Sunday, May 10, 2015

Otters and Low Tide at Chek Jawa!

We had an awesome day at Chek Jawa yesterday, shared with 35 visitors! This is our monthly free walk. There were lots of sightings including otters, horseshoe crabs and lots of fiddler crabs on the shore.

It was low tide in the morning. And Ria's group who set off first saw 3 otters running on the mudflats! The visitors were thrilled!
Photo credit: wildshores
This is certainly not the first time we see otters in Chek Jawa. The most recent otter sighting was in October 2013, and before that, twice in June 2012. We've seen them in the area around the coastal boardwalk as well as coming out from the coastal forest. Some of the guides remember seeing otters in the northern sandbars of Chek Jawa.

Lots of shots taken yesterday of the mudflats at low tide.
Taken from Jejawi Tower
Taken from the coastal boardwalk
The meadow of seagrasses at Chek Jawa
When it is low tide at Chek Jawa, we are able to see the herons feeding away. The migratory shore birds have flown north at this time of the year, but the herons are resident here in Singapore. The large birds would take advantage of the low tide to hunt for fishes trapped in puddles of water.

Great-billed heron (left) and gray heron (right)
The kids loved looking at the herons through the binoculars. With a little bit of help, the kids learnt to use the binoculars and were delighted to see the faraway herons look so near.

We saw 4 adult horseshoe crabs from the coastal boardwalk. Because we were on the boardwalk, we aren't sure if the horseshoe crabs were alive or dead.

We also saw a large Noble Volute shell, and it is likely that the snail is dead. The good news is that a hermit crab is probably living in it. We always remind our visitors that it is best not to collect shells on the seashore. Empty shells become homes for hermit crabs, so let's leave them there in the natural habitat!
Shell of a noble volute
Oh dear! What is going on here? The carpet anemones look bleached. That's not a good sign. The bleaching is caused by higher temperatures in seawater, and yes, it has been quite hot the past week despite the frequent thunderstorms in the afternoons.
Carpet anemone
On a happier note, the kids are interested to know what is the correct pronunciation for "Anemone". They are so cute! It should be "a-NAE-mo-ny", and not "ANY-MONEY" - haha! Check the correct pronuniciation in

Oh yes, the sharp-eyed visitors saw these footprints in the sand. These are the footprints of the monitor lizard. Probably a monitor lizard went hunting for food on the mudflats. See the long line made by the tail. Thank you for spotting this. Good job!

Footprints made by a monitor lizard
From the coastal boardwalk, we could see the Jejawi Tower. A visit to Chek Jawa is not complete until you climb the tower to take in the 360 degree views of the Chek Jawa environs.

At the mudflats closer to the shore, we saw LOTS of fiddler crabs. The porcelain fiddler crabs are abundant.
Porcelain fiddler crabs
Porcelain fiddler crabs
The orange fiddler crabs were fewer in number when we observed the activity from the boardwalk. Strangely, my group did not see mudskippers at the intertidal areas. There were the giant mudskippers in the mangroves.
Orange fiddler crab
A quick recap of what the visitors saw at the mangrove segment of Chek Jawa...

So many of the attap palms are bearing fruit. If only we would collect them to make our own 'attap chee'! However, I am sure this is no easy task.

There is a large patch of sea holly in the mangrove section. The visitors were interested when we showed them the jagged thorny leaves as well as the smooth edge leaves.

In March, we took a photo of the male Horsfield's Baron butterfly which has a light blue and dark brown colour combination. The female Horsfield's Baron butterfly looks quite different. The scientists have a term called "sexual dimorphism" which is used to describe the distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes of an animal.
female Horsfield's Baron butterfly
male Horsfield's Baron butterfly (photo taken in March 2015)
This is Chay Hoon's group at the outer mangrove area, learning about the different root systems of mangrove trees.

Sadly, there is a fair amount of marine trash at this part of the wetlands. Singapore shores continue to be plagued by marine trash. Let us all do our part to reduce use of plastic, and it goes without saying, that we need to learn to dispose of trash in a proper way.

At the end of the walk, the wild boars were there at the woods behind the information centre. We counted a total of 8 little piglets. Last month, there were 12 piglets in this litter. We also noticed that 2 of the female wild boars are lactating. So, these 8 piglets could be a combined litter from 2 Mama wild boars.
wild boar and piglets
Here in this photo, you can see the visitors interacting at quite a close proximity to the wild boars. We had to remind everyone not to use a flash camera, no sudden movements, and to give a wider distance between themselves and the wild boars. We have to be mindful that these are wild animals, so the interaction should be short and minimal. Of course, we take every opportunity to remind the visitors NOT to feed the wild boars, and any other wild animal (monkeys, birds, etc). The animals know how to feed themselves from the natural abundance of the forests. Thank you, they do not need your help.

To end, thanks go out to all the volunteer guides and friends - Sumita, Tim, Min Lin, PY, CH, Ria and LK. You guys are wonderful, and we appreciate you taking time out to come and share your love for nature with fellow Singaporeans!

If you're visiting Chek Jawa for the first time, do check out the NParks website for Ubin.

Here's a picture of Pekan Quarry where we stopped to admire the views after our lunch. Our favourite bird-watching site at Ubin. It is just a short walk from the Ubin town centre.
Pekan Quarry, Pulau Ubin
The next Chek Jawa Boardwalk trip will be on 13 June, Saturday, from 4:30pm to 6 pm. Look out for our announcement!

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