28 November 2009

Animals of Chek Jawa at high tide

Early this bright sunny morning, I joined the Naked Hermit Crabs to share Chek Jawa with a bunch of very enthusiastic families.
They had stayed overnight at Changi so they were all fresh and ready for exploring Chek Jawa!

The sharp-eyed and inquisitive kids were great at spotting things! At the top of Jejawi Tower, one of them pointed out the ants nest in the gianormous Jejawi fig tree (Ficus microcarpa) next to the tower.
Despite the mosquitos, the kids spent a long time in the mangroves checking out all the crabs, mudskippers big and small and other strange creatures that are easily seen from the boardwalk. Since we were so early, we came across the diligent NParks workers cleaning up the boardwalk area. It was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of NOT littering. We can't always rely on having someone to clean up after us.
As we hit the coastal boardwalk, the tide was high which is fabulous for spotting colourful mudskippers! Like this Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) that was enthusiastically flashing its brightly coloured dorsal fin at other mudskippers.
It was bright and sunny and the water was quite clear today. We saw several schools of fishes, and several large needlefishes (Family Belonidae)! Also called garfish, it's the first time I've seen them on Chek Jawa.
Unlike halfbeaks (Family Hemiramphidae), which have a short upper jaw and long lower jaw, garfish have equal sized upper and lower jaws. These are full of teeth!
As we walk along, the kids notice a poor Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) stuck on the pontoon. It might have wandered out in the morning, then was too frightened to make its way back when visitors started coming out on the boardwalk. We gave the beast some distance and soon it followed us back towards the forest on the shore.
It was also a great opportunity share with the families why it is important not to feed these monkeys as this disrupts their diets and the role they play in dispersing forest seeds. Monkeys used to being fed by humans can also become aggressive towards humans, forcing the authorities to put the monkeys down when they become a nuisance. Here's a closer look at this handsome animal, which fortunately is still wary of people.
Another good reason for coming early to Chek Jawa is that all the birds are out and about. Before the families arrived, Ley Kun spotted a low flying White bellied sea eagle as it was starting to soar into the warm blue sky. In the mangroves with the families we heard a lot of little tailorbirds, and glimpsed quite a few of them. Throughout the trip, we heard the melodious Straw-headed bulbul calling.

An unusual sight for me was to see huge flocks of birds swooping among the trees of the coastal forest.
This is the best shot my feeble camera could take of them. I have no idea what they are.
There's all kinds of insects on Chek Jawa too! We saw grasshoppers and lots of butterflies out in the sun. The piercing blue of this butterfly was hard to photograph, but very obviously seen as it flashed in the forest.
Here's what it looks like when it folds up its wings.
Just as the families neared House No. 1, they saw an Oriental whip snake ((Ahaetulla prasina) and a Wild boar (Sus scrofa)! I missed those as I was slacking off way behind, distracted by all the blossoming going on at Chek Jawa today!

Meanwhile, the families had spent time drawing and sharing their thoughts for the Naked Hermit Crab guestbook. And we took a really nice group photo together.
On the way home, Ley Kun shows the families how rubber is tapped.
And today, we saw two 'flying dragons' (Draco sp.) on the rubber trees near Punai hut. These tiny reptiles have fold-away 'wings' between their limbs and they can glide from tree to tree. The male has a yellow flap under his chin which he rudely sticks out at intruders.
Wow, we sure saw a lot of interesting animals today.

An early trip meant that we practically had Chek Jawa all to ourselves. When we first arrived there were zero bicycles at the stands near the entrance.
By the time we left about 11am, the crowds were starting to build up, and the stands were completely full.
On the way in to Pulau Ubin, Ley Kun pointed out the FIVE barges piled with sand, slowly making their way to our sand stockpiles. Two barges in front of us.And three barges behind us. This seems to be a regular, ongoing thing. Here's some stories about where our sand comes from.
As we were walking along the coastal boardwalk, there were three fishing boats just off the Chek Jawa shores. Here's one on the southern side.
With another one a little further away. The large ships and structures are at the long jetty at the mouth of the Johor River.
And another small boat was near the Chek Jawa beacon.
The fisherman was clearly hauling up some traps he had left in the area.
Hopefully, these activities will not impact Chek Jawa too much.

More about the colourful forests of Chek Jawa today.


  1. Wow, lots of great sightings!

    Did those unknown birds seem bulbul-like in any way? I tried to do a bit of looking around, they might be ashy bulbul (Hemixos flavala). If so, it would be a very interesting record, as this is an uncommon non-breeding visitor to Singapore and not many records are known from Ubin.

    Did the birds look anything like this?

  2. You're right Ivan! The NParks staff mentioned something about Ashy bulbuls in the area before we started off. I didn't realise these were the birds we saw.

    Alas, they were too far away to see properly. But they seem to be the same as the photo in the link you gave.


  3. That butterfly is a male Horsfield's Baron Tanaecia iapis puseda). A nice open-winged shot.

  4. Thanks Federick for the ID! I truly admire your gorgeous photos after having tried to sneak up on butterflies myself. I have no idea how you take such magnificent shots of these nervous creatures.



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