Sunday, March 22, 2015

Back to Chek Jawa Boardwalk

After nearly six months of closure for repair works, Chek Jawa Boardwalk is open once again to visitors. The Crabs were eager to resume their monthly walks, and we did, on 14 March 2015. What a wonderful morning spent exploring our favourite mangroves with our lovely visitors! Read on to find out all the cool creatures we saw in Chek Jawa.

As the tide was low during the time of our visit, there was lots of wildlife activity in the inter-tidal area. From the Jejawi Tower, we saw 2 Great-billed herons out on the mudflats. These tall birds are regular visitors. If you time your visit to Chek Jawa at a low tide, you may be able to see these relatively rare birds in their natural habitat.

Photo taken from Jejawi Tower
In fact, while we were at the top of Jejawi Tower, we saw more herons flying above us. What a beautiful treat to see the graceful posture of these birds in flight!

[Note: This Chek Jawa walk is funded from the kind contribution by Raffles Institution, channeled through for a talk that Ria conducted in the school. On behalf of the visitors and guides, I would like to say "Thanks" to the folks in RI!]

The mangroves were alive with a buzz of activity. We found lots of cotton-stainer bugs under the leaves of the sea hibiscus trees. The kids were excited to see them. Thankfully, most of the kids were not squeamish. Instead they asked lots of questions about the bugs. Why are they called "Cotton stainers"? Are these adults? Why are they hiding under the leaves? Can they fly?

Cotton-stainer bugs
We saw this huge black dragonfly in the shade of the mangrove trees. It is an enormous dragonfly, around 8 cm long. It's a Pond Cruiser, hanging vertical on a twig. Dragonflies are fierce predators in both adult and larva stage. It's good news when you see dragonflies in your garden because these wonderful insects prey on mosquitoes including mosquito larvae. In fact, you could do everyone a big favour by encouraging dragonflies to breed in your home gardens.

We often see this beautiful butterfly during our walks. Finally got a photo of it. It's the male Horsfield's Baron. I love the pale blue colour juxtaposed against the velvety black of the upper wings. There is no lack of examples if you're looking for inspiring colour combinations in nature.

Horsfield's Baron
At the starting section of the mangrove boardwalk, we spied our common tree-climbing crabs. These crabs are abundant in our mangroves. They are relatively large in size, and the children do love to see them perched on top of the burrows. When the crabs sense any danger coming, they would quickly crawl back into the safety of the burrows.

Tree-climbing crab

The monitor lizards are usually there when we take our groups out on the mangrove. This young lizard was basking in the warm sunshine and did not scuttle away immediately. We were able to watch it for a short while.
Malayan water monitor lizard
Fiddler crabs! Everyone loves the fiddler crabs.

This little fiddler crab is spied in the inner mangrove area. We are spotting these crabs more frequently now than before. Look at the colours! If you look carefully, you should be able to see the stalk eyes! I believe this is the Rosy Fiddler Crab.

Near the water line of the outer mangroves in the silty areas, you can see other species of fiddler crabs. They are hard to miss because there are so many of them. The female crabs, however, are more difficult to spot. They do not have the enlarged pincer. But if you stare a little longer, you should be able to spot the female crabs. They have small equal-sized pincers. This species of crabs are commonly known as the porcelain fiddler crabs.
Porcelain fiddler crabs
A little further along the boardwalk, we saw a number of mudskippers near the water line. They must be one of the cutest animals in Chek Jawa! Look at how the mudskipper facing the camera has puffed his cheeks. Both mudskippers are guarding their burrow. The blobs of mud around the rim of the burrow are spit out by the mudskippers as they dig deeper into the hole.
Gold-spotted mudskippers
Gold-spotted mudskippers
We finally reached the coastal boardwalk, and what a marvellous sight to behold!

The tide was low, the inter-tidal area of the seagrass lagoon exposed, and we could see so many shore birds and herons feeding away. It really is a very special feeling to stand there on the boardwalk and be able to view the animals in their natural habitats.
Gray herons flying in
Gray heron
This is a horseshoe crab that we saw from the boardwalk. It is quite a large one, measuring around 20 am across the hard shell. We could not see its tail which is covered by the tape seagrass.
Horseshoe crab
Little fishes trapped in puddles of water in the seagrass lagoon when the tide went out. The coastal boardwalk gives you the vantage view of life in the inter-tidal zone below.

Views of the sand bar and seagrass lagoon.
Sand bar exposed at low tide
180 degree panorama of the seagrass lagoon and sand bar at low tide
This is what the new boardwalk looks like: new and wider. To better accommodate the large turnout of visitors to Chek Jawa during school holidays!

Hurray for our 50 enthusiastic visitors! Here's a photo of the visitors who arrived early.

And the groups that came slightly later.

Thanks go out to all our volunteer guides: Ria, Sumita, Min Lin (introducing the new intern for Wildsingapore!), Sankar, Sean, Ivan, Ian, CH and LK. Thanks for waking up early on a Saturday morning, and getting out to Chek Jawa to help introduce Singapore's coastal biodiversity to the visitors. Bravo!

Ria has written a post about this walk too. Click here for the link.

If you are interested to come for our nature walks, our next walk is on 11 April, 2015 (Saturday). The signup form can be found here.

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