27 March 2011

Looking for dugong at Chek Jawa

Did we really see a dugong on our last trip to Chek Jawa? A few of us hope to find out this morning and decided to stake out Chek Jawa from the Jejawi Tower.
What joy! Although we arrived late on Pulau Ubin, there is still some Ubin-only-Sunday-only lontong at Pak Ali's shop! We had to takeaway the lontong as we didn't want to miss the tide. So I ended up having my favourite Ubin dish at my favourite Ubin view!

Abigayle joins me with her lunch of Changi Special Nasi Lemak! Also with us today were Andy and Jani and her friends. Fortified with lunch, we left Abigayle to keep watch on the Tower while we headed down for a quick look around the boardwalk.
I wanted to get a closer look at the mudskippers today. Alas, all was quiet on the mudflat on this hot sunny day. Only a few mudskippers were lively. This Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) was busy flashing its brightly coloured dorsal fin.
It seems most of the mudskippers were already done with frolicking for the day. The other Gold-spotted mudskippers were mostly chilling out in pairs in their burrows. This pair have a nice big pool.
This pair were squeezing up in a tiny burrow. Perhaps they have just started on the burrow? The area around the entrance was littered with pellets of mud that were probably spat out by the fishes as they dug out their home.
I was hoping to see the Bearded mudskippers (Scatelaos histophorus) 'dancing', i.e., standing on their tails to attract girlfriends. But none were leaping about. However, I did see a pair of these Bearded mudskippers emerging one after the other from their burrow. These long slender mudskippers seem to make a different kind of burrow from the Gold-spotted mudskippers, with a narrow entrance that opens sideways into a pool.
The fiddler crabs, on the other hand, were very busy! The mudflat near the boardwalk was teeming with Orange fiddler crabs (Uca vocans). Males showing off, annoying one another, females eating and minding their own business. Here's two male fiddlers seemingly arguing over a much bigger female which is halfway in a burrow.
At the Coastal Boardwalk, we had a closer look at the wonderful seagrass meadows of Chek Jawa. There are many different species of seagrasses here. Among them, the Smooth ribbon seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata) here in the photo, which I have so far only seen at Chek Jawa and Cyrene Reef. Dugongs, however, seem to relish Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis) which is abundant on Chek Jawa and many of our other shores.
The tide is slowly coming in and some large fat mullets swim in to get the first nibbles of food in the seagrasses.
On the way back to the Tower, in the back mangroves, I could slowly look for and photograph the tiny colourful fiddler crabs that are commonly seen here. The identity of all these fiddler crabs remain a mystery to me. There were these tiny little brightly coloured ones with red eyes on red eyestalks.
And these not so tiny but still small white crabs with blue legs and also red eyes on red eyestalks.
There were also lots of these fiddler crabs. The males have stout enlarged pincers. They have red eyes on stalks that are not red.
Nearby there were these female fiddlers with similar eyes. Perhaps the females of the above fiddler crab?
And I saw this very pretty male fiddler with orange limbs and a blue body. Nearby, a female which looks similar to him.
Among the interesting plants on the boardwalk, the Dungun (Heritiera littoralis) near the boardwalk is starting to bloom! I love the pink fuzzy flowers of this otherwise rather drab tree.
The Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora) is blooming profusely too!
Time to get back to the Tower! Abigayle has settled down with binoculars and an umbrella. She has not spotted any dugongs yet. We look out for signs of big animals moving underwater in the incoming tide. But all the suspicious ripples and waves turned out just to be ripples and waves.
While we were looking for dugongs, a large Wild boar (Sus scrofa) started foraging near the Jejawi Tower. The animal was fearlessly eating the fallen coconuts there, to the delight of visitors. The wild boar reminds me so much of Priscilla the Pig, a tame wild boar at Chek Jawa who died in May 2004. I miss her and her happy effect on visitors. Perhaps this is the new Priscilla?
It was a scorching hot day! Fortunately, not too hazy. We could see all the way to the hills of Pengerang in Johor, and of course, the slow incoming tide over the wonderful seagrass meadows of Chek Jawa. But a black cloud is starting to creep up behind us. We decide to call it a day and headed home.
Just before we left Pulau Ubin, Jani yells "Dugong"! Aiyoh, it's the photo of Jani and Abigayle with the dugong found dead on Pulau Tekong. It's posted up at the bicycle rental shop.
Here's a closer look at the photo. Here's the full story about the dead dugong found on Pulau Tekong on the habitatnews blog, and what Jani and Abigayle and the team did for the dugong.
Dark clouds gathered over Pulau Ubin as we left. Andy stayed behind to weather the storm and only left at sunset. Alas, he didn't spot any dugongs. Perhaps it was too hot in the afternoon for feeding? Like all wise creatures, dugongs probably preferred to have a nap at this time? And later on, perhaps it was too rainy? There's still so much more to look out for on our shores.
Although we didn't see any dugongs today, it was lovely to picnic on the Tower and have a leisurely look at the wildlife at Chek Jawa. We should do this again, perhaps with better luck the next time!

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