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. =)

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