Monday, December 28, 2009

Tanah Merah Beach, 18 Dec 2009

My first time at Tanah Merah beach, and this time, I had the company of Kok Sheng, James, Marcus, Ria, Lester, Bingquan and Yang yuan. We were again blessed with great weather, as it is nearing the rainy season this time of the year.

My impression of Tanah Merah beach has always been that it must be "pretty dead" since it is a reclaimed shore. But NOOOO I was so wrong, it is teeming with life!

At the start of the trip, James spotted a Hollow-cheeked stonefish. I have heard alot about this amazing creature but never got the chance to see it live. However, I could not get a nice picture of it, but here is James' much better shot of it.

Somewhere nearby, we saw a Synaptid sea cucumber. When touched, its skin actually sticks to you but be sure not to pick it up as they may break since they are very fragile.

Nearer the end of the day, I saw a sea cucumber that looked like a Holothuria scabra, or commonly called the Garlic bread sea cucumber. Sea cucumbers are known more commonly as seafood, but there actually are a variety of them out on our shores!

Walking along the sandy stretch, it wasn't hard to realise that the sand had been "meddled with".

The picture above shows Bingquan, Yang Yuan and Lester curiously observing the Sand bubbler crabs. I tried to capture videos of them at work but due to the limitations of my camera I couldn't get close-up videos of them :( However, I found this great video online.

Marcus found a pair of Five-spot anemone shrimps on a Haddon's carpet anemone, and we managed to find the male, which was smaller and duller. It was incredibly shy and went to hide from us! This was my shot of the female. James has a higher res picture of this beautiful female here.

The Five-spot anemone shrimps are commensal shrimps. They live among the anemone and derive protection from them, yet do not provide the anemone with any benefits. In fact, many such commensal relationships exist in nature, and may occur between crabs and anemones, fish and anemones, etc.

We also saw the Gong-gong (also called Pearl conch) with its peering eyes.

There were many fan worms around as well, and some even occurred in groups.

Bottom-most: Orange fan worm

It was my first time seeing fan worms as well, and though they were pretty common, they pretty much dazzled me with their beauty. Here is a video I caught of a fan worm coming out of its tube.

The sandy shore consists of a considerably large patch where the Common sea star, Archaster typicus, can be found in abundance. It wasn't uncommon to find ones with 4 or 6 arms.

This individual has 2 regenerating arms.

Most, if not all, of them were feeding. This is one with its green-coloured stomach everted. Yes, they feed by sticking their stomachs out and digesting food externally.

This couple was caught mating.

After nightfall, a different group of animals emerged. I saw 2 Peacock anemone individuals.

I saw a Giant carpet anemone as well, sprawled on a huge boulder.

Kok Sheng advised James and I to turn rocks over as many organisms can be hiding underneath and demonstrated once, revealing a Red egg crab!

Near the end of the trip, we saw this Ornate leaf slug grazing on the rocks.

Without a doubt, this was a fruitful trip once again :) Thanks Ria and James for the links I use here!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sembawang Beach, 17 Dec 2009

17 Dec marks the first time I set foot on Sembawang beach. Thanks to an invitation by Kok Sheng to check out the beach with him and his friends, I got the chance to explore Sembawang beach for the first time, with company of the same interest! That afternoon, only James managed to make it for the trip. It is always nice to meet new people and I got to know James and Wen Qi (hope I got her name right).

When we reached the beach, the sky was clear and we had an awesome view of our neighbour, Johor, Malaysia. Sembawang beach is a natural sandy beach left in Singapore. Changi beach is also a natural sandy beach, and you can find one in Chek Jawa as well.

To an onlooker, the beach must look barren and void of life. However, one just needs to take a stroll along the beach and look carefully, and plenty of wildlife can be found.

Dead carcasses of fish greeted us first. Later on, I saw plenty of empty crab moults as well.

Notably, anemones were pretty abundant. For the first time in my life, I saw a mangrove anemone! According to James, there are 2 known species of mangrove anemones. I love it cos' it looks rugged :D Ria has got some nice pictures of a similar looking mangrove anemone in her flickr album as well.

There were many banded bead anemones around, and they are so well camouflaged I was always surprised because they were often just within centimetres from me!

Whilst making our way back to land, I found this interesting black coloured anemone! This is the first time I saw a black coloured one. It could likely be another one of those banded bead anemones.

Thanks to Wen Qi, I now know the common name of this creature:

It is called an onch slug, and belongs to the family Onchidiidae. Seems like the one I saw was a big pimply onch slug.

Worms could be found as well. Many tube worms could be seen. They are basically worms that create tubes using a mixture of sand, debris, even leaves, and they live inside it. These tubes provide such conducive environment to live in that other organisms may be found living inside as well! More on these amazing worms can be found here.

James also pointed out a ribbon worm, which is another organism that I saw for the first time as well.

It seems we can almost always find egg cases of the Melongena snail on our shores. The egg cases are extremely intriguing and beautiful if you were to take a closer look at it. Alas, my digital camera couldn't take a closer shot at it.

The most exciting find of the day are the 2 sand star (Astropecten indicus) individuals! Simply because they are my favourite marine animals :D Though I missed out on the massive population of these charming creatures which the others found at the other end of the beach, the two that I found were more than enough to make my day, though the 2nd one seemed pretty much dead :(

If you are interested, this is where you can learn more about sea stars (more commonly known as starfishes) and sand stars that can be found on our shores!

It had been a truly fun trip and it was great that I gained new knowledge, met new people and saw new stuff :D