Archive for March, 2010

Mad March (Macritchie!)

Macritchie reservoir, a place swarming with park-users who are, it seems mostly people (esp on e weekends). People go to Macritchie for strolls, to walk their dogs, to jog, run, kayak, do taichi, and in some cases, to watch nature.

Despite (and sometimes because of) its close proximity to urban areas, if people choose to slow down and open their eyes and ears, and perhaps see things from other perspectives, we’d start seeing another group of park-users (or maybe permanent residents). Macritchie is always crowded, even on weekdays. most people just don’t know it.

so earlier in march, Bernard and I decided to head over to Macritchie, even if it was only for an hour or so, on a weekday afternoon after school (spontaneous expeditions ftw!)

and we discovered this gossamer-winged beauty

Having trouble with ID-ing again. this guy was found within the first 5 metres of the boardwalk. and we spent about half an hour observing him o.o

Anyway, NParks and all have realised the usefulness and importance of Dragon and Damselflies in the control of ‘pests’ such as mozzies (their young feed on mosquito larvae underwater, and the adults snatch adult mozzies out of the air)

an article came out in the papers today, and Singapore’s International Year of Biodiversity 2010 blog has an article on them here:┬áhttp://iyb2010singapore.blogspot.com/2010/03/dazzling-dragonflies-of-singapore.html

all dragonflies and damselflies are carnivorous, and their young are just as vicious, equipped with a modified lowerlip that can shoot out in less than seconds to snag unsuspecting fish, tadpoles, and mozzy babies.

also, dragonflies and damselflies are probably the only other group of insects capable of contending with the lepidopterans (butterflies and moths) in terms of aesthetic appeal (in other words, what we may define as ‘pretty’)

here are some that i’ve found in Macrtitchie and in School (which is only minutes away!)

Same guy as the dude above

A female Crimson Dropwing/Basker (Trithermis aurora) i think, found at our school’s biodiversity pond!

if you’re wondering why it ain’t crimson like its namesake, recall the point on sexual dimorphism in my previous post!

This is the male Crimson Dropwing:

okay so its kinda pinkish. but well.

the main way to distinguish between dragons and damsels are via their heads, abdomens and the position of wings at rest. Dragons have rather round heads in comparison to the cylindrical heads of damsels, and their abdomens are usually shorter and fatter. At rest, they also tend to have their wings spread out, while damsels fold their wings back.

like so. This is a Blue Sprite i think, (Pseudagrion microcephalum), also found at our school’s biodiversity pond!

yep its a damselfly.

As you can see, they all come in a myriad of colours ­čśÇ (green yellow red and blue yay!)

Unfortunately, i haven’t been seeing the ones found in school around lately. My guess is that some of them moved over from macritchie, but disappeared after a while as the young which live in the pond would probably have been cleaned out (they eat fish after all) and as such new generations don’t take root D: (figurative!)

[fast forward]

the next week or so we returned again, with a few other nature buddies in tow.

and again we spent about 45 mins in total within the first 10 mins of the boardwalk, and this was what we found!

Iiits the primary colour gang! and i can’t ID any of them! i need help ><

the first two are herbivorous beetles, and the yellow dude is a spider. notice how in the beetles the antennae go from black to yellow near the ends? i wonder if they’re related..

Side view!

Continuing along the path, there were many other spiders as well!

a rather common weaver

a juvenile St Andrew’s Cross spider i think, they were everywhere lining the shrubbery at the water’s edge!

a really tiny spider! see it?

Zoomed in and cropped for close-up, just in case!

a common palmfly i think, taking a drink. the only time i get to shoot butterflies are when they’re feeding, srsly.

i believe this be a female Knight. Butteflies don’t only drink nectar, occasionally they may need to get minerals (salt?) from the ground which is why they sometimes land on the path, or from rotting stuff or poop. serious. butterflies feed on poop.

also, i finally managed to get a somewhat proper shot of this huge ants that are really common along the boardwalk.

It’s Spartant! with spiny golden armour! i never knew he looked like this heh (:

also as usual, the long-tailed-macaques were everwhere.

Family time! awwwww.

Then comes the highlight of the day, SKINKS!

