Monday, June 30, 2008

29-June Chek Jawa - Our visitors say ...

One of the reasons why we do these walks month after month is often because we meet such genuinely nice people on these trips. Many of you are really generous with your encouragement, more than enough to keep us going for a long time still :-)

Ok.... here are some of your drawings and heartfelt words....

Many groups saw the civet cat poo along the mangrove boardwalk, and wished that we grew coffee on Pulau Ubin too. I was shocked too to find out it costs USD 50 for a 28g pack of Luwat coffee! (See earlier blog about the most expensive coffee in the world).

LK's group was nicknamed "5566". Here is the drawing by the "66" team. They were rather tickled by the barnacle story and the amazing claims of "Tongkat Ali".

And the other half, the "55" group are a happy bunch of friends. They are also quite clued in to conservation issues and were appreciative of the need to raise awareness of our natural heritage. They noticed that there was much litter at Chek Jawa and wondered if more could be done to keep the place litter-free.

Well, the Naked Hermits Crabs don't go naked. Sorry if you were expecting us to be. Haha! But we admit that we do like our name and want to use it to highlight the vulnerability of inter-tidal marine wildlife to the top predator in the food-chain - humans!

And we noticed that this couple from Ireland walked all the way in to Chek Jawa together with their friends. We saw you as we entered Chek Jawa in our van and were pleased to see you among the crowd of visitors after that. Hi - I'm sure you enjoyed the lovely forest trail walk. Well done!

Many of you were helping us to look out for the cotton stainer bugs. And some of you found them. Thanks for the drawing!

To all 40 of you who made that rather arduous journey to Chek Jawa (by van, on the bicycle, or on 2 legs), we say "Thank You" for being there. Come visit Chek Jawa again with your friends and families. I'm sure you can now do your own DIY trip.

This free nature walk was sponsored by Transitions Optical.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chek Jawa Public Walk, 29 June 2008

Once again, it's the last Sunday of the month, and some of the Naked Hermit Crabs were back at Chek Jawa to do some guiding along the boardwalk!

A long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) was hanging around the trees at Punai Hut, as if waiting to welcome us to Chek Jawa. Unfortunately, this was the only decent photo I managed to take. The monkeys on Pulau Ubin are extremely shy compared to those that can be found in areas such as Bukit Timah and Sentosa. Feeding monkeys might seem cute, and make them more tame and less afraid of people, but it encourages them to resort to harassing people and stealing food.

When we arrived at the Information Kiosk, we were amazed at the huge crowd that had gathered, all waiting for us! In total, we had 40 visitors today! It was a little overwhelming initially, but we quickly formed our groups and headed off to lead our visitors on a tour.

Durian season is here! In fact, if you happen to be standing beneath the trees, you might be able to catch a whiff of the durian scent.

We managed to catch a good view of the fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) before the tide came in.

And shared a bit about the sea hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and the partnership it forms with various species of ants. The plant secretes a sweet liquid from the base of its leaves, which attract ants that then help keep away herbivorous insects.

The mudskippers (Periophthalmus and Periophthalmodon spp.) and tree-climbing crabs (Episesarma spp.) in the mangroves really captured our visitors' attention.

As did the nipah palms and their various uses.

It's been a while since we've seen common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) dung on the boardwalk; do you know the story about the world's most expensive coffee?

Today was a great day for spotting the white-bellied sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) soaring above. While we were waiting to board the taxis to Chek Jawa, we already saw a pair resting on top of the radio towers.

At Chek Jawa, we saw them repeatedly while on the boardwalk and also from the top of Jejawi Tower. To our disappointment, the Oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) decided not to make an appearance today. Oh well, better luck next time.

Gaytri's group pauses for a group photo on top of the Jejawi Tower.

At one point, a red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) hen ran across the trail as Ivan's group was walking down towards the coastal boardwalk! And further down, near the floating pontoon, a great-billed heron (Ardea sumatrana) flew past, just a few metres away from the boardwalk! Too bad both birds did not stop to pose for photos.

We seem to be having really great luck with the weather lately; once again, it was really hot at first, but later on, it got very cloudy and it seemed that rain was imminent. Thankfully, we remained dry, and could take a nice scenic stroll down the coastal boardwalk while enjoying the sea breeze, without getting sunburnt.

