29 August 2009

Chek Jawa at high tide with the Naked Hermit Crabs

The monthly free guided walks on the Chek Jawa boardwalk by the Naked Hermit Crabs have been changed from Sunday to Saturday afternoons. Yay! It's much easier for me to help out in this time slot, if there are no low tide trips.
And one of the first things we saw on the way into Chek Jawa was a troop of Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis)! Siting quietly high up among the trees, these were obviously males ... erhm.

It's good to see that no one was feeding them. Feeding our wild monkeys is bad: for the monkeys, for the forest. But it's strange to see them so close to humans. Usually, those on Pulau Ubin are very shy. Perhaps they were attracted by the fruiting trees. There sure were a lot of bright red rambutans on the trees. In fact, we saw one rambutan-laden tree shaking all by itself. Turned out to be a monkey in pants trying to shake down the tree!

Today the Crabs were out in full force and we had 6 guides! Also with us were Chay Hoon, Marcus, Kok Sheng and of course Mama Crab Ley Kun. James also came along for the trip. November finally came out of her shell after a long absence to join us. I think some sun and sea will do this land monkey some good.
July had brought his friends from NIE along for the trip. The secret mission for his team was to pick up some tips on guiding and some stories and ideas for doing this kind of a walk. I had the pleasure of guiding some of this team. They were a very cheerful and sporting bunch. They laughed at some of my lame jokes, and put up with my long-winded explanations.
In the mosquito-infested Nipah Valley (as I call it), we saw lots of Nipah palms (Nypa fruticans) and lots of mud lobster mounds. These mud 'condos' come complete with swimming pools, and are full of mudskippers, crabs, dragonflies and other little critters. We talked about the ills of commercial prawn-farming and then got caught up with the little colourful fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) found here.

Until one of the sharp-eyed visitors noticed an Oriental whip snake (Ahaetulla prasina)! It sure was very well camouflaged! This gentle snake doesn't bite if left undisturbed. It feeds on vertebrates, including small nesting birds, lizards and frogs.
We rounded the corner and in the sandy area saw some wasps digging holes in the sand. These are probably mama wasps digging a hole to bury some live but paralysed spider, caterpillar or other unfortunate beast. She will lay her egg on it and the emerging larvae will feast on the ready-to-eat meal thoughtfully provided by mum.
We also talked about the different kind of mangrove trees found on the outer side of the mangroves. As well as about long seedlings (propagules) growing on the mother tree (mangroves seem full of thoughtful mothers). And checked out the sand bubbler crabs (Scopimera sp.) and yet MORE fiddler crabs found near the more open waters. The tide was coming in!

We stop to take some nice scenic shots, and talked about how mangrove trees make it possible for us to enjoy durians. It's a long and complicated story involving nectar-eating bats.
Along the coastal boardwalk, we noticed all the Delek air trees (Memecylon edule) were in bloom, with bunches of violently blue flowers among the pretty green leaves. This tree is Critically Endangered and is only common on the few natural rocky cliffs that remain on our shores. Today I didn't bring the Big Cam and was feeling very free and easy with just Little Sneaky Cam. But she doesn't take very good photos.
It's a bright blue but breezy day as we talk about the Chek Jawa beacon, shipping traffic and also about Pulau Sekudu (aka Frog Island) and the strange legend of how Pulau Ubin and Pulau Sekudu came to be. Right behind us is November leading her group of visitors.
By the time the team reaches the end of the coastal boardwalk, they are very good at direction attention to interesting things. Instead of just saying "There!" they can give a better idea of what and where to look for the subject of interest. Here we are looking at the oysters growing on the boulder at the high water mark.
We have a quick look at several Critically Endangered plants here including the Seashore nutmeg (Knema globularia), Penaga laut (Calophyllum inophyllum) and Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia). We also peek at the nesting box set up for the Hornbill Project on Pulau Ubin. As usual, we end the trip at the House No. 1, also the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre. Where the visitors kindly share their thoughts about the trip and about Chek Jawa.
Some of the young visitors find a more scenic spot to pen and draw their thoughts.
We also found out that November and Marcus saw a mud lobster! Out in the open, moving under the boardwalk! Here's her fantastic clip of this amazing encounter from her facebook. I've not seen a mudlobster out and about for more than a decade.

Marcus also saw wild boars, a mama with her babies. Which always brings back for me, fond memories of Priscilla the Pig.

But the guides still haven't had enough of Chek Jawa. After saying goodbye to the visitors, snarfling down Ley Kun's delicious cakes, and begging coins off strangers and friends for cold drinks from the vending machine, we head back to the boardwalk! There sure is a lot to see, even after we've done it earlier with the visitors.

The fiddler crabs are particularly intriguing. I had a break today as the manly folks with the Big Cams did the difficult job of shooting them. We saw the Oriental whip snake again, and interesting bugs. And pondered about intriguing mangrove trees.
When we run out of interesting things to shoot, we take photos of each other taking photos, and photos of each other taking photos of each other taking photos. Sigh.
The tide seemed to have stopped coming in and was on its way out. We spot a bunch of mudskippers on the water line waiting quietly. They were not playing or moving around friskily as they usually do at low tide. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tide to go out? Just like motorists wait for the ERP gantry to switch off? If the fishes go at the wrong time, they might have to pay, with their lives.
All too soon it was time to go home. We left as the guard was locking up Chek Jawa. And just as we landed at Changi, we saw a hornbill laboriously flying across to Changi too! Hornbills don't seem to fly very well in open air.
We all had a well deserved dinner and it was great to catch up with everyone!

I have zero photos of the sightings due to the lameness of Sneaky Cam. Check out the blog posts below for all the lovely photos of the flora and fauna of Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin.

More about Pulau Ubin, about Chek Jawa and how to get to Pulau Ubin and what to do there.
More about the Naked Hermit Crabs.

Other posts about this trip

2 comments:

  1. There were 7 Crabs! You forgot to mention July ;-)

    -LK

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, so many crabs that I lost count. Sure, of course July was there too.

    ReplyDelete

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