Monday, August 20, 2007

Crabbies @ Chek Jawa Boardway on 18 Aug 2007

Twenty-first discovery posting:

Late entry for this second trip to Chek Jawa (referred as CJ also).

Anyway, i was with the Naked Hermit Crabs (NHC in short) and some people from the GVN at CJ as we were doing our trial run before we attempt a guided walk for the public. Basically, we wanted to make sure we don't dwell too long, talk too much, on each station so that our visitors won't go Zzzzzz... when we guide them. =P

We were a bit worried by the outlook of the weather, as there were dark clouds approaching, so very soon we were off in our trial walk.

Here's a photo of Pulau Sekudu (picture below) which means 'frog island'.
There is a story about Pulau Sekudu with relation to Pulau Ubin, but to know it, it's either that you go 'discover' it yourself or come for the NHC walk at the CJ boardway. =p

Along the path we were taking, we soon saw one of the six ecosystems found at CJ, the coastal forest (picture below),
first 'discovery'.
Discovery note (about the plants living at the coastal forest):
1. Costal plants are adopted to grow in the inhospitable conditions (strong winds, salt spray and hot sun reflected off the sand and sea) along the coast.

2. The costal hill of Chek Jawa is mostly rock so there is hardly any soil for these plants to grow on.

3. So these plants either cling to rock ledges or grow wedged in crevices in the rocks.

And near the side of the boardwalk is a seashore nutmeg, second 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. This is a coastal plant. Refer to first 'discovery' for the challenges it have to face to survive.
2. It was once thought that this tree could no longer be found in Singapore, however it was discovered to be living in Chek Jawa.

3. The bright red pulp of the fruit attracts large birds such as the Oriental pied-hornbills, that eat and disperse them.

Do you know that the CJ boardway is also a great place to check out the planes landing at our Changi Airport?

Here's a photo (picture below) i took.
An observation we had at the CJ boardwalk is that, there was no litter bins along the boardwalk, so if you have any rubbish to dispose off, please remember to put them into your bag or pockets until you can find a litter bin to dispose of them properly.

This is to ensure that everyone who goes there have a litter-free experience, and more importantly, it serves not to pollute the ecosystems at CJ.

Do be considerate, as i am sure that you won't like it if someone throws rubbish in your home also, right? =)

Here's a photo record (picture below) of the CJ boardwalk,
third 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. The CJ boardwalk was officially opened on the 7 July 2007 (have to mention this since my nick is July. =p).
2. The entire boardwalk is about 1.1km long and has 2 sections - the coastal section (about 600m) and the mangrove section (about 500m).
3. You might think the boardwalk is made of wood, but it is actually made from fibre glass and concrete, made to look like wood.

Fourth 'discovery' is another ecosystem found in CJ, the seagrass lagoon (picture below), the photo i took didn't really showed the seagrasses very well, as the time when i took this was the time when the high tide was coming in. Anyway,
Discovery Note:
1. The seagrass lagoon serves as a nursery for many sea creatures as there is free shelter and loads of food to be found there.

2. Seagrasses have a creeping network of underground stems that stabilize the sediment. So the waters around the seagrasses are fairly clear.

On the boardwalk itself, we made a 'wonderful' discovery! Wow!
Fifth 'discovery', a true biscuit sea star, hahaha~ (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Origins : unknown.
2. Most NHCs believe that it did not originated from the seas.
3. And it is most possibly true that this is edible.

Another ecosystem that you can find within CJ is the mangrove forest,
sixth 'discovery'.Discovery Note:
1. Mangroves are important as they are one of the green lungs of our earth, which means that they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen through photosynthesis.
2.They are also nursery grounds for many species of marine fishes and crabs, just like the seagrass lagoon.
3. They are also nature's sponge, which means that they are able to hold large amounts of water. Massive floods have known to occur in areas where mangroves have been cleared!

An interesting thing about mangrove plants is that they develop aerial roots (refer to pictures below). Why? The answer is the
seventh 'discovery'.Discovery Note:
1. Aerial roots are roots that arise from the ground.
2. Mangrove plants developed aerial roots so that they could cope with living in unstable, water-logged (during high tide) and oxygen-poor mud.
3. During low-tides, these roots are exposed and are able to take in atmospheric air.

As the dark clouds we saw earlier moved in closer upon us and with the accompany sounds of thunder, we decided to head back to House no.1 immediately. However, i did managed to find time to take a photo of the Jejawi Tower, eighth 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1.The tower is named after a Jejawi Tree found nearby the tower.
2. A Jejawi Tree is actually a fig.
3. The tree is about 20 meters tall, about the same height as the tower itself!
4. Climbing to the top of the tower would enable you to do bird sighting or view the different ecosystems found in CJ.
5. It would be a bad idea though to climb this tower when the weather is bad, especially when there is lighting.

