Sunday, May 20, 2007

Discovery @ Changi Beach on 20 May 2007

Fifth Discovery Posting:

(Entry @ 22 May 2007, Got ID for second 'discovery', confirmation of ID for
Eleventh 'discovery' and change of info for Chek Jawa)
(Entry @ late night on 20 May 2007, change of ID for seventh 'discovery')

Changi Beach, was feeling excited as it was my first time exploring the northern shores of Singapore for inter-tidal life.

Although i arrived a little late together with two of my friends, we still managed to make it in time to view the sun rise in progress (picture below), looking at it really makes up for the lack of sleep due to the early hour we needed to wake up for this trip.
As we munched our breakfast as walking towards the shoreline looking for Samson and Luan Keng, the sight of the amount of seagrass and seaweeds present really made me stare in awe for one sec.

Once we approached Samson and Luan Keng, they were looking at a stripped hermit crab which occupied a shell that was at least 15cm in length.

First 'discovery'! (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Hermit crabs have a long, soft abdomen.
2. So without a shell to protect it, the hermit crab is vulnerable to predators and to drying out.

3. Hermit crabs have four pairs of legs, the first two pairs are walking legs which we will usually see and the last two pairs of legs are used to tightly grab the shell which is their home.

Second 'discovery' (picture below) looks like a fan shell, i'm still not too sure, could anyone help me to ID this? Thanks =)

(Entry @ 22 May 2007: This (picture below) is a fan shell. Thanks, Ron, for helping me to ID it)
Discovery Note (Entry @ 22 May 2007):
1. They are usually buried in the sand with only the boarder edge sticking out.
2. The fan shell was once plentiful in Singapore but now threaten due to the loss of habitats and human collection.

Third 'discovery' was a carpet anemone (picture below), there seem to be quite a number of them along the inter-tidal zone we explored. Throughout the walk, i counted about 8 of them and sighted several baby anemones also.

Discovery Note:
1. You can see the short, sticky tentacles covering the oral disk like structure. We can find stinging cells in these tentacles.

2. These stinging cells are used to gather food, paralyse prey and defend against predators, rivals and itchy hands. So don’t touch them with your naked hands!

Fourth 'discovery' was a Sand star (picture below),
Underside of the Sand star (picture below),

Discovery Note:
1. The tube feet of sand stars end in points instead of suckers.
2. These pointed tube feet push down powerfully allowing Sand star to ‘race’ rapidly over the sand.

As we moved along the inter-tidal zone, we spotted people probing and walking around also and they had bags or containers on their hands. Was their purpose to look for exotic food or sell these beautiful lives to aquarium shops, we were not sure. But we do know that life will be removed from these shores. So to save what we have found, we moved them towards the sea after we photoed them.

A fruit for thought, would these people mind if someone 'takes' them away from their home and put them into another place/country or into captivity?

I took the picture below to document the amount of sea grass found on the inter-tidal zone and notice the 'small' people in the picture, they are the people i was talking about.
Anyway, back to the discoveries,
fifth 'discovery' was a moon crab (picture below).

Discovery Note:
1. Instead of the usual walking legs we see on crabs, all four pairs of legs of the moon crab are paddle like.
2. This helps the crab to swim and used as spades to quickly bury themselves into the sand.

Sixth 'discovery' was a geographic Sea Hare (picture below), something i saw for the first time!

Discovery Note:
1. They are often overlooked as their appearance enables them to blend in with the seaweeds or they may lie buried in the sand.
2. They can swim by flapping the sides of its body.

Seventh 'discovery' was a peacock anemone (picture below),
(Entry @ late 20 May 07, this is a swimming anemone. Thanks, Ria, for spotting the mistake i made)

Discovery Note (according to Ria):
This anemone often looks like a ball of tentacles and it doesn't have a long body column that is buried in the ground like the carpet anemones or peacock anemones.
2. Instead, it may be perched on seagrasess. This anemone can swim by undulating its tentacles!

As i approached another carpet anemone, i spotted an anemone shrimp amongst a carpet anemone, notice also how this anemone had a different colour to the anemone 'discovered' earlier. Eighth 'discovery' (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Difficult to spot due to its translucent appearance (can you spot the anemone shrimp in the picture above?)
2. They are able to live in anemones just like clown fishes.
3. The anemone shrimp and the anemone share a symbiotic relationship of mutualism, the shrimp attracts prey to the anemone for food while the anemone provides the shrimp with a shelter.

