Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March is month of Durian Flowers and Little Piggies

The Crabs are back in action after a 2-month break! And we have lots of interesting stuff to report from our short outing to Chek Jawa with 50 visitors and 7 guides.

Some of the guides are huge durian fans, so we always look out for durian flowers when we visit Chek Jawa in March. Impeccable timing because we did find a carpet of durian flowers on the gravel path near the information kiosk! Guys, this means we are on target to have a bountiful durian harvest in July. On one very important condition though .... that the humble, often-maligned fruit bats are still there to perform their very important role of fruit-pollinator in Chek Jawa. We always remind our visitors: No bats, no durians!

We also found out an interesting fact over the weekend. The durian flower can be used as an ingredient in some South-east Asian recipes: durian blossom curry, with belacan, in a soup, or fried in an omelette, according to Grace, one of our nature-loving friends. Here's a collection of recipes from the Internet that use durian flowers as an ingredient. We learnt something new again!

March is also Wild Boar Piggies Month. In March 2013 (read blog post) we saw the litter of piggies born to resident Mama Wild Boar at Chek Jawa. Well, she has another litter this March. 8 piggies again! May I gently remind our visitors and readers NOT to feed the pigs in our wild places. Feeding them is not an act of kindness; feeding changes their natural behaviour of foraging in the forests.

See the stripes on the piglets? What do they remind you of? Well, they remind us of watermelon stripes! On a more serious note, I'm sure the stripes are there to help camouflage the piglets in the forest.

Our visitors who got to the top of the Jejawi Tower saw several herons out on the sand bar. The birds were wading in the shallow water hunting for fish. These two birds are the Great-billed Herons.

And this bird below is the Grey Heron. Different species, same feeding grounds.

Smaller birds also caught our attention. This is the Brown-throated Sunbird, which is one of six species of sunbirds in Singapore. This individual has plain olive upperparts, so we know it is a female. The male sunbird has much brighter iridescent colourings. As you can see in the photo, this species of sunbird feeds on nectar.

Ivan saw a pair of Pink-necked Green Pigeons on the Jejawi Tree. The male bird, on the left, is distinguished by its pink-lilac neck and an orangey breast. The female has grey-green feathers overall. Such beautiful birds. Do keep a lookout for the Pink-necked Green Pigeon in your neighbourhood as this species is quite widely distributed throughout Singapore.

The kids were really excited to see mudskippers in the mangrove area. One of our favourite, the Blue-spotted Mudskipper made its appearance. When we showed the kids the light-blue spots on the mudskipper body, they were quite excited by it. The kids found even more mudskippers after that. Most of the time, the mudskippers stay very still, half-submerged, in the water when they sense our presence, trying very hard to camouflage with the natural surroundings.

Lots of little colourful fiddler crabs in the mangrove section too. This one has a bright orange shell and a white claw.

This one has a shiny black shell with traces of red.

Don't you think the claw of this fiddler is beautiful? We do! A blend of colours from white to blue to red to grey, and speckled with white dots too. Look again. Can you see it has stalk eyes? Interesting, huh?

Next, we saw an unidentified crab about 4 cm long in the inner mangrove area. It has little bumps on its shell, orange elbows and two equal-sized red claws. We are still waiting for it to be identified. If you think you know what it is, do write in the comment section below or write to us at nakedhermitcrabs@gmail.com. We'd love to hear from you. [Update: Thanks to B.Y. Lee for helping to identify this mangrove crab. Species: Neosarmatium smithi. Family: Sesarmidae]
Neosarmatium smithi

Neosarmatium smithi

It was low tide, and we were able to see lots of orange fiddler crabs in the mudflat and outer mangrove area. This photo clearly shows you that the big claw could be on the left as well as on the right! The next time you see lots of fiddler crabs on the shore, try to count them and see which is more common? Big left claw or big right claw? You'll be the judge of that.

Chek Jawa does have very lovely vistas of mangrove, seagrass lagoon, incoming tide and the sea. Here's a panorama photo taken on a iPhone. Is this Singapore? Yes. Is this worth conserving? Yes, of course. Home to lots of species of animals and plants.

Out on the coastal boardwalk, we saw lots of fishes coming in with the tide. Both adults and children were all mesmerised by the large schools of little fishes swimming under the boardwalk.

We saw a large fish about a metre long. Pity we could not get a good picture of it. It had traces of yellow on its tail. An escapee from the nearby fish farms? 

Instead, we managed to get a picture of the garfish.

There was a small commotion at the fringe of the coastal forest. We saw a pack of feral dogs barking loudly and chasing something. Pei Yan's group which was further behind saw the final action. The dogs were going after a water monitor lizard, and when the dogs tried to attack the lizard, it whipped them in return with its powerful tail. The dogs left after that.

We end our walk with a guestbook session at the English Cottage. I made a collage of the drawings done by our lovely visitors. One of them wrote, "Today I gave up Orchard Road .... for .... Nature!". Sweet.

Lastly, we want to thank our volunteer guides for giving their time on a Saturday morning to show the visitors around. There's Sankar, Jonathan, Ivan, PY, CH, LK and Ria. We were really pleased to see Ria back in action, albeit with a bit more care and caution, on this first 'overseas' trip six months after her foot injury. Ria, great to see you back at Chek Jawa!

Before i forget... here's the group photo of the visitors taken at the start of the walk. They woke up bright and early on a Saturday morning to come for this walk. Thank you!

Other blogs about this trip:
1. wildshores by Ria: http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2014/03/piglets-overdose-at-chek-jawa-with.html#.UzA5Ka2SzGJ

2. We don't get many visitors blog about their visit to Chek Jawa, and when they do, we are overjoyed! Here's an account of the Chek Jawa Boardwalk outing seen through the eyes of Lavanya. It's a brilliant post:  http://mynatureexperiences.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/18-pulau-ubin-offshore-island-naked-hermit-crabs-walk/

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