Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Discovery @ Semakau on 28 Oct 2007

Thirtieth Discovery Posting:

Entry @ 01 Nov 2007: Changed the date of the walk, it should be in Oct, not Sep. =P. Thanks to Ron for pointing it out)

On Sunday (28 Oct 2007), a batch of Semakau guides (myself included) were out at Semakau for exploration. With a plan to explore the mangroves in mind, we arrived on the island before the low tide and this was the scene that greeted us as we emerge from the usual forest trail (picture below).
I can't seem to find a picture for comparison but if it was low tide, the water you see in the foreground would have receded towards the background.

The first 'discovery' along the shores was a perepat tree (picture below)
Here's a shot of its cone-shaped roots (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. They can grow up to 20m tall
2. Found at the front of the mangrove belt and usually on sandy soil.

3. Its wood can be used for firewood, house building and clogs.

4. For more information, click here.

The sight of rubbish on our shores has always been frowned upon. But from time to time, we do get something which puts a smile on our faces first before a frown. Here's one example (picture below).
Smiles on our exploration walks have always been a regular sight. Here's Angie with a broad smile despite the condition she was in (observed her legs, i know they are a distract, but try to spot her foot if you can). Oh, by the way, i was the one who asked her to 'smile' for the camera (picture below). =P
And as we walked along the shore, Ron was turning over rocks almost all along the way, i was wondering what was he looking for, therefore when he gave a cry of "yes! I found it!". I moved towards him as quickly as i could.

And i saw the second 'discovery', a cryptic rock star (picture below), a new sighting for me!
Underside of the cryptic rock star (picture below).Discovery Note:
1. They can have 4, 5 or even 6 arms!

2. They have a mottled, but variable,
colouration which serves as camouflage, hence the name of cryptic rock star.
3. They are rare as they need undisturbed rocky shores to live at.

Third 'discovery' is a plant found near sea shores, which i've seen along the coast of Chek Jawa and Sentosa, the sea lettuce (picture below).
Here's its beautiful and unusual looking flower(picture below). Discovery Note:
1. They have large and waxy leaves .
2. The waxy leaves are there to prevent water lost, which is important, as the temperature near the sea shore can get really hot...

Not far away, Angie and another friend (i can't remember your name although i 've seen you twice, so sorry.) spotted a baby horseshoe crab (pictures below), fourth 'discovery' and look at its size compared to a twenty-cent coin.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 which 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.

As we continued to wonder along the shore, we soon spotted a whole lot of seashore pandan (picture below), fifth 'discovery'.And they were fruiting, here's one of them (picture below). Don't it look like a pineapple? =)Discovery Note:
1. This is also called the Seashore Screwpine.
2. It is a formidable plant to encounter as it has dense clusters of long, stiff leaves armed with three rows of short spines.
3. The compound fruit resembles a pineapple and are dispersed by water.
4. Like many other screwpines, the leaves are used to make mats and baskets.

Side note:

During the construction of the land fill, NEA had to clear off mangrove forests, but an effort was made to replant mangrove trees. And here's a photo to show the replanted mangrove trees (picture below) Even after purchasing a 'swimming' camera for about a month, i still had not tested its 'swimming' ability, so this was a good day to let it swim. Here's a underwater shot i attempted (picture below). But what was it i was photographing?Sixth 'discovery', the sand star or better known as the common sea star (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Although called the common sea star, they are now rare due to over collection and habitat lost.

Just a few steps away, i saw this (picture below). Want to guess what are they doing? read on...
Discovery Note (Warning: Sex Content):
1. This is a 'mating' position for the sand star.
2. The 'mating' position for the common sea star works like this: the male will be on top of the female, their arms in a formation as in the picture.

3. But they do external fertilization, which means their sexual organs don’t come into contact and the closeness is to increase the chance of fertilization, when they release the eggs and sperms into the water.

