Monday, December 29, 2008

Last public walk for 2008

28 December, 2008

We ended 2008 with one of the biggest turnout of visitors to our free Chek Jawa Boardwalk tours.

This is the scene that greeted us when the Crabs (Ivan, CH and LK) arrived at the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk. A quick headcount and we realised that we had 50 visitors. Undeterred, we quickly split into 3 groups and got down to the happy business of showing the visitors around Chek Jawa.

First stop was the fiddler crab station :-). As it was low tide, the crabs were out in full force. Yep.... armies of crabs everywhere. The kids were fascinated to see that every male Fiddler Crab has one large claw and one smaller one. We lingered long enough to observe the crabs waving their
claws to attract the smaller and dull-coloured females.

Moving towards the mangrove area, we stopped to see the mudskippers 'flipping' and 'skipping' in the mud. A visitor thought that the mudskipper was an amphibian. It does look like an amphibian, but actually it is a fish. An unusual fish indeed. One that lives in the zone between land and sea, has protruding eyes, developed strong pectoral fins that are almost flipper-like, and has large gill pouches so that the gills remain wet even when the fish is out of water.

Inside the mangroves, the visitors got to see:

- interesting mud mounds made by the mud lobsters,

- nipah palms which produce 'attap chee' seeds for our ice kachang desserts

- the sea holly shrubs (someone even broke out in song while on the boardwalk. A Christmas carol .... "Deck the halls with boughs of HOLLY.... Falalala...". A very festive and happy mood.)

- the amazing giant mangrove mudskippers which we know can grow to lengths of about 15 cm

- numerous vinegar crabs. Someone in the group remembered his Teochew grandmother would soak similar looking crabs in bottles of vinegar,

- lots of cotton-stainer bugs with white crosses on the backs, feeding on the sea hibiscus trees

- a juvenile water monitor lizard near the boardwalk

- a group of visitors had a good close-up view of a pair of Ashy Tailorbirds among the low mangrove bushes.

Up on the Jejawi Tower, the guides were able to point out the different ecosystems that made up the Chek Jawa environs - coastal forest, mangroves, sand bar, seagrass lagoon, rocky shore and coral rubble.

Looking eastward, we were able to see Pulau Tekong and the army buildings. Beyond Pulau Tekong, we could see the Malaysian state of Johor and several hills.

Many families join us at our walks. It's good to see parents helping to nurture in their children a healthy respect for nature.

After the tower, we went to the coastal boardwalk. We were able to see

- big oysters on the rocks

- lots of drills and nerites (they are all snails) on the rocks too
- long seagrasses in the lagoon

- sand-bubbler crabs scuttling everywhere

- Ivan and CH's groups saw a flock of Red Junglefowl foraging on the shore

- a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles soaring above the coastal forest

- a solitary Great-billed and several Grey Herons feeding on the sand-bar area.

On our way back to the English Cottage, the skies broke and it began to pour. Those who got to the English Cottage earlier had time to pen a few words for our guestbook, and gave us a couple of interesting drawings too.

This one by Ariel showed her keen observation skills. Look closer and you will see a English Cottage with a chimney, a red jungle fowl, spider, bakau kurup mangrove tree with stilt roots, a mudskipper, a male fiddler crab and oysters on the rocks.

After nearly two hours, we were happy to end the nature walk and bade our visitors a fond good-bye. Thanks to Ivan, CH and LK for guiding and the beautiful photos.

What a really nice way to end a wonderful day at Chek Jawa.... although we did not see the Oriental Pied Hornbills while we were at Chek Jawa, we were delighted to spot one at the Ubin village centre on our way home.

The Naked Hermit Crabs would like to wish all friends and supporters a wonderful 2009 ahead.
We will be taking a short break from guiding, and will not be holding our Last Sunday of the Month walks at Chek Jawa in January and February. Those who wish to take part in our Chek Jawa Boardwalk tours may join us in March 2009. Till then .... happy nature watching!

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