15 October 2011

Checking up Chek Jawa's northern sand bar

Mama Wild Boar and her little piggies welcomed us at Chek Jawa! What a happy introduction to the small team of seagrass volunteers helping Siti today.
I also had a brief look at the northern sand bar. Before the trip, Chay Hoon and I picked up more weird and wonderful mangrove seedlings at Changi.

Mama Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) is quite big, compared to the young humans. But she is gentle and harmless if we don't disturb her or her family. Her babies are all grown up and have already lost their stripes. I'm so glad we have another series of tame wild boar at Chek Jawa as I really missed Priscilla the Pig since she died in 2004. But we shouldn't feed these or any other wild boar! [Update: Sadly, I just learnt from Andy via his blog post that a tame wild boar has been found with a fish hook in its mouth]
I'm back with Siti and other seagrass volunteers to study seagrasses. It's lots of hard work to learn more about our seagrasses! Heading to Siti's work site, I had a look at some seagrasses along the way and made a quick detour to check up on the northern sand bar, which I haven't seen for many months.
On the south sand bar, the patch of Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) has grown tremendously! The seagrass blades look nice and healthy.
There were lots of shorebirds out on the seagrasses and sand flats on the northern sand bar. Including a few herons. Shorebirds feed only on the shore and rely on wetlands to fuel their long distance migrations from the Artic where they breed in summer to shores as far away as Australia where they spend the winter.
Besides shorebirds, seabirds also rest on Chek Jawa. Seabirds feed out at sea and not on the shore. Terns have always rested on the tip of the northern sand bar ever since I started visiting Chek Jawa more than 10 years ago. It's nice to see them still doing so. The land behind them is the reclamation at Pulau Tekong, and the channel between is used by a wide range of vessels including large ferries.
To avoid disturbing the birds, I stayed closer to the Pulau Ubin shoreline. There are still bazillions of Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) on the northern sand bar!
Seagrasses have grown over large areas of the Johor facing side of the northern sand bar! Here's a view facing Tekong.
And a view facing Pulau Ubin.
There are lots of large Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) nestled in their little pools among the seagrasses here.
Most of the seagrasses growing here are Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.) and Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis). There were patches of Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa). Sadly, I couldn't find the Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that used to grow here. I also couldn't spot any obvious dugong feeding trails.
On higher shore closer to the Ubin Fence, there were lots of tube worm tubes.
Here's a closer look at the tubeworms. When I used to visit the northern sand bar 10 years ago, there were lots of tubeworms too,  but not much seagrass growing on the Johor facing side of the northern sand bar.
I had to search a while, but finally found many patches of the rare Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii). They were fresh and green!
Seagrasses are important nurseries for small fishes, crabs, shrimps and other sea creatures. Small, young animals find shelter and food here and may eventually move to other adjacent ecosystems like mangroves or reefs or even to the open sea. The fishes in this photo are mostly Common mojarra (Gerres oyena).
Some of the creatures we came across in the seagrasses today! Lots of Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius infraspinatus), a few Spiky sea pens (Scytalium sp.), one plain sea anemone, one Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.). In the main seagrass meadows as we walked back, we saw several Geographic sea hares (Syphonota geographica) and one Hairy sea hare (Bursatella leachii). Also many Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra), Sand stars (Astropecten sp.), shrimps and crabs.
I noticed this small boat moving near the northern sand bar. But they moved away when they saw us. I didn't see them laying any nets or traps. And I didn't see any nets or traps in the small circuit of Chek Jawa that I covered. What a relief!
Earlier, before we headed out to Chek Jawa, Chay Hoon and I had a quick trip to Changi to gather up more mangrove seeds and seedlings that have washed up this rainy period. Wow, Chay Hoon found TWO seedlings of the rare Pisang pisang (Kandelia candel).
Hmm, are these the same kind of fruit? I know the one on the left is Sea almond (Terminalia catappa). But I'm not really sure about the one on the right.
Mystery fruit no. 1 (the ones on the right)
Here's another mystery seed with a wrinkled casing and a nut-like seed inside.
Mystery fruit no. 2
Oh, another bunch of unidentified seeds.
Mystery seeds no. 3
On the way home from Chek Jawa, I noticed a Pisang pisang seedling, together with lots of other seedlings washed up near the boardwalk! Hopefully, Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin is receiving a good share of these seeds and seedlings and that they will grow up on our shores! How wonderful!


  1. Hi Ria,
    I would like to ask if those tubeworms in the pictures you have taken would slide into the sand when it sensed intruders?

  2. Thanks for dropping by the blog! The worms will go deeper into their tubes if they are disturbed. But the tubes don't retract into the sand. Hope this answers your question?



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