Thursday, June 16, 2011

East Coast shore is still alive!

Yes, the shore at East Coast Park is still alive!

Today at 3am, I decided to go ahead and cycle to East Coast hoping that the incoming thunderstorm clouds from the northwest would go away. I enjoyed a rain-free ride to ECP and just less than 5 minutes of looking at the shore among gusty winds, the huge rain poured.

I waited for more than an hour, alone and cold at the shelter. The weather map does not show signs of the rain easing out. I thought I will be entitling today's blog as "Miserable at East Coast" as I hardly saw anything on the shore yet.

As the rain did not showed signs of stopping, I took out my trusty umbrella and risked my DSLR on the shore for a short while when the rain was not so heavy.

Towards the end of the trip, I was surprised to see a huge and bright Cake sea star (Anthenea aspera)! It was found quite high up the shore, which is why I least expected to see it there. In addition, we have never seen a Cake sea star along East Coast and Tanah Merah shore before!

Here is my boots beside the sea star, as a scale to show you how big this pretty star is!

The low tide timing coincides with the total lunar eclipse. As the weather was so bad, I could not see any eclipse from the moon. But hey, there are still stars on the shore! :)

The reason why I am exclaiming the fact that East Coast is still alive is because it was hit by the oil spill last year. In our visit during 2009, we were astonished by the rich marine life this shore houses. Ria and Chay Hoon checked out the same shore one month after the oil spill and it seemed to have deteroriated.

I am glad to share with you that I came across many Skinny sea fans (Order Gorgonacea) on the shore this morning. There were also many sea fans that are much bigger than the ones in this photo.

Sea fans or gorgonians are sometimes mistaken as plants. They actually belong to Phylum Cnidaria which includes the more familiar sea anemones, hard corals and jellyfishes.

All kinds of small animals live on sea fans. I am not too sure what is this white longish structure that curls around some of the gorgonians.

There are some sea fans with hermit crabs clinging on tightly to fight the rain, strong wind and waves.

Sea fans come in different colours, such as this one in white.

The maroon sea fan is home to a pretty tiny snail. Can you spot it?

This is the snail that I was talking about. Hoong Wei, who writes papers on these ovulid snails, has kindly identified this as Crenavolva sp., likely Crenavolva leopardus. Thanks Hoong Wei!

Try spotting the ovulid snail again in this photo!

Ta da! Here is a closer look of the second snail. They are rather camouflaged among the skinny sea fans.

On the shore, I did not know that there are many cowries on many the sea fans until I processed the photos at home. This is because I was struggling to hold a torch, an umbrella and a DSLR in poor weather condition. I was just focused on taking photos. Haha!

I came across one of the rare Winged oyster (Family Pteriidae) on a yellow sea fan.

Here is a look at the density of the juvenile sea fans in the water. Definitely not as dense as the ones I saw in 2009, but it is a good sign that the shore is recovering from the oil spill.

Beside this maroon sea fan are some good growths of sponges.

Here is another sponge in darker brown in colour. I believe this is another species as compared to the one in the previous photo.

As such, the shore still hold a bit of reefy associates with all the different sponges growing back.

A nice find on top of the sea fans and sponges will be this solo find of the sea whip. A sea whip, like the sea fan, is also a gorgonian.

Interestingly, I saw more hard corals on this trip than the one during 2009! Especially many of the juvenile Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.)! Here is a disk coral on the left beside a colony of tough Zebra corals (Oulastrea crispata) on the right.

This is another photo of the juvenile Disk coral with an unknown encrustation in beige.

I also encountered a small patch of Favid hard coral (Family Faviidae)!

Here is another hard coral. I am not too sure if this is also a favid hard coral.

There were also several colonies of these hard corals. I think they are Cave corals (Tubastrea sp.). We have seen this previously on this shore.

Strangely, there was only one colony of zoanthids. These are probably the Button zoanthids (Zoanthus sp.).

I also saw some of these Thumbs up ascidian (Polycarpa sp.).

Underneath rocks are several of the Porcelain crabs (Petrolisthes sp.)! They all were running away when I flipped the rocks.

There were also a couple of these much larger purplish red crab that I do not exactly know its identity.

Also found from under a rock is a lovely shrimp couple. Can you see the much smaller one? I did not see it on the shore till I look at the photo. I am not too sure what type of shrimp is this.

As I began this blog post with sea stars, here's an end with more stars! I was really glad to know that the resident Spiny sea stars (Gymnanthenea laevis) that we have seen here before are still around!

In fact, I found two of these uncommon sea stars on the short one hour checkup of the shore in the rain. This one is slightly more bluish.

A rough feel of this rocky shore is that it is not as lively as 2009 but there are signs that the shore is recovering well. Perhaps it is also due to the rain that I did not see many mobile creatures. Let's hope that we will leave this shore alone untouched and I'm sure the other resident organisms such as the feather stars, flatworms, soft corals will return soon.

More photos of the trip here:

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