Saturday, August 10, 2013

Crabs, stink bugs and ... a cobra!

The Crabs spent a delightful Saturday morning on 3 August exploring Chek Jawa Wetlands with 45 visitors. This is one of our monthly scheduled public walks on the boardwalk where we take time out to share the lovely Chek Jawa mangroves and coastal areas with members of the public, so that they gain a better understanding of our local plant and animal biodiversity. Many came with their children. It's great! They expressed that they do not want their children to grow up without gaining respect and appreciation for nature. Three cheers for these wonderful mamas and papas!!!

In addition, we hosted some student leaders who are keen to advocate greater awareness of environmental and conservation issues. Eight of them are from CHIJ Katong Convent, while four are from Raffles Institution. They came to understand how nature guiding works.

As always, the little ones stole the show at the walk. Bless the little kids! They were busy spotting the animals below the boardwalk. There were plenty of "What is that?", "Aunty, come here and see", "Look, Look!" ..... One of the mothers even brought guide sheets for her 2 sons. For every creature that we see, she and her sons would turn to the guide sheets to confirm the identification. It's heartening to see how much knowledge the mother is personally imparting to her kids. There's that personal story to add here and there, what they saw on previous trips, comparing notes and having that quiet 'Aha!' moment when they realise they spotted something new to them.

In the inner mangrove area, we spotted lots of crabs.

A tree-climbing crab in the mangroves sitting on top of its mound.

And this is a little fiddler crab standing guard over the entrance to its burrow. We saw it run back into the hole.

We even saw a face-banded sesamine crab (Perisesarman sp). It is about 2 cm long. What a cutie; not a baddie! It has a greenish-yellow band across its face. These crabs are great scavengers. They feed on all kinds of stuff, from sediment to leaves to smaller invertebrates. Read more about these crabs in this website - Click here.

When we turned round the bend of the mangrove boardwalk, we came across this crowd of insects under a large leaf. The leaf was on a low branch, so everyone including the little kids had an amazing closeup view of the insects. One of the little boys, age around 5, whipped out his guide sheet and confidently told us these are shield bugs, also known as mangrove stink bugs (Calliphara nobilis). Indeed they are! Everyone agreed that the colours are beautiful, a reddish copper with a nice metallic sheen. These are adult bugs.

(photo by Ria)
The highlight of the trip was this small cobra in the mangroves spotted by Erin, one of the Katong Convent girls in Ria's group. A few people in the group managed to see it before it darted away into the bushes. Ria thinks this could be the Spitting cobra, a juvenile one! As its common name goes, the spitting cobra is capable to spitting its venom into our eyes, causing temporary blindness. It's the bite that we have to be wary of. Its bite is known to deliver a fatal blow. We have seen this species of snake in Ubin before. Generally we are not fearful of the snake as long as we leave it alone, and give a respectful distance between the snake and us.


On the boardwalk next to the outer mangroves, the students spotted this Malayan Water Monitor (Salvator varanus). It was walking at a steady pace, and passed us under the boardwalk before emerging on the outer side of the mangroves towards the sea. The monitor lizard is an excellent swimmer and we have seen them hunt fish in the waters before. This particular individual looks large to the visitors, but it is only a young adult. We have seen much larger ones in Chek Jawa. Please don't be afraid of these lizards. They are NOT Komodo dragons! The Malayan Water Monitors are not venomous, although they might bite if provoked. Generally, they are known to be shy of humans, and would prefer to flee than fight.

Along the coastal boardwalk, we saw lots of photographers on a field trip to Chek Jawa. Yes, Ubin and Chek Jawa hold a special place in the hearts of nature photographers. It's really a nice place to get away from the city on a weekend.

Some nice scenic shots taken from the coastal boardwalk.

Sometimes when i'm not busy looking for the animals and fishes in the sea, I'd just day-dream and admire the sky, the sea and the meeting of the 2 in the horizon.

We finally got back to the English Cottage after one and a half hours on the boardwalk. We ended with a drawing session for everyone to express their thoughts about Chek Jawa and its place in our natural history. One thing is for sure, we hope Chek Jawa continues to exist in its natural state with the forests, mangroves and inter-tidal areas undeveloped for as long as we can make it happen.

Here are some thoughts and drawings from our visitors:


Once again, we thank all the volunteer guides for taking time out of their busy lives to bring the visitors around Chek Jawa on 3 August. Pei Yan, Ria, Chay Hoon and Ley Kun were your guides for the walk.

Read more about the walk on 3rd August in these blogs:
- Crabs meet cobra at Chek Jawa! by Ria
- Shield bugs, monkey and wild boar business at Chek Jawa by Pei Yan
- Day Out with the Crabs by Glass Ark of Raffles Institution

Do share the word around if you had enjoyed visiting Chek Jawa. Our schedule for 2013 is published in this post. We open our online registration for the next walk as soon as we have completed the last one. CLICK HERE for our online signup page.

*** (updated 11 August 2013) ***

One of the mothers sent us this photo of the guides, visitors and students. It's taken by her daughter, Isabelle, 6 years old, who took the lead in gathering the group for a photo. What a lovely little girl. We hope to see Isabelle and her mom again at our walks!

(photo by Isabelle, 6 years old)
(photo by Pei Yan)

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