15 August 2009

Sungei Buloh with the zoo docents

We're out guiding the docents from the zoo today at Sungei Buloh.
Chay Hoon, Marcus and I arrive earlier at the Reserve to quickly recce the boardwalk before our walk starts.

The mud is alive! There were loads of mudskippers and crabs and other critters out and about. I think the mudskippers in the pool are the Yellow-spotted mudskippers (Periophthalmus walailake). I'm not too sure of the ID of the small mudskipper outside the pool. While the crab is probably a Tree-climbing crab (Episesarma sp.).
Of course the most engaging fish on the flats are the Giant mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri). The bigger mudskippers create 'swimming pools' by digging out little balls of mud with their mouth!
And here's a closer look at a Tree-climbing crab. It seems to be eating something. At low tide (like today), these crabs are all over the mudflats. If you go at high tide, they are clustered in groups of many crabs on the trees. So you can have a good visit at the boardwalk at any tide.
And Marcus spots these little fiddler crabs! They look different from the kind we usually see. Could they Uca dussumieri? Wow.
Of course, all these animals wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the mangrove plants.

The rare Kempudang barat (Cassine viburnifolia) was blooming! And looking very lush with lots of new leaves. It is listed as 'Critically Endangered' in our Red List so it's nice to see it growing well.
Another special plant seen only at Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh is the tiny Beccarri's seagrass (Halophila beccarii). In Sungei Buloh, they carpet large areas of the mud beneath the mangrove trees.
There are lots of other less rarey but still important mangrove trees. I finally took the time to take proper photos of these common trees.

Bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) is a very common mangrove tree. It has stilt roots from the trunk as well as prop roots from the branches. With neat oval stiff leaves, a red stipule, and flowers and propagules that are stuck close to the branches. The 'ripe' propagules have a red collar.
Bakau putih (Bruguiera cylindrica) has knee roots! It's hard to see this elsewhere where the trees grow so close to one another. But at the boardwalk, you can get a good look at the individual trees. This tree also has neat oval leaves, tiny flowers and long thin propagules topped with sepals that bend towards the stalk.
Tumu (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) also has knee roots, as well as short buttress roots. The leaves are neat ovals too, but the flowers are larger usually with a bright red calyx which can be pale where the tree grows in the shade of taller trees.
And the Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) was blooming! It's nice to be able to show in one tree, fresh flowers: the ball-shaped thing is the female inflorescence, while the yellow sausage-shaped ones are the male. Together with a brown developing fruit ball nearby. How nice.
Soon it was time to get the walks started. Marcus and Chay Hoon started off with those who came on time while I waited for the late comers. And just as we started on the boardwalk, a big bird the size of a chicken was walking up and down infront of us. I think its a Coucal!
I didn't have much time to take photos while we were doing the walk. And it started to mizzle. But we had a great time looking at mudskippers, crabs, trees and discussing all kinds of other issues. As the rain got heavier, we gathered for lunch and more chit chat.

I learnt that Chay Hoon's group saw the Dog-faced water snake (Cerberus rynchops). While Shirley who came much earlier before the walk saw otters at the prawn pond! Will look forward to her post on this on her Life's Indulgences blog.

After lunch, as the hardworking docents gathered to do docent project work, the three of us headed in to the Reserve for a quick look around. And came across a bunch of visitors who were enthralled by a large Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) lying in the middle of the path.
In the ongoing mizzle, we saw a pair of Painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala) out in the ponds. These birds are free-flying birds from the Zoo.
It was an interesting experience guiding the docents today and nice to meet so many enthusiastic volunteers. Thanks to Veron (on the right) for organising the event!
Tomorrow, more mangrove explorations at Ubin!

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