Friday, February 27, 2009

Systems at Peril: Climate Change, Agriculture and Biodiversity in Australia


Thanks to Alan Goh for sharing this with me!

Though the seminar is in the Australian context, there is still much for Singapore to learn. We are merely countries apart; globally connected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Watch This Space...

...for my upcoming post on the flora and fauna seen during the walk with RMBR volunteers :)

Meanwhile, do check out these entries about the trip:

July's - http://wherediscoverybegins.blogspot.com/2009/02/discovery-bukit-timah-nature-reserve.html
Wen Qing's - http://midori-no-michi.blogspot.com/2009/02/btnr-18th-feb-2009-cradling-last.html and
Mindy's - http://sunflecksurfer.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/a-shocking-find/

Cheers!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Natural and Human Impacts on Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

…flashes of lightning light up the darkened sky with harsh, intermittent glares. There! A clap of thunder resounds, muffled only by the steady torrential rain which streams down relentlessly… …

Safe at home, we close our windows; the usual drill when it pours. It’s just another storm to most of us, but for trees, storms – especially those charged with lightning – spell bad news.

With no place to seek shelter, trees are sitting ducks. As one of the tallest structures around, they are naturally more susceptible to lightning strikes. What’s more, Singapore has one of the highest rates of lightning activity in the world, so trees often get hit and die. Forest fires have also been known to be ignited by lightning.


Home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) was gazetted as a nature reserve in the 1800s. Its summit stands at 163 metres, making it Singapore’s highest hill. With tall trees and high elevation, the forest is undoubtedly a victim of lightning activity which can result in the loss of species especially when these are localised in one area.

The Visitor Centre is a prominent landmark and also one of the first things seen upon entering the reserve.

Human activity has also impacted BTNR negatively. Many a time, irresponsible visitors go off the trail even when large notices have been put up to warn against doing so. It might seem like a harmless action, but where too many footfalls land ultimately result in trampling, which damages and even kills flora and fauna. I've also seen temporary barricades which have been knocked down in order to gain access to the closed trail.

Please be a responsible visitor. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints (on the opened trails only).

References:
i. Lightning activity in Singapore - http://app.nea.gov.sg/cms/htdocs/article.asp?pid=1203
ii. wild shores of singapore: Lightning: the scariest thing on the shores - http://wildshores.blogspot.com/2008/08/lightning-scariest-thing-on-shores.html

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feathered Friends at NUS 200209

It started with a Yellow-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)...

...and a few moments later, the quiet of the otherwise peaceful evening was broken by very loud and discordant "AARRK-AARRK-AARRK!" cries made by one of the following - ...

...a cockatoo!

Whoa..had two sightings of birds that I have never seen before in the wild in a matter of minutes! Though drained after a very long day at school, I suddenly found the energy to go bird-stalking. Haha. If not for meeting and Meryl and Lynette, I wouldn't have had the chance to end the day on such a high note :) However, I did feel like kicking myself when I realised that the long shots I took of the cockatoos (YES, there were like three or more of them 'obediently' perched on a branch) were aimed too high/low and contained no birds. Argh. Didn't have a chance to take more shots upon this realisation as they had all flown to a tree opposite the road, too high up for a good shot. Argh.

Acknowledgements:
As I initially had no idea what the first bird was, I googled 'cockatoo' and one of the websites to come up was from ClubSNAP which solved the 'mystery' for me. See the page which has close-up and clear shots of both the Yellow-Vented Bulbul and cockatoo.

Thoughts:
First and foremost, I really have to do something about my 'shaky' hands problem. It gets bad when I get excited at a new sighting.

In case you were wondering, we were at the bus-stop outside the OED which is just opposite Raffles Hall and the Kuok Foundation House. I've often heard bird cries at that bus-stop while waiting for the internal shuttle bus.

Back to the unidentified cockatoo. As they all stayed pretty high up and I only saw their underside, it's hard to tell exactly what species they are. Some species of cockatoos with white plumage which can be found in Singapore are the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) and Tanimbar Corella (Cacuata goffiniana). Edit: There's also the Yellow-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea) as pointed out by Ivan. Thanks! See his full comment for more info.

