Monday, May 4, 2009

Exciting April

The Crabs were back in action guiding at Chek Jawa on April 26th. This month was LK and my turn to guide. I hadn’t guided with LK since past few months so we were happy to see each other back in action. She is like my mentor who listens carefully and always answers my guiding questions.
The trip on the bumboat to Ubin started very well. I was delighted when LK treated me with pistachio chocolates that she had got from Melbourne. (Here's the insider story...LK had got Ivan and me to guide last month by bribing us with the promise of getting goodies from her Australia tour. So she had no choice). Like me, this Grey Heron perching near the Ubin jetty was also having a good time.
The guided tour was to start at 3pm. Since LK and I had reached the Information Kiosk a bit early so we decided to go on a stroll around the Kiosk area. First we checked the durian tree that is a stone’s throw away from the Kiosk. As the durian season is coming in few months time the fruits are getting conspicuous but still they are rather small. With the help of our binoculars we spotted as many as 5 young durians.
A few steps away from there, we spotted the St Andrew's Cross Spider. Hanging on an intricately weaved zigzag 3D web, the spider had folded its legs such that it resembled a cross having only 4 legs. It looked really beautiful.

While eagerly waiting for visitors at the Information Kiosk , we prayed March Mayhem not to repeat itself. Hello! It was already 3pm and there was no one here yet. What's wrong! Have people forgotten today's tour. Thankfully our patience bore fruit... we had our first group of 5 visitors with whom we set foot on our guiding extravagance.
Visitors are always thrilled seeing the fruit trees planted near the boardwalk so we showed them the star fruit, jackfruit as well the durian trees further down from the Information Kiosk. Personally I get excited on being able to relate my dinner table with the wilderness of nature. Becoming aware of where our everyday food comes from, we urbanites form an affinity to nature like never before!
The Sea poison tree was fruiting. Its showy flowers covering the ground and pomelo like fruits attracted the attention of the visitors from a distance. LK explained them how the extract from the seeds is used to shun the fish – which is how the tree got its name. What’s most amazing to me is that the fruit of this tree can stay afloat in water up to 2 years to find a suitable site for seed dispersal.

Pomelo like fruits of Sea poison tree.

We invariably find civet cat’s dropping on a small rock that is a few steps away from the Sea poison trees. Visitors found it disgusting to hear the story of how their premium Kopi Luwak/Civet coffee is made. On our way back home, myself and LK were discussing whether the civet regurgitates the coffee beans as opposed to the popular belief of it defecating the beans.

The tide was pretty low by evening time and we had a good view of the Nipah palm, the perepat tree and the fiddler crabs buzzing with activity - feeding and making mating calls at the same time. Wish us humans were that efficient!

We could neither spot any Cotton Stainer Bugs under the Sea hibiscus leaves nor the weaver ants but saw something rather interesting. It looks like someone has taken the seeds of the Bakau Kurup tree and planted them in the mangrove. The saplings are growing well.

As the walk was getting more planty, it was time to get animally. Warren (our excited visitor) spotted a slimy and rubbery looking thing on the boardwalk. It was so uniform that it actually looked artificial. It is the Oriental Whip but sooner than we realized, Warren had tweaked the animal with a leaf to find out if it was alive or real at the first place! Wasting no time and words, I focused the camera to capture a few quick snapshots before the snake slipped under the boardwalk.

It was about 3:45pm now. We had just entered the mud lobster territory when we met our 2nd group of 9 visitors. They had arrived at Chek Jawa a bit late so they were trying to find us since then. Better late than never! At this point, LK and I separated into 2 groups. LK continued with the original group while I took charge of our new visitors.
Out on the adventure again! The Sea holly was flowering. The young leaves of this plant resemble the leaves of Christmas holly tree.

