Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pedal Ubin! 070309

Moments after we set foot onto Pulau Ubin, a steady drizzle started which threatened to dampen our mood. Luckily, the rain abated quickly and we soon embarked on our first Pedal Ubin experience :D

Dark clouds were starting to obscure the sun...(played with my photo-editing programme).

Saw quite a lot of these birds wheeling overhead. They are Pacific Swallows (Hirundo tahitica) and are resident birds.* I've not been able to get a close look at them yet...

Before the Toddycats! guides brought us out, we were asked to test out our bikes (by playing with the gears, etc). Each group had around 13 participants and set off in intervals.

While waiting outside the Pulau Ubin Volunteer Hub, I turned my attention to the occasional bird in the vicinity. Blurry pic (argh!) of what looks like a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiaivier).

In no time, we were off and peddling hard to get to our destination (the destination of each Pedal Ubin trip varies) - Chek Jawa (CJ)! Upon reaching the CJ gates, we dismounted and parked our bikes in the bicycle stands provided, proceeding to advance on foot.

On our way in, we saw a couple of these mushrooms. If conditions are moist and humid, expect fungi! Based on their morphology, these mushrooms here are probably basidiomycetes (mushroom or club fungi). (ID?)

While exploring round the back of House No. 1 (CJ's visitor centre), Ze Lin spotted this pair of mating bugs. Are those droppings as pointed out by Samson Tan? (ID?)

ZL (with his sharp eyes) alerted us to this very well-camouflaged caterpillar. It was huge: around 8 cm long and 2 fingers wide o.O I remember there being comments like, "What kind of butterfly will it turn into?". I'm wondering too!

Identity revealed by Ron. It's the caterpillar of an Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas).* The moth is indeed big, with a wingspan of around 25 to 30 cm. Wow!

Just a stone's throw away was this much smaller white caterpillar with 'spikes'. (ID?)

At the front of House No. 1, there is a huge tank which houses marine animals that need rehabilitation. Currently, the tank is not in use as it's undergoing 'upgrading'. However, many terrestial bugs have fallen in and subsequently died, like this Scarab Beetle (Family Scarabaeidae).*

If memory serves me, those leaf-like 'pouches' are actually the modified petals enclosing the seed. Wrong info!

Those aren't modified petals, but modified leaves called bracts and belong to Flemingia strobilifera.* According to, a bract is a modified leaf growing just below a flower or flower stalk. Bracts are generally small and inconspicuous, but some are showy and petallike, as the brightly colored bracts of bougainvillaea or the white or pink bracts of flowering dogwoods.

I believe this is a weaver ants' nest.. (ID?)

The view from the top of the Jejawi Tower in Chek Jawa.

As we were making our way down from the tower, this bird caught my eye. (ID?)

Curious indeed! This spider web was strung near the supporting pillars on the tower (forgot which storey). What are those lumps? Hmm..bundled up prey?

Mindy noticed the spider eating one of the lumps! (ID?)

Mud Lobster mounds can be found on both sides of the Chek Jawa Boardwalk. Though the mounds are common, the Mud Lobsters (Thalassina anomala) themselves hardly ever make an appearance.

The Nipah Palm (Nypa fruticans) is the only true mangrove palm. Its immature fruits are used extensively in desserts like Ice Kacang, and are commonly known to us as attap chee. Apart from satisfying one's sweet tooth for attap chee, this plant is commercially important as its parts - such as the fronds and sap - are used widely.

Mindy spotted this strange-looking spider. Got a clue from Samson Tan about its identity. Following it, I think this spider may be a Big-bellied Tylorida (Tylorida ventralis), a species which is falls under the Big-jawed Spiders family of Tetragnathidae.

The inflorescence of a Nipah Palm.*

The shape of their web give tent spiders (Cyrtophora spp.) their name.

Pausing for a rest on a Mud Lobster mound was this Dusky-gilled Mudskipper (Periophthalmus novemradiatus).

For more info about mudskippers in general (Family Gobiidae), check out

Scuttling about were the tree-climbing crabs (Episesarma spp.). One of the our guides, Tina, I think, mentioned how it's weird that she doesn't ever see the crabs climb the trees at CJ though they can be caught in action at Pasir Ris/Sungei Buloh.