For more posts of birds sighted at NUS, take a look at KS's blog entry here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

OJT1 at Changi Beach Park 090209

Had my first on job training (Mindy's second) on Monday, 9th Feb. The guides who went down that day were Luan Keng, Ron, Siyang, Robert and Kok Sheng. As we were early, we had some time to ourselves before the girls from MGS arrived. As it turned out, we had our first 'sighting' soon after sitting down...

...a very cute and tiny orangey-brown ladybug! It is known as Harmonia sedecimnotata (thanks Anonymous!).


Soon after, Robert headed to us carrying two tests (internal skeletons) of sea urchins. Above is the underside of a test of a White Sea Urchin (Salmacis sp.). There's a pic of a live White Sea Urchin below.

Different species of sea urchins have tests of different size and colour. On the right is the test of a Black Sea Urchin (Temnopleurus toreumaticus).
Always remember to put back the organisms - dead or alive - where you found them!
Soon, the girls from MGS arrived and each guide went to meet their group. I was attached to KS's group while Mindy went to join Robert's. At the supralittoral zone, the girls had their first 'discovery', which was none other than the small balls of sand that dotted the beach in clusters...
...made by what else, but the Sand Bubbler Crab (Scopimera sp.). The best way to see this crab is to keep still and not make any sudden movements. It will come out of its burrow soon enough.

In this photo: Robert's group. Mindy is hidden behind.
Many of the girls were fascinated by the colourful 'kites' flying in the distance, which belonged to the people who were out kitesurfing. Seems real cool!

This Razor Clam (Family Solenidae) aka Bamboo Clam caused quite a lot of excitement. We got to see it 'live' in action and quite a show it was too! The clam shocked everyone by 'torpedo-ing' itself forward, using water sucked in and out of its siphon (look at the part of the clam at the far left of the pic, the other end is its foot) to do so. It moved so fast that I had no time to get a video of it in action. It even squirted a stream of water at one girl, causing her to squeal.

There was a sea cucumber (classification unknown) nearby too, and the razor clam torpedoed itself over. Lol.

It soon settled down at one spot and used it muscular foot to burrow quickly into the wet sand, leaving its siphon sticking out so that it could breathe and feed.

Another shot of the unknown sea cucumber.

Growing on some debris (I think) was this sponge (the protruding branching knob-like structures).

Camouflaged against the substrate was this Plain Sand Star (Astropecten sp.).

Remember the test of the White Sea Urchin earlier? Well, this is how that species of sea urchin looks like when it is alive.

What I mistook for a Thorny Sea Cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis) was actually a Warty Sea Cucumber (Cercodemas anceps). It's easy to get confused between the two as both are colourful, and largely pink, at that.

Have been wanting to see a Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis) for quite some time and I finally got my chance to that day! These amazing creatures have a magnificent shell that has markings which resemble mountain ranges. If I'm not wrong, each shell has their own unique markings, so two shells are never the same.

Their muscular body is spotted with orange dots of varying sizes, making them even more outstanding. Sadly, these creatures are fast dwindling in numbers in Singapore due to over-collection for their beautiful shell and over-hunting (even though they're edible, it doesn't mean that one has to eat them).

There were a lot of Cake Sand Dollars (Arachnoides placenta) on the beach that day. This is the underside of one. To the undiscerning visitor, they are difficult to spot as they look like raised circular lumps of sand (they usually burrow into the sand).

As the original pic isn't very clear, I took the liberty of enhancing it.

The topside of the another Cake Sand Dollar.

The underside of it. Wonder why it differs so much from that of the first sand dollar? Might that have been a juvenile?

Enhanced image.

First noticed this in the sand when one of the girls asked me what it was.

Well, it turned out to be a Ball Sea Cucumber (Phyllophorus spiculata) that was largely buried in the sand. Their body fluids have medicinal properties.