Ninth 'discovery' (picture below) was a row of hermit crabs lining up. What are they doing? Make a guess before reading on...
Discovery Note:
1. As a hermit crab grows bigger, it has to move out of its shell and move into a bigger one.
2. The hermit crab was testing the big shell on the right as it needs to move and it seems that there are two more hermit crabs waiting in line to move into bigger shells also.
3. So hermit crabs actually practiced 'upgrading' and 'queuing' long before Singaporeans =)
4. So don't remove any shells you find on any shores, as they may be potential homes for hermit crabs.

Notice the eyes on long stalks for the stripped hermit crab (picture below),
Tenth 'discovery' was a mantis shrimp (picture below), spotted by my friend. Another first sighting of this animal for me.
Discovery Note:
1. They are neither shrimps or mantis, actually they receive their name purely from the physical resemblance to both the terrestrial praying mantis and shrimp.
2. They have powerful claws which they use to attack and kill prey by spearing, stunning or dismemberment.
3. Their claws are so powerful that it was recorded that a double paned aquarium glass was broken with a single strike from the claw of a mantis shrimp. So don't touch it with your bare hands!

Eleventh 'discovery' was an unknown creature, it looked like a sea slug to me.
Thanks to Ron who pointed out to me during lunch that this is actually a hairy sea hare (correct?), if my memory serves me correct. =P
(Entry @ 22 May 2007: Ron have confirmed that my memory is correct for this, it's a hairy sea hare.)

Twelfth 'discovery' was a pipe fish (picture below), spotted by my friend again. She's really a good spotter!
Discovery Note:
1. Pipe fishes belong to the same family as the seahorses and have similar practices and diet.
2. Like the seahorse, the male pipe fish carries the eggs.
3. Pipe fishes lack a pouch, so the eggs are glued to the underside of a male's tail or abdomen.

Thirteenth 'discovery' was a find by Samson, a ball sea cucumber (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. They are seldom seen as they are buried beneath the sand.
2. They are sometimes washed ashore among piles of seaweeds, so try not to step on seaweeds during inter-tidal walks or keep your eyes wide open. And remember to put them gently into a pool of water if you see an exposed ball sea cucumber.

Fourteenth 'discovery' was a jellyfish (pictures below),

Discovery Note:
1. Jellyfishes actually do not biologically qualify as 'fishes', so the term 'jellyfish' is actually a misnomer for some. You could call them 'jellies' or sea jelly' instead. Very much like the case for starfishes.
2. Sea Jellies possesses tentacles that have stinging cells which sting or kill other animals. Most jellies use them to secure prey or as a defense mechanism. So DON't ever touch a jelly with your naked hand.

As the sun rose higher into the sun, the tide slowly rose to cover the inter-tidal zone and we had to stop our enjoyable exploration due to that. Picture of tide rising (below).
It was really a morning of discoveries and i would like to thank Samson for organising this trip, Luan Keng and Samson for pointing out things i didn't know about, Luan Keng's niece who actually saw more than 10 things (not sure if she knew that or not =P) and my two friends who joined us.

Discovers may also visit Samson's blog on the visit at Changi Beach.

Last Note:
Heard from Ron that things in Chek Jawa is almost back to how it looked like before the heavy rains in Jan which 'killed' a lot of life there (Entry @ 22 May 2007: Only applies to the deeper end of the coral rubble area. Thanks, Ron for correcting my memory =>). Hope that Chek Jawa will 'recover' and be reopened for the public to visit and learn about the importance of leaving some things alone as it is and not eating them as food or taking them away from their homes.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Discovery @ Ubin on 12 May 2007

Fourth Discovery Posting:

(Entry @ 14 May 2007: managed to ID the blue flower and did an ID correction for the banana tree)

Another clear Saturday morning sky which started a day of outdoors and discovery (picture below).
On this morning, we were gathered at Ubin for a slow walk from the jetty to kekek quarry.

But before we even set off, all of us were attracted by the different things we saw around the area near the jetty, flowers, birds, etc. and the toilet, :P

First 'discovery' was around that area, this might be tropical Chinese hibiscus or called the China rose, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
1. Hibiscus is the name given to more than 250 species of herbs, shrubs, and trees of the Malvaceae family.

2. Hibiscus is renowned for its beauty as well as its medicinal uses, and gardeners cultivate the plant for its showy flowers.