Ron says: "You will see the tree-climbing crabs climbing trees when it's high tide. The crabs climb trees to escape from predatory fishes.".

A couple of leaves of the Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) were covered with a moving mass of Cotton Stainer Bug (Dysdercus decussatus). They are said to group together for the purpose of finding mates.

As we continued walking along the boardwalk, ZL gestured for Wanwei and I to come over. Our approach caused this crab to take cover, but luckily it emerged a few seconds later.

Later on, at NUS, I showed Ron the pic and found out more about them. Prof Peter Ng said that they look like Uca triangularis (Uca is the name of the fiddler crab genus) while Ron and LK provided the following info: the burrows (seen above with a crab guarding it) are known as chimneys and are built by the females. As female fiddler crabs do not have an enlarged pincer like the males, they are able to eat twice as fast. With meal times ending quickly, females have more time to build the chimneys which they use to protect themselves (no enlarged claw to fight with).

The chimney-building habit is specific to a few Uca species only. Uca triangularis and Uca paradussumieri juveniles are two such examples.*

Initally, I thought that the two Uca triangularis I caught on camera were females...but upon closer inspection, doesn't the right claw of the crab in the photo above look rather odd? Could it be a male?

This one here, though, is definitely a female.

This looks like the Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti).

Looking like a mini ice cream cone was this Creeper Telescope Shell (Telescopium telescopium) lying on the mudflats.

This bug (spotted by Mindy) looks as if it has a smiley face painted on its abdomen :) (ID?)

Saw Mindy squatting by the side of the boardwalk and found out later that she was looking at this mudskipper here! It has red pelvic fins, something which I've never seen before. (ID?)

Is this an ant? Nope! It's a juvenile praying mantis (no evidence of wings). 2 pairs of its legs are on the leaf while its forelegs are held just below the head.* In some species, the nymphs rely on ant mimicry to aid them in their survival. Well, it certainly fooled me!

3 Cotton Stainer Bugs and 1..?!? (ID?)

The underside of a female Golden Orb Web Spider (Nephila maculata).
The species name has been updated to pilipes.*

The tide going out (~0.6 m), and exposing the mudflats...where many male fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) were out.

A closer look at them.

This Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) would perch on a branch, twitter a few notes of a song, and then quickly dart to another tree. It hardly kept still!

A second after I took this pic, this Greenish Grass-dart (Ocybadistes walkeri) took off. Thought it was a moth but it's actually a Skipper butterfly like Ron said.

How do you tell a butterfly and a moth apart? For one, butterflies have club-shaped antennae. Find out more info about these creatures here and here.

As Pedal Ubin was coming to an end, we departed from CJ and cycled back to the volunteer hub. On the way back, there was still lots to see!

Can you see me? Twined loosely around a branch of similar colour was this snake. (ID?)

We made a stop at the headman's house where this Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina) was flitting about in the garden of sorts.

Translucent wings.

Juvenile rambutan fruits? Far from it, as I just found out from Ron. These are the fruits of the White Mulberry (Morus alba).*

The best description I can think of is 'bright pink furry flower'! This is Cockscomb (Celosia Cristata).*

The young blooms of the same flower.

Pedal Ubin was an enjoyable experience and I do hope to participate in it again! The next one is coming up in June :)

Credits to Mindy for the pics of the two unknown spiders, insect with smiley face on its abdomen and mudskipper with red pelvic fins.

*Thanks to Ron for the IDs and info!

I've been using the terms 'insects' and 'bug' interchangeably but there is a difference! Thanks to Mindy for pointing it out!

Got this off Wen Qing's blog: "True bugs belong to the Order Hemiptera (hemi = half + ptera = wing) because of its forewings which are hardened near the base, but membranous at the ends. Its defining feature is its possession of mouthparts which have evolved into a proboscis and forms a "beak" of sorts which is capable of piercing tissues (usually plant tissues) and sucking out the liquids, usually sap.". So..there are bugs, and then there are insects :)


  1. Eh you went for Pedal Ubin!!! Never tell me! :(

  2. Oops =X Go for the one in June!! :)