By late evening, the birds were out perching in the seagrass lagoon area. I saw an isolated Great-billed Heron that has been frequently spotted there. There were also few Little herons closer to the boardwalk.
Hoping for some more avian sitings and breathtaking scenery (as I had promoted to the group so far), we climbed the Jejawi tower. The view from the tower was great as it was cooling and a bit windy. We could hear Hornbills, a Tailor bird and an Indian cuckoo but couldn’t see any of them from the tower. Anyway, it was time for the best shots of the day!
My group – mix of youngsters led by Annie and joined by our kampong uncle! Two of my visitors decided to rest while we posed for the photos.
LK’s group had a mix of age groups as well – from the young Joel and his parents to the seniors, Warren and Tony.
Both the groups look happy in the photos J so I guess they were enjoying the tour.
We didn’t encounter any litter on the boardwalk this time but like always we felt sad seeing graffiti on the tower. Bad!! What a childish act this is!
Very recent acts of vandalism too – ‘Was here on 6 April 2009’!
We hope these graffiti vandals get caught. Their CWO punishment should be to spend a weekend in Chek Jawa to apply a fresh coat of paint on Jejawi Tower.
It was now time to walk on the other side of the boardwalk that is closer to the shore. We were on the part of the boardwalk that is closer to the rocky habitat. There I spotted a Horseshoe crab with its tail covered by algae. What an unexpected siting!
A few metres away the horseshoe crab I saw this red patch of algae. It is quite unusual to find it in Chek Jawa. Not sure where it came from!

We were now approaching the coral rubble habitat. I had the thought that we had seen enough for the day and it was time to walk steadily and head back towards the coastal forest. Little did I know that more interesting creatures are to show up this evening!

Close to the Chek Jawa Rear beacon, one of my group members spotted a stingray swimming in shallow waters. It got the whole group excited. We had a good look at it but it was difficult to get a snapshot because the fish swam towards mirky deeper waters. Pity we couldn’t record the ray in our cameras!
While my group was witnessing such wonders of nature, LK’s group got a little discussion going on the artificial wonders created by humans - the beacons as they saw the Chek Jawa Rear beacon. According to a visitor in her group, Warren, who used to be in the maritime industry, ships entering Sembawang Shipyard will first look for the Chek Jawa Front and Rear Beacons. The captain of the ship will align his ship in the direction such that his line of view shows that Chek Jawa Front is aligned with Chek Jawa Rear. If it is nightfall, he will look for the white light on the rear beacon instead. As the ship enters the sea channel between Ubin and Changi beach, the captain must ensure his ship lies to the port (left) side of the Malang Papan Beacon (the green coloured beacon next to Pulau Sekudu). The Malang Papan Beacon serves as a guide to avoid the shallow waters around Pulau Sekudu.

Shipping lanes everywhere! This reminds me that Chek Jawa is truly Singaporean. Amazing wildlife somehow adapting in their complex habitats lying real close to an international shipping route! How thankfully resilient nature is to such stressful conditions.
Hang on! There is still some more diversity to be seen at Chek Jawa. We saw a collared kingfisher perching on the rocks. Soon thereafter we spotted the Red Junglefowl posing for a photo. It was at quite a distance from the boardwalk so a crisp image was hard to get.
As we were about to enter the coastal forest again, I spotted the fruiting Pong Pong and Seashore nutmeg trees. The latter was once considered extinct in Singapore but was rediscovered in Chek Jawa. Hornbills love the nutmeg fruit.
We couldn’t spot the hornbills around their NParks built nests high up on the tree. But it was a good compromise when we saw a wild boar pass by in the vicinity. What more could we have asked for!
We ended our walk at House #1 where our groups gathered for some fun activities, an entry in our guestbook and photo taking opportunities.

Our visitors have left lovely comments. All praise for Chek Jawa!
All praise for LK alsoJ
My group made a nice artistic poster!
I thought the message is loud and clear…we love Chek Jawa and want it to be conserved!
Thanks to Anuj and LK for guiding this month.

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