Friday, April 15, 2011

Chek Jawa is not a zoo

After a busy week of registrations and last-minute cancellations for our monthly walk, we were pleased that we had a good turnout of about 55 visitors on 9th of April. So between the 3 of us, CH, Ivan and myself, we each took about 15 to 20 visitors to show them our favourite Chek Jawa trail.

Here's a picture of Ivan briefing his group at our meeting point, the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk.

Our first stop was at the Jejawi Tower. On our climb up the 20-m high tower, we spied 2 fresh nests made by red weaver ants on a mangrove tree. The nests are made of fresh leaves weaved together into a ball shape with an opening at the bottom, serving as entrance to the nest within. It was a hive of actvity. It is said that the ants could build several satellite nests on a tree, but effectively the satellite nests belong to the same colony.

At the top of Jejawi Tower, we soak in the panoramic view of the environs of Chek Jawa including the Johor river and Pulau Tekong. Here, LK's group stopped to take a group photograph.

A little further down from the tower, we stopped to look at the critically-endangered Sonneratia caseolaris, also commonly known the Berembang tree. The tree was full with fruits, and we were able to see a few up close. Upon further research about this tree, I now understand that the young fruit of the Sonneratia caseolaris is sour and could be used to flavour curries and chutnies. How interesting! It is good to see that our NParks friends have replanted this tree in Chek Jawa. I look forward to seeing this particular tree grow tall and magnificent for everyone to enjoy.

At the inner mangroves, the groups encountered some resident animals of Chek Jawa. There was a juvenile Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator) and an enormous Giant Mudskipper which kept really still in the hope that we would not spot it. But we did, and lucky for the mudskipper, we are rather harmless folks and did no harm to the cute fellow! Hiccup!

We also saw a mud crab (yes, the edible kind), trying very hard to camouflage itself. As I remarked to my group of visitors, animals in the wild are constantly doing 3 things - Eat, Mate and Staying Alive.

When we got to the outer mangrove boardwalk area, we could see a pair of Great-billed Herons feeding on the mudflats further out on the shore. These birds are rare in Singapore, but we are fortunate to have spotted them several times in Chek Jawa. At low tides, they could be seen hunting alone. Here in this photo, you could see it had caught a fish. We saw it swallow the fish whole.

Closer to shore, all the 3 groups lingered to observe the fiddler crabs and mudskippers on the mudflat. The male fiddler crabs are easy to spot with their colourful enlarged claws. The females are a lot harder to see as they are smaller and their grey colour blended with the mud.

Here is a picture of an unidentified species of mudskipper using its pectoral fins like crutches to hang on to the ground. It had dug itself a nice deep burrow. The small piles of mud near the burrow were spat out by the mudskipper. After all that effort to dig the burrow, I am not surprised that it would guard its well-built home.

By the time we got to the coastal boardwalk, we could see the tide rising over Chek Jawa. It was a beautiful sight as the sea begin to reclaim the land.

Tides are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun. There are 2 high tides and 2 low tides in a day, and the tides shift by about 45-50 minutes every day. This means that if the lowest tide for a particular day happened at 7 am, then we can expect the low tide for the next day to happen at around 7:50 am. Why is this so? It can be explained by the fact that the Moon orbits around the Earth in about 24 hours and 50 minutes. Put simply, the Moon returns to the same location in the sky every 24 hours and 50 minutes, and hence tide times shift by the same time period too. The height of the tides however changes every day.

With the rising tide, there were plenty of fishes too. The sea around Chek Jawa is indeed well and alive. The visitors spotted garfishes and mullets. There was also an unidentified jellyfish measuring about 40 cm across its body. We could see it pulsating away but simply could not determine its shape. Its wine-red colour is very unusual.

Before we knew it, we came to the end of the walk after about one and a half hours. It was a fruitful trip with sightings of little animals and rare plants. To be honest, we were hoping to see the Oriental-pied hornbills, but they were not to be seen nor heard. Nonetheless, we were happy for them. Chek Jawa is not a zoo, and the animals are free to fly and roam to where they pleased.

We thank all our visitors for being so sporting to make their own way down to Chek Jawa. Go spread the word, Chek Jawa is alive, and there is plenty to see.

As always, thanks go out to the guides for giving their time.

Our next walk is on 14th May, Saturday. Same time, same meeting place. Please remember to register so that we can get enough guides.

To end, we leave you with a cute photo of CH's "bag-climbing crab" :-) Have a great weekend ahead!

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