15 May 2013

Tanah Merah's artificial shores are alive!

Coral reefs, living sandy shores and seagrass meadows have settled on artificial shores at Tanah Merah. These have even survived the massive oil spill in 2010. I went to have a quick at these shores today.
Looks like a Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) had already checked out the shore!

Lush seagrasses have settled here! This is the larger of the two patches of Smooth ribbon seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata) that have settled well in the lower reaches of the sandy artificial lagoon. The seagrasses were growing very thick and lush, The leaf blades were nice and long and I didn't see any burnt or bleaching blades.
The seagrasses were dotted with many living Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), as well as many small clumps of Crunchy red pom pom seaweed. Alas, also litter such as these large bags of detergent which obvious came off some boat or fish farm and not recreational beach users.
Here's a look at the meadows underwater, with pillows of Red pom pom seaweed. Elsewhere like at Changi and Cyrene Reef, when I notice these pillows I also see lots of sea stars. Perhaps, over time, there can be sea stars too on this artificial shore?
I also had a look at the patch of Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) in the middle of the lagoon.
Although the leaf tips were rather chomped and kind of rotting, the leaf blades were longish and the clump was putting out female flowers! I've seen this clump bloom many time since the oil spill.
The small patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) seems alright. The tide was too high for me to check for Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis).
The sandy shores are alive! Today, I managed to get a closer look at the Soldier crab (Dotilla sp.) blowing "sand bubbles"! This is actually the crab 'processing' wet sand for edible bits. The processed 'bubble' is neatly pinched off and deposited on the sand. The busy crabs leave a delicate pattern on the sand of countless tiny sand balls.
And here's the Sand bubbler crabs (Scopimera sp.) too. They are smaller and their bodies look kind of different. On the sandy shore were also coils of 'processed sand' created by burrowing Acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta). Most were pale, suggesting clean sand deep beneath the sandy lagoon.
The tide wasn't very low today and the water surface rather scummy. So I only had a brief look at underwater life. The corals seemed alright, I didn't see any that were bleaching. I saw many Pore corals (Porites sp.) and Favid corals (Family Faviidae). I saw one large Frilly sea anemone (Phymanthus sp.) and several clumps of Button zoanthids or colonial anemones (Zoanthus sp.). Mermaid fan seaweed (Padina sp.) covered many rocks near the midwater mark. Lots of Dubious nerite (Clithon oualaniensis) and Bazillion snails (Batillaria zonalis) still cover large parts of the sandy lagoon. But I didn't get to the area where the Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) are usually found.
I saw two dead squids (Family Loliginidae) on the shore. Squids can be abundant here seasonally. I suspect them come to the lagoon to mate. After which, they usually die, a natural event. There were some trips when there were so many living squids that they got in my way as they clustered around me in numbers, attracted to my torch in the dark.
It's hard to spot fishes on our seashores during the day. But I did come across this group of tiny Lined eeltail catfishes (Plotosus lineatus).
We are more likely to see fishes during a night trip to this shore. Here's a slideshow of some of the colourful and interesting fishes I've seen at Tanah Merah!

The most amazing fish I've seen on Tanah Merah, and on any other shore in Singapore, is this Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) that I saw in May 2011!
Corals have settled naturally on Tanah Merah's artificial shores! We need a super low tide to see them, so I didn't see them today. Here's a look at the reef in June 2012, right outside the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal! It was Kok Sheng the Human Climbing Crab who first told us about it. And he surveys it regularly, sharing awesome photos of this reef on his blog: 2011 and 2010 and 2009.
This morning, a little Striated Heron (Butorides striata) kept me company near the rocks, hunting for little critters.
The sandy lagoons at Tanah Merah are visited by other kinds of shorebirds too, including what seems to be Malaysian sandplovers (Charadrius peronii) that I saw in June 2010, shortly after the massive oil spill hit this shore.
Today on the high shore I saw this little mangrove tree sapling. It looks like a Mangrove Cannon-ball tree (Xylocarpus granatum). Although mangrove trees have naturally settled on the seawalls at Pulau Hantu, the same thing hasn't happened on the seawalls at Tanah Merah. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the Tanah Merah seawalls are too short (they are submerged at high tide)?
I spent some time near the high water mark where the beautiful Casuarina trees (Casuarina equisetifolia) were blooming. Although they look like pine trees, these are actually flowering trees. The male flowers are skinny and long, while the female flowers are club-shaped. The male and female flowers appear on separate trees.
Among the narrow 'leaves' there were narrow spiders laying narrow egg cases. As well as some moths and surprise! A ladybird! Sean Yap is studying these so I was glad to be able to share this sighting. If you spot any ladybirds, share them with Sean on tinyurl/ladybirdSG.
There is still lots of scum on the water surface everywhere in the lagoon.
The Siemens project seems to have ended. The pipes leading out to the shore are gone and so is much of the installations that were there. However, the hoarding in the area remains. More about my correspondence with Siemens about this project.
Alas, litter is starting to accumulate on the high shore again. This seems to happen seasonally. Fortunately, every September International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) will be tackling all trash on all our shores. ICCS is NOT just about picking up litter. It is about educating people and collecting data about the litter on our shores. ICCS helps answer the question: where does the litter come from?
Looks like someone  had a meal here, enjoying the view, then simply left the meal package and walked away. Sigh. In the distance, the two dark patches are the patches of Ribbon seagrasses.
I last visited this shore in Feb 2013. I visited the shore every month after the oil spill, but have recently eased up on visits here. There are too many other shores to check up, and I expect I won't be able to visit this shore again until August. Hopefully, the situation at Tanah Merah will continue to improve.

More about the oil spill on this blog and on the Oil spill facebook page.


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