08 April 2012

Spectacular St. John's Island

Another glorious sunrise after a predawn trip to St. John's Island! Just minutes from the city centre!
We had a big team out today so we saw lots of amazing stuff! First time sightings for St. John's of a sea star, anemones and more.  We also kept a look out for coral mass spawning, expected to happen any day now!

I came across a patch of many Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) and almost every one of them were clasped in pairs, their 'mating' position. Usually, I might see a population with some or even many in this position. But this is the first time I've seen a situation with almost every individual in this position.
Are they getting into the mood for the anticipated coral mass spawning season?!
Today I only managed to look at the hard corals growing outside the artificial seawalls before the tide turned. There's a good variety of hard corals here. The usual common varieties including even some Tongue mushroom corals (Herpolitha sp.)! In particular, there were many healthy looking colonies of Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.).
Anxious to see if there were any signs of mass spawning, I looked closely at the polyps of the hard corals on the shore today. I didn't see anything suspicious yet. Perhaps tomorrow...
As I squinted at hard corals, I noticed this one with tiny bright blue dots. It seems that the dots belong to a kind of barnacle that infests this hard coral. Wow!
The area is also rather fishy! We all saw many Carpet eel-blennies (Congrogadus subducens), False scorpion fishes (Centrogenys vaigiensis) and other reef fishes. The rest of the team also saw some special fishes.
James spotted this lovely juvenile Batfish (Platax sp.). It was a challenge getting a nice shot of it in the rather murky water.
There was a small Barrel sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria), which looks different from the more common Yellow pot sponge (Rhabdastrella globostellata).
The sandy areas were just as interesting. Wow, we saw a Painted sand star (Astropecten sp.). While these sea stars are common in the North, this is the first time we've seen an Astropecten in the South. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) that we saw here in Oct 2011. Kok Sheng also found a Clear sundial snails (Architectonica perspectiva). Rarely seen elsewhere, they seem rather common here!
James found the unidentified 'Light burrower' that Dr Daphne Fautin is interested in! I had a lot of trouble finding them so it's good to finally get a closer look at one. It has a light body column (as opposed to a similar looking also unidentified burrowing anemone with a dark body column). It seems the light burrower has a pair of white dots around the mouth. Hmmm...we need to look at more examples to be sure. Kok Sheng saw some special anemones too.
There were several of these pretty but unidentified flatworms among the seagrasses that are growing lush in the sandy artificial swimming lagoons.
At sunrise, it's time to take landscape photos! Besides many patches of tiny Spoon seagrasses (Halophila ovalis), there are also some clumps of long Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). Amazing to have these meadows just minutes from the Singapore's central business district!
There is still a small area of natural shores at St. John's Island. With lovely wild coastal forest growing on the natural cliffs, with beautiful rocky shores beneath. Sandy shores and reefs lower down towards the sea!
Although the tide came in before I could explore this part, the rest of the team had a good look there. In the distance are the Sisters Islands.
At the end of the trip, we tried hard to take good photos of some of the transparent critters we found. These included some blobs that might be salps, and a little jellyfish.
Here's my best shot of  the jellyfish. Which Kok Sheng found. I don't know how he could spot this translucent animal in the wild!
Rene showed us this pretty sap-sucking slug that is usually only seen by divers. I've yet to do a fact sheet for it! The rest of the team saw lots of interesting nudibranchs too.
I also had a closer look at the intriguing Bubble green seaweeds (Boergensenia forbesii). I'm wondering why some of the bubbles are 'empty'. I've read that a kind of sea slug lives inside the bubble and eats the seaweed. But no luck finding the slug today.
It's good to see that the St. John's shores are doing well. Let's hope the plan to drill near the reefs and even inside the lagoon will not disturb the marine life too much in the long term. Our exploration today included the red drill sites indicated in the Port Marine Notice of the drilling operation.
Sadly, we also came across lots of burst balloons near the shore, which is rather heart-breaking to encounter. Here's why.

Posts by others about this trip
  • Russel on facebook with lots of photos and video clips.
  • Kok Sheng with lots of photos of nudis, corals and other special marine life. 
  • Jerome on facebook: awesome sunrise shots and more.
  • Rene on facebook with great shots of marine life and landscapes. 
  • James with close ups of slugs and other curious critters.

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