Thursday, February 21, 2008

Go wild on a landfill: Pulau Semakau: 20 Feb 2008

:: It was a great day to be away from the insanity of concrete hive. Clear blue skies, gusty breezes beckon on Singapore's only landfill, Pulau Semakau. So while poor Charmaine has chewed her fingers to stumps due to the Singapore Fashion Festival 2008 press conference at Victoria Theatre, I made my obligatory appearance there, left, and met up with Kenerf to head to Marina Pier to get on the boat to Semakau with the other TeamSeagrassers. ::
::From afar, the concrete jungle. ::
:: My 2nd time on the island. My first can be found here and here. This time round, I teamed up with Ria (again) and we were given the ardous task of monitoring with a "botak", whistling quadrant (above) at Site 3. Under Ria's stewardship, I learn how to ID more species of sea grasses, namely the Sickle seagrass (thalassia), Needle seagrass (halodule uninervis) and Ribbon seagrass (cymodocea rotundata). Read more of our ordeal here. ::

:: The tides was still relatively high as we arrived rather early so we decided to head of to explore other bits of Semakau like the mangrove area. ::

:: Left: A lone mangrove sapling on the mudflat. Right: Telescope creeper snail (Telescopium telescopium). ::

:: Decided to stalk the sandbar and found these fiddler crabs. Right: The male fiddler owns a bigger and brighter claw to attract the attention of a female crab (left) by waving it around in the air. And the bigger and brighter the crab's appendage, the higher the chance he gets to fertilise her eggs. So really, you can say that female fiddler crabs are size queens. ::

:: After monitoring, we went to explore the coral rubble area. We stubbled upon this giant anemone (stichodactyla gigantea), and there was bivalve of sorts growing besides it. ::

:: Up close look of the anemone's tentacles and mouth/anus. ::

:: A noble volute (cymbiola nobilis) laying eggs. This pretty snail has fascinating markings on its shell, as if a drunk, in a moment of inspiration, decided to paint mountains with a chinese paint brush on the shell. The volute has a striking vermillion & black foot. ::

:: Loads of fan worms in the shimmering rock pools.::

:: Found this flatworm. It does look like a nudibranch at first. Many flat worms mimic nudibranch as most species of nudibranchs are poisonous, flat worms benefit from this mistaken identity and gets to live another day ::

:: The polka-dotted nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) Ria spotted a pair mating!.::

:: A spider conch (lambi lambis)! Have always wanted to see one. Its comical beady eyes looks like something out of an alien movie. Its rather rare in Singapore waters as it used to be eaten and probably is still consumed in other countries. ::

:: Colonial anemones or zoanthids. After Kusu Island, I grew rather fond of them cause they are so pretty and unassuming. The one on the right looks like a bouquet of daisies as its tentacles come out to feed. ::

:: Flowery soft coral, hard corals, dead men's fingers, many of them on Semakau...would you believe this is a landfill. In fact, there are still areas of Semakau waiting to be explored. ::

:: A shocking pink sponge. Seems to be like the one I photographed the last time I was there. Hmmm. ::

:: Frilly Anemones, its tentacles like antiquated Victorian lace ::

:: Honestly, I would be just happy to sit and watch the sky turn to dusk, as the clouds float by amongst the crazy clolurs of the sky. (Okay, fine I didn't get to see the knobbly sand stars, thats why I was looking at the sky...And Chay Hoon told me subsequently that there was one along the path i was walking. Damn!) ::

:: Lucky for us, we didnt get the swarms of mosquitoes which usually descends upon us as we leave the beach. We even had a bus come pick us up, saving us the long walk back (though the walk back was really nice in the evening the last time I was there). Doesn't seem like we are in Singapore eh? ::

::  When we arrived back at the visitor centre, the garbage barge was just coming in, carrying the burnt remains of our concrete jungle's filth. Its HUGE! ::