Just a short distance behind KS, I spotted this very unusual and pretty snail moving across the sand. I couldn't help but go over to take a better look. It reminds me of a strawberry somehow. Haha. It's actually a helmet shell (scientific name: Semicassis bisulcatum). KS gave me a questioning look when he realised I had slipped away from the group to get a better look at this snail. Oops.

Wandering about with its long siphon out.

I had many 'firsts' during this trip, including my first encounter with a sea hare! This is a Hairy Sea Hare (Bursatella leachii). When in season, these creatures can come in the thousands.

A dead Horseshoe Crab.

Yup, another 'first' for me! During the guided walk, we encountered a couple of Spotted Moon Crabs (Ashtoret lunaris). All of their legs are paddle-shaped as they are burrowers.

Humans rarely appear in this blog, but I thought it'd have a change for this entry. That's Mindy on the left, and me on the right. Thanks to SY who took this photo :)

Acknowledgements:
For this entry, I referred frequently to Wild Fact Sheets of marine life on Singapore shores (http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/), as well as KS (http://wondercreation.blogspot.com/2009/02/changi-beach-with-mgs-girls.html) and Ron's (http://tidechaser.blogspot.com/2009/02/changi-over-2-days.html) related blog entries.


Thoughts:
Upon joining KS's group, I suddenly felt a bit apprehensive but that soon passed as the guided walk progressed. KS even gave me a chance to do some impromptu guiding. Haha. It was great to see the girls getting excited over their discoveries during the course of the walk. Overall, it was a good experience! And if anything, the more I know, the less I seem to. The only way to combat that, I feel, is to know as much as I can by exploring, observing and reading. Will work on improving my photography skills too!

Everyday Flora and Fauna of Singapore 070208

Was out with my friend on the 7th and of course, my camera had to come along. Just as well..for when we were at the bus stop outside Redhill MRT Station, the 'shaking' leaves of a plant caught my attention. I thought it was the wind..but then, a little yellow bird suddenly flew out and headed straight for one of the recesses in the wall of the station. I was getting weird looks from the other people at the bus stop while snapping pics of the bird. Haha.

The whole time we were there, the bird flew in and out of this recess, gathering dried leaves to build its nest, presumably.

Just found out that this is an Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)*. For clearer pictures, do take a look at the Mangoverde World Bird Guide Species Page: Olive-backed Sunbird - http://www.mangoverde.com/birdsound/spec/spec166-94.html. Check out http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/nis/bulletin2008/2008nis207-210.pdf for interesting information about the display of the male Olive-backed Sunbird and its pectoral tufts. [Edit]

Front view of a female Olive-backed Sunbird, though somewhat blurry. Males of this species are more brightly-coloured than the females, with metallic blue feathers covering the front of their heads and extending to their breasts. Have a look at a picture of a male here. [Edit]

I always pass by this canal on my way to school, except this time I was on foot. Was not surprised to see egrets (it seems to be their migratory season now and they're fairly common in Singapore during this time). The bird on the right appears to be a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). I based the ID on the fact that it has a black beak and slight stature. The Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), a globally-threatened species, also has a blackish beak but it is larger, and is much rarer in Singapore during the migratory season.

Pretty flowers by the roadside. Likely that this is Ixora sp., as suggested by Ze Lin.

Yup, it's an Ixora as confirmed by LK*. More precisely, it's an Ixora cultivar (cultivar refers to a variety of a plant that has been created or selected intentionally and maintained through cultivation as stated at Dictionary.com) which has been given the name of Ixora 'Super Pink'. The name says it all. [Edit]

The unopened flower buds of Ixora 'Super Pink'*. [Edit] Can see that it has black specks of dirt on its leaves from all the dust and exhaust from passing vehicles.

Heads up!

This is probably a Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus), a common resident of Singapore.

What my family commonly refers to as the yellow bird is actually the Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis). Many of us probably hear its cry frequently but do not often see it. Glad I walked home that day and decided to look up. This oriole kind of reminds me of a pirate (Zorro, even) because of its black mask.

