23 October 2011

Semakau at high tide, with hot spring?

The tide is super high! What am I doing at Pulau Semakau?! Without the distraction of marine life, I thought I should try to find the fabled hot spring (yet another attempt).
And also check up on some interesting rare plants found on the high shore.

We were heading out with the Vertebrate Team to try to track down vertebrates on Pulau Semakau. Ben has brought along his Bat Detector! I think it's awesome, and so does Nick!
While the rest of the Vertebrate team headed out to hunt the spined creatures, I trekked out to the shore. Scattered on the forest trail floor were seeds of the Critically Endangered Mangrove trumpet tree (Dolichandrone spathacea)!
The Critically Endangered Api-api jambu (Avicennia marina) is growing well and is now quite tall.
It's flowering and fruiting!
I had a quick look at the Critically Endangered Caesalpinia bonduc. This is the only female plant that is known in Singapore.
It was flowering! Hurray! The pretty flowers are small and remind me of orchids.
It was also fruiting! With both fresh green pods, and a ripe pod that had split open to reveal a pair of small bluish-grey seeds. When I shook the seed, there is something even smaller in it that rattled about.
I spent most of the time trying to find the hot spring. Struggling through dense back mangroves and hilly mud lobster mounds surrounded by bazillions of mosquitoes. I managed to reach this series of pools with white stuff on the ground. The water in most of the pools were cold, but in this one, the water was quite warm! I didn't smell any sulphur though. Is this the hot spring that Dr John Yong told me about? The area was surrounded by lots of Teruntum merah (Lumnitzera littorea). I didn't dare to trek much further in as I was alone. Perhaps I'll explore this further when I have some company.
The only vertebrates I saw were several large Malayan monitor lizards (Varanus salvator), and many birds including several Great billed herons. But the rest of the team saw lots of snakes, Nick saw a skink and got a photo of a snake catching a mudskipper! Sadly, Ben's Bat Detector didn't pick up much.
There was a lot of debris washed up on the shore. Fortunately, mostly natural stuff like sargassum and mangrove seeds and seedlings. Ben found lots of Dungun (Heritiera littoralis) fruits!
A lot of seagrass blades were also washing up on the shore. I'm not sure if this is something to worry about. TeamSeagrass will soon be back on Pulau Semakau to check up on the seagrass meadows there.
I tried to wade out to have a look at the other trees, but the water was too high. On the seagrass meadows, I saw a small boat with a few people in it. They didn't seem to be laying nets or fishing. I was quite relieved to not come across any fishing nets or traps on this trip.
On the long walk back to the jetty, I kept an eye out for dolphins and sea turtles. Alas, no luck. But speaking to the friendly security officers at the jetty, I learn that they do sight these creatures regularly. A pod of five or so dolphins would playfully swim in the channel between Semakau and Bukom. And two sea turtles, one large and one smaller would often come near the jetty.
All seems quiet at the refineries on Pulau Bukom, although, as usual, a gianormous cloud of emissions is hanging over the island.

Thanks to Jinny and friends at NEA for permission to survey Semakau and the much appreciated ride out!

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