:: Once again, I had a lovely time on Semakau and can't wait to be back. If you wish to volunteer for team seagrass, click here. We need all the help we can get! And chances are, you may get to meet NParks celebrity scientist extraordinaire and Polar chicken pie model, Siti (above)! She is SUPER FRIENDLY (she's the first who showed me the ropes to sea grass monitoring when I first joined TeamSeagrass last Oct on Sentosa) and if you want to get into her good books, just get her muffins from Shunfu Mart or make her a batch of piping hot strawberry waffles, topped with nuttella ice-cream. And because of that, she might even give you Site 3 when you monitor on Semakau...right Siti?? ::

Sunday, February 10, 2008

CNY 3 on Kusu Island (9 Feb 2008)

:: Out and about on the Southern Islands again, and today its Kusu. Many are familiar with the island as during the 9th Lunar month, Taoists descend upon this tiny isle to visit the Tua Pek Kong temple to pray. There is also a Malay shrine on the island, up a hill. However, not many know that there is a lovely reef found here and a group of volunteers called the Blue Water Volunteers ( BWV) conducts guided shore walks here as well. ::

:: And it was a beautiful day to be out. The sky was clear, wind was invigorates the soul tormented by too many pineapple tarts and kueh bangkut. Charmaine and Kenerf came along, and it was also Charmaine's first time out on the intertidal for walkies. ::

:: Top: The cheery trio. Bottom: Singapore skyline from Kusu and what Ria calls the blight on our city scape, the Singapore Eye. Ha! ::

:: Water wasn't as low we expected. It was silty and wherever we walked we tend to muck up the water. The tide also came in rather quickly as well but we did manage to check out two lagoons and see interesting things ::

:: Plenty of carpet anemones can be found. They are the same species (Stichodactyla haddoni) as the ones found on Chek Jawa, which we help Kok Sheng monitor for his project ::

:: Marcus found a snapping shrimp or pistol shrimp. They are the ones that cause the popping sound one would hear during low tides. The shrimp has one pincher bigger than the other and has a mechanism that causes the pincher to create a short, powerful sound wave. Using this, it is able to stun small prey and even break open hard shells. ::

:: We found a pair of common sea stars making out ::

:: Underside of the sand star and those tube like things are the feet. The mouth of the animal is in the centre ::

::There are lots of hard corals growing in the lagoon. Branching corals and boulder shaped ones. ::

:: Above is a group of colonial anemones in a crevice. ::

:: Marcus, ever informative, found this pretty little nudibranch near some corals. It feeds on sponges, as I was told. ::

:: And he found a juvenile grunt as well::

:: A pretty little frilly anemone found amongst some branching coral ::

:: As it got darker and realising that the tide isnt really receding much, we went to check out the shore on the other side of the island, where the jetty is. And we found zoanthids everywhere, in myraid colours. ::

:: What are zoanthids? Well, they are related to anemones and corals (Phylum: cnidarians). The colours are determined by the algae which lives inside the zoanthids, somewhat like the giant clam. Whatever it is, it sure is mighty pretty!::

:: Actually we found a fish trap and inside there was a copperbanded butterfly fish. It belonged to people who worked in the temple but anyway, we just released it for it did look very sad inside the cage. ::

:: We went over to the other lagoon and saw more carpet anemones (but no shrimp) We saw a lone peacock anemone in the murky water. ::

:: Gobies camouflaged against the sand. They are related to mud-skippers and are common around our shores. I don't think anyone has specifically researched on the number of species that can be found here. Granted, they are rather dull looking to begin with. ::

:: This is a black lipped conch. You can actually see its eyes, which reminds me of the eyes of a Muppet. Charmaine saw a few gong gongs and their eyes and has vowed never to eat anything with such expressive eyes, again. ::

:: A prawn. Wild. Not intended for the dinning table. Well, not yet ::

:: A surprising find was this rather stoic looking ghost crab (Ocypode ceratophthamla). I thought it was dead until it decided it had enough of attention from the rest of us and started to dig itself into the silt. But of course not before a few choice photos ::

:: Thank you Ria for organising these trips! It truly has been an amazing and memorable Chinese New Year for me. I can't wait the next trip out already. ::