3. The China Rose is known to be used to treat respiratory problems, skin disorders or even treat fevers.

Second 'discovery', i forgot to check with everyone on the name of this plant (picture below), would anyone care to help me ID this flower, thanks =)
(Entry @ 14 May 2007: Thanks to Chay Hoon, i managed to ID this plant, it's blue pea)

Discovery Note (according to Luan Keng):
1. This flower is used to help in the making of Nonya Kueks.

Do correct me if i'm wrong, anyone. thanks =)

As you can see, it was indeed a slow walk, as everyone was looking up, down, right and left to explore the flora and fauna of Ubin (picture below). Someone was commenting if we maintained this speed throughout the walk, we might only reach the quarry in the evening.. haha.

Third 'discovery' was a papaya tree at the side of the path (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
1. Papaya is actually a native plant from the North America.
2. Papaya is also known as papoya in Japan.

Here is Samson doing his exploration along the path (picture below), i couldn't resist this shot as the rays of the morning sun was positioned beautifully behind him. =)
Fourth 'discovery' was a banana tree which was just not far away from the papaya tree (picture below),
(Entry @ 14 May 2007, This is a banana plant not tree,
because it does not have branches like a tree but has only just a trunk with compact overlapping leaf base. Thanks to Chay Hoon again for pointing this out.)
Discovery Note (after research):
The fruit bunch of the banana tree requires 75–150 days to mature and must be removed from the plant to ripen properly.
2. Ripe Bananas are high in carbohydrates (mainly sugar), potassium, and vitamins C and A, and it is low in protein and fat.

Fifth 'discovery' was a changeable tree lizard basking in the sun to warm itself up before it starts its day (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
These lizards can change their colours, quite rapidly, but not as rapidly as chameleons.
2. Changeable Lizards eat mainly insects and small vertebrates, including rodents and other lizards. Although they have teeth, these are designed for gripping prey and not tearing it up. So prey is swallowed whole, after it is stunned by shaking it about.
3. Sometimes, young inexperienced Changeable Lizards may choke on prey which are too large.

4. The lizards were introduced to Singapore from Malaysia and Thailand in the 1980s.

Fifth 'discovery' was a hole within a termite nest (picture below). According to Luan Keng, this is a nest for the blue-collared kingfisher.
I've excluded the discovery note for the kingfisher as i couldn't get a picture of it. =>

Sixth 'd
iscovery' was a golden orb web spider (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
1. It gets its name from the golden colour of its silk.
2. The Golden Orb Web Spider is not the largest spider, but it makes the largest and strongest web.
3. The silk is so strong that it can trap small birds and almost as strong as Kelvar, the strongest man-made material which is drawn from concentrated sulphuric acid.

4.Unlike other spider webs, the Golden Orb Web Spider's web is not dismantled often and can last several years.

5. The male is many times smaller than the female, some are 1,000 smaller!

Seventh 'discovery' was a fish-tail palm (picture below),
Discovery Note (according to Luan Keng):
1. The fruits of this palm will start grow from the top of the palm towards the bottom of the palm.
2. When the fruits at the most bottom of the palm dies, the palm also dies, but another new sprout of the same palm will grow at the side of the palm. An amazing way on how life continues.

Eight 'discovery' was made by Chay Hoon, a cicada's nymph's moulded shell (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
1. Cicadas make one of the loudest sounds in the forests.
2. Only males cicadas make the distinctive sound, they make the sound to attract female cicadas to mate with them.

As we walked along the path, we came to the 'famous' signboard everyone sees along the way.
Side note: Is this Singlish at its 'best'? haha

We were talking to the owner of the place about the different plants found around his house when he told us of an interesting phenomenon which occurred recently, and this would become my ninth 'discovery' of the day (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. Does the stone/granite figure you see amongst the trees look like the Guan Ying (Godness of Mercy) to you? Wow!
2. This is located at the Ubin quarry (if my map reading skills are correct).

Another angle of shot at the serene Ubin quarry (picture below),
As we left the Ubin quarry and walked on, we soon chanced upon this Altas moth caterpillar (picture below), Tenth 'discovery' !
Discovery Note (after research):
1. The wingspan of the atlas moth is about 20 cm! They are one of the largest moth found in Singapore.
2. The caterpillars of the atlas moth eat leaves from the Jamaican cherry tree, soursop, cinnamon, rambutan, guava, and citrus.
3. In Taiwan, cocoons are used as pocket purses and in northern India, to make Fagara silk.

And soon after that interesting find, a surprise in store for some of us. As some of us were ahead of the group and waiting for the rest, a rustle was heard amongst the trees above us, and when we raised our heads, we saw the
Oriental Pied Hornbill on a branch above us.

