13 April 2012

Seagrassy at Chek Jawa with new wild piglets

Siti is doing important seagrass studies at various sites including Chek Jawa. Today, I accompanied her on a hot scorching trip!
Along the way, we encountered interesting marine life, signs of dugong and new baby wild boar piglets!

Seagrasses are important for dugongs, also called sea cows because they eat only seagrasses. As usual, we see dugong feeding trails on Chek Jawa!
The seagrasses seem to be doing well, although there were a few patches of bleached seagrasses. Chek Jawa has lots of seagrass species including Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), Needle seagrass (Halodule sp.), Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa). Alas, I still failed to find Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) that used to grow near the northern sand bar.
Smooth ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea rotundata) used to grow only in the pool on the top left. Now they have expanded to cover an area about three times larger!
The rare Beccari's seagrass (Halophila beccarii) is still found in the sandy patch near the boardwalk.
In the distance, there were many shore birds feeding on the seagrass and sandy shores. Intertidal areas are vital feeding grounds for these long-distance migratory birds. Without such feeding stop overs, their ability to travel long distances to breed in the Arctic circle will be affected.
At the same time, shore birds also play an important role in the health of our shores. Their poop has been found to help damaged seagrasses recover faster.
There is a vast sand bar on northern Chek Jawa. It seems to have grown over the years 'moving' inward to smother the seagrass meadows in the lagoon. There was a large moult of a Coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas) there today. Large 'craters' may be signs of large sting rays coming in at high tide to hunt for buried clams.
The seagrass meadows are full of life! There was a small, well camouflaged Crocodile flathead (Psammogobius biocellatus) which is a goby and not a flathead! Siti also spotted a small Toadfish (Batrachomoeus trispinosus).
There are still many Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) on Chek Jawa, although not as plentiful as in the past. The mass deaths in 2007 killed off a lot of them as well as other marine life. The Carpet anemones and Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) has yet to return to the numbers before the 2007 event.
This is a small carpet anemone that has 'uprooted' itself and is upside down. Sea anemones sometimes do this and are thus able to 'move' to new locations.
Despite the hot day, I spotted several cerianthids (Order Ceriantharia). Sometimes called peacock anemones because they come in such a wide variety of colours, they are not true sea anemones. They build tubes that they can retract into, and are thus sometimes also called tube anemones.
There are lots and lots of Hairy sea hares (Bursatella leachii) today. These slugs are seasonally abundant.
It seems to be egg laying season. Since my first predawn trip on Saturday to the southern shores, I've been seeing egg blobs on the shore. Today, we saw large egg blobs on Chek Jawa too. These blobs are likely to be slug eggs.
I saw the usual common Razor clam (Family Solenidae) digging rapidly into the soft ground.
Siti spotted this strange razor clam that I've never seen before. Wow. There's always something new to see at Chek Jawa!
Among the seagrasses are blobs which are ascidians. Unlike sponges which are simple animals, ascidians are complex and have organs. In fact, humans and ascidians belong to the same group!
Earlier, on the way to the shore, we stop by the Critically Endangered Delek Air (Memecylon edule) trees growing on the rocky cliff sides of Chek Jawa. They are blooming!
A closer look at the beautiful flowers!
Today, there's a public guided walk at Chek Jawa late in the morning. As we were working, I could hear Joseph Lai's clear voice as he guided visitors at the Jejawi Tower. The Tower provides a panoramic view of Chek Jawa and the surrounding area.
We meet up the with the public walk on our way back. Wow, they have set up a lovely walk for the visitors.
Experienced volunteers and NParks staff have found a vast variety of marine creatures to share with the visitors. From Knobbly sea stars, a feather star, all kinds of sea cucumbers and slugs and snails! It's a great way for kids to get an easy look at our marine life.
On the boardwalk, how nice to bump into Joseph Lai and his visitors. They are very lucky to have Joe as their guide. Joe played a key role in the work on Chek Jawa before reclamation was deferred.
Just before we left Chek Jawa, at Punai hut where the vans were gathered, we came across Friendly Mama Pig and she has SEVEN new piglets. In wild boar (Sus scrofa), young piglets have a striped pattern that reminds me of a watermelon! Her two older babies are also still with her. Amazing!
I'll be back tomorrow morning with the Naked Hermit Crabs for our monthly free guided walk on the Chek Jawa boardwalk. Hope we will see Mama and her new piglets again!

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