Saturday, February 28, 2009

What to do in a shelter during rain?

Lightning and thunder usually compells nature explorers to seek for shelter. It forces us to pause or end our trips, which was likewise for our Pasir Ris shore trip last Wednesday.

While we were waiting in the shelter, Wanwei who was late arrived. She was dressed in her well prepared poncho, which is a must get for shore explorers for wet weather is usually an unpredictable thing.

Staying cheerful, like Wanwei, is definitely an asset when the downpour descented.

I will always remember our very first trip to Pasir Ris where it rained really heavily in the middle of the trip. Geraldine, Ivan, Liana and Khairul (not in this photo) was with me that day. Geraldine showed in this photo that an umbrella is also useful during wet weather but when the wind gets too strong, it will probably be useless.

So what do you do when you are stuck in the shelter waiting for the wet weather to go away?

Do weird things like Henrietta?

Actually she was feeling cold and therefore the thrash bag over her like a mummy. Indeed, she felt warm and a bit too warm that she took it off after a while.

But don't you think she look like she is enjoying the attention?

Of course, everyone were amused by this new "black monster" stuck in the shelter.

Wen Qing instead was more productive. She spent the hour long stuck there to look out for details... yes details of life. And from there, we uncovered a series of different insects, bugs and creepy crawlies. I'm afraid I don't have the expertise to id most of the creatures. Pls help me if you know.

First, Wen Qing showed us her find of the skink. Skinks belong to the lizard family and they also do drop their tails to distract predators (autotomy).

Next was this crawling centipede.

Closeup of the centipede.

A juvenile cockroach.

A fly.

Dead wasp.

What made Wen Qing crawl down to take photographs?

It was this pretty caterpillar that not only captured her attention but also my heart.

The closeup of this pretty caterpillar reveals what seems to be water droplets. Are those really water droplets?

There were many more caterpillars of different kinds sighted!

Like this in pinkish red. It has a different looking underside.

Yes, it's underside was green. The caterpillar was crawling so fast that it was not easy to take photographs of them.

There was this another caterpillar in brown and white coloration.

And its underside.

Last but not the least, another kind of caterpillar.

Well, at least the rain kind of opened my eyes that an ordinary shelter belonging to a park can house so many different kinds of creatures.

How wonderful and how amazing. Next time while you take a rest at these park shelters, probably you should open you eyes more to look out for life!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rain, lightning and rainbow at Pasir Ris

A gang of six shore explorers approached Pasir Ris shore today with the dark clouds looming over the sky.

The clouds were so dark and in such a formation that some of us speculated that a water sprout is about to form but it did not eventually.

We were quite diehard and ignored the warnings from the sky and went ahead to explore the shore.

Samuel was first to sight this Black sea urchin (Temnopleurus toreumaticus) which he almost sat on when he was squatting on the shore.

The mouth of this urchin is on the centre of its underside and it has an interesting name: an aristotle lantern. Read here to find out why it is called an aristotle lantern.

Henrietta found this blob-animal that looks alien to me at least. It wasn't moving and it probably was dead.

The underside reveals it to be some kind of slug or seahare?

After a short while of exploring and finding this Thumbs-up sea squirt (probably Polycarpa sp.), the heavens poured like nobody's business and we ran into a shelter hut. It was more than a hour wait at the hut while the thunders roared and lightnings flashed. We were so bored that we looked around for critters. Caterpillars, flies and other insects were sighted to our amazement!

A storm during a low tide could spell disaster as many animals exposed on the shore cannot tolerate the freshwater from the rain.

After the storm, we went out to the shore and found many sand stars (Astropecten sp.) turned white and dying.

I don't know to be happy or sad to find this huge adult cake sea star (Anthenea aspera). Happy because it is so big and it has been some time I've found a huge cake sea star at Pasir Ris. The gang was really super excited over the find as well. Sad as it looks discolourised too, a sign of stress.

We later put the star into deeper waters, hoping it will recover.

Nevertheless, all is a natural process. Rain is unavoidable during low tides.

Before we start whining that why is there a rain that stopped us from exploring the shore and that the freshwater killed some animals, there was this spectacular and breathtaking rainbow to behold!