Eleventh 'discovery'!
Discovery Note (after research):
The Oriental pied-hornbills on Pulau Ubin are the only truly wild hornbills found on Singapore.
2. The hornbill's trademark is its large, long bill. The bill, however, is not as heavy as it appears. It is not made of solid bone but of a honeycombed tissue.
Their call is harsh and penetrating and has been described as a loud, staccato cackling; or a yak-yak-yak; and even as the cackling of a witch on a broomstick!
4. The Oriental pied-hornbill plays an important role in the health of the forest as it disperses seeds that are too big for smaller birds to eat.

After a trekking journey of about 3 hours, we finally reached our destination, Kekek Quarry!
Looking at the lovely picture (picture below), i had a conclusion that the journey was definitely worth. =)
The fresh water in the quarry was looking clear and cooling that Ron and Robert couldn't resist a foot dip in the waters (picture below).
As we gathered near the edge of the waters, terrapins and fishes started to appear, we were wondering if Ron and Robert's legs were attracting them or was it the flower that we threw into the water. :P

But nevertheless, this is my thirteenth 'discovery' (picture below), a terrapin.
Special Discovery Note (after research):
How to tell turtles, tortoises and terrapins apart.
1. Turtles have webbed feet for swimming. They live mostly in the water.
2. Tortoises feet are round and stumpy for walking on land. They live on the land.
3. Terrapins have clawed feet. They live both on land and in water.

The word terrapin comes from an Indian word meaning " a little turtle".

As we walked back towards the temple for the taxt ride back to the jetty, we spotted a shield bug. fourteenth 'discovery' (picture below),
Discovery Note (after research):
1. Its name comes from its appearance like a shield. Don't you think so too? :)
Shield bugs have glands in their thorax between the first and second pair of legs which produce a foul smelling liquid. This liquid is used defensively to deter potential predators and is sometimes released when the bugs are handled carelessly.

When we reached the jetty, the tide was coming down and all of us being interested in inter-tidal life was drawn towards the sides of the jetty as we walked to the jetty.

Sightings include plenty of fiddler crabs, a horseshoe crab and some 'onchs'.

Discoverers may also read Samson's blog, Ron's blog, Chay Hoon's Blog for more information/ pictures and Helen's pictures of the trip. =)

So this concludes our Ubin trip for the day, like to take this chance again to thank Luan Keng for organising this trip, and all others who made the trip informative, interesting and entertaining for everyone along the trip :-)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Semakau Inter-tidal Walk on 6 May 2007

Third discovery posting:

It was a beautiful Sunday morning when we depart from Marina South Ferry Terminal to Pulau Semakau, no low-hanging dark clouds was spotted and the sun was slowly rising from the east (picture below).

It looks like it’s going to be a great day for another inter-tidal walk and my first day of formal co-guiding.

Looking at this beautiful day, we decided to walk to the forest trail (where it leads to the inter-tidal zone) as we could take in the wonderful scenery and experience the serene environment on Semakau at the same time. One of the members in the group was actually commenting this really don’t feel like Singapore.

How does it look like to you (picture below)?

Cutting the long story short, eventually we managed to cross the forest trail with minor incident (just a few excitment here and there due to the minor flood occurrence on the forest trail =P) before reaching the inter-tidal zone for our walk.

Discoveries are listed according to sightings order:

First ‘discovery’ of the day, the common sea star (picture below),

Discovery Note:
1. Although people commonly call them star fish, we prefer to call them sea stars. As they are not fishes.
2. If you look on the underside of the sea star, you will find the tube feet of the sea star.
3. These tube feet are used for walking, handle food as well as breathing, talk about multi purpose!
4. Sea stars get stressed when out of water, so please don’t take them out of the water for too long.

Second ‘discovery’ was spotted after the usual crossing of the sea grass lagoon, two sandfish sea cucumbers (picture below),

Discovery Note:
1. The sandfish sea cucumber is the species of sea cucumber which people consume. But they contain toxins, so it must be properly prepared before consumption.
2. To repel predators or when stressed, a sea cucumber might expel their innards or ‘vomit’. And if too much of their innards are expelled, they might die off as a result.
3. So please handle them with care, and don’t stress them out. In short, handle gently. =)

Third ‘discovery’ was something I’ve seen for the first time on Semakau, an Onchidium (picture below),

Discovery note:
1. They are actually sea slugs, which are molluscs without a shell.
2. They are hard to spot as their skin often match the algae-cover rock, sand and sediment which can get stuck on it also helps to add on to its already great camouflage.
3. They are able to survive out of water as they have modified gills which allow them to breathe air.

