Monday, August 13, 2012

Beautiful Day at Chek Jawa

The Crabs took a group of 30 visitors out to Chek Jawa Boardwalk on Saturday, and what a glorious and beautiful day we had! Blue skies, fluffy white clouds, verdant forests, cool sea breezes, interesting animals, funny stories and happy jolly people.  We truly enjoy our walks every month. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is a privilege to be able to share the beauty of Chek Jawa with people who care about preserving natural places. Read on and enjoy the photos.

Here is the entire group before the start of the walk. We brought a Singapore flag in celebration of our nation’s 47th birthday. May we have more natural places preserved for their precious flora and fauna biodiversity! 

When we arrived at Chek Jawa in the morning, the wild boars (1 youngish sow and 4 piglets) came out to welcome us.  For the past 2 months, we thought the old wild boar had a new litter of piglets after her litter last year. Well, we were wrong! The latest litter of piglets does not belong to the old sow; the piglets belong to the daughter of the old sow. Aha! Unfortunately, Grandma wild boar was not around and we wondered where she had gone.

There were 7 piglets, now we see 4 of them.

The young sow, mother to the 4 piglets that we saw.
The NParks ranger told us that the durian trees in Chek Jawa flowered 3 weeks ago. The flowers of the durian tree are white in colour and they have a sweet-smelling fragrance. It must be because of the recent hot spell triggering the burst of flowers. Let’s hope pollination has taken place successfully and we get to see the whole durian fruits in November.  Do you know what animal pollinates durian trees? Bats, of course! As we often tell our visitors – no bats, no durians!
The durian tree near the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk.
The first stop on the boardwalk was at the top of the 20-metre high Jejawi Tower. From that vantage point, we are able to view the environs of Chek Jawa – the mangroves, the coastal forest, and seagrass lagoon. Opposite Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin is Pulau Tekong, the next largest island after Singapore island. Beyond Pulau Tekong, we can see the hills of eastern Johor as well as the mouth of the Johor River. Great vistas. You have to visit Jejawi Tower to know what we’re talking about here.

And when the little kids spotted something as tiny as a spider on the staircase, everyone stops to marvel at the find. Little Ethan was certainly in his element, enthusing about the crabs, spiders, fishes. We cannot help but be infected with his sense of wonder and curiosity too. 

From the boardwalk, we were able to show many animals to our visitors. There were many small mudskippers, such as this little fellow.

But we could only find 1 of the Giant mudskipper. It was well camouflaged and many of the kids could not spot it. Finally one of the dads with a good SLR camera was able to zoom in to the mudskipper. Once spotted on the camera, the kids had no trouble seeing it with their eyes after that. Generally, we observed that the Giant mudskippers in Chek Jawa are much smaller than those in Pasir Ris Mangroves.

This is the Tree-climbing Crab that shares the tunnels dug by the Mud Lobster. It is sometimes called the Vinegar Crab. Why does it have such a delicious-sounding common name? This particular species of crab was part of the food culture of the Teochews who would pickle them in black vinegar and salt, and eat them with Teochew porridge. I don’t think this practice of eating vinegar crabs exists anymore.

Many of the visitors were intrigued by the mud mounds made by the Mud Lobster. The mud lobster is a shy animal that is active only at night. It is rare to see one in the open although we can see lots of evidence of its presence., such as fresh mud pushed out of the holes. The mud lobster is about 30-cm long and has very little flesh.

This is the telescope snail that is found in the back mangroves too. It has a beautiful shell.

The kids found plenty of spiders along the boardwalk. This one is called the Tent Spider because the web has an interesting 3-D structure: a horizontal net-like web combined with a centre spine that is pulled upwards vertically. The spider is really clever by including a dried rolled leaf in the spine which it uses as its hiding place. You can see the rolled leaf clearly in this picture. Ria shared an interesting piece of information with the kids. The webs that are untidy-looking with lots of messy leaves and detritus usually mean the spider has died. Spiders like to keep their webs tidy and in good condition. In my opinion, some of us can do with learning good housekeeping habits from spiders!

As we followed the U-shape path of the boardwalk, we found ourselves entering the front part of the mangroves. Over here, the plants and animals are different from those in the back mangroves. The bakau kurup tree, for instance, is found in the front mangroves next to the shore. We explained to the kids how the seeds of the bakau kurup tree would begin its germination process while still attached to the mother tree. So you can see the first root and stem already growing from the fruit. All that is needed after the seedling falls from the mother tree is to find a place to anchor itself to, and the growing process continues. This is Nature’s way of ensuring a better survival rate for coastal plants.

At a moderately low tide (it was 1.5m when we were there), part of the mud flat is exposed, and from the boardwalk, we could see the busy fiddler crabs crawling all over the mud and sand.

Fiddler crabs on the mudflat at low tide
 Besides fiddler crabs, there were plenty of mudskippers too. We saw the slender bearded mudskippers, which we know have an unusual habit of leaping vertically into the air. We called them the “dancing mudskippers”. However, they were certainly not dancing. No idea why.

This particular mudskipper was busy making its burrow. The pellets of mud on the left of the puddle are spat out by the mudskipper.  Mudskippers are territorial in nature and they would guard their burrows quite aggressively.

The natural rocks and boulders in Chek Jawa look extra lovely today. Barnacles and oysters can be seen growing on these rocks.

Chek Jawa is indeed a pretty place, and should be enjoyed by Singaporeans and visitors alike.

If you look closely to the right of this photo, you will be able to spot a kingfisher standing on the rock. This is the Collared Kingfisher that is commonly found at our coastal areas, and it is typical to find them in pairs. male and female. Personally, I have always found it a joy to see these gregarious birds! They’re such happy creatures, don’t you agree?

What a lovely view of the coastal forest. Beside rare plants, this forest is home to jungle fowl, monitor lizards and otters too. From this stretch of the coastal boardwalk, we have spotted all 3 species of animals regularly. Well... not that regularly for otters actually. Otter sightings are few and far in between.  

In fact, on this particular trip, we saw a large monitor lizard basking in the sun, no doubt, absorbing lots of sunlight energy that is needed to keep this cold-blooded reptile active.
Along the gravel path going back to the Information Kiosk, we could see the man-made nesting box for the Oriental Pied Hornbill. This box has been used twice so far in the past few years. It is currently not in used, and our guides were able to linger to explain how the hornbill nesting process works. The Oriental Pied Hornbill, once thought to be extinct in Singapore, has made a successful comeback partly due to the introduction of artificial nesting boxes installed all over the country. A fascinating story of how hornbills breed.

All too soon, we got back to the English Cottage. The families relaxed in the shade of the house while the kids got started with their drawings and some of the adults penned their thoughts about Chek Jawa and its future. We keep these drawings and writings as part of our guestbook. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

Thanks go out to our volunteer guides – Sankar, Ivan, CH, PY, LK and Ria.

A shout-out to Mr. and Mrs Weber who treated us to lunch. Thank you! We enjoyed your lovely company.

Read more about this trip in the blogs written by Ria, PY and Ivan.
The next walks are:
8-Sep (Sat): Chek Jawa Boardwalk morning walk

No comments:

Post a Comment