Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's Fruiting Season! Durians and Breadfruits at Chek Jawa

Last Saturday morning we had another fun-filled walk with 56 visitors turning up at Chek Jawa! Greeting us as we walked towards the waiting area are calls of a white-rumped shama (not to mention swarms of feasting mosquitoes as we stopped to take photographs)! They are very popular songbirds in Singapore and can mimic other birds, hence they are often the target of poachers. This individual is likely a resident on Pulau Ubin.

By the visitor centre, we noticed that the breadfruit trees are fruiting! The fruits can be eaten, and when cooked, are said to taste like freshly baked bread, hence its name. The breadfruit is high in starch, and is a staple food source for Pacific Islanders, who brought the cuttings to each new island they colonise.

The durian trees near the information kiosk bear tiny little fruits as well! As mentioned in our previous Chek Jawa blog post, we noticed the flowers last month and they are now starting to fruit. Wait for the peak season in July-August and you will see residents and visitors alike hunting for 'organic' durians on Ubin! These trees are planted by villagers who used to live at Chek Jawa, as evidenced by the abandoned wells and Muslim cemetery we see in the area.

In the mangrove area we saw many freshly dug mud lobster mounds that showed the mud lobsters were hard at work! Mud lobsters feed on organic matter in the mud as they dig, and in the process helps to bring nutrients to the surface and reoxygenate the soil. The mounds also provide little homes for crabs, snakes and other animals in the mangroves!

Our perennial favourites, the mudskippers, tree-climbing crabs and fiddler crabs also made appearances!

The rodong or berongan (Telescopium telescopium) is a common snail found in the mangroves. They eat algae and dead plant matter, and leave feeding trails in the mud.

The long beanstalk-like propagules of the bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata) can be seen hanging from the parent plant! These are already germinated seeds where the embryo has already broken through the seed coat and fruit wall (a condition called vivipary, common in mangrove species). This is an adaptation to help them survive better in the mangrove environment, as the propagule can take root immediately in the unstable mud, after floating for days searching for a suitable habitat.

At the top of the Jejawi tower, we got a breathtaking view of Pulau Tekong in the distance, amongst the beautiful clouds! We also noticed large clumps of Nipah palm at the bottom. Their trunks run horizontally underground, and only their large leaves are seen on the surface.

After our walk, the families and kids had a relaxing time putting their experiences into drawings!

Finally, we would like to thank our volunteer guides (Ley Kun, Ria, Pei Yan, Chay Hoon, Jonathan) for taking time to share their knowledge and stories with the visitors, on a Saturday morning when many people will choose to sleep in! Look out for our next Chek Jawa walk on 24 May!

Links to other blogs:

Ria's blog on the Naked Hermit Crabs walk on Saturday and Imagine Ubin Workshop on Sunday:

Pei Yan's blog on the upcoming Tua Pek Kong birthday celebration in May:
This is a great opportunity to experience one of the few remaining traditions on Pulau Ubin, while it is still around!

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