The visitors were delighted by the huge shoals of small fish that were swimming below the boardwalk. At one point, several of these fish were leaping out of the water. Maybe a larger fish was attacking them from below? Jerald says his group saw two large fish in the water later on.

Gaytri's group spotted a few cocoons, at the same spot where we saw the freshly emerging atlas moths (Attacus atlas) at the beginning of this month. Hopefully the atlas moths will be out and about the next time we're around.

This is one of the Atlas moths we saw on 1st June.

Of course, no walk is complete without our visitors writing their thoughts and comments in our guestbook.

To end the walk on a high note, it's time for a group photo!

Thanks to LK, Ivan, Jerald and Gaytri for coming down, and a big shout-out to all our wonderful visitors! We hope to see you all again soon!

Hot naked ones at EnviroFest 2008

The Naked Hermit Crabs had a great time at EnviroFest regardless of the really hot weather :-)
Here's Chay Hoon, Sam and Gaytri at the booth.
Sam shares about our special living shores with the young ones.
Andy explains more to this interested family.

Other groups working hard for the shores were also there. Like Debby and the Hantu Bloggers who conduct dives at our very own wild reefs at Pulau Hantu.The Raffles Museum Toddycats were also kept busy with lots of interest in their specimens of our wildlife.
Especially the pickled baby dugong, apparently the poor thing was inside its mummy when the Mama dugong was killed by a boat propeller. The need to protect our shores is a common message shared by the Toddycats as well as the Crabs and Hantu Bloggers and other groups working for our wild places.

Chay Hoon gave a riveting talk with lots of photos and video clips of our amazing marine life.
And here's a photo of Chay Hoon with Boon Wah who organised this wonderful event.Not only that, Boon Wah was also a winner of the "I Want to go to Cyrene" blogging contest and came with us to Cyrene recently. She did a lovely poster of the trip and displayed it at EnvironFest 2008!
Many thanks to Boon Wah and her able team for organising this wonderful event and making it possible for us to share about our shores with so many people!

Also thanks to all the Naked ones who came to share at EnviroFest: Sam, Kenerf, Gaytri, YC, Liana, Chay Hoon, Andy and July.

More about EnviroFest on the wildfilms blog day 1 and day 2.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Naked at EnviroFest 2008

Learn more about our shores without getting your feet wet!

The Naked Hermit Crabs will host a photo exhibition of our shores featuring Cyrene Reef as well as our other shores at our booth at EnviroFest 2008. Lots of photos of our shores, and happy Crabs to share stories about them.
"Singapore shores: Got things to see meh?"
Our very own Crab, Ms Toh Chay Hoon will also be giving this talk about our shores on 29 Jun (Sun) 2.30pm at the event. Come and find out more about shores above and underwater as Chay Hoon shares photos and stories about our wonderful marine life.

About Chay Hoon
An indefatigable intertidal explorer as well as diver, Chay Hoon has probably been to every Singapore shore that is possible to reach. She has an uncanny eye for spotting the most marvellous marinelife no matter how tiny or well camouflaged they are. She is a volunteer guide on the shores of Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau, Sentosa as well as the Chek Jawa boardwalk. She also regularly dives our reefs with the Hantu Bloggers. She participates in scientific monitoring of our shores as a member of TeamSeagrass and the Blue Water Volunteer ReefFriends underwater survey programme. She is also a pioneer member of wildfilms

More about EnviroFest 2008
EnviroFest brings together a huge number of groups active in conservation and environmental work. This is a great opportunity to learn more about our environment and what you can do to make a difference.

The list of exhibitors include:
  • National Environment Agency
  • National Parks Board
  • Public Utilities Board
  • National Library Board
  • Sembwaste
  • Nature Society (Singapore)
  • Waterway Watch Society
  • Animal Concerns Research & Education Society
  • Raffles Museum Toddycats!
  • Cat Welfare Society
  • Naked Hermit Crabs
  • Hantu Bloggers
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Nature Trekker Singapore
  • Exhibits from the Asean Youth Festival Photography Competition
  • Singapore Polytechnic Environment Club
  • National Junior College Greenlink
  • Hwa Chong Institution
Time: 11 am-8 pm
Venue: Toa Payoh Amphitheatre (in front of Toa Payoh Community Library)

Other blog entries about EnviroFest

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

29 Jun (Sun) - Chek Jawa Boardwalk

Have you seen the magnificent hornbills of Pulau Ubin?

