amphiprion ocellaris) and they are babies! The adults are as usual more shy and hiding away from the camera. :P

This stretch is also one of the rare places where you can find a huge extent of Corallimorphs (Order Corallimorpharia). When out of water, their body column looks very similar to sea anemones.

Like sea anemones, corallimorphs are solitary polyps, although they are often found in groups and may sometimes carpet large areas like this shore. Corallimorphs are distinguished by an upturned mouth in the centre of the oral disk. Most other sea anemones and corals have inward turning mouths.

To my delight as an echinoderm lover, there are quite a number of Feather stars (Order Comatulida) here as well!

I'm glad to find this really cool feather star that is yellowish-white and with a slight pinkish tinge. It looks really cool.

Another frequently encountered animal on this reef must be the Two-spot reef octopus. I simply admire these octopuses for the ability to change into a mosaic of colours that blend well with the environment. They also look really stunning too!

Mei Lin called over to me saying there's an unknown crab that seems to have bands on its legs. I went over and take a look without really knowing the identity. After a check, I realized this is probably the Red-eyed reef crab (Eriphia ferox). It's pretty!

Another pretty crab will be this reddish hermit crab found by Ria. It has a stunning red claw that can't be seen from this photograph.

Soon, we went back to the swimming lagoon to join James and the team who were there originally.

My first objective is to show the Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) that I've marked with GPS previously to Mei Lin for her to do her research monitoring.

The swimming lagoon is also home to different types of corals, though not as densely covered as the reef described earlier. Nevertheless, it is here that we found many clumps of the rather rare Acropora coral (Acropora sp.).

Other hard corals encountered include (from top left on a clockwise direction) the circular mushroom corals, Brain coral (Family Mussidae), Favid coral (Family Faviidae) and Carnation hard corals (Pectinia sp.).

This is not a hard coral but a soft coral. It is the Broad feathery soft coral that has eight tentacles as compared to the six or multiples of six tentacles of hard corals.

In the lagoon are many of these sponges in colour that carpet the shore.

One of the poisonous crabs seen will be this Brown egg crab (Atergatis floridus). This crab is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore.

Only one nudibranch was seen today and this is the Pimply phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa) that I had found. It's true what James had said, because it looks green with our eyes but always turn blue in photos. Weird.

James himself found a couple of flatworms and I especially adore this pretty yet tiny Red-tipped flatworm (Pseudoceros bifurcus).

Soon it was time to go. Today's trip was a short two hour one. It wasn't that exhausting after all. We will miss the morning lows where we get to see sunrise and end the trips mostly with daylight.

Walking down the jetty, we saw several people preparing to start their fishing activities.

But what caught our attention were the pillars surrounding the jetty. They were filled with sponges, soft corals, sea fans and most exciting of all, Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.)! The photo at the top left hand shows the part of the pillar covered with lots of Cave corals.

It's always exciting to know what lies subtidally beyond the intertidals. I hope I will one day have the opportunity to try diving in Singapore.

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