Friday, March 2, 2012

Mangrove Pitta in Pasir Ris!

We had our very first public walk at Pasir Ris Mangroves last Saturday (25th Feb) and you won't believe what we saw! The elusive Mangrove Pitta in the mangroves! Thanks to one of the kids who spotted it first. For the past few weeks, the Internet was abuzz with news among nature lovers and birders that the Mangrove Pitta has been sighted at Pasir Ris Mangroves. So it is quite a special treat for us to see it with our own eyes. The Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) is a nationally endangered bird species due to widespread loss of its habitat. There are few mangroves left on mainland Singapore, so let's hope this rare and much-loved species of bird thrives in the natural habitat of Pasir Ris Mangroves.

To learn more about the Mangrove Pitta, read the 31 Jan 2012 post on the Bird Ecology Study Group blog.

Mangrove Pitta sighted at Pasir Ris Mangroves on 25 Feb 2012

Alright, let us rewind to the start of our outing on 25 Feb. At 5 pm, we met our visitors (15 of them) at Pasir Ris Park, Car Park C. From there, we strolled to the starting point of the mangrove boardwalk to begin our evening walk. By the way, Car Park C is just a 5-minute walk from Pasir Ris MRT Station.

Start of boardwalk

Right from the start, the kids were excited when they spotted lots of tree-climbing crabs on top of the mud mounds. The kids whipped out their point-and-shoot cameras and started shooting away.

A little ahead, we met a nature photographer with his DSLR camera, super-duper lens and tripod setup on the boardwalk. We knew he was there to shoot photos of the Mangrove Pitta and so we asked him if he has seen it. He was so kind to show us the photos.

Through the lenses of a nature photographer

Lo and behold! He had several fantastic shots of the Mangrove Pitta. We could tell from his smiles that he was delighted with what he had shot that day! Little did we expect that just further ahead, we would be seeing the Mangrove Pitta for ourselves.

A most beautiful bird!

What else did we see at Pasir Ris Mangroves? We saw lots of the Giant Mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) in the back mangroves. And they are as big as a man's foot! Many of the giant mudskippers were guarding their own burrows that look like little 'swimming pools'. At some of the burrows, we could see pellets of mud spat out by the mudskippers.

Giant mudskipper

Besides mudskippers, we also saw lots of tree-climbing crabs. This particular little creature climbed really high up on the tree trunk. We wondered what made it climb so high!

Crabs that climb trees

Mommy and sons sharing a quiet moment

As we passed lots of mangrove trees next to the boardwalk, we soon came to the nipah palms. These are the trees that give us 'attap chee', an important ingredient of our favourite local dessert called 'ice kachang'.

Lookout point is at the end of the boardwalk trail

A little further up from the nipah palms, we soon came to a lookout point overlooking Sungei Tampines. This is the spot to linger where you should be able to spot lots of the wonderful wild life of Pasir Ris Mangroves.

Lookout point at Sungei Tampines

We came prepared with our binoculars! And sure enough, the Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) could be seen in their big nests high up on the trees. The young birds were standing up in the nests and they looked large! We think these young birds are more or less ready to fledge! Despite the noise from the Downtown East amusement park on the opposite bank of the river, these herons have made their home among the mangroves trees. As if to compete with the noise from Downtown East, the herons made loud honking noises on their own. From time to time, the birds would give us a visual treat by taking off and soaring above our heads. We could hear a few 'oohs' and 'ahhs' from the parents and kids in the group.

A crowded nest!

The next sighting was an adult Malayan Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus Salvator) resting on a tree branch hanging over the river. We could not see its head as it was turned away from us, but its belly looked nice and round, probably with a meal inside. We believe the lizards sometimes climb trees to find resting places for the night. Right across the river, we saw another lizard of the same species crawling on a branch too.

Malayan water monitor lizard

More wildlife to view from the lookout point? The grown-ups were excited to see a Little Heron perched on on a bare branch. It was trying to break twigs at several places. Cameras pointed at the bird, capturing its antics high up on the tree.

We saw it stretched its long neck to reach the twigs. It entertained us for several minutes before it finally gave up and flew to a low branch on the opposite bank.

Little Heron

We always end our walks with a short drawing session to allow people to express their feelings of what they have seen and share their experience of being in a natural place.

No photo of the jelly-fishes; a nice drawing is even better!

Little Heron drawn by a young visitor

We want to thank our volunteer guides - Alyce, Pei Yan, Ley Kun and Ria - for the gift of their time on a Saturday evening. A nice shout-out to all the visitors who came to our first public walk at Pasir Ris. We will be holding more walks at this lovely mangrove patch in the months of March and April.

To end this post, here's a lovely photograph of a Grey Heron perched on a high branch overlooking Sungei Tampines.

With feathers on its head
blown back by the evening breeze.
The Grey Heron stands elegant
and surveys its views.

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