Friday, June 14, 2013

Day out at Chek Jawa with special guests

The Crabs spent a delightful Friday morning at Chek Jawa with some friends of NParks.

The incoming tide was at about 0.7m and it was just PERFECT to see lots of life on the mudflats. In fact, we took the counter-clockwise route today, so that we were able to get out to the coastal boardwalk as quickly as we could. Read on, and you will see the rich biodiversity of plants and animals that we encountered today. Even though we stayed on the boardwalk, we were able to experience the magic of Chek Jawa!

We had 11 guests joined us today. Here we are on the coastal boardwalk admiring the vistas of Chek Jawa....

And the group again on the mangrove segment of the boardwalk.

Wind back to the start of the trip ....

Mama wild boar and her piglets greeted us with loud squeals when we arrived at Punai Hut. Sorry, wild boar, no food for you! Go forage in the forest!

This is the message that we constantly pass on to our visitors. It is so important to remember NOT to feed the wild boars and macaques that are found in Singapore nature places. These are wild animals, and their natural behavior is to forage for food in the forests. They definitely don't need our kind of food; the forests hold enough of their food to sustain them. If we don't feed them, they will not come and bother us, and we can continue to have peaceful interactions with these animals.

Ivan wrote an excellent article recently, 'Of Boar And Men', sharing his observations and thoughts on how we can adopt sensible measures to protect both humans and wild boars in Singapore.

We were happy to see Grandma Wild Boar in the troop today. She looked much older now, with thick black bristles on her back. The little piglets, now about 3 months old, are beginning to lose their 'water-melon' stripes on their bodies. Look back at our photos taken in March this year to see them in their cute 'water-melon stripes'.

Wild boar in Chek Jawa

As we took the counter-clockwise route today, we stopped to look at the man-made nesting boxes built for the Oriental Pied Hornbills. This has been a really successful breeding programme. I was told that there are about 50 Oriental Pied Hornbills in Pulau Ubin, and roughly another 50 more on mainland Singapore.

This particular nesting box has been used in two breeding seasons over a period of 4 years. The story of how the hornbills breed is always a heart-warming one. Mama Hornbill would allow herself to be sealed up in the nest (typically a hole in a tall tree high above ground) for about 2 months until her chicks are ready to fledge. During the 2 to 3-month period, Papa Hornbill is the faithful and tireless provider to his family. He would bring back fruits, snails, lizards, and pass the food through a narrow slit in the sealed nest to feed both mama and chicks. Animals can teach us a thing or two about love and faithfulness!

The boardwalk took us out to the coastal area facing Changi Beach. One of the first animals we saw was this garfish (also known as a needlefish). Ivan reminded us that the garfish is probably the species of fishes referred to in the folklore story of how Bukit Merah got its name.


What a sight greeted us when we got to the northern side of the boardwalk, herons on the sandbar! There were quite a few herons wading in the waters. These birds are feeding on the fishes that come with the incoming tide. Very clever of the birds. We observed that most of the bords are of the Grey Heron species, but one among them seemed taller and darker in plumage. We took a look through the binoculars, and yes, it is the very special Great-billed Heron (Ardea Sumatrana), one of the tallest resident birds in Singapore.
Herons in Chek Jawa
The tallest bird in the photo is the Great-billed Heron. The medium ones are the Grey Herons. The smallest bird in the picture is an egret.
Herons on sandbar in Chek Jawa
We are very familiar with this species of herons, the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), after having observed them on many of our outings to Pasir Ris Mangroves as well as to Pekan Quarry on Pulau Ubin. There is quite a large heronry located on Sungei Tampines in Pasir Ris Mangroves. Get to the end of the boardwalk where there is a small jetty on the river. The herons are further downstream. If you bring a binoculars along, you should be able to see the large nests made by the grey herons.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron
As the tide was fairly low, we had an excellent wide-angle view of the seagrass lagoon. It is a peaceful and quiet place to be at. What a lovely place to enjoy what nature is able to offer to us.

For me, it is comforting to know that we have this wonderful place to escape to when we want to get away from the crowds in urban Singapore!

In this photo, we see a large carpet anemone tucked in between the ribbon seagrasses. This patch of seagrasses sure look healthy! It is a well-known fact that seagrasses are an excellent bio-indicator of the health of a natural shore. Where there are seagrasses, there would be a rich variety of animals and fishes. As its name suggests, seagrasses are indeed grasses. They have roots, stems, flowers, fruits and a vascular system. To understand more about seagrasses, check out what a special group of people are doing in Teamseagrass Singapore.

