18 March 2012

Night walk at Pasir Ris with special snake!

I was thrilled to see the Crab-eating water snake at Pasir Ris this evening. I hadn't seen it for nearly a decade! Thanks to Jill for spotting it!
Also other snakes, frogs and toads, bizarre bugs and lots of other weird creatures of the night!

For snakes, I turn to Nick Baker's awesome Ecology Asia fact sheets! The Crab-eating water snake (Fordonia leocobalia) had been regularly sighted at Pasir Ris when snake research was being conducted there in the 2000's. Chee Kong's awesome snake blog SLOG, also has a great entry about this snake and the work done on this and other related snakes. I got nostalgic reading his post.
Like Chee Kong, I too volunteered with the Snakehunters led by American biologists Daryl Karns, Harold Voris and Bruce Jayne researching the ecology of these snakes in Pasir Ris in 2001. Read more about their work on Ecology of Oriental-Australian rear-fanged water snakes (Colubridae: Homalopsinae) in the Pasir Ris Park Mangrove Forest, Singapore in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology (pdf).

I was back out with Dr Dan and his wonderful team of students from from the Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment  on an Urban Tropical Ecology in Singapore trip. They are tireless! This morning, they visited Bukit Timah and tomorrow, they are off to dive at Dayang. I'm touched they took the time to visit our humble Pasir Ris this evening. Read more about the 2012 team's adventures on their blog!
A night-time trip seems to result in more vertebrate sightings than a daytime trip! After the rain earlier in the evening, the frogs were calling everywhere. Soon we got the the spot where we could hear the distinctive machine-gun 'rat-a-tat-tat' calls of the Crab-eating frog (Fejervarya cancrivora) that is found in the mangroves. This frog can tolerate brackish water and we saw several on the mangrove side of the boardwalk. Once again, the team spotted one for me to try to photograph.
There were other kinds of frogs calling and Dr Dan finds this one on the boardwalk before it hopped onto the forested part away from the mangroves. It looks like the Asian toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus).
We also saw lots of Dog-faced water snakes (Cerberus rynchops) swimming near the jetty over Sungei Tampines. But on my way home after I said goodbye to the team, I spotted this humungous fat mama snake!
The Giant mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) are still out and about at night. But they seem to have a different pattern. With broken up patches instead of two dark solid 'racing stripes' along the body during the daytime. Dr Dan also noticed that in a pair of fishes, one seems to be of a different pattern than the other. Do the boy and girl fishes have different patterns? So much more to find out!
Dr Dan spots two Mud crabs (Scylla sp.)! They were medium-sized. I don't see these during our day trips.
The trees are full of crabs! There are lots of small colourful crabs even high up in the branches. During the day, I don't see so many of these tree climbing crabs (Episesarma sp.) up in the trees.
Dr Dan spots a pair of Belongkeng snails (Ellobium sp.). These snails are not very common as they are found in the back mangroves and this kind of habitat is now rare in Singapore.
The spiders are very busy in the dark. With several large webs already up for the evening. We had to walk carefully to avoid snapping the anchoring lines. Many of these spiders will eat up the web at dawn and hide during the day. To repeat their amazing weaving feat as the sun sets again.
On the boardwalk itself, lots of large hairy spiders.
Here's another large scary hairy spider. For spiders, I refer to Joseph K. H. Koh's online guide to Singapore spiders. This one looks like a Huntsman spider.
The team is great at spotting stuff in the dark. They even spot this Fishing spider (Thalassius sp.) traipsing across the water!
We are intrigued by these fluffy bugs! They are tiny white round bugs with red eyes, with huge fluffs on their backs. James has much better photos of it and according to him, it's possibly a planthopper nymph.
Other critters spotted included a cricket with very very very long antennae, a fluffy caterpillar, lots of little geckos, two horseshoe crabs in the stream, a few bats, some moths.
I'm so glad I went to Pasir Ris at night with the Duke team. Thanks to them, I saw a whole lot of stuff that I don't see during the day. And the Crab-eating water snake was a very special treat. Thank you Jill!

Pasir Ris mangroves is a very special place. So easily accessible even at night!

My other mission for the evening was to take photos of attap chee in a desert. This one looks yummy! I bought it separately because the attap chee in ice kacang is buried underneath the ice.
I put the attap chee from the other desert on the ice kacang. Hmm... the other desert looks nicer. I got the attap chee mission done before the Duke team arrived, and ate up the evidence. Sugar rush!
These photos are for an iPad app that Vito is creating! I was so glad to finally meet Vito and his family at yesterday's Naked Hermit Crab walk at Pasir Ris. The iPad app will be available for free download soon! Here's Mei Lin having a look at the app.
Hopefully, the app will help more people visit and learn about Pasir Ris!

Come see Pasir Ris for yourself. Join the Naked Hermit Crab's evening walks at Pasir Ris. More details on their blog.


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