It stretches from Pulau Ubin to Pasir Ris, mainland Singapore. We later found out there was a DOUBLE rainbow. Can you see the second rainbow above the more prominent one? It is more faint. Wow, such is the beauty of nature created by God.

Juanhui posted her sight of the double rainbow on her way home and she gave a great explanation of rainbows and the rarer double rainbow.

Today's rainbow sighting was really simply the best rainbow I've seen in my life! Glad to be able to witness with many friends. :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The resurrection of Lazarus?

In John 11:1-46 of the Bible, Jesus resurrected Lazarus even though he was dead.

In Singapore, Lazarus Island was also dead because part of it has been reclaimed to make an artificial sandy lagoon filled with sand imported from Indonesia.

Time will often give an answer and indeed life has crept back to a lifeless lagoon over the many years. The artifical lagoon of Lazarus is alive! Even at the breakwater which Daniel and I explored for the first time today.

Already hardly found in mainland Singapore, I love the fact that I can still find common sea stars (Archaster typicus) on this shore.

Most of the common sea stars there are juveniles and I also did find adult ones. Looks like they are establishing themselves quite well.

There were many Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) on the sandy shore but alas I cannot find any rare sand dollars.

There were also several piles of processed sand from this Acorn worm (Class Enteropneusta).

Interestingly, there are also soldier crabs (Dotilla sp.) that look like they are doing guard duty by prowling on the sandy shore and raising their claws when they feel threatened.

Another interesting sight will be the gang of snails having a buffet of this venus clam. Looks like it is really a yummy time!

The shore also has seagrass beds mainly of spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) similar to those at some Northern shores.

And yes, for the first time I explored the rocks off the breakwater.

The rocks beyond the reclaimed breakwater does seemingly look lifeless.

But I was amazed to find some colours in the water mainly from the seaweed. I did spot few corals in the deeper waters. Beyond Lazarus is actually Kusu Island.

Today was quite a flatworm day instead of a nudi day. Daniel studied nudibranch before and but we couldn't find any nudibranch today though.

It seems to be the season for the Brown flatworm (Pseudobiceros gratus) for we found at least four today. A closer look at the flatworm reveals some orange network structure in the middle just beneath the middle brown line. I wonder what are those.

Daniel was very patient as he explored the rocky area by flipping over rocks to find creatures. His hardwork was paid off with this tiny cute little Blue-lined flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.). It has a little blue circle-dot at the head.

Colonial anemones like the zoanthids were also spotted among the rocks.

Zebra coral (Oulastrea crispata) was found attached on rocks and they are thought to be rather hardy, as they can be found in all sort of shores.

Two of this giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) were found in between rocks but I reckon they were too high for nemos to reside during low tide.

Among the rocky area, another species of seagrass was found and that's the Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii). It's good that we can find this seagrass since it is listed as 'Critically Endangered' on the Red List of threatened plants of Singapore.

On a single rock with silt, there were several oyster shells, some I think are still alive.

I guess the find of the day for me personally will be this snail that I've not took notice before. Chee Kong says it is Astraea calcar and they are known to be less common than Turban snails. They have a calcified operculum according to A Guide to Common Seashells of Singapore. Locality of these snails are in southern islands of Singapore.

Today's trip to Lazarus was great, I also saw an octopus though it slipped away as quickly as I noticed it. All too soon, the time is up.

I had to leave soon while Daniel, being a diehard explorer, continued to take a longer look at the shore beside the St John's Island jetty instead as the low tide was not over. He told me he found cowries and hairy crab before I left.

A closer reveals several large boulder corals near the water edge. Cool! I will look forward to look at this shore the next time.

Labrador in black and white

Labrador in black and white exudes a charm. A rustic charm that gives a hint of what mainland Singapore used to be like: natural coastlines full of coral reefs. Rich in corals, fishes, sea stars, anemonefishes.

This is our last mainland natural rocky shore. Such a small stretch of our natural heritage contains life that is resilient. Resilient to the different impacts ranging from sedimentation, nearby dredging, poaching, trampling, pollution, dumping of trash and the list goes on.

Perhaps when the shore couldn't put on with the fight anymore, we will then begin to question ourselves why would a nature reserve suffer such a state. Everything will turn into history, just like this black and white photograph. Will Labrador survive in the long term?