Many of the visitors to our Chek Jawa Boardwalk trips have! This picture was taken on 25-May-2008 during our Chek Jawa Boardwalk Tour.

Join us this Sunday at 3pm, meeting place is at the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk. The Naked Hermit Crabs will be there to meet you.

No sign-ups needed. Just show up. We will bring you out on the boardwalk tour on a first-come-first-serve basis. No big groups please. Just small family and friend groups.

Suitable for young children.

Date: 29 June, 2008 (Sunday)
Time: starts at 3 pm.
Duration: 1 - 1.5 hours
Cost: Free
Meeting Place: Chek Jawa Information Kiosk

Bring your binoculars and camera! Always be prepared.

More about our Chek Jawa tours on our blog.

This nature walk is sponsored by Transitions Optical.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sentosa walk 22-June-08

While everyone was sleeping in on this Sunday morning, the Crabs led a small group of people out on the natural shore at Sentosa. Because of the stormy weather, less than half of the people came today. The inclement weather was just horrendous. It poured and poured, and lightning was everywhere.

(No, we are not that crazy! We don't go out to the open shore when there is lightning. The guides will show up at the appointed place and time, but we will sit and wait for the weather to clear.)

That's H and CH with their bright ponchos outside the cafe, checking the weather.
While LK chatted with the Neo family to find out more about what they expect to see on the shore.

Finally the weather cleared, off we went!

R led a group of Chinese students and they were wonderfully enthusiastic about the trip! They were excited to see many of the common animals on Sentosa's natural shores such as hard corals, soft corals and even sponges which come in such a wide variety of shapes and colours. The picture above showed a magnificent giant soft coral with mushroom coral and sponges around it.

We also talked about seagrasses and the many kinds of seaweeds.

The 3 kids in LK's group were equally excited to see the little brown egg crab, 2 tiny hairy crabs and some of the snails. They now understand that the brown egg crab is poisonous. The kids asked about the black sea cucumber (they read our blog lah!), but we did not see any today.
Because the China students were science students, the Crabs could go all out and explain things like chemical defences, zooxanthallae, impact of carbon dioxide and acid oceans, and other fascinating concepts which seemed to interest them too.

Here they are taking a closer look at the large acropora hard coral which is a rather rare hard coral on our shores.

Overall the students asked really good questions like "there seems to be a complete food chain on the shore, so what is the top predator?". To which of course we had to sadly say most of the top predators in a natural food chain have been affected by development. In natural circumstances, top predators such as otters and large fishes such as groupers would probably be more common on our Sentosa shores.
CH and H found nudis! Wow. And CH explained the delightful properties of these amazing creatures.
And here is the unusual nudibranch. There were 2 of them in fact. And when CH and H found them, they were 'hanging around' the seagrasses. This particular nudibranch, Phyllodesmium briareum, feeds on soft corals. It also contains symbiotic zooxantellae that makes food and thus supply nutrients to the animal.
It continued to drizzle and when the rain got heavier again, we returned to shore. But everyone was glad to have an introduction to the marine bio-diversity found on Sentosa.
Here's a little bit more information about the wonderful group of China students who came today. They will be starting their undergraduate studies in July but had arrived in Singapore last December to start on their bridging course. They are a bunch of bright happy kids. They told us that they are trying to adapt to the Singapore environment, soaking in all that is good and not-so-good about Singapore - the climate, culture, society and food.

They came to know about our nature walks through the Lianhe Zaobao article last Monday. From the article, they found it hard to believe that there are so many unique marine creatures on Singapore shores. Animals that they only saw on TV documentary programmes! In a way, I guess the newspaper report opened their eyes to the natural beauty of Singapore, and I am sure they will go in search of the same natural beauty when they return to their homeland.

LX who booked this trip with us explained that he comes from an island, that is about the same size as Singapore, located in the Zhejiang province. In his words, he wrote, "A few years ago, it was the largest fishery port in China. Because of years of excessive fishing, the marine resources decreased. So we took many measures to protect our environment, such as prohibition of fishing during certain mouths. And it works."

We're really happy to have brought the students and the Neo family out on the shore. We wish you "Happy nature exploring!"
Total number of visitors today = 12
Total number of guides = 4 (Ria, LK, CH and Helen)