The common sun skink/ many-lined skink

It wasn’t easy getting these shots i must say. Skinks are usually heard before they are seen, their presence given away by a characteristic slow rustling of dead leaves (which you can tell are made by an animal smaller than a monitor anw). they are often found swimming among the dead leaves, and are usually quick to run away. this pair seemed to be more interested in each other than me, so that gave me a chance to make my move >:D gooseberry! to get close enough i had to lie down on the boardwalk and inch my way closer though.

also, Skinks show variation in morphology (no not sexual dimorphism in this case i think). The colour of the flanks can vary from an olive-brown (above) to a reddish-orange (middle). Throat colour can vary from white to yellow as well.  It feeds mainly on insects and interestingly, gives birth to live young.

Skinks are diurnal and in the mornings, where there are sunny patches filtering through the leaves above to the forest floor, you may find them or other reptile friends basking, to heat up their bodies for the day. its interesting to look for the different animals this way, sun-loving animals such as reptiles and butterflies will be found in the patches of sun, while sun-hating animals such as scorpions and some spiders will be found at the opposite spectrum, hiding away in or under a rotting log.

yup so if you are someone who frequents parks and have never seen stuff like these before, well you’re missing out on life, quite literally.

just follow the guidelines for wandering and things will start appearing (:

Mad March!

March has been a crazy month, and now that the CTs are over, i finally have time to post again o.o Spent most of my time at Pasir Ris Park (and mangroves) and Macritchie, also spending some time at e shore. I’ll be posting the march stuff in parts, and by location, so this post will be looking at the stuffs in Pasir Ris!

gah see lah, so long alr i forgot the dates D:. but the photos here are in chronological order!

so on this particular morning, i was mucking about in the garden in the garden with my dad and we encountered this guy

one of em common mantises, minding his own business. not as creepy as the yellow one i came across the last time which had red eyes o.o

Theeeeen, on one of the walls we came across this lady.

a female blue pansy (Junonia orithya)!

when i first showed this to my parents and friends they’re reactions were all the same:

“wait, that thing ain’t blue!”

true, but for (presumably) sensible reasons, scientists tend to give descriptive common names to make species distinct from each other, so obviously in animals that show sexual dimorphism (i.e. where males and females look different from each other) they name the species after the more distinctive gender. for example, in the case of the striped blue crow, the common name is derived from the female which, obviously, has stripes on it. the male still has a blue colour at its wingtips, but however lack these stripes, as seen in this photo also taken in pasir ris but some time ago

Striped Blue Crow (Eulopia mulciber) – lack of stripes clearly evident

so what you see in the photo of the blue pansy is actually a female, which are supposedly rarer. while they lack the distinct blue coloration of the males on their hindwings, female blue pansies have larger orange eyespots (on the hindwings anw)

[Fast forward!]

kay so on this morning (i think it was the 5th) some friends and i went for a guided tour at pasir ris mangroves! unfortunately, i was being a prime example of one of the most annoying visitors, hanging at the back and spending more time trying to take photos of stuff instead of listening (but i DID listen! multitask!)

anyway we were walking along when i spotted a strange bump in the outline of one of the otherwise straight and angled wooden posts along the side.

so i waited for the group to move on first, and i hung back and said to it:

“i know what you are, you may have fooled them but you can’t fool me!”

to which there was no response.

after brief moments of doubting my sanity, i decided to take some shots of it and zoom in later to see if the strange stump bump was anything more than a strange stump bump.

Strange stump bump.

yup, so turns out it was a spider (which i’m having trouble id-ing)! but if i’m not wrong, its one of the spiders that stay completely still and try to mimic the end of a broken twig – and it fooled everyone else so. success! to a certain extent.

so, continue walking and we found a spider being all floaty, suspended in its web.

floaty spider

again, having trouble identifying it.

continuing, we found this cryptically colored grasshopper near the newly planted mangroves

see? its so cryptic! even its eyes blend into the substrate!

again, identification is a pain.

and then, there was this guy!

