Monday, May 10, 2010

Chek Jawa Boardwalk - birds, caterpillars and mudskippers

A group of 14 visitors signed up for our monthly Chek Jawa Boardwalk in April, and Ria and LK were more than happy to show them around our favourite patch of mangrove in Chek Jawa. The group leader was Lynette and she has brought a group of friends from a Buddhist centre to enjoy a touch of nature away from the bustling Singapore city. "Great choice!", say the Crabs!

Our first checkpoint was to get to the top of the Jejawi Tower before it gets any hotter in the morning. From the Jejawi Tower, one could see the expanse of forest on Pulau Ubin with NO urban skyline in the background! As always, we are grateful for 'ulu' places like Ubin and Chek Jawa where we can slow down to enjoy nature.

Everyone in the group was keen to learn about the plants and animals that day. Cameras went clicking when we spot all kinds of creatures from tiny Cotton-stainer bugs to the Long-tail Macaque that greeted us on the boardwalk.

On the return journey on the southern part of the boardwalk, we were able to enjoy seeing schools of fishes in the waters below us.

At the end of the walk, we were able to stop and observe the artificial nesting box for the Oriental-Pied Hornbill. We were delighted to see that the mud seal on the nest has been broken, and according to our good friends from NParks, the young hornbills had fledged a few days earlier. The story of how the male hornbill would tirelessly gather food for the female hornbill and her babies never fail to impress our visitors. The love for the young (i.e. children) is not exclusive to the human species; all mammals and birds display strong parental love and care for their young until the babies are ready for independence!

And now for a record of some of the sightings during the outing ....

This cute mudskipper, possibly the Blue-spotted mudskipper, could be observed in the back mangrove area. In fact this little fellow was found just below Jejawi Tower. Can you see that he has dug a hole for a home and is fiercely guarding it? I love its beady eyes.

At the back mangroves, one could easily find the Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) too. This big boy is about the length of our palm. If you're interested to observe the giant mudskippers in mainland Singapore, pop over to Sungei Api-Api in Pasir Ris. You can see lots of them in the mangrove area not far from the HDB blocks.

For people unfamiliar with mudskippers, they are fishes and they breathe through their gills. Their gill pouches are enlarged so that they retained more water when they are out of water. Although I see them so often, I never stop marveling at how they are created.

We were also delighted to find a gigantic Atlas moth caterpillar (Attacus atlas) when we approached the front mangrove area. The adult Atlas moth has a wing span of nearly 20 cm, and so it was not surprising that the caterpillar is also very large. At the caterpillar stage, the larvae feed voraciously, often leaving a shrub with no leaves after some serious gorging sessions. The adult Atlas moth lacks developed mouthparts and therefore does not feed. The adult moth is dedicated to just one function - to procreate. Isn't nature fascinating?

Under the bakau kurup tree, we spotted a lone Little Heron (a.k.a. Striated Heron) (Butorides striatus) perched on a low branch. As it was not walking on the mudflat, it did not have its characteristic stalking stance.

Here's a little red eye stalk fiddler crab found in the middle mangrove area.

We were fortunate to see the fruit of the Mangrove cannonball tree (Xylocarpus granatum). Ria explained that the fruit of the Mangrove cannonball tree is sometime called the Monkey Puzzle. When the fruit explodes into smaller units, it is very difficult to fit the puzzle back together again.

LK managed to spot a lovely White-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus). This is an endangered species that suffers from the threat of poaching. More can be done in Singapore to discourage the sale and purchase of this species as a pet. It will be a tremendously sad day when this beautiful species becomes extinct in our country.

Sorry to end the blog post in this sad note. Let's save what we (still) have in our forests and shores. As nature lovers of inter-tidal and marine ecosystems, it always pain us to see how irresponsible or ignorant acts of human behaviour can cause so much damage to the biodiversity. We are, however, thankful that there is an increase in awareness among the general Singapore population of animal behaviour, welfare and conservation issues. Perhaps there is still hope for our animal friends who share this green planet with us.

Alright, that was somewhat bleak.

Let me share some of the drawings done by our visitors.

Here's a drawing by little Xin Yi who is 6 years old. She drew a camera (yes, we saw many cameras too), a spider and a bat. She heard us talk about bats being the primary pollinators for fruit trees like the durian tree. It goes to show that the children pick up a lot of knowledge from just listening. It also goes to show that grown-ups need to be careful with what they say in front of children!

Amelia expressing her desire to save Chek Jawa and its biodiversity for future generations.

And Shyangwa Tulku Lama also asked for the preservation of Chek Jawa, the jewel of Singapore's nature lovers, for future generations of our country.

Read more:
1) Ria's blog for an account of the nature walk, "Chek Jawa: Monkeys and Memecylon"

2) Ria's blog post on "Help stop cruel 'Animal Liberation' - volunteers needed"