Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lost Changi Beach, 24 Jan 2010

In the company of Andy, James, Ria, Travis, the Butterfly Circle and the Dragonfliers, we had almost a 3km walk through gentle slopes of prickly undergrowth, vast stretches of grasses and shady forest. It was my first time checking out this area of Changi but the second for the rest of them. With no clue as to what to expect at all, I thought I might not see much. How wrong! As you will later find out why.

Andy, James and I followed Travis to the shore while the rest headed landwards to check out the butterfly and dragonfly communities that could be found in this new terrain.

James spotted this unusual looking spider. The 'stick-insect-looking thing' is the spider with its legs (appendages) all tucked in and the oval-shaped blob is most likely its egg case.

There was another egg case nearby and it looked dried up.

The journey down to the shore was most delightful. Fair weather and most beautiful sceneries greeted us.

Such burrows were plenty where we first emerged from the forest and out into the open shore. Andy pointed out that these were burrows of the Ghost Crab. The "foot-prints" leading out from the burrows were made by them!

It was my first time seeing a cathode ray tube. They were the ancient TV sets and look like this. According to some of my companions these are pretty common at the shore. This really had us wondering how they got there..

Travis identified this Frog Seashell. This was something new to me, as I am still pretty bad at identifying seashells and snails.

Lying alone on the long stretch of shore was this dead fish. It was the only dead fish we saw.

Then Andy found tracks made by a Malayan Water Monitor Lizard. I realise that according to the nature of tracks we could actually know which animals had been checking out the shore too! It's interesting that this can actually be a form of science as well.

The shore did not disappoint though the tide was high. Seashells of various forms were most prominent and I learnt much indeed. James showed me this empty shell of the Fig Snail.

An empty shell of the Japanese Bonnet Snail, intricately designed and almost beautifully perfect!

This curious looking shell was found by Travis. We had no idea what snail this was.

Another pretty shell found by James, the name of which is..I have to check with James again.

Travis found this queer looking shell that could have belonged to a really curvy snail!

A kind of clamshell caught my attention with its rainbow colours.

We traced the shoreline further down and proceeded to what turned out to be a soft sandy patch..

..where Cake Sand Dollars were everywhere! There were the dead, bleached ones.. well as plenty of live ones. Sand dollars are echinoderms just like the sea stars.

It wasn't hard to notice the winding trails made by the Cake Sand Dollars.

The sandy blob where the trail ends is where a Sand Dollar lays "hidden" underneath.

Note: You should never leave a Sand Dollar upside down as it takes alot of energy and effort for the Sand Dollars to flip themselves back to their upright position.

Soon it was time to head back landwards (and of course, lunchtime!). On the way back we took photos of the shore we explored earlier.

Truly beautiful place indeed! I sincerely hope this place stays pristine. Thanks Travis for sharing with us this wonderful shore!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Field Trip to BTNR, 20 Jan 2010

Our first field trip for the module LSM3271 (Forest Ecology) had our TAs (teaching assistants) bringing us to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve for an appreciation/awareness trip. My group was assigned Sam and Le. I didn't really see much though, perhaps cos I'm pretty much clueless in the field of terrestrial ecology..

Nonetheless I did see some beautiful stuff :)

At the start of the trip Le shared with us the symbiotic relationship between ants and the Macaranga. The former provides protection for the plant against herbivory (animals that feed on the Macaranga) while the latter provides shelter and food for the ants.

Then I spotted this caterpillar on one of the leaves of the Macaranga. Isn't it beautiful! It's body is translucent green and it has spikes over its body like a spun web.. :) Commander pointed out that this is likely the Malay Baron. Click here to find out more about this charming animal :)

This millipede seemed to be busy scavenging for food on a decomposing log.

There was this part of the forest where we noticed prominent "noise". That was the singing of the cicadas. And sure enough there was a signboard nearby alerting us on the presence of cicadas. Ever heard of this amazing (intriguing) species of cicadas that live underground for 17 YEARS as larvae and only come out to mate for awhile, then die after the eggs are laid underground again?

The rest of the group found this frog in a pond which I can't identify..

Bracket fungi were common and they are found mainly on decomposing logs.

Other organisms that we saw include the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the Long-tailed Macaques.

I sure hope to learn more about wildlife that can be found in terrestrial habitats. Singapore definitely has plenty to offer still! (:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tanah Merah Beach, 4 Jan 2010

My second time at Tanah Merah beach, this time with the company of Kok Sheng, James and Ron. This was a truly eventful trip because I actually experienced a sting myself! Though the culprit remains unidentified. Luckily for me, it wasn't a Stonefish sting as that would no doubt have landed me in hospital.

NOTE: Tanah Merah beach is pretty dangerous as stonefish is pretty commonly found at the rocky parts of the beach. If you were to make a trip down, do make sure you have company with you. It is also good that you prepare a small bag of first aid kit as well.

We actually spent close to 4 hours walking around this time! And we saw much indeed.