This is the Yellow Saraca (Saraca cauliflora aka S. thaipingensis)*. This tree looked as if it was decorated with bouquets of orange-gold from the way its flowers were in bloom. Pretty sight :)
Found an interesting article from the Bird Ecology Study Group on the Saraca and Sunbirds.
Read it at http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/2008/01/30/saraca-and-sunbirds/.
Got more excited upon reading the last sentence -"The tree attracts many species of birds that visit for the flower nectar and fruits.". Wow! The tree is within walking distance from my home..*starts thinking of bird-stalking* [Edit]

And just before reaching home, I couldn't resist talking one last photo of this Chiku tree, which is otherwise known as the Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota).

Acknowledgements:
For this post, much of the info was obtained from Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore's Mangrove (editors: Peter K. L. Ng, Wang Luan Keng and Kelvin K. P. Lim).
*LK, thanks for pointing out the IDs!

Thoughts:
Ever since construction for a park opposite my block began, the neighbourhood has been filled with more cries of different birds, most notably that of the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea). This morning, upon the urging of my mother who saw a bird with a large wingspan, I quickly turned to look out the window and was wow-ed by the sight. The bird made one turn and then glided past. It mostly had medium brown plumage from what I could see (only saw its underside). The underside of its wings had a white 'row' of feathers near the top whilst the rest of it was brown with speckles. I'd really like to know what bird it was. Two birds come to mind: the Asian Koel and the sparrowhawk. But it could be neither too. Hmm...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Exploring Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa 010209

Mention 'Pulau Ubin' and descriptions like 'popular place to cycle' and 'well-known offshore island' automatically pop into mind. Well, those phrases used to pop into my mind, anyway! Haha.. Since the 1st of February 2009, I have seen Pulau Ubin with new eyes. Before that, I'd only gone there to cycle with friends..and I never knew that I was missing out on so much. Like what Luan Keng said, you really can't see anything much if you cycle; it's just a blur of green interspersed with other colours, and gray, from the track.

Here's a short excerpt from Singapore's Biophysical Environment by Lu Xi Xi, Wong Poh Poh and Chou Loke Ming about quarrying, of which granite quarrying was an integral part of Ubin's past:

"Three major groups of rocks were of economic importance to Singapore in the past. A series of granite quarries were located along the western flank of Bukit Timah and on Pulau Ubin. In 1970, there were 25 granite quarries employing about 1,200 workers. The first quarry on Pulau Ubin opened in the early 19th century and the last quarry closed in 1999. Clays were obtained from the Jurong Formation for brickworks. The Old Alluvium was quarried and the clays were washed in ponds to produced sand. This left behind a landscape of ponds and badly eroded surfaces."

Today, P. Ubin still bears the marks of its past. There are a couple of disused quarries on the island, which are very deep and filled with rainwater. They are dangerous, for obvious reasons, and thus have fences around their perimeter to keep visitors out.

The island is a great for a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Be a responsible visitor though (by that I mean DON'T poach, litter and create a din)! And if cycling is not your cup of tea, walking around the island is a great alternative...which is exactly what we did :)

At around 8am, the group of us met at Changi Village Ferry Terminal. To get to Pulau Ubin, one has to purchase a one-way ride on a bumboat for $2.50.
Though sunrise was a couple of hours before, it seemed that the last traces of dawn had spilled over into the early morning.

Ahh...

We had our first bird-sighting right at the start of our walk. Eggciting! Haha...

Found out from LK that these are Dollarbirds (Eurystomus orientalis), so called because they have one round white patch under each wings. Like a dollar coin!

If my memory serves me, it was July who pointed out that these two butterflies were mating. Does anyone know the ID of the butterflies?


'Bird-stalking'! It's getting to be one of my fave past-times (you'll see why in a later post). Haha. This is an Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis)! Like their name suggests, they have a glossy plumage which shines in the sunlight.

It's not too clear, but the red eye of this Asian Glossy Starling can just be made out.