Further on the boardwalk, we saw another carpet anemone on the mudflat. This species is almost iconic to Chek Jawa. On a typical shore walk on Chek Jawa organised by NParks, the visitors would be able to see scores of carpet anemones lying on the sandbar and in the seagrass lagoon. These are individual animals, not polyp colonies like in corals. The centre of the disc is the mouth part of the anemone. When an anemone has caught a fish, the sticky tentacles would move the fish towards its mouth parts. The anemone would slowly eat and digest the food. So, yes, the carpet anemone is a predator!

Carpet anemone
Next sighting was a horseshoe crab. Not really sure whether it was dead or alive. It did not move. The horseshoe crab is not a true crab. An amazing fact is that this species has not evolved through millions of years. How do we know? Because fossils of horseshoe crabs show them to be the same as present day horseshoe crabs.
Horseshoe crab
Good thing the tide had not risen that much yet, so we were able to see many more animals such as this unusual looking crab on the mud. Take a closer look at it. It has eyes at the end of long stalks.

As we got closer to the coast, we saw lots of mudskippers. And so many different types too!

This is the Blue-spotted Mudskipper. See how its dorsal fin is flashed.

There were other mudskippers too, such as the Bearded Mudskipper. The Bearded Mudskippers were leaping and dancing, such lively creatures they are! Very hard to get a photo of them 'dancing'.

Blue-spotted Mudskipper

Beautiful flower of the Sea Hibiscus Tree. When it's blooming, it has a wonderful yellow colour. When it wilts, it turns into an orange colour.

During the month of June, we can expect the Sea Hibiscus to bloom quite nicely. Did you notice the leaves are heart-shaped? This tree can be found on many of our shores such as at Sungei Buloh.

What a nice encounter.... we met Yook Sau and Alan from NParks Ubin. They were helping to lead a 3-day service learning programme for a large bunch of students from Riverdale and Springdale primary schools. The kids have been clearing trash from the coastal areas, and also removing invasive plant species from the mangrove forests. What a hardworking bunch of kids!

Moving along the boardwalk, what else did we see? Another iconic species of Chek Jawa. The orange fiddler crabs, of course! The male fiddler crabs have a large claw, so large that it is probably useless as a tool to feed itself with. So it has to feed using the smaller claw. The males are colorful. The large claws are a brilliant orange colour. The females are much duller in colour, almost inconspicuous in the sand, and their claws are equal in size.

Orange Fiddler Crabs

Orange Fiddler Crab (male)

Soon we found ourselves in the back mangroves where there are lots of animals to see too. More mudskippers. More fiddler crabs such as this little one. It does not have bright orange colourings like those in the outer mangroves. But it has interesting stalk eyes that are red in colour.

And on top of the mud mounds made by the mud lobsters, you should be able to see the tree-climbing crab such as this one in the photo. One of our visitors confirmed that the tree-climbing crab is a delicacy in Teochew cuisine. The crabs are pickled in either salt or black vinegar, and it goes very well with Teochew porridge.

We talked about the weaver ants, and were happy to find a nest made by the ants. This particular nest is about 30 cm in diameter. The weaver ants, as its common name suggests, are able to work together to weave large nests for their colonies. An interesting fact is that the ants would use the sticky glue produced by their larvae to weave the leaves together. Talk about 'child labour'! When the leaves in the nests wilt and turn brown, the ants will leave the nest, and move to another location to build another fresh nest.

The Crabs hope our special guests enjoyed the visit to Chek Jawa as much as we have. Chek Jawa is truly a magical place. We've taken thousands of people out on the boardwalk over the past six years, and have seen how much enjoyment on the faces of our visitors. Chek Jawa holds a very special place in the hearts of Singaporeans.

Ria has blogged about this trip too on her wildshores blog, 'Sharing Chek Jawa with special guests'

Ivan also blogged a bit about the outing, but with a bit more focus about the Hazy Friday that was today.

As always, we want to thank our volunteer guides: Ria, Ivan and Ley Kun!

The school holidays are only halfway through. Take time out during the holidays to visit Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa. Lots of information about our natural places can be found on the wildsingapore website.

The Naked Hermit Crabs also run a monthly free walk to Chek Jawa Boardwalk.

No comments:

Post a Comment