Here's a photo of the house no.1 (picture below),
ninth 'discovery', where we 'hid' from the rain.Discovery Note:
1. It is known as House no.1 as its postal address in Ubin is "House no.1".
2. This is now a visitor center which was converted from a Tudor-style house built in the 1930s.
One of the unique features of the house is its genuine fireplace, which is probably the only one left in Singapore.

Before the downpour hit the ground , i managed to capture a scene of the dark clouds that loomed across the sky (picture below). By the way, i was at about the same point where i took the first photo you saw in this entry.
As soon the rain passed, the next destination we quickly went a place somewhere near the jetty, not the toilet, but a place for food. =)

Anyway, that warps this trip to CJ. Hoping to go there soon again, and thanks to all the NHC, GVN for their information sharing and jokes which again made the trip an enjoyable one~

Monday, August 6, 2007

Crabbies @ Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 5 Aug 2007

Twentieth Discovery Posting:

First trip to Chek Jawa and it was a 'crowded' event. I was there with the Naked Hermit Crabs (that's why the 'crabbies'), Green Volunteers Network and the NIE green club for a sharing session on what we know about the flora and fauna that are found there. At the same time, many other people who are involved in nature one way or another were also at the same place for a 'party'.

Picture below shows a map of the place with the newly opened boardwalk.
Brief History of Chek Jawa:
Originally planned to be reclaimed for development, this place was brought to public attention in the middle of 2001 for its rich biodiversity and unique natural environment. And therefore, the plans for development was shelved and will be reviewed again in 2011.

"The beauty of Chek Jawa is that several different ecosystems (Coastal Hill Forest, Mangroves, Rocky Shore, Sandy ecosystem, Seagrass lagoon, Coral Rubble area) can be seen in one small area. These ecosystems and the plants and animals found there are no longer common elsewhere in Singapore." (Reference:Chek Jawa Guidebook by Ria Tan and Alan Yeo)

So as we started out the trail up on the Jejawi Tower, which is named after a Jejawi Tree found nearby the tower (picture below). First 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. This is actually a fig.
2. Normally these parasitic figs germinate on top of another tree and try to make roots into the ground.
3. Once that important step is done, the fig will grow vigorously, finally kill the hosting tree and then grow on independently.

Here's a "bird's eye view" from the Jejawi Tower (picture below). A highly recommended climb as the view is great.
As we moved along the boardwalk through the mangrove area, someone spotted this mudskipper (picture below) which none of us could confirm its ID. Most were guessing that this is the blue-spotted mudskipper due to its blue spots found around its body. Second 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. Mudskippers are amphibious animals. So they are able to breathe on land and underwater.

2. Underwater, mudskippers breathe through gills like other fishes. On land, mudskippers use their enlarged gill chambers to retain water which aids them in breathing on land. Something like a scuba diver’s air tank, only that this work while on land.

3. Mudskippers also have to regularly replenish the water in their gill chambers so they cannot stay far from water.

4. Mudskippers can also breathe air through their skin like amphibious but they can only do that if their skin remains moist. That's why you might see mudskippers taking water dips at times.

Third 'discovery' was a Malayan water monitor basking partly in the sun (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Monitors can survive in habitats that wouldn't be able to support other large carnivores as they are cold blooded, that's why they need to bask in the sun.
2. In addition, they eat anything that they can swallow. From tiny insects, to crabs, molluscs, snakes, eggs (of birds and crocodiles) and even other monitor lizards. They even eat rubbish, human faeces, and even dead bodies.

3. The Water Monitor's main hunting technique is to run after prey that it has spotted, rather than stalking and ambushing.
4. Water Monitor Lizards are highly mobile. They can swim, run faster than most of us can run and even climb trees.
5. Like snakes, they have a forked tongue that they stick in and out regularly to "smell" their prey and other tasty titbits.

As we continued on the boardwalk, we met Joseph, a really professional nature guide, and we were really lucky to get some information and pointers from him on certain flora.

Fourth 'discovery' is the Nipah Palm (picture below) and which Joesph shared with us a very interesting fact about it.
Discovery Note (information from Joesph):
1. The trunks you see in the picture above are not the trunks actually, it's the palm's frond.
2. The trunks are horizontal and actually lies underground! The trunk branches and each branch ends with a bunch of fronds. So it's very possible that what you are looking at is just one tree here! Wow!

Fruits of the Nipah Palm (pictures below
) Discovery Note:
1. Found in areas with calm waters of low salinity (amount of salt in the water is low).
2. The Nipah palm is the only true mangrove palm.

3. Its mature fronds are used for thatching the roofs of houses, therefore the name of “attap house” and are also woven into mats and baskets.