Its the BFG! (Big Friendly Giant, for all you sad people out there who have never read Roald Dahl)

a Nephila sp. (maculata i think?) commonly known as golden orb weaver spiders.

huge, and harmless. to humans anyway.

this “guy” is actually the female spider. the male spider looks very different, being red and approximately up to a hundred times smaller than the female (no shit)

they hang around in smaller webs connected to or made within the female’s web, waiting for the opportune moment (i.e. when the great female is distracted by a meal or sth) o make his move and deliver his goods. sometimes, multiple males may take refuge in the female’s web, so if you see one of them huge females, don’t forget to look out for the males too! (i forgot this time, D:)

so these things are mostly harmless.. unless you happen to be unfortunate prey or, a male Nephila. often after copulating, of the female is hungry she’ll eat the male. yikes.

after the walk, as we were walking along in the park, this lil guy landed on my friend’s face

cute, aint he? (also cannot identify D:)

Jumping spiders, reputed for being rather intelligent as far as invertebrates with teeny brains go, enjoy staring at you when you look at them to make you feel uneasy. then they jump onto your camera.

with a little coaxing though, we managed to let it off on a bougainvillea nearby. which made for a shot with a nice pink bg!

yay green on pink, go colour wheel!

oh gosh im not even halfway thru D:

[fast forward!]

was in the kitchen garden again on this day, and found this sneaky lil bugger hiding in one of em flowers.

ninja.

and again, i have no idea what this guy is called :/

after shooting this guy, a few park-goers walked by and like most other park-users, did not notice the smaller forms of life around them. i.e. the trail of keranga ants they trampled through.

ants mourning their dead sister

the aftermath was quite interesting to watch. the surviving ants actually picked up the bodies of their fallen bretheren, bringing them back to the nest. im not quite sure what for (perhaps they actually reuse the ant bodies – ZOMBIE ANTS)

[fast forward]

so on this morning, i found something really terrible.

EWWW. grosss.

it seems that at multiple points along the shore at pasir ris, there’s either reclamation/breakwater work going on.

either way, i don’t like it.

moving on.

25th March!

returned to the kitchen garden, this time with abel in tow. and saw a number of things.

the dreaded housefly, not in your house.

dont hate them, without them and their maggots to feed on rotting flesh of carcasses, we would be swimming in dead bodies. every animal no matter how annoying or hateable they may seem to us, is just a matter of opinion, they all have a role to play in the ecosystem. which brings me to a point

i dont feel there should be “pests”. animals we label as such are just so labelled because we happen to either infringe on land originally theirs, or we create the right conditions for them to thrive. to look at it in a larger scale, following our system of labelling pests, the world’s biggest pests would probably be humans.

kay moving on again.

as we were walking around, we realised that changeable lizards were scuttling about everywhere!

i think its mating season, alot of the males’ crests have turned red, and they keep doing pushups.

an emo lizard

changeable lizards are actually invasive species. this means that they were not native to singapore, instead they were introduced (probably a long time ago) and have almost completely displaced our local native lizard of its ecological niche, the green crested lizard which is now quite rare (and is also more beautiful IMO, seen it only twice, both times at the same tree at macritchie nature reserve)

other key example of invasive alien species would be the red eared slider/terrapin, the ones commonly sold at pet shops. people buy them when they’re small and cute, but when they get huge, people just dump them in longkangs or our local reservoirs, where they compete with the local species the malayan box terrapin for food and resources, also almost driving them out completely (ive never actually seen a malayan box terrapin in the wild before).

so, if you cant handle the responsibility, dont get em! and if you do, know that it is not good to release them indiscriminately.

kay moving on AGAIN (i think i’m gonna be a very naggy parent)

kay forget that I DISTRACT YOU WITH PRETTY BUTTERFLY

THERE! look! isn’t it preeety!

hokay this is a glassy tiger, i’m just not sure whether is the blue glassy tiger or the dark glassy tiger.

kay i just checked, im preeeetty sure this is a blue.

the blue tinge doesnt seem to be very obvious though. D:

in fact its almost non-existent. ah well.

anw, some info from butterfly circle!

“The Blue Glassy Tiger shares the same habitats with the Dark Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides). When the two species fly together it is not easy to separate them. However, when the butterflies stop to feed or to rest, the presence of a transverse black bar in the forewing cell distinguishes the Blue Glassy Tiger from the Dark Glassy Tiger.