Further out on the water were two Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) [Edit] keeping very still. Herons and egrets may resemble each other, but they belong to different genera. They are, however, from the same family of Ardeidae.
A "nappy" tree o.o Missed out on Ron's further explanation on why it has such a nickname. However, according to Wen Qing's blog entry, it's because the leaves are supposedly soft enough to be used as diapers. Au naturel :P Nickname aside, it is better known by its three common names - Lampin Budak, Laping Budak, Jarak Kayu - and its scientific name of Claoxylon indicum.

Lampin - napkin; diaper
Budak - child
Laping - ?
Jarak - distance
Kayu - wood

(Translations obtained from Bhanot's Malay-English Cyber-Dictionary)

A large Common Red-stem Fig (Ficus variegata) tree. Fig plants exhibit a wide variety of growth forms which include trees, climbers, shrubs, bushes, epiphytes and tree-stranglers. Those bunches on the tree may appear to be fruits, but they are actually syconium - a structure in which the tiny flowers of the plant grow. Most, if not all, of the species of fig plants share a mutualistic relationship with fig wasps (family Agaonidae). The wasps pollinate the flowers, while the syconia provide a safe place for the female wasps to lay her eggs in.

This plant was swarming with ants, possibly attracted by a sugary substance secreted by scale insects which the ants consume. Scale insects are white in colour and have no legs when they reach maturity. They are considered to be garden pests as they suck plant sap. Ants are known to transport the scale insects, offering them protection too. A movable living food source, if you like! Another mutualistic relationship :)

Thanks to Siyang for the info (hope I didn't note down anything wrongly)!

The leaves of yet another fig plant. This time its a Common Yellow Stem Fig (Ficus fistulosa).

Red pipe-clearners hanging from a tree! That's what I thought of upon seeing this tree. It's not a tree, but a shrub though. Common names: Chenille Plant, Red Hot Cat's Tail, Red Cattail, Ekur Kuching, Buntut Kucing, Cat's Tail. Scientific name: Acalypha hispida.

Fig plant number 3! If I'm not wrong, this is a Climbing Fig (Ficus pumila). Its other common names are Creeping Fig, Creeping Ficus, Creeping Rubberplant and Ara Jalar.

No prizes for guessing what this is. The large fruit of the Jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) , ready for the picking (that's just a FIGure of speech). Haha..pun intended. Anyway, both the Fig and Jackfruit are from the same family of Moraceae!

Keeping one's volume down is an unspoken rule in the forest, for loud noises tend to scare animals away. Seems like we were quiet and lucky enough to be able to see this rare bird - a White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) which is a popular songster. Due to high demand for activities such as the caged bird trade, the shama has become endangered.

References: Singapore Science Centre: ResourcesEducational ResourcesEndangered Vertebrates of Singapore - http://www.science.edu.sg/ssc/detailed.jsp?artid=3890&type=4&root=140&parent=140&cat=249 and White-rumped Shama - http://www.arowana.com.sg/shama/shama.html

I'm aware that the second link is to a webpage on the caged bird trade. Though I'm not for the trade, the webpage does contain interesting information on the shama.

There were many Golden Orb Web Spiders (Nephila maculata) around that day. This is the underside of one such spider.

Though dissimilar in appearance, the arachnid above is also a Golden Orb Web Spider. As you can see from the second pic, its web is huge.

Thanks to Glenda for holding up a leaf of the White-leafed Fig (Ficus grossularioides) so that I could take a pic of its underside! It's evident where this fig plant gets its name from :)

Depending on growth form and where they grow, fig plants may harm other plants. For instance, if a fig plant (such as a creeper?) grows on a tree, it has the tendency to grow downwards, strangling the host.

Another plant where looking at the underside of its leaves reveals the 'mystery' behind its common name. No, it's not another species of fig, but a Silver Back (Rhodamnia cinerea). This plant is a native tree that lives in open, well-lighted places. The 3-veined, directly opposite leaves with the silvery back is a distinctive feature of this species. It hails from the Myrtaceae family (also called the jambu family). [Edit]

A coastal plant, the Fan Palm (Licuala ferruginea) is often grown in homes for its ornamental value.