When we first set foot on the sandy shore, I saw the balls of sand left behind by (most likely) the Soldier crabs (Dotilla sp.). This didn't seem to be made by the Sand bubbler crabs as the heaps were untidier and the balls of sand slightly larger.

Then I found this Chameleon nerite snail couple mating on a boulder of rock close by.

Exploring the rocky stretch, I sighted these Green gum drops ascidians amongst the shade of rock crevices. They were pretty common.

Then I saw a huge abandoned fishing net probably left by fishermen. We actually saw some of them going about their work as dusk fell.

I actually found a couple of pretty shelled animals on this trip. First there was this Black-lipped conch shell. There was actually a small hermit crab living inside. Isn't this pretty! Shells should be left where they belong as they actually serve as homes and hiding places for animals such as the hermit crab, and upon erosion by sea waves, they actually become sand.

Later on, James found this beautiful Pink moon snail.

The most exciting find of the day must be this Spider conch (Lambis lambis)! It was my first time finding one, and I actually thought it was empty (as the top of the shell was mouldy) until James told me to flip it over. Boy, was it extremely pretty! The picture in the middle shows the elongated eyes. :D

Earlier in the day, I saw some Hermit crabs exhibiting an intriguing behaviour. The 4 of them seemed unwilling to let go of each other! I wonder what they were up to. According to James, he ever saw the same phenomenon before and took a shot of that sighting then.

I also found BOTH the female and male Five-spot anemone shrimps on a Haddon's carpet anemone. This was also a first time for me, though I have seen a pair before as well, found by Marcus on another shore trip. The female is the bigger-sized, more conspicuous one, while the male is the smaller, less conspicuous (more transparent) one.

I sighted only one Garlic bread sea cucumber (or commercially called the Sandfish) throughout the trip. However these are actually pretty common on our shores.

I also saw 2 species of flatworms for the first time. James found this Orange-edged black flatworm.

Some individuals of the Starry flatworm were also sighted.

There was a wide sandy patch where the Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) were abundant.

Six- and four-armed ones weren't uncommon. They were mostly feeding with green-coloured everted stomachs.

There were many couples around. These couples could actually stick together for months before one day when they finally mate! Their reproductive organs do not actually meet. The male will release sperm when the female releases her eggs.

Towards the end of the trip, Kok Sheng spotted this three-armed one! It was definitely my first time seeing one like this.

There was this region on the sandy shore, where there were lots of these bumps on the sand. I wonder what creatures created them and how!

Whilst shining my torch on the rock crevices randomly I spotted this Velcro crab! This was also my first sighting of this amusing creature, which bear hooked hairs on its body and legs and hence causes bits of sponges, seaweed, shells or other debris etc to stick to it. Other than helping the crab to camouflage, the distasteful nature of some sponges serves to turn predators off as well. Interestingly, the attached sponges and/or algae often continue to grow and this serves as shelter and homes for tiny animals!

Then I saw this crab (for the first time as well) which I can't identify :( I love its green colour!

Another critter that I saw was the Horn-eyed ghost crab! They were very common. Some were stationary while some ran and/or dug into the sand when I shone my torch at them. The way they run is really cute!! Probably because their legs (appendages) are really long.

James spotted this dark maroon coloured Haeckel's anemone which looked really majestic! It was HUGE. This was another one of my first-times!

Moments later, I realised there was a Flower crab underneath this anemone! It appeared to be resting.

This looks like a Banded peacock anemone. Isn't it beautiful? James and I didn't notice the beautiful colorations on it initially.

Could this be a Banded peacock anemone as well? I have no idea. :(

Perhaps cos I avoided the rocky areas, I hardly saw fan worms. This was the only pair I saw.

James also spotted a few Seagrass filefishes and a Copperband butterflyfish. This was also one of my first-times. :D

Then we saw this Flathead which was also a first for me!

Some fishermen passed us by and James asked how their catch was. They were really friendly and showed us some of their catch which include huge fishes. There was also this huge sea cucumber which is a really rare find. The fishermen were really nice as to place this on a boulder for us to take photos. Sadly, this was going to end up on somebody's plate. It was likely a Stichopus sp.

I also saw this Acorn worm on the sandy stretch. What you see here, to put it crudely, is the "backside" of this worm. The coiled sand is its "cast".

James also spotted this Brown-spotted moray eel. And this was yet ANOTHER first for me as well. :D

Towards the end of the trip, Kok Sheng and Ron showed us these 2 individuals of the Soft coral false cowrie. They must be one of the highlights of the trip for me! Unfortunately I couldn't get great shots of it. You can check out James' blogpost on them for better res photos!

Whilst walking back to land, Kok Sheng spotted this live Scallop.

Despite the fact that I had a frightening sting at the start of this trip, it was overall a very fulfilling trip as I saw so, so much. It was also great that I had the company of Kok Sheng, James and Ron, who were all really helpful in identifying what I saw. Overall this was an awesome trip. :D