03 May 2011

Neap Week: mangrove meanders

Teetering on soft mud, it's tempting to reach out and grab a mangrove tree branch or two.
But it is not a good idea to mindlessly grab branches!

The Shore pit viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) is commonly seen in Sungei Buloh. But I don't see it very often on my own trips to our other mangroves. So it was a nice surprise to see this fat one at Lim Chu Kang! I love snakes and contrary to popular belief, the mangroves are not teeming with snakes. I seldom see one!
The snake clings onto the branch with its prehensile tail, and loops its body in S-shapes so that it can snap out and bite without falling off. It's a good thing I saw it well outside of striking distance. Snakes won't bite if you keep a safe distance and don't disturb them. Andy also recently saw a black spitting cobra, another commonly seen snake in our mangroves and wild places.
People also think mangroves are full of large scary spiders. While there are a lot of spiders in the mangroves, they are usually tiny and harmless. In fact, we cause more harm to them by walking through their webs. Something I try not to do. A large spider that is often seen in our wild places including mangroves is this beautiful Batik golden orb-web spider (Nephila antipodiana). These spiders are harmless and won't bite if you leave them alone.
The female is humungous compared the teeny tiny male. Here is a closer look at the tiny boyfriend of this enormous lady spider.
The other tiny spider is another kind of spider that lives in the web.
During low spring tide, the tides are super low (and super high). At this time, I'm usually busy checking out the reefs and lower shores that submerged most of the time. Neap tide (when the tide is not very low or very high) is a great time to check out the mangroves! More about tides.

Over the last week of neap tide, I made quick visits to several of our mangroves. In all the mangroves I visited, I saw many clusters of Mangrove stink bugs (Calliphara nobilis). These fat colourful bugs cluster under all kinds of different mangrove trees. But when young, they feed on the seeds of the Buta-buta tree (Excoecaria agallocha).
Upper photo at Pasir Ris, lower photos at Kranji (right) and Lim Chu Kang.
I didn't manage to see special mangrove nudibranchs or sap-sucking slugs. But I did come across this ornately decorated onch slug. OK, not very attractive, but I do find onch slugs fascinating.
I also took the opportunity to check up on our special mangrove trees. The Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) at Pasir Ris was blooming profusely!
The Bakau Mata Buaya tree at Kranji is also still flowering profusely.
I managed to get a photo of the Kacang-kancang (Aegiceras corniculatum) flower! What a pretty little plant it is when we take a closer look. But it is very hard to spot and distinguish from other similar and more common plants.
The Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora) at Pasir Ris were in full bloom. The trees are so beautiful! With small elegant leaves, a nice conical shape, star-shaped flowers and long dangling propagules, they look like Christmas trees!
Here's a closer look at the pretty flowers and elegant propagules of this rather rare mangrove tree.
The Dugun air (Brownlowia tersa) were blooming and fruiting at all the mangrove sites I visited. The ones at Kranji had particularly large fruits!
Our mangroves have beautiful stately large trees. These are a few of the large trees at Lim Chu Kang.
At Lim Chu Kang, I saw lots and lots of small and large Tengar merah (Ceriops zippeliana)!
At Mandai, I came across some fruits of the Kalak kambing (Finlaysonia obovata).
I had a brief stop at Pasir Ris at night and managed a shot of the night blooming Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata). Unlike the other Sonneratia species, Gedabu flowers have no petals.
When I visited the Gedabu tree at Mandai in the daytime, the flower buds were not opened yet. There are lots of fruits developing on the tree!
Pasir Ris has a magnificent Portia tree (Thespesia polpunea) which is really a big tree instead of the scrawny bushes that I often see elsewhere. Despite the drizzly day, it was blooming!
At Pasir Ris Park, I managed a closer look at some planted trees that seem to be Kelat nasi nasi (Syzygium zeylanicum) that I saw growing wild on our coastal forests elsewhere. The Park also has planted lots of Mangrove trumpet trees (Dolichandrone spathacea) which I only noticed because of the many fallen white trumpet-like flowers. These trees were also blooming at Kranji. Also blooming in many mangroves were the Dungun (Heritiera littoralis) trees.
Pasir Ris is managed by a very enthusiastic group of nature loving officers who organise many interesting activities there for ordinary people to learn more about the mangroves and our shores. A special series of shore activities for kids are lined up for the June holidays, and lots more regular activities too. I love the  lovely little kitchen garden in the park where young ones can learn more about plants and nature.
Sadly, the great facilities provided at our lovely parks are often not well appreciated by some members of the public.
Despite the 'No-Fishing' sign, this small group of people at the shelter had laid three crab traps into the water, and had another trap ready for 'launch'. There were also many fishermen on the bridges over the rivers at the Park.
The nicely decorated rubbish bin has been turned over and the railings vandalised.
Another issue impacting our mangroves is erosion. At Lim Chu Kang, erosion has revealed the root structure of this large Tumu (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza). Here we can see the large conical shape of the buttress roots and knee roots that are usually hidden in underground.
At Pasir Ris, there still seems to be severe shore erosion even after the reconstruction of the seawalls.
But in the pool on the high shore, I noticed lots of little tadpoles. Wow. I wonder what kind of frog or toad they will grow up to be? They must be able to withstand some inundation of seawater, or perhaps they will grow up very quickly before the high spring tide?
Marine debris is another issue that impacts our mangroves and shores. Lim Chu Kang has a heartbreakingly huge amount of litter on the shore.
There is a large stack of driftwood on the upper shores of Lim Chu Kang. I'm not sure why someone took the trouble to stack up the wood. But it does seem to prevent the litter from penetrating deeper into the mangroves behind.
At Kranji we notice a huge beacon has washed up onto the mangroves and among the young trees at the sea front.
Another highlight of Neap Week was a lovely chat with Rick MacPherson who blogs at the awesome Deep Sea News. The dinner was arranged by Ivan of Lazy Lizard's Tales and one of Singapore's oldest nature bloggers (in online age) Marcus aka The Budak of The Annotated Budak. We had a great time introducing Rick to typical Singapore hawker fare and sharing ideas and experiences about blogging for nature. I didn't know that Singapore bloggers were noticed by such impressive sites like Deep Sea News!
Tomorrow morning, the low spring tide starts again, and I'm back to checking out the low shores!


  1. Hi Ria,
    You see? Singapore have wonderful wildlife too!

    Wonder what caused the erosion?

  2. Erosion is a complicated issue and usually requires (expensive) study to find out and correct the causes. Sigh.

  3. GREAT to meet you all, ria! and yes, singapore's nature AND bloggers are making waves globally!

    hope to see you again soon!

  4. Thanks for dropping by the blog, Rick! Hope you are well and yes, meet you again soon!



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