09 January 2011

Mangroves of Ubin, Noordin Beach

Pulau Ubin has two Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii), the rarest mangrove trees in the world! Today we visited one of them.
Brandon pointed out that one of the tree's flowers had a crab spider lurking in wait for pollinating insects to drop by!

I haven't seen this tree since June 2009. The tree is quite tall and looks fine.
It was in full bloom with lots of propagules on the tree. Quite a pretty sight!
Here's a closer look at the 'pimply' tree trunk and the tiny characteristic calyx dropped all around it on the ground.
There were a few propagules on the ground, only one with a calyx so it is sure to be that of the B. hainesii.
On the ground were several freshly fallen 'cannonballs'. These are the fruits of the Nyireh (Xylocarpus sp.). The seeds are irregularly shaped and fit just so within the ball. Its tricky to fit them back together once they fall apart.
The mangroves here are awesome. A thick forest with lots of tall trees and a wide variety of the usual common mangrove plants. More about these in the post on the trip in June 2009, when similar plants were seen. We only had a quick look as the tide was rising. And moved on to look at the mangroves by the roadside.
By the road were more lush mangroves with all kinds of mangrove trees and plants. I last visited this area in July 2009.
Marcus finds a pretty Oriental whip snake (Ahaetulla prasina) among the vegetation near the mangroves!
I love the 'sleepy' eyes of this elegant snake. Apparently, part of its threat display is to extend the tongue and leaving it extended as long as it feels disturbed. After a few quick shots we left the snake alone. Snakes will not harm people if they are treated with respect.
There's too many things to look at! A Pied oriental hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) drops by at the mangroves. The effort to encourage breeding of this rare bird at Pulau Ubin has been so successful that it is now quite common to encounter them here.
I noticed that as it hops from one branch to the next, the bird doesn't even open up its wings!
Here it is safely landed on the branch. What a handsome bird. It looks like it's wearing a black jacket over fluffy white pants.
The last time we were here, we saw stick insects. So I was real glad to find one to show Tang Ling. It was Marcus who pointed out that the animal was dead! It has been infested by some sort of fungus which is the white stuff showing up in its joints. As Marcus explains so well, this is much like what happens to cordyceps, the popular traditional chinese medicine, which is fungus-infested caterpillars (eeks). Fortunately for everyone, Wee Hock soon finds a live stick insect.
There were lots of other insects. Such as these colourful Cotton stainer bugs (Dysdercus decussatus) that are often found clustered in large numbers on the Sea hibiscus bushes (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Wee Hock found a large group of them today.
But Marcus found the rarer ones with a black head. These are found on the Portia tree (Thespesia polpunea) that looks very similar to but is different from the Sea hibiscus! The rest of the team saw lots of other interesting insects, spiders and birds.
Just as we left the mangrove area and were under coconut palms, Chay Hoon shouted 'snake!' A Paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) had landed right on the road with a loud plop. It seemed unharmed as it slithered very rapidly away into the undergrowth.
This beautiful snake can glide from tree to tree, by flattening its body so that it is concave. Perhaps it misjudged the distance to the intended tree when it landed on the road.
More about this snake on Nick Baker's awesome Ecology Asia website. As he says, among the snake's "favoured haunts is the crown of coconut palms". I guess we were at the right place at the right time to see this snake. It's rare for me to see two different kinds of snakes in one trip!

Unfortunately, there seems to be much erosion at Noordin Beach.
More signs of erosion on the beach.
The hillsides here are also seriously eroding with a lot of tree falls.
An area has been set up on the beach for people to make campfires. I also noticed that the charred wooden benches at the shelters (burnt by irresponsible campers) that I saw two years ago has been replaced with concrete benches. The graffiti on the pillars had been scrubbed out, but new ones are coming back. Sigh.
Today, we started with delicious Ubin-only Sunday-only lontong at Pak Ali's shop. We ate it so fast we forgot to take photos. For lunch we stop by the Two Sister's restaurant for their awesome cuttlefish. This time, I remembered to take a photo before we again, ate it up real fast!
Despite intermittent rain, we had a great day out exploring a tiny fraction of the magnificent mangroves on Pulau Ubin. We should try to come back more regularly to check them out.


  1. There's a problem with the link to the Hornbills breeding effort site.
    403 Forbidden

  2. Oh dear. It works for me. Try this full url http://besgroup.talfrynature.com/2009/03/25/new-generation-nesting-boxe-for-oriental-pied-hornbill/

    Or try the home page of the awesome Bird Ecology Study Group blog.



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