4. This 'mating' position is consider unusual in the world of sea stars, as only the common sea star and one other related species is known to “mate” in this way.

And for the first time, i saw sand dollars at Semakau. Seventh 'discovery'!
Discovery Note:
1. Living sand dollars are coated in fine, harmless spines that made them very velvety.
2. The spines are movable and are used to dig into the sand or move around.
3. The dense layer of spines also helps to keep off sand and silt so there is a flow of oxygenated water across the body.

As we wondered further into the unexplored parts of Semakau, we heard a shout from Helen, "Wa!
", and all of us were very soon standing very near to where she was. Eighth 'discovery'! Baby knobbly (picture below)! Side Note:
Currently, i am 'tasked' to do a mini project to monitor any baby knobbly found on Semakau. Thus do look out for a posting soon all on this baby knobbly. =)

And in a gigantic carpet anemones along the trip, two clownfishes were spotted. Ninth 'discovery'! (pictures below)Discovery Note:
1. The clownfish have a symbiotic relationship with sea anemone.

2. They have a mucus covering that protects them from the sting of the sea anemone's tentacles.
3. This mucus prevents them from being harmed, and allows clownfish to live in sea anemone.

4. Clownfish are hermaphrodites (they develop as males first and mature as breeding females or ‘change’ into a female if there are no females).

5. More information? Click here.

How do we tell apart a true and false clownfish?
Wish to find out? Click here.

After exploring a bit, we decided to head back to our usual guided walk area for a look. I was ahead of everyone as i wanted a sight of the adult knobbly sea star as it might be several months before we return to Semakau. But instead, i found three clownfishes living in a gigantic carpet anemone around the area where we usually have our walks. I tried to take a video of one of them swimming, but as i couldn't managed to focus well enough, the outcome is as such...

By the time, i finished videoing the clownfish, i had to turn back, as the time to leave was near. It was a pity that i couldn't find the adult knobbly, but nevertheless the sight of the cryptic sea star and a total of five clownfishes really made my day! =)

Thanks to Luan Keng for organising this trip and everyone else who came and made the walk another light hearted and enjoyable one! =)

Click here to read Tidechaser Ron's blog entry on this same walk.
Manta Samson's blog entry? Here it is!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sentosa Walk with NHC on 27 Oct 2007

Twenty-ninth discovery posting:

The NHC (Naked Hermit Crabs) were out in action again, of course with our clothes on. =P

This time, we made our presence on Sentosa!
Where were we heading, here?
Nope, this is where we were heading with members of the public who signed up with us for a guided walk at the natural shore of Sentosa.
But my role for the day was not a guide, i was holding the role of "If you don't see any thing, blame me" tag aka hunter seeker... which means i was to look for interesting things for the visitors to view before they appear. Here's one of the things i do if i found something. (picture below)
A headache which most inter-tidal hunter seekers face is that the tide has not gone down to a level which i could easily spot things. This was the case, thus if any participant who was there on the day and wondering why we were taking a long time before you came to the shore. It was because that the tide hasn't reach a level which was low enough and i only managed to find a couple of beautiful shells due to the same reason.

Second headache for hunter seekers is, "I cannot find anything", thus a never-give-up approach and "i need more help" plea. hahaha.

Thus, Helen was on the scene to help me out. And look what she found. First 'discovery', a copper-banded butterfly fish! (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. They have a large ‘false eye’ on its dorsal fin which fools predators into thinking that it is a big fish.
2. And if a predator does attacks it, the fish unexpectedly swim ‘backwards’.
3. They have a long snout with brush-like teeth to suck up coral polyps and small prey from crevices.

And the kids on the family trail led by Marcus found this, second 'discovery', a mosaic crab! (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. This is one of the most poisonous crab in Singapore.
2. Thus, we give the strongest advice not to eat this, although biologists say that everything can be eaten once, but they do not mention what will happen to you after that meal...