4. Its most recognisable use locally is its edible young seeds (attap chee).

As Joesph ended his sharing, someone immediately caught sight of a banded krait. Fifth 'discovery'!
Discovery Note:
1. The Banded Krait is easily identified by the alternating black and yellow bands, which are of equal thickness and extend onto the ventral surface.

2. Sightings of this elusive snake in Singapore are rare. Though it is highly venomous it does not have an aggressive temperament by day. At nights it is more active and potentially more dangerous. So do respect it and keep a distance from it.

3. The species occurs in a variety of habitats including forests, agricultural and coastal areas. But it is more often that we encounter them close to water bodies.
4. They are known to feed on other vertebrates including rodents, lizards and other snakes.

Sixth 'discovery' was two tree climbing crabs on a tree just next to the boardwalk, thus the close up shot (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. Tree-climbing crabs can be seen easily in the day from the boardwalk. At this time, they usually climb only high enough to clear the water level and remain motionless on tree-trunks, leaves or boardwalk legs.
2. This is probably a predator-avoidance behaviour, especially with the many predatory species of fish and crabs that hunt with the incoming tide.

3. At night time or dusk, they emerge to feed on the forest floor and have been seen climbing up trees to heights of more than six metres to graze on algae as well as eating leaves.

Here's a attempt at a "nice" photo (picture below). It shows a mangrove tree standing near the seagrass lagoon. The seagrass is not visible as the tide was coming in.
As we reached the end of the trail, some of us visited the house no.1 which was recently repainted and specimens were placed inside for visitors to find out more about the flora and fauna they would see around Chek Jawa.

Here's a technology driven display where more information would be shown when the visitor scans the exhibit she/he would like to know more about using a barcode scanner (picture below). House No. 1 even comes with a fireplace (picture below)! Few of my friends were commenting that they won't mind living in a house like this in the future. Well, looking at its exterior, its surroundings, it isn't easy to disagree with them (pictures below). After visiting the house no. 1, i had to rush to meet the others as all of them were waiting at the pick up point to go back to the Jetty.

So it's bye for now and see you soon, Chek Jawa.

And also Thanks to everyone for making the walk a very informative one and enjoyable. =)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Semakau Inter-Tidal Walk on 4 Aug 2007

Nineteenth discovery posting:

(Entry@ 6 Aug 2007: Thanks to Angie for a photo of the volute which was laying eggs)

Semakau had a 'crowd' of people, Team Seagrass were there to do seagrass transect, some Nparks stuff were there to do recording of plants (if i didn't remembered wrongly) and us doing the guided walk at the Inter-Tidal zone.

Have to admit that this posting would be quite short due to some reasons.. because at first i though that i did not brought my camera (which i really was lamenting along the walk) only to find out after the walk that i did brought my camera, it was hidden deep in my bag... ARGHZ!

Anyway, i was leading the 'turtles' with, Angie (who knows loads about corals) as my assistant of the day and i did tell my group that i was very tempted to shout, "Turtle Power" =P

Also i have to thank Jing Kai for his photo contribution, so that i can write on something interesting...

'Discovery' by Jing Kai's group: A coastal horseshoe crab (pictures below)
Discovery Note:
1. Horseshoe crabs have known to 'roam' the earth since days even before the dinosaurs was around, so scientists calls them 'living fossils'.
2. Although they are called horseshoe crabs, they are not related to crabs. They are actually more related to spiders and scorpions.
3. There are two types of horseshoes crabs we can find in Singapore, the mangrove one (circular tail) and the coastal one (the trianglar tail)
4. The tail is not venomous and is not used as a weapon. It is merely used as a lever to right itself if it is overturned. If you see an upside down horseshoe crab struggling with its tail waving around, do give it a helping hand. It will not hurt you.
5. The blood of the horseshoe crab is blue, as it is copper-based.
6. Their blood is able to clot easily when it detects bacteria, so their blood was harvested for these purposes until a team from NUS's department of Zoology has cloned a substance to replace using horseshoe crab's blood. Read more about it here.

(Entry @ 6 Aug 2007: Below was something that most of us saw for a first time, including myself, volute laying eggs (picture below)! A new 'Discovery'! Thanks to Angie again for giving me permission to use her photo. => )
Discovery Note:
1. Volutes are carnivorous. They prey on bivalves, enveloping the victim completely with their foot forcing the bivalve to finally open from exhaustion and lack of oxygen.
2. They can grow to more than 20cm and used to be common but now threaten due to 'harvesting' from humans and habitat lost.

As i only managed to find my camera after the walk, i only managed to get a group photo of everyone at the Semakau Jetty, here it is (picture below).
And also nevertheless, Thanks to Angie for her great assistance and explanation on corals and sponges and also all 'turtles' for being there. =)

"Turtle POWER"