25 February 2012

First time Naked at Pasir Ris with Pitta!

We saw the elusive Mangrove pitta today at Pasir Ris mangroves! We are very lucky, Alyce says, because she has been here many times specially to look for it and this is the first time she has seen it!
It's the Naked Hermit Crab's first public walk at Pasir Ris mangroves and we are delighted to have a lovely group of visitors who made so many special sightings!

Before the pitta was spotted, we came across Peter, a friendly photographer, who showed  us the fabulous shots he took earlier of the bird.
Wow, it sure looks lovely.
Shortly after we left him, as usual, it was one of the kids who first spotted the pitta among the undergrowth. Oh dear, I thought to myself, why does the bird have only one leg. Peter the photographer explained this was normal, it just meant that the bird was relaxing. It has tucked its other leg up against its body.
Andy earlier shared this awesome video clip of the bird at Pasir Ris, showing how it prefers to hop rather than fly! All this hopping sure must make its legs all tired out.

galloping blue-winged pitta @ pasir ris - Feb2012 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.
According to the Bird Ecology Study Group blog, "The Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) is the only resident pitta species in Singapore. It is listed as critically endangered nationally and considered globally near-threatened. An elusive bird, it is normally confined to the offshore islands of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. This species is very rarely sighted on main land Singapore."

Before the excitement over the bird, we were already have fun spotting all kinds of animals among the mud lobster mounds in the back mangroves. Here's Ley Kun and Pei Yan sharing more about them.
The kids as usual are more sharp-eyed than the adults and find all kinds of crabs in the holes of these 'condominiums' in the mangroves. These condos come complete with swimming pools where other aquatic animals can shelter at low tide.
Most of the crabs in Pasir Ris mangroves are huge Tree climbing crabs! Some have colourful pincers!
Also abundant in this mangrove are Giant mudskippers. Some have clearly been renovating their swimming pools.
Jonathan is great at spotting spiders. This one creates a tent web and lives in the middle of the tangle under a small dead leaf.
Here's a closer look at the big Red tent spider.
Alyce shares more about the amazing Nipah palms, the source of wonderful favourites like 'attap chee' and toddy. I learnt from her today that fresh sap tapped from the palm is delicious. She earlier also told us about the many Chut chut snails we saw and how to eat them. You have to suck them out, hence their common name! We also saw many Telescopium snails, and discussed a little about how charcoal is made from mangroves and the importance of mangrove trees to durian lovers.
We then headed over to the little look out point at Sungei Tampines, where all kinds of marvellous wildlife can be seen. Ley Kun and Pei Yan and the kids have arrived earlier.
Immediately, the kids point out to me a Malayan water monitor tucked up in a tree. It looks like it has a very full belly!
Nearby, a smaller more elegant water monitor lizard in the water.
Despite the noise from nearby Downtown East and the traffic on the main road, lots of herons have built their nests on the mangrove trees that line the banks of Sungei Tampines.
In the glow of the evening sunset, we notice parents with their very large young ones. They seem ready to leave the nest soon!
The kids get a hand from the pros on learning how to use the binoculars.
We also observe with fascination, a Little heron high up on a tree. Usually these birds forage on the ground near the water line. What is it doing so high up in a tree?
After watching it for some time, we realise it was trying to break twigs off the tree, possibly to make a nest? How exciting!
On both sides of the stream, White breasted waterhens were foraging along the water line. One of the kids pointed out the one on the far side. Throughout our walk, the calls of kingfishers reverberated throughout the mangrove forest.
There were also several jellyfishes in the water! As well as some halfbeaks. But alas, we didn't see any watersnakes today as the tide was outgoing and too low in the mangroves.
Some of us get a panoramic view from a high vantage point atop Dad!
As usual, we ask the visitors to share their thoughts about Pasir Ris mangroves in the Naked Hermit Crabs guestbook. And the kids contribute great stuff!
The young artist shares her work with the Master Artist!
What a great trip with great visitors on a lovely evening in a special mangrove forest. Here's more about why Pasir Ris mangroves are special, and how it might be impacted by upcoming developments.

The Naked Hermit Crabs plan to offer these free public evening walks at Pasir Ris more regularly. Do visit the Naked Hermit Crabs blog for more updates.

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