09 August 2011

National Day at Semakau with otter!

A small team visit Pulau Semakau this National Day morning to explore the mangroves at high tide.
The white blossoms on red sepals of the Perepat tree (Sonneratia alba) celebrates our national colours everyday!

We arrive at sunrise and take a slow stroll along the seawall towards the mangroves. It was a great chance to catch up with everyone. Today, we have a team of Vertebrate experts led by Subaraj and including Nick Baker and King Li. We hope to find interesting vertebrates on Semakau.
Regulars to Semakau are well aware of the commando mosquitos that infest the forests. Alicia has become a "white ninja"! Covering up all skin is, in my opinion, the best way to thwart the blood-thirsty beasts.
While the rest of the team check out the forests, I head out to check the mangroves from the seawall. The tide is not very low today but it's a beautiful day!
Even on the rock wall, marine life finds a home. The sandier areas are full of scuttling little Porcelain fiddler crabs (Uca annulipes)!
And among the many roots, little mudskippers. Nick Baker, who runs the awesome Ecology Asia website, later shared that most of the mudskippers he saw were Silver-lined mudskippers (Periophthalmus argentilineatus). Their white bars are sometime not very obvious.
Although the tide is not low, I decided to have a quick look at the mangroves. On the left are the replanted mangroves and on the right, the natural mangroves that have been growing on Pulau Semakau since before the landfill. But lots of new mangrove trees have settled here.
In some parts of the shore, many young mangrove saplings have naturally taken root.
It was wonderful to come across a large Api-api jambu (Avicennia marina) about 3m tall. Its typically greenish yellowish trunk is surrounded by a thicket of the distinctive tall thin breathing roots.
The easiest way to identify this rare mangrove tree is to look at their flowers (larger than the similar-looking Api-api putih Avicennia alba), and their fruits (bluish green, circular or egg-shaped, flattened with blunt and not tapering tip). But if there are no flowers or fruits, then we have a look for 'square' stems throughout the plant.
I also came across three other smaller Api-api jambu trees. One came up only to my waist. Hope it grows up big and strong!
The water is quite clear in the mangroves! There are many tiny fishes and lots of little snails on the sandy bottom.
How nice to come across small patches of seagrasses growing right next to the mangrove trees quite high up the tide line. There were several patches of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides).
And also clumps of what seems to be broad Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.)
There were also many large clumps of Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata)!
I noticed dense clouds of little fishes swimming among the seagrasses in what is rather clear water. But I murked up the water as I got nearer to try to take the photo and the fishies were very shy.
All throughout the morning, various kinds of birds called and flew by. Subaraj as usual, sights and shares so many more than I would on my own. There were shorebirds, birds in the grasslands, and as the day heated up, raptors soaring in the sky.
As I was intently sneaking up on mangrove trees, I heard a splash, turned around and saw ripples in the water. What was that? It was only then that I realised Subaraj was also nearby and he told me he had been observing an otter feeding in the mangroves, rapidly catching fishes. Alas, I had probably scared away the animal. Darn. But Subaraj managed to get some good photos of it!

Earlier on, Subaraj also came across some mysterious poop. After discussing with the kind Mr Tahir who patiently drove us back in batches, we suspect the presence of another kind of vertebrate on the island. Perhaps a civet cat? Wow, so much more to discover on Pulau Semakau!

The rest of the team also had a great day discovering all kinds of different birds, insects, a trap door spider and more!

Thanks to Mr Tahir and the kind NEA team for permission and support for the survey.

Others who posted about this trip
  • James with lots of lovely closeups of insects, spiders, bugs and the infamous Commando Mosquito of Semakau!
  • Jerome on facebook with lovely scenery and colourful critters.


  1. Somebody should do a survey of mosquito species in Semakau!

  2. Good point Siyang!! It would be easy to do. We have one person act as bait and just we pick off the blood-suckers. Haha!



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