23 January 2010

Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs

A glorious blue-sky day and I'm out at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs for the monthly boardwalk tour.
Only one family signed up and they didn't turn up!

Fortunately, we were joined some new guides from the NIE Green Club: Daniel, Amanda and Shireen! So we had lots of fun, slowly talking about all our favourite stops along the boardwalk.

We use binoculars to look at not only birds but also plants! Here's Daniel having a look at the rare Pink-eyed pong pong tree (Cerbera manghas) growing in the coastal forest. While Ivan is sharing about the soaring White-bellied sea eagles which were riding the thermals on this warm morning.
It was such a pleasure to have an attentive audience. Here's Ivan showing us the cotton stainer bugs on the fruiting Sea hibiscus. Amanda was taking notes throughout the walk. Wow, awesome! It was also great to have Ivan back with us, fully recovered from an unfortunate encounter with the business end of a stonefish on New Year's Day.
The tide was incoming. A perfect time to be out on the boardwalk! As the water rushed in, little mounds of mud became prime property for mudskippers and fiddler crabs. Resulting in some jostling among the animals.
Ivan noticed a Purple climber crab (Metopograpsus sp.), a non-swimmer, scurrying in the rising water back to its hideout on the boardwalk legs. It was holding what looks like a fiddler crab! Was the fiddler already dead? Or did the Purple climber crab capture a live one? Wow.
The shallow but rising water was teeming with fishes. There was this swirling school of countless Tropical silversides (Atherinomorus duodecimalis).
And a smaller group of mullets.
All these fishes make the seagrass meadows a great place for the two Great-billed herons hunting there. One of them caught what seems to be an eeltailed catfish (Family Plotosidae). And a big one too! The bird hauled its struggling catch to drier ground and left the fish there, prodding it now and then, until the fish was a little less lively. I didn't manage to get a photo of it finally eating the fish. Darn.
We had a look at the dancing Bearded mudskippers (Scartelaos histophorus), then while the rest headed around into the mangroves, I had a quick look at some of the trees planted along the path to the coastal boardwalk and encountered a few mystery plants. Which I have labelled as I know some kind soul will drop by the blog and help out with IDs. Thank you!

(A) Here's a tree which resembles a lime that now had tiny little flowers.
(B) And sticking out among the fruit trees was this tree. Another mystery to me.
(C) While next to the Jejawi fig was this tall tree with a narrow canopy of drooping branches, with fruits and flowers.
I had a closer look at the plants next to the Jejawi Tower and how wonderful to see the planted Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) are blooming! There were flowers in various stages. Soon perhaps we will see fruits too!
Nearby, the short Teruntum merah (Lumnitzera littorea) shrub was already blooming!
Slowly climbing up the Tower, I noticed for the first time the Yellow flame treelet (Peltophorum pterocarpum) right next to the boardwalk! This native plant of our coasts is also a commonly planted roadside tree. According to Hsuan Keng they were formerly found at Changi coast but considered extinct. Those found in the wild are believed to be dispersed from cultivated trees.
There were a few figs on the Jejawi fig (Ficus microcarpa). When the whole tree figs it will attract all kinds of birds and wild life such as monkeys. This is an awesome sight from the Tower!
Earlier on, on the seaward side, I had a closer look at the lovely blooming Chengam (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea). While the Seashore nutmeg trees (Knema globularia) were bright with red fruits. The mangroves and shores of Chek Jawa can be quite colourful.
As I headed to meet up with the rest on the Mangrove boardwalk, I saw a small Malayan water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator). It seemed quite unfraid of the people walking by.
How delightful to meet a lively Blue-spotted mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)!
It was showing its pretty dorsal fins!
As we ended at House No. 1, how nice to see a family picnicking there.
Alas, we also notice people on Pulau Sekudu. As well as small boats zooming past the island, and in the distance, someone laying down fish traps near Pulau Sekudu.
Here's a closer look at the people on Pulau Sekudu. Two of them were carrying plastic bags and one of them was taking photos.
And here's a closer look at the person laying the fishtraps at Sekudu.
Earlier, we also noticed kayakers again, coming very close to the seagrass areas and near the Great-billed heron hunting on the shore.
Here's a closer look at the kayakers. One of them was taking photos of the others.
In a notice dated Sep 07, an area designated as Chek Jawa Wetlands (shaded in the diagram below, click on image for larger view) was declared off limits to boaters, water recreational activities including fishing and swimming.
The prohibited activities include:
i. No vessel or craft shall enter or remain in Chek Jawa Wetlands.

ii. No vessel or craft shall berth or moor at the jetty or floating pontoon or any other structure within Chek Jawa Wetlands.

iii. No vessel or craft shall land at Pulau Sekudu or anywhere within Chek Jawa Wetlands.

iv. There shall be no collection of any organism (including remains of an organism) or use of rods, lines, hooks, nets and traps within Chek Jawa Wetlands.

v. No person shall swim, bathe, snorkel or scuba dive within Chek Jawa Wetlands.

Well, it turned out to be a fruitful walk even though we had zero visitors. Thanks to the good company. Earlier on, before we left Changi, we hurried put together a poster in an attempt to gather walk-in visitors to join our tour.
Ivan added amazing on-the-spot drawings of wildlife commonly seen on the boardwalk.
Alas, there were no visitors to way lay when we got to Chek Jawa. But when we left, although it was getting really hot, there were lots of people! The bicycle parking place was full!
Hopefully next month we will get some visitors to guide around the boardwalk. Check out the Naked Hermit Crabs blog for the latest updates.


  1. Thanks for the great story Ria
    Awesome mudskipper photos!
    I'm sorry to see that people are not fully respecting the rules that help protect this shore.
    I recall reading that the Great billed heron is Critically Endangered in Singapore so that was quite a find too! They are huge birds.

  2. Thanks Russell! We don't realise how lucky we are to be able to get so close to the Great billed heron from the Chek Jawa boardwalk.



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