01 May 2010

Stunning Cyrene at Sunrise

I'm back on Cyrene at the crack of dawn with a very lively team of NParks' Central Nature Reserve volunteers!

We had a glorious sunrise this morning! Cyrene lies in the middle of an 'industrial triangle'. With our container terminals and city skyline on one side.
On another side, the massive industrial facilities on Jurong Island.
And on the third side, the huge petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom.
Despite the proximity of these world class and humungous industrial facilities, Cyrene is very much alive! Here's the team exploring the reefy parts of Cyrene.
Some of the corals here are huge. Here's a shot with a sporting participant for scale.
Since it was early, we also saw some usually nocturnal animals such as the Reef octopus! The reefs were looking good today with lots of leathery soft corals (Family Alcyonidae), flowery soft corals (Family Neptheidea) and many different kinds of hard corals.
After a quick look at the reefs on this very short low tide window, we headed out to see what Collin and Jeremy from NParks Biodiversity Centre have found in their fish survey. They have been hard at work, checking out the fishes in a deep pool in the middle of Cyrene.
Wow, they found hundreds of 'Grunters' in the pool! Here's a few of them. Possibly they are Trumpeter perch (Pelates quadrilineatus).
And all kinds of other interesting fishes that we have seen on past surveys: lots of Razorfishes (Family Centriscidae), one of the strange Bearded filefish (Anacanthus barbatus) and several unidentified filefishes (Family Monacanthidae), as well as the intriguing Alligator pipefishes (Synanthoides biaculeatus) that Collin is working on.
Collin explains how he gently tags the big fat Alligator pipefishes. In this way, he can gather data about how they are doing over time and thus we can learn more about these fishes and about Cyrene. Here's more on his work on our previous trip to Cyrene.
After we have a closer look at the fishes, we release them back into the pool.
And we explore the rest of Cyrene on the way back to the departure point. All the while, we had not seen a single large Knobbly seastar (Protoreaster nodosus). I was beginning to get worried.
Then we started seeing them! First a few. Then a lot. Then A LOT!
Here's a close up of the sea stars in the pool in the photo above.
And a closeup of the sea stars beyond the pool in the photo above.
Here's another stretch of star-studded shore.
With a closer look at all the stars strewn on the shores.
It was a hot morning and many of the sea stars were curled up. It is believed they do this to cool off. This curled up one is a baby Knobbly. It looks a lot more comfortable after I put it into a pool of water. We saw a few juvenile Knobblies today. Which is good because it shows the Knobblies are still breeding on Cyrene. Here's more about how rare juveniles are on our shores and why this makes Cyrene so special, on the Star Trackers blog.
And how wonderful to see the special Pentaceraster mammilatus sea star! And a baby one too! Fortunately, Collin had a ruler so we could take a photo of its size. This one is about 9cm wide from arm tip to arm tip. I'm not sure if this is the same one that Sean Yap found at Cyrene a few weeks ago. The one I found was quite far away from the TeamSeagrass site when Sean said he found his.
Here's a closer look at the upper side, and at the underside of this star. It looks just like an adult, but is much smaller.
A Giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus) was found! My first record of it for Cyrene.
As well as a pair of anemone shrimps next to a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea). I had also seen some Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), alas without resident shrimps. As well as some Frilly sea anemones (Phymanthus sp.).
Cyrene is a great place for spotting echinoderms! Other sightings included some White sea urchins (Salmacis sp.), several Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra), long Black sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota). There were lots of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) and Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) on the sandy shores.

My special finds are rather boring. This strange little anemone among the seagrasses that doesn't look like anything I've seen before.
And an odd seaweed that I've not seen before.
Soon it was time to leave Cyrene. As usual, with the able support of Jumari and Alex, we make a safe departure from Cyrene as the tide came in.
Hot and hungry, we had a great breakfast provided by Ling Ling. Her cheese and ham and egg sandwich was awesome! Thanks Ling Ling!

On the way home, we had a closer look at the massive works nearby on an extension of the Pasir Panjang container terminals. With massive floating working equipment.
Large concrete structures are in place.
With humungous floating crane barge things nearby.
These works are huge and are located right next to the nature shores on Labrador and Sentosa and are quite close to Cyrene Reef too. More about these works.

Cyrene Reef is indeed a special place. And also one that is fragile and whose status is uncertain. In support of raising awareness for Cyrene, November and I are working on a blog featuring Cyrene Reef called Cyrene Reef Exposed. And it has an associated FaceBook Page as well. There are still very much works-in-progress.

The blog has posts on the spectacular marine life on this 'Chek Jawa of the South' and why we feel it's important to preserve Cyrene.

Do drop by and leave comments on how we can celebrate and protect this beautiful reef.

And look out for more stories about Cyrene, starting with those who visited Cyrene for the first time today!

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