A Tapioca plant (Manihot esculenta).

One of the first few flowers I learned the name of in primary school was the Hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.) as there were a couple of prominent Hibiscus plants in the just outside the canteen :)

A plant of the Macaranga genus. There are over 200 species in this genus.

The leaf stalk of the Macaranga starts somewhere near the edge of the leaf blade, in the leaf blade itself. The plants are sun-loving and grow where they can get maximum sunlight exposure.

More Golden Orb Web Spiders!

On the right: a tiny male spider (well, compared to the female, it is tiny) on top of the female spider. Males are typically a tenth of the female's size. If not careful, they may get eaten by their mates. Sometimes, a small spider, known as the kleptoparasite, which is around the male's size may be found on the web. The parasites steal food from the 'owner' of the web. Being so much smaller makes them more agile and they can thus out-manoeurvre the big female.

Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleptoparasitism for more info on kleptoparasitism.

Fondly called the Bird Shit Caterpillar, these are actually the larvae of Common Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus).

These orange knob-like protrusions, known as lenticels, on the trunk distinguish this mangrove, Berus Mata Buaya (Bruguiera hainesii), from other species. Edit (LK): The lenticels are found on ALL Bruguiera species, not just B. hainesii. B. hainesii is called Berus Mata Buaya, meaning crocodiles’ eyes because the lenticels are very large.

The Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti hibiscus) [Edit] is a common coastal plant.

Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus)! The larvae [Edit] feed solely on the seeds of the Sea Hibiscus. Notice how these bugs have a red head. A very close relative of theirs has a black head instead (scroll down).

These belong to the Beauty Leaf (Calophyllum inophyllum), so called because of the smooth appearance of each leaf. One species is purported to have anti-aids properties. Research is currently underway.

Two species of mangrove ferns are in this pic. The leaves with the rounded tips belong to the Leather Fern (Acrostichum aureum) while those which have are reddish and have a pointed tip belong to Acrostichum speciosum. The spores of the plants in this genus are not kept in sori.

This is NOT a Cotton Stainer Bug, but a Thespesia Firebug (Dysdercus simon). The easiest way to tell apart the two is by the colour of their head. The former has a red head, while the latter has a black head. The Thespesia Firebugs, which are endangered, reside on Portia Trees (Thespesia populnea).

Though not obvious from this photo, this beetle really does have long horns which grow to roughly the length of its body. No wonder it is called the Longhorn Beetle (family Cerambycidae).

This is Chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea), a mangrove shrub. The leaves are rounded and opposite. Their glossy covering serves to protect them against sea and land breezes as it allows the accumulated salt to be blown away. Comment from LK: I am not sure if Scyphiphora secrete salt like Avicennia does. Nothing is said about salt excretion of Scyphiphora in the literature. The glossiness is probably to prevent water loss.

These are the young leaves of the Chengam. It's not too clear, but there are two leaves sort of pressed together (the vague edge of the leaf behind is just visible).

More mangrove plants! Here are the leaves of the Teruntum Merah (Lumnitzera littorea). They have a small notch on the leaf tip as one of their distinguishing features. Other features include having a red stem and red flowers.

It was only after I browsed through my photos a few times that I noticed something out of the ordinary... See it? It was right under my nose and I didn't see it. Haha.

This is the Indian Fleabane (Pluchea indica), by the way. It is a mangrove associate (refers to plants which are found in the back mangroves but are NOT mangroves).

Though small, this nymph of a Hopper caught our attention due to its bright orangey-red colouration.

Edit: This should be a Blue Glassy Tiger (Ideopsis vulgaris macrina).

Termites mounds are not uncommon in the forest. They should not be confused with mud lobster mounds though. The former is made up of sand while the latter is constructed from mud (what else!).

One of my favourite sightings of the day - a bagworm! There is actually a caterpillar inside the structure, with its front legs and mouth left uncovered. Bit by bit, this animal will build up its case by pasting bits of material (in this instance, plant matter) onto its body. Cool eh! The one that we saw had just stuck a small bit of a plant stem onto its body (first picture, top left). The type of case built varies from species to species. I think it's amazing how this species is able to make such an elaborate helical case (kind of resembles the structure of DNA, don't you think?).

