01 March 2009

Massive mudskippers and Mad Murai at Pasir Ris

Pasir Ris has a lovely mangrove boardwalk and I thought I should check it out today.
The boardwalk had been upgraded a year ago, but this is my first time there. I recently received an email from a father who wanted to bring his son who was really keen on fiddler crabs, to see some. He asked whether there were any at Pasir Ris. I was rather embarrased to say I didn't know. It was time to find out for myself what we could see at Pasir Ris.
The boardwalk has been massively extended and now meanders through the mangroves.There are lots of easy-to-read panels along the shady boardwalk.Many of my favourite mangrove trees were there, like this large and happily propaguling (not a proper word I'm sure) Bakau kurap (Rhizophora mucronata).There were a lot of Xylocarpus trees and almost every one of them was getting ready to bloom! There was at least one of the rarer Xylocarpus moluccensis but I think the rest were the more common Xylocarpus granatum.And a very happy, healthy Ceriops zippeliana full of flowers and propagules. It is identified by the textured 'fruits'.

And what about the crabs?There were lots and lots of large Tree climbing crabs (Episesarma sp.), mostly on the mud and hovering near holes in the many mudlobster mounds. This particular one was 'frothing' at the mouth. Some crabs do this to oxygenate the water in their gills. With squarish bodies and flat legs, they remind me of origami crabs!There were also lots of other Sesarmid crabs (Family Sesarmidae) including the ones with the blue face-band that I've been seeing at Pulau Semakau's mudlobster area. And plenty of really tiny crabs all over the mud as well. The boardwalk is rather high above the ground so binoculars would probably help take a closer look at them. But alas, I could find no fiddlers.

Other special animals (no photos, too far away) included the Ellobid snails on trees. Some appeared to be Cassidula sp.

But one attractive animal in abundance at Pasir Ris is the Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri).The largest of our mudskippers, these muscular fishes excavate tunnels by bringing out the mud in their mouths. Here's one fish hard at work at what looks like a new tunnel. You can see the balls of mud spat out a distance all around the hole. The hole is the entrance to deep tunnels in the mud which act as a nursery for their young.A closer look at the fish. It has black stripes along the sides of the body. Here's another one at a very large 'swimming pool', which looks completed already.
And another one just lazing in a stream.

I usually ignore birds. But today, the mad antics of the Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) just captured my attention.
A bird of the mangroves, it does indeed have a tail that it can spread out like a fan.This one settled in the deep shadow of a bushy mangrove tree. The Pied fantail eats mainly insects. It is said that the bird forages close to the ground in the dark understorey, catch its prey on the wing. It rarely misses, the broad bill is ringed with spines (rictal bristles) which may help it catch insects even in the dim light of the understorey.The bird then started to make wild flapping turns in the small space there.
Spreading its tail and wing feathers widely.It did this at least 12 times. Was it flushing out insects to catch? Their hyperactive madcap hunting style is probably what earned them their Malay name: Murai Gila which means "Crazy Thrush".

I noticed that there seemed to be channels artificially dug out all over the mangroves.There also seemed to be a fair amount of replanting going on.There was an area that appeared to be a nursery for young mangrove seedlings.

Alas, the Park is plagued by misbehaving visitors.At one of the big shelters along the creek, there were two groups of people fishing. Right under the no fishing sign. On the boardwalk, I came across two groups on bicycles, although they clearly should not ride there. And in a far corner, I noticed some people foraging in the mud.

Like all our mangroves, the Park is affected by the always present marine litter that drifts in with every tide.In addition, I also noticed, sprinkled all along the boardwalk, little pieces of what seems to be bread cut up into squares. None of the marine life were near these pieces.

More about Pasir Ris Park

NParks has a mangrove walk for kids every third Saturday of the month ($4 per person), while the Green Volunteers Network is planning a free guided walk there on 4 Apr and also conducts regular mangrove cleanups there, the next one is on 7 Mar.

Pasir Ris was also the location of a crocodile sighting that sparked off a flurry of media reports, with many people calling on the public and authorities to leave it alone. Alas, it was eventually caught.

Pasir Ris also has a stretch of interesting shores with seagrasses and other amazing marine life. Here's Kok Sheng's most recent visit there.


  1. The last time I was there, I did see a very small group of Uca rosea on a small open patch of mud amongst the mangroves.

    If I recall correctly, there's also a small colony of Uca annulipes in a patch of mangroves close to one of the banks of Sungei Tampines. It's quite far from the area covered by the boardwalk though.

    I need to find the time to explore the area once again.

  2. Hey thanks for sharing that Ivan. The tide was coming in when I was there so I didn't get to see the low shores. But it's nice to know there are fiddlers at Pasir Ris. Yes, be great to find time to explore at a more suitable tide!



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