01 October 2011

Evening at Semakau

A small team headed out to Pulau Semakau to check up on a wide range of issues. We had a most fruitful evening. We got seagrass work done, crabs looked at and saw a Gold-ringed cat snake!
As always, among the highlights of a trip to Semakau are the Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus)!

Tis' the season for blooming Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) so we experienced a truly golden sunset over the golden brown carpet of Sargassum on the reefs. But this made it rather challenging to explore the reef safely as all kinds of animals lurk in the seaweeds. We don't want to hurt them, or be hurt by others like Mr Stonefish.
Seaweeds are great shelters for all kinds of animals, like this very well camouflaged Penaid prawn (Family Penaeidae).
On this trip, we are exploring the Southern tip of Semakau where there's sandy-seagrassy areas that remind us of Chek Jawa and Cyrene Reef. Here, there are lots of animals typical of such areas like cerianthids and Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). Many of the sea stars were in 'mating position', just like those we saw at Tanah Merah the day before. I also saw many shy glass cerianthids.
The sand bars here had several Very long sea anemones, which I have learnt are very well embedded in the sand. I also came across several Fire anemones (Actinodendron sp.), which as its common name suggests should also be left alone. There were also many Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) and Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni).
Wow, my first time seeing the Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) on Semakau. While these are very common on our Northern shores like Changi and Chek Jawa, I don't see them often on our southern shores.
I also came across two Durian sea cucumbers (Stichopus horrens) which are very well camouflaged among the seagrasses and seaweeds. I also saw several small and large Garlic bread sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra) and several large White-rumped sea cucumbers (Actinopyga lecanora). Marcus saw a strange large red sea cucumber.
I haven't seen this Dawn flatworm (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis) for some time. There were also many humungous Spotted black flatworms (Acanthozoon sp.), larger than my palm!
I also took a closer look at some common animals here. Like the Upside down jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.). I saw a few small ones on the shore.
Also on the silty sandy areas, tiny fan worms and lots of tiny gobies (Family Gobiidae).
The waters teem with all kinds of fishes. But the ones that got my attention were a very long blue fish which might be a needlefish (Family Belonidae), a Kite butterflyfish (Parachaetodon ocellatus), there were many many Head-stripe gobies (Amblygobius stethophthalmus), an iridescent Black cardinal fish (Apogon melas) and a little fish in pajamas which I still haven't figured out.
My favourite find of the day was this motionless black frogfish (Family Antennariidae). It blends so well on the sandy area, looking like just another encrusted rock. Here it lurks in wait for passing prey. It has fluffy bit on a spine in between its eyes and just infront of its huge mouth, which it wiggles to lure unsuspecting prey to come closer!
Another creature that remained motionless was this octopus. Can you see it? Look for the suckers on its arms...
Joining us today were Siti and her colleagues who are looking for 'fat' Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.). While some Needle seagrass can be very skinny with thin leaf blades, Siti and I have seen some with broader leaf blades. We were glad to find some on Semakau! Although the ones on Cyrene can be even broader!
Of course there's lots of other seagrass species found at Semakau! The seagrass meadows here extend for kilometers!
Also with us today were Bee Yan and her intrepid Crab Hunting team. They had a very fruitful time looking for crabs in the mature mangroves of Semakau and found all kinds of interesting crabs. While these crabs may look boring from the upperside, they often have pretty and colourful pincers which can only be seen when we take a closer look.
On the way back, Stephen spotted the Golden cat snake (Boiga dendrophila)! Although we didn't manage to get a photo of it, it was quite an amazing encounter!

Another wonderful thing to see on the shore, was an absence. The giant contraption that we have been seeing on the shore for many months is now GONE! Hurray! But there was something putting out a plume of black smoke near the fish farm just off the shore.
On the way to Semakau, I also had a glimpse of the Shell refinery on Pulau Bukom after the massive fire over the last few days.

Thanks to friends at NEA for giving us a ride out to the start point, arranging the washing up point and other kind arrangements! I didn't find any driftnets to remove on this trip.

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