Do we have to lose something precious in order to appreciate it?

Photograph taken by Feng Yikang with Canon FTB camera and Kodak T-max 3200 film.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Assorted Cakes of Singapore's Shores

I have been invited to write a post for The and decided to share a bit more about the fascinating variation of cake sea stars (Anthenea aspera) that one can find in Singapore. I wrote on the wonders of God's creation, some facts on these stars and that I would prefer to visit them in their natural home instead of keeping in a tank.

Despite that this is for a reef tank blog, they are open to other ideas as well. Thus they welcomed my post though I do not keep marine creatures in captivity as a hobby.

Here's the link to the blog article that I have contributed. Happy reading! :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A closer look at some mysterious submerged reefs

So I was not alone! My previous post on the mysterious patch reefs of Singapore proved to be well received and that shows that many others are also very interested in these hardly or never visited before reefs.

This post serves as a follow-up to give a slightly closer look at these mysterious reefs.

First let us focus on three of the reefs off the waters surrounding Sentosa, St John's Island and Sister's Island. They are namely Terumbu Buran, Pulau Palawan and Terumbu Selegi.

Just in front of the reclaimed Seringat and Kias is a patch reef that is rather conspicious if you do take ferry rides around that area. It is also visible from the Sentosa Cove.

I took the opportunity during a ferry ride to take a photograph of this reef and it shows to have some rocky and perhaps sandy bottom. Nobody knows what surprises it holds until we set our feet on this reef.

You must be wondering why Pulau Palawan is also counted. Strictly speaking, it should not be counted as a submerged reef because it is now an island. But since the Geo Names website listed it as one of the Terumbus, I thought I should feature it and its history.

Indeed, Pulau Palawan used to be a submerged reef that is now reclaimed to be an island off Palawan Beach, Sentosa. According to InfopediaTalk by National Library Singapore, Pulau Palawan is originally called Serembu Palawan where the word 'serembu' is perhaps derived from the Malay word 'terumbu', which means a reef, rock or stump that is visible only at low tide.

'Palawan' is likely a variant of the Malay word 'pahlawan', which means warrior, leader in war or hero, and alludes to an earlier era of warfare and piracy in the islands.

Pulau Palwan is usually mistaken as the 'Southernmost Point of Continental Asia'. It is in fact not physically connected to Sentosa, and should not to be mistaken for the artificial sandy islet which is annexed to Palawan Beach on Sentosa. Talking about the 'Southernmost Point of Continental Asia', it is probably also as controversial. A look at Google Earth clearly shows the southermost point of Continental Asia is now at the tip of Tuas where reclamation is still ongoing. Is it time for Sentosa to take away the signboard?

Just almost at the middle of nowhere off Sister's Island is this submerged reef called Terumbu Selegi. It has sandy and rocky bottoms and is probably more elusive that the other submerged reefs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to share a closer look of some submerged reefs around Semakau. They are Terumbu Semakau, Terumbu Raya, Terumbu Pemalang Besar and Terumbu Bukom.

This is Terumbu Semakau viewed from the jetty of Semakau landfill. Yet again, it might look lifeless as you think it's another piece of land with only soil and rocks from the brown coloration.

You are wrong because an intrepid team just made a maiden trip to Terumbu Raya which also looks lifeless from far. The place proved to have plenty of life! Here is a colourful and stunning post by Ria on the coral reef there.

November shared on her blog on her virgin experiences and this photograph taken by her shows the diversity and abundance of corals.

A strange anemone was spotted by Stephen and Andy and Stephen took this photograph. A later check with Dr Daphne Fautin reveals that this is a new record for Singapore! Wow.

This first trip to take a look at these mysterious reefs is indeed exciting.

Before I end the post, I would like to share with you all two more reefs.

This is the Terumbu Pemalang Besar that unfortunately is now bound in the phase two lagoon by the Semakau Landfill.

Last but not the least for now, here is a reef that emerged off Pulau Bukom during low spring tide.

A quick check reveals that this reef is Terumbu Bukom that I have never taken time to notice or sight before.

Though this is not a submerged reef, I was pleasantly surprised to see wild mangroves at Pulau Bukom where the oil refineries stand.

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