Jun 19, 2010

Wetlands in a City

Book finally out! 3 years. Helped to scribble bits of it :) here is the book below and one of the bits I wrote..

Kek-kek kek-kek kek-kek Koel! Koel! Heads up! You’ve just been welcomed by two of Sungei Buloh’s most vocal residents. A blaze of turquoise and white announces the arrival of a Collared Kingfisher whose kek-kek laughter will accompany you throughout your stay here. High in the foliage a blood-red eye regards you contemptuously. Alas visitors are not of much interest to this male koel. Unimpressed he takes off, complaining in loud glissading tones about the arrival of yet another bunch of crazy unfeathered two-leggers. Don’t jump when the bushes beside you rustle and a Malayan Water Monitor emerges to swagger arrogantly across your path. Like every schoolyard bully this fa├žade quickly crumbles when confronted. Such encounters usually end in his undignified scuttle into the surrounding mangroves. Still walk softly. This is no zoo, botanical garden or wildlife park where animals and plants are put on display to await your pleasure. This is Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, one of the few surviving mangrove forests in Singapore and one of the three nature reserves in Singapore. Her residents will show themselves to you at their own pleasure not yours. Be patient. Wait. You will not be disappointed.

Guest of honour at book launch - Long Horn Beetle

(Can see I wasn't paying attention to the real GOH's speech)

Long Horn Beetles also called Longicorns - Characterised (understandably) by extremely long antennae. Large family more than 200 000 members. Larvae bore their way into wood literally carving out a home for themselves. When it comes to old houses/lumbar industries these guys are unfortunately deemed pests for their wood munching habits.

Shows you what kind of crowd I was in.. This guy landed on some lady's head - no screams instead ppl started taking photos.. Later on he err BOed on the a guy's arm and the only reaction he got was for the guy to sigh and and say " This morning I changed my son's diapers now got to clean up after you". Haha in any other crowd I think there would have been alot of squeaks and screams instead :)

Changable Lizard
NOT a chameleon he can turn red if angry or stressed but thats about it. Not a native lizard either. This guy likely made it to Spore on some of the timber lorries . In Sungei Buloh guess they haved learned that there is nothing to fear from the 2 legger giants with the BIG cameras.. This guy was literally hamming it up while we got some super nice close up shots.

Jun 2, 2010

Sister's Island

First trip to Sister's Island!

Interesting creation myth - There were 2 beautiful sisters Minah and Linah orphans who lived with their uncle. Linah attracted the unwanted attention of a local pirate chief who carried her off on his boat as his bride. Minah heartbroken tried to swim after her sister and drowned. Linah witnessed this and in her grief threw herself off the boat and also drowned. The next day the villages found 2 new islands where the Sister's lost their lives. They named the islands Subar Laut and Subar Darat (big and little sister islands).

I guess sacrifice and romance always have a role to play in any creation myth. Today these 2 islands shelter extensive coral reefs and a multitude of marine life that fortunately or unfortunately include a significant number of stonefish. Maybe the sister's have discovered that it is always better to have a few thorns to go along with beauty!

A picture of wind swept beaches. Tide slowly creeping in..

Feather Stars

Beautifull delicate creatures that are actually starfish Phylum echinodermata Class Crinoidea meaning lily-like in Greek (though in all honesty they look more fern like to me). Baby feather stars start out in life with 5 arms like their other cousins but each time that arm branch is shed they grow 2 more resulting in that colourfull explosion you can see above some species can have up to 200 arms! When attacked they can drop off a limb to distract their enemies - literally a life for a limb. They can regenerate but that takes up to one month so treat them gently. These arms are not normally used for movement though they can drag the star over surfaces or to 'swim' away from predators should the need arise.
The arms are plated with an armour of calcium carbonate plates. Along the length of each arm run finger like projections called pinnules giving it a feathery appearance. Grooves run down the center of the pinnule and arm from which extrude tiny mucus producing tube feet that filter the surrounding water for plankton and other microscopc goodies. These arms can undulate and rearrange themselves to adjust for current and food avliability once caught food bits and transported down the grooves on a conveyor belt of mucus to the feather star's mouth located on the upper side of the central disc called the calyx.
More sophisticated then it's other couterparts the feather star has both a mouth and an anus rather than a one way system employed by other echinoderms. The anus is often located on a feeding tube bringing it above the feeding current to prevent fouling of the water. Very Practical

Ribbon worms

A first for me! When I first looked into the container I though I was looking at 2 worms. Turns out it was just one long curled up worm. Shouldn't be so surprised actually turns out that they can grow up to 1m long! This guy is part of a huge diverse family group with more than 1000 species found in both fresh and salt water and even on land.
Thin and delicate they must be treated with respect for both their sakes and yours. These worms harbour bacteria that produce powerfull neurotoxins making them dangerous to handle and definitely dangerous to eat. Like anything in the natural world anyone who can afford to advertise his pressence to the world must have an ace up his sleeve. These guys are also canny hunters. A long probosis (nose) at the front of it's body can be used to spear, grip and even inject neurotxins to paralyse it's prey depending on the species. Definitely not defenceless though they really do look the part.

Another first for me! Reg egg crab ( in the container) Regret not having time to take a good photo. This guy is poisonous and hence not sdible. Toxins not broken down by cooking. With this trump card up their sleeve they can afford to be slow and sedate trusting their colouration to ward off interested parties. One interesting thought.. some of my visitors were musing that it was such a waste that a crab of such a festive colour would not make it to the dinner table. But I guess if you REALLY didn't like your boss AND if he disn't know too much about wildlife..

Jokes aside these guys are endangered enough already due to habitat loss and are listed as vulnurable in the Red Data list of threatened animals in Singapore. So I guess the wicked bosses get a reprive for now..

My group:) First Full guided walk.