Saw this dead snail along Noordin Beach. Saw an empty shell of the same species again at Changi Beach yesterday (9th Feb). Can't seem to find the ID of this snail online but I did see this shell in RMBR's collection... Wonder if it might be an apple snail (Pomacea sp.) but such snails live in freshwater... [Refer to Ivan's comment]

The oval-shaped black piece is the snail's operculum which functions as its trapdoor.

This nest of stingless bees (Trigona sp.) [Edit] caught our attention when we were about to walk into Chek Jawa (my first time there!!).

The cozy-looking house on the left is the visitor centre...

..while on the right lies Pulau Sekudu.

Edit: This is Chassalia sp., also known as Grains of Rice/Beras Beras/Beras Hitam.

Saw quite a number of these Mata Ayam (Ardisia elliptica) trees that day. Their common name of 'Mata Ayam' is apt as the fruit does indeed resemble chicken eyes. The leaves have a leathery feel. They are native coastal plants. Edit: This is the fruit of Chassalia sp. NOT Mata Ayam.

Now this is the REAL Mata Ayam. Sorry for the mix up!

Seashore Nutmeg (Knema globularia). Oriental Pied-hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) feed on the fruit of this tree.

ID of this, anyone?

A fluffy and white caterpillar! So cute xD
Cuteness aside, caterpillars should not be touched for some species are known to have venomous spines. Better to be safe than to be sorry. Did some research online and found that this caterpillar may belong to the family Megalopygidae, and will probably turn into a moth at a later point in its life.
Here's a video of the fluffy white caterpillar in action. Enjoy!

video

My camera ran out of battery soon after we set foot in Chek Jawa :( So Agnes helped to take the following shots. Thanks!

The Giant Mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) is one of the species of mudskippers that can be found in Chek Jawa. The two black stripes running the length of their body is their most distinctive characteristic.

Commonly confused with the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), monitor lizards are actually their close relatives and belong in the same genus. This one here is a Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator). Whenever I see a monitor lizard, I inadvertently recall the time when I was out kayaking with friends last year along the waterways which cut through the mangroves of Pulau Ubin. As we were paddling, we saw a number of dead, bloated monitor lizards which had become entangled in nets left by the bank. The nets looked pretty old and quite a lot of leaves had become snagged too. One word: irresponsible.

I don't want to end this entry on such a sour note so here's a pic of Jarum Jarum (Ixora congesta) to brighten things up! The larvae of the Knight butterfly feed on this plant so no wonder...

...we had the chance to see the adult which has distinctive patterns on its wings. At least three different subspecies can be found in Singapore, with subtle differences in markings. Found an interesting scientific paper on the Knight (Lebadea martha malayana). Read it at http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/nis/bulletin2008/2008nis183-189.pdf.

Thoughts:

There's so much diversity in Singapore, but it often goes unappreciated. What's more, it's often abused by activities such as poaching. I know this is gonna sound real cliched, but I sincerely believe that if we each do our part, we can make a difference...

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Luan Keng, Ron, Siyang and July for the info during the walk!

For this post, I referred frequently to ria's free conversion of print to web for conservation, nature info (http://www.naturia.per.sg/), NParks FloraWeb (http://floraweb.nparks.gov.sg/index.jsp) and mangroves of singapore (http://mangrove.nus.edu.sg/).

Thanks to LK for the amendments! :)

Notes:

For more about this adventure, do visit these blogs:

http://tidechaser.blogspot.com/2009/02/exploring-pulau-ubin-with-rmbr.html
http://uforest.blogspot.com/2009/02/exploring-ubin_01.html
http://wherediscoverybegins.blogspot.com/2009/02/discover-ubin-on-2-feb-2009.html
http://midori-no-michi.blogspot.com/2009/02/rmbr-01-pulau-ubin-island-of-granite.html

I'm already looking forward to the next adventure in the wild :)