28 September 2011

Monkeying around on Sisters Island

There were wild monkeys out on the shore at Sisters Island today! This is the first time I've seen them boldly out and about. They were usually much more shy.
Other excited primates on the shore today were a bunch of crazy volunteer guides with a team from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research who are involved in developing aspects of the new natural history museum. Our enthusiastic guests were keen to have a look at Singapore's wild shores. Bravo!

The vis was excellent today! As we landed at the jetty, we admired the reefs growing on the slopes of Sisters Island. We could see all kinds of corals and even a large feather star (Class Crinoidea). Colourful damselfishes (Family Pomacentridae) swam in the clear waters. Chay Hoon was most upset. She wished she could dive right there and then!
My last trips to Sisters Island was with Dr Daphne for the anemone hunt in June, and previous to that, with Pierre-Yves Cousteau in April. Sisters Island is indeed a great showcase of some of Singapore's amazing marine life! It was great to have volunteer guides happily stepping up to share our shores with our guests. Here's Chay Hoon starting off the walk.
Nicholas also shared more about a Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea).
YC shares a toadfish (Family Batrachoididae), scallop (Family Pectinidae) and other critters that he has found.
Among the interesting sightings, an anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) in anemones. YC also found the 'Nemo' or False clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) that also lives in anemones!
Our guests are delighted by a fiesty Red swimming crab (Thalamita spinimana). While the sharp eyed visitors also spotted octopus and other delightful marine animals.
Sisters Island is just fifteen minutes from the business district on the mainland.
Although the island has been reclaimed and seawalls built around it, the reefs have crept back into the swimming lagoon. It's the season for a bloom of Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.), the brown seaweed turning the reef flats a golden brown.
It was good to see many large hard coral colonies unbleached and alive.
Among the special corals on Sisters are mushroom corals (Family Fungidae)! While other corals are colonies of tiny polyps, the mushroom coral is a solitary polyp and HUGE compared to other coral polyps. It also lies unattached on the ground! And can move, although very slowly.
There were many examples of healthy hard corals of all kinds. I didn't come across any that were bleaching. They seemed much better than during my trip here in Jan 2011. And there were many small colonies here and there. Hopefully, this means the reef is recovering from the global coral bleaching in 2010.
Everyone loves sea slugs! This is the colourful Pimply phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa), a snail without a shell. Swee Hee found it. Chay Hoon and the rest of course saw lots more slugs.
We also had a look at the Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa) on the shore that Mei Lin had tagged for her study of Giant clams in Singapore. I'm so relieved to see that it's still alive. Lately, some of those tagged by Mei Lin earlier had been found dead.
How nice to see the Marine spider (Desis martensi). During high tide, it shelters underwater in a bubble of air on the reef flats. It comes out at low tide to hunt!
Siong Kiat found an amazing brittle star that I've never seen before. WOW!
Oh no! While we were busy at the walk, the monkeys have snuck up on our drinks cooler and stolen a can of 100plus.
Monkeys have large sharp teeth and easily puncture the can. The thieving monkey didn't share its find with its friend.
Meanwhile, another monkey was busy turning over rocks to look for edible bits.
Every now and then the monkey popped something into its mouth. Was it eating crabs? These Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are natives of Singapore and their original habitat was mangroves. They are also sometimes called the Crab-eating macaque.
We enjoyed a lovely sunset! A delicate pink sky over St. John's  Island in the distance. I feel very fortunate given the rather wild weather we have been having lately.
As the sun set, the Peachia anemones (Peachia sp.) start popping up all over the shore. Nicholas is studying them so we try to help him find those with brown body columns. Alas, all those we saw on the shore today had white body columns. Are the brown ones only found on our northern shores? Hmmm...so much more to study and learn about our shores!
All too soon, it was time to leave. I had a really great time sharing the shores with such delightful and enthusiastic guests. We hope they will come with us to visit more of our shores!

It was totally dark when we headed home. We noticed large flaring on Pulau Bukom. We earlier also noticed many small navy boats zooming around, and several helicopters moving around the area.
Did these have anything to do with the explosion on Pulau Bukom that was just reported on Stomp? Thanks to the alert from Ivan Kwan on this event.
How distressing to hear of this accident. Hopefully it will not impact the lovely reefs nearby. These include the amazing Pulau Hantu which was just visited by the volunteer divers of the Hantu Blog. Tomorrow, I will be visiting Cyrene Reef which lies next to Pulau Bukom. [Update 29 Sep: we've cancelled the trip to Cyrene as the fire on Bukom has restarted. More about the natural shores around Bukom which may be affected by the fire]

More about the Sisters Islands on wildsingapore, about previous trips to Sisters Island with more Sisters Islands photos on wildsingapore flickr.


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