As we found more things, one swimming crab, one leaf slug, one discodoris nudibranch, a hairy crab (which ran away), the groups on the adventure trail (longer route which led participants trek on the rocky shores of Sentosa) soon arrived to what i was (picture below).
And hearing them say, "Hey, an octopus!", i went over to take a peek. Here's the third 'discovery', an octopus (picture below)

Discovery Note:
1. Octopuses are characterized by their eight arms (not tentacles), usually bearing suction cups.
2. They have a relative short life span, and some specials live for as little as six months.
3. They have three hears! Two pump blood through each of their two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
4. They are also highly intelligent, probably more intelligent than any other order of invertebrates (any animal without a spinal column).

The participants also spotted another leaf slug amongst the seaweeds, fourth 'discovery' (picture below)

Discovery Note:
1. Leaf slugs feed on seaweeds by poking a hole in them and then suck out the contents within the seaweed.
2. Due to this feeding behaviour, they also suck in the chloroplast, which helps in photosynthesis for plants. This chloroplast then continues to photosynthesis in the leaf slug which in turn provides the leaf slug with extra food. Talk about supplements!
3. Anyway, that’s why leaf slugs are green; it’s due to the presence of chloroplast…
4. I wonder what will happen to us (humans) if we can do the same thing as the leaf slugs, would we turn green…hahaha

Anyway, by this time, i was kinda of free to move around and some Crabbies in action. Here's Ron (in the centre) in guiding mode (picture below).

And as this was a evening walk, we were treated to the wonderful scene of a sunset (picture below). What a way to end the walk!

Thanks to everyone who came for the walk, all NHC who were presented and of course, Helen, who made my job a whole lot less stressing... =)

Extra: You can read Sijie (new naked crabbie) 's bog entry on his OJT and many other things he saw on the adventure trail, just click here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Discovery @ NTU Yunnan Garden on 26 Oct 2007

Twenty-eighth discovery posting:

(Entry @ 29 Oct 2007: Added own thoughts on the oil palm issue)

Just a few hours ago (around 6pm), I tagged along with the NTU Earthlink to do a recce around Yunnan Garden. The purpose of the recce was to find out what plants does the garden have, as NTU Earthlink is planning is to do a nature walk there next year. And we were lucky to have Dr Shawn Lum with us to point out to us the many plants found in the garden.

Here are two photos (picture below) taken from the garden.

Anyway, Dr Shawn showed everyone loads of things around garden, so here's some of them.

First 'discovery' is a oil palm (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. The oil palm tree is a tropical plant which commonly grows in warm climates.

2. This tree produces one of the most popular edible oils in the world – a versatile oil of superb nutritional value.

3. Oils harvested from the oil palm can be used for the production of soap and edible vegetable oil

4. The world's largest producer and exporter of palm oil today is Malaysia, producing about 47% of the world's supply of palm oil. Indonesia is the second largest world producer of palm oil producing approximately 36% of world palm oil volume.

5. And the Oil palm has both male and female flowers on the same tree.

But the great commerical value of the oil palm had lead to destruction of many forests in Malaysia and Indonesia, a quick google search landed me with an organisation lobbying against this, click here to read more about them.

New addition:
Personally, i support sustainable development, what these organisations (above) are just another point of view from their viewpoint, as manta mentioned: "
the Palm Oil Actions are due to conflict of interests and are commercially motivated. These are mainly by soya oil manufacturing countries..... the reasons is clear! You know who they are.... they even have medical reports, research...so & so claimed that palm oil is bad for health... the real victims are rubber plantations industries." I believe what manta has pointed out to me can be true and therefore the organisation of Palm Oil Action might have another motive for doing what they do.

Thanks to manta for pointing the above out, i didn't know about this before. So now i've learned of something new. =)

Anyway, the second 'discovery' are some cycads (picture below).
Discovery Note:
1. Cycads
are a group of seed plants characterized by a large crown of compound leaves and a stout trunk.
2. They are frequently confused with and mistaken for palms or ferns, but are related to neither, belonging to the division Cycadophyta.