Side note:
Some of us were handling the sea slug with our hands, only to discover how ‘slimy’ it was. And Helen (my ‘supervisor’) was commenting that it might shit on our hands and that ‘lucky’ person to get its ‘prize’ in the end was actually me, talk about hitting the ‘jackpot’. -_-“

Fourth ‘discovery’ was the Heart shape bivalve (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. The common name to this is the Heart cockle. Yes, the cockle some of us eat.
2. The cockle lives in sand and mud in shallow water.
3. All cockles are hermaphroditic, which means they possess both the male and female sex organs (like the flatworm).

Fifth ‘discovery’ was the Chromodoris Nudibranch (picture below), (managed to ID this with help from Samson’s blog, thanks Samson!),

Discovery note:
1. Nudibranch is pronounced as 'noo-dee-brank' to rhyme with 'bank'.
2. They are called 'nudibranch' because they have naked gills and many of them have flowery-like external gills on their backs.
3. They contain and can secrete toxins. So don't touch them with your naked hands!

Sixth ‘discovery’ was a puffer fish.

Discovery note:
1. They are named for their ability to inflate themselves to several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened.
2. They have four large teeth, fused into an upper and lower plate, which are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks, their natural prey. They also enjoy the occasional bloodworm
3. The eyes and internal organs of most puffer fish are highly toxic, but nevertheless the meat is considered a delicacy in Japan and Korea.

Seventh 'discovery' was the marginated glossodoris nudibranch (picture below), (managed to ID this with help from Ron’s blog, thanks Ron!),
Discovery note:
1. Nudibranchs have a pair of tentacles which is believed to help them 'sniff' out prey and potential mates.

Eighth 'discovery', the highlight of Semakau inter-tidal walks, the knobbly sea star (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. Their name comes from the presence of knobs on their topside.
2. Although they are brightly coloured and covered with knobs and spikes, they are not venomous, so you can touch them!

As it is the first time, i am 'guiding', so a first group shot with the knobbly~
Team Sea slugs, gather and photo positions and cheese!

Ninth 'discovery' was the spider couch (picture below),
Underside of the spider couch (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. This beautiful large shell is considered vulnerable due to habitat degradation and over-collection for food and as ornaments.
2. Like its relative the Gong-gong, it has a sickle-shaped operculum attached to a strong foot that is used to "pole-vault" along the sea bottom.

3. Being rather speedy for a snail, it has large eyes to see where it is going (notice its eyes on its underside).
4. The flared shell helps to keep it from flipping over as it "hops" along.

Tenth 'discovery' was a carpet anemone (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. They have stinging cells in their tentacles, usually these tentacles are only exposed under water, but there have been cases where people have been stung when these are touched when these anemones are above water, so for your own safety, don't touch them with your naked hands.
2. They lack an anus, so they split out any indigestible food through its mouth.

Eleventh 'discovery' were some egg capsules from an unknown marine animal.

Twelfth 'discovery' is the logo of a famous company, the scallop (picture below),
Discovery note:
1. Scallops are filter feeders - they open their shells slightly during high tide to suck in water and collect edible particles.
2. At low tide, they will shut their shells tightly.
3. Scallops can also "swim" by flapping their valves.

As the tide was coming in, we had to leave the inter-tidal zone soon and so we went back through the forest trail and back up to the waiting area.

At the waiting area, one of the participates was lamenting that her jeans was so wet that she couldn't stand it. So the solution she had in mind was to borrow a pair of scissors from a friend, and 'redesigned' her jeans, (i actually took the picture below, as Helen as calling out to me to blog this, then i was thinking, "why not".. :P)
Anyway, after the inter-tidal walk, everyone was ushered onto the NEA bus and given a land fill tour by me (a better talk this time round, guess the notes i prepared helped me a bit) and headed towards the most southern part of Semakau where we could see the most southern part of Singapore, the Raffles Lighthouse (picture below),

This nice flower was spotted at the most southern part of Semakau (picture below),

As according to the program, everyone then proceeded to the Marine transfer station and finally to the NEA conference room for a video presentation before we left for main-land Singapore.

Before i sign off, i would like to thank all 'Sea Slugs' again for their participation for this walk and making this walk an enjoyable experience for me. =)

and also Meanwhile, Bye, Semakau~