Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's August!

The Crabs had a wonderful trip out to Chek Jawa Boardwalk together with their visitors on 13 August. About 30 people came and we split into 3 groups led by our volunteer guides - Pei Yan, Daniel, Kok Sheng and Ley Kun. Two of KS's students came along to help us as part of their environmental exposure programme.

We had a number of kids in the groups, and true to form, the kids were wonderful in spotting lots of interesting stuff. Read on to find out what they spotted.

Along the path leading to the shore, Ley Kun's group stopped to admire the Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica). It is a rather tall tree with large leaves. The fruits have an unusual box-like shape. Its fibrous covering enables the fruit to float on water, just like the coconut, thus allowing it to have a wider seed dispersal. Here is a young visitor holding the lovely pom pom flowers of the Sea Poison tree, found strewn under the tree.

The tide was relatively high during the time when we were there. So, we thought there would be no fiddler crabs to observe on the mudflats. But no, the kids said there were fiddler crabs to be found! The adults strained their eyes, squinted and, lo and behold, the fiddler crabs were there on the seaweed patch next the mangrove trees. In this cropped photo, you can see the male fiddler crabs waving their enlarged pincers. Good sighting, kiddos!

We are getting more and more sightings of the Malayan Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator) these days. The lizards are among the top predators in the mangroves, and their presence indicate a healthy food chain that is able to sustain their existence. They are however not dangerous to human beings. You would have seen the same species of lizards lying on the boardwalk at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. We spotted at least 4 lizards today.

Here is the one spotted by KS's group, popping out of a mud lobster mound.

And there was another juvenile basking in the sun just under the Jejawi Tower.

A third one was spotted crawling around the leaf litter near the nipah palm grove at the back mangroves. The fourth one was spotted on the large rocks on the rocky shore area.

We were fortunate to see a Giant Mudskipper (Periophtalmodon schlosseri) in the mangroves. The visitors were amazed to see its huge size, about the length of a man's foot. In this excellent photo taken by KS, you can see the protruding eyes which are specially adapted to life above the water line. Your guides would have explained to you that the mudskippers have enlarged gill pouches that keep their gills moist while on land. Whenever their gill pouches begin to dry out, the mudskippers would dive into the nearest puddle to replenish.

From the top of the Jejawi Tower, you can enjoy the view of the forests in Chek Jawa. This is the coastal forest situated at the far corner of Chek Jawa.

This is the view of the secondary forests to the west of Chek Jawa. As long as Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin are spared from urban development, you will get to enjoy a view of the verdant forests with no tall buildings in the horizon. A view that is hard to find on the main island of Singapore, so, enjoy!

The kids found a huge spider web at the edge of the forest. It was the Batik Golden Web Spider (Nephila antipodiana), a relative of the Golden Orb Spider (Nephila maculata)which we have seen countless times at Chek Jawa. What you're looking at in the picture below is the female spider. It does not have any yellow joints on the legs, unlike the Golden Orb Spider. The visitors were impressed with the size of the spider as well as the gigantic web that it had spun. The web was over a metre in diameter.

Here are a few photos of the groups in action on the boardwalk.

Among our visitors today is a group of friends from school (Anglican High, I believe). Their team leader, Jasmine, is an experienced birder. It's good to see that she is sharing her love for nature with her friends, and making the effort to get them out on such trips to enjoy the great outdoors. Heartening to see fellow nature lovers sharing their enthusiasm!

This is the Conrad family from England, visiting Singapore during their summer holidays. We're delighted that you made the effort to visit Chek Jawa! Do share what you've learnt on this trip about tropical mangroves and shore lines with your friends back home. And if they travel this way, ask them to come visit Chek Jawa with the Crabs.

At the end of the trip, many of the visitors stopped at the English Cottage and drew on our guest book. Here are a few of their drawings.

On our way out of Chek Jawa, we were lucky to see the wild boars (Sus scrofa) at Punai Hut. The wild boars have become more accustomed to human presence. The van drivers have been feeding them, and the wild boars have come to associate "Vans = Makan".

Mr Lai, one of the taxi drivers, saw us talking about the rubber trees and rubber-tapping. He quickly went to his van and took out a sharp metal device. WIth a swift stroke, he stripped off a bit of the bark, and the white rubber latex started to ooze out.

Soon it formed a little stream flowing down into cup. Mr Lai certainly has not lost his rubber-tapping skills.

As always, we say "Thank you" to our volunteer guides - Pei Yan, Daniel, Kok Sheng, Ley Kun - and the 2 student helpers, Jessie and Janet. We hope to see Jessie and Janet do some guiding in the near future!

The Crabs run this free walk on the second Saturday of every month as a community outreach to educate people about natural shores and conservation issues. We welcome small family and friend groups. Our next walk at Chek Jawa is on 10th September.

Related links:
KS' blog "God's wonderful creation" -

KS' flickr set for this trip -

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