3. Cycads are found across much of the subtropical and tropical parts of the world.

4. They are able to grow in full sun or shade, and some are salt tolerant.

5. Some are renowned for survival in harsh semi-desert climates, and can grow in sand or even on rock.

6. Though they are a minor component of the plant kingdom today, they were extremely common during the Jurassic period.

Third 'discovery' was this tree (picture below).
Let's us look at the flowers (from two different trees of the same species) and try to guess what tree is this... (pictures below)

Discovery Note:
1. This is the trumpet tree, a wonderful small tree which features masses of showy golden yellow, pink or purple tubular flowers shaped like a trumpet.
2. Also known as Tabebuia

3. It is easy to grow and loves full sun.
4. This tree is known to be native to Central and South America and the West Indies.

Side Note: For a beautiful photo of the tree and its flowers, click here.

Fourth 'discovery' is the hop tree, Arfeuillea arborescens (picture below).
Flowers of the tree (picture below)
Discovery Note:
1. A member of the bean family.
2. Otherwise, i cannot find other information on this tree. Would anyone who knows more about this tree care to enlighten me? Thanks =)

There were many other things which i do not have the time right now to show everyone. But there will be another time. =)

Finally, would like to thank NTU Earthlink for letting me join them for the recce and Dr Shawn Lum for being there to let us in on so many things. Thanks, everyone ;)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Semakau Inter-Tidal Walk on 30 Sep 2007

Twenty-seventh discovery posting:

It has been a while since i had three inter-tidal walks in the space of a few days, yesterday (i'm blogging on the early Monday morning) was my third trip to Semakau.

Today, all the participants were from NUS High, and i was leading the group of Octopus.

Anyway, as we were waiting for the participants to view the presentation by NEA on Semakau land fill island, just outside the office building was a dragon fly who had a wing that was a bit bent (picture below), first 'discovery', let's hope it still can fly and find food...
Discovery Note:
1. Dragon files are characterized by their multifaceted eyes, a twin pair of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body.

2. Their wings are often at right angles from their body when at rest.

3. Dragon flies do not normally bite or sting humans, but they might bite in order to escape, for example, if it is grasped by the abdomen).

4. Do you know that dragon flies eat mosquitoes? Yes they do. They also eat other small insects such as flies, bees, and even butterflies.

And very soon, we were out on the inter-tidal area to find our second 'discovery', a pair of common sea stars (picture below).
Discovery Note: R(A) content:
1. When you see common sea stars stacked on top of one another, that means that they are about to mate.

2. The male, which is usually smaller, lies on top of the female, his arms alternating with hers.

3. This unique behaviour is thought to increase the chance of fertilization as their sexual organs do not actually meet. Fertilization takes place externally as they release their sperms and eggs simultaneously.

We were also quite lucky to get a chance to have a meet ourselves session. Octopuses, meet octopus (picture below). Third 'discovery'!
Discovery Note:
1. Octopuses are characterized by their eight arms (not tentacles), usually bearing suction cups.

2. They have a relative short life span, and some specials live for as little as six months.

3. They have three hears! Two pump blood through each of their two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.

4. They are also highly intelligent, probably more intelligent than any other order of invertebrates (any animal without a spinal column).

And of course we had to take a group photo with the iconic star of the walk, the knobbly sea star (picture below).
Quite a short posting as i had to catch enough sleep for a test in the morning later...

Meanwhile, thanks to all octopuses, you guys have been great!

  • Take a look also at Siyang's entry on his first time to guiding on Semakau here. There's also a record of how attractive i am to female mosquitoes. =P
  • Juan Hui's entry on her first time guiding on Semakau @ here.
  • Tidechaser Ron's entry with loads of photos and great facts @ here.
  • JC's double OJT's entry @ here.