This species is common in Singapore, particularly in the coastal mangrove areas. The butterflies are also attracted to the partially dried plants of Heliotropium indicum, usually turning up within an hour or two after the plants are hung up in the forest reserves.

The Blue Glassy Tiger feeds on a lactiferous species of Asclepiadaceae, particularly Gymnema spp. and is thus distasteful to birds.”

if i’m not wrong, i think the dark glassy tiger is actually a mimic of the blue glassy tiger, and does not actually taste bad. so yeah i guess we could eat those.

feeding! you can kinda see the proboscis (sucking mouthpart, for nectar) which functions as a drinking straw

another thing about butterflies is that they are notoriously hard to photograph.

damn teasers.

they stop long enough for you to get into focus… and just before you fire away, they fly off. D:<

most of the time, you get one second to compose, focus and shoot.

in this case, i was lucky as the tiger was too engrossed in feeding ­čśÇ

wasps, that seem to have made their homes in a wooden plank thing. seriously they just tunnel head first into tiny round holes in the wood.

like so.

some sinister garden spider, with a skull shaped pattern on its abdomen o.o

i think the debris it hangs in its web are to distract predators, so that they’ll hopefully go for the wrong “body” of the spider. either way, the spider and its web deco all look like bird poop, which betters the disguise (i guess birds arent smart enough to find floating poop out of the ordinary).

attempted artistic shots of kerangas heh.

rose chafer! this guy was really cute ­čśÇ

i got photos of him preening and scratching his armpit but for some reason wordpress doesnt allow me to upload in my video format, and fb sucks for vids, always hang. sigh.

oh for a guy whos into bugs, im ashamed that this is my first time realising beetles walk on their “elbows” too ><.

a caterpillar, doing just as the pic says.

im not sure why they fall from trees, but they’re lucky to have swanky spiderman silk swinging powers. woah alliteration!

and the cannonball, or more commonly known as pong pong trees are in season! their flowers are  so strange.

closeup

Side view!

detonated pong pong fruit heh.

also in season are the “singapore sakuras”

brilliantly pink, they stand out against the other green trees.

also managed to catch the pollinating buttefly in action!

not sure what it is, looks like a king crow, and yet it doesn’t. it IS pretty big though.

we then cycled to the tampines bike trail, which to our dismay, has been cordoned off and is BEING PAVED D:

no idea what’s going on there, but i don’t like it D:

the rolling green hills actually used to make us feel like we were in another country.

but in a nearby puddle, we found a blue dragonfly that i’ve been to lazy to try and identify ­čśŤ

in flight.

26th March!

another attempted artistic shot heh. lots of people come to pasir ris park to fly kites. some even fly these humongous octopus kites which look like stratosphere monsters from ubin ­čśÇ

and then while taking a quick walk through the mangroves, i saw something’s ass disappear over one of the wooden posts lining the sides and out of view, and i was like “that’s no ant”.

turns out it was a jumping spider, and was one of the smartest and most annoying ones ive come across too >:D

everytime i tried to approach it, it would scuttle to the opposite side of the post and out of view. so i went back and forth about 7 times, and the thing probably thought it was being funny playing bollywood with me. and i was like “what, is your face too ugly for my camera?”

finally it came to a rest and just glared at me as menacingly as it could.

turns out my camera wasn’t good enough for its pretty little face.

the best shot i could get.. really should invest in a flash, crazy 2000 ISO is killing me. D:

though i guess the good thing about small cameras is that they’re more┬ámaneuverable┬áand can fit into and go more places.

anyway, thats all ive got for pasir ris now

hopefully i’ll have time over the next few days to post on macritchie and SJI!

Of Trees

“Some humans have special relationships with trees.”

I’m thinking here not of the professional foresters, nor the academic dendrologists and definitely not them fallers.. but the gentler folk. persons neither scientific nor pragmatic, whose encounters with trees tend to be more intimate, spontaneous and marked altogether by a completely different level of sensitivity and (maybe even mutual) appreciation.

people like these, can gaze for hours at an individual tree and perceive a real living creature conducting its own mortal business, marveling in the abundance of life within its bodice, appreciating and wondering how long it has lived and what it has seen. at least i do.

it’s not as easy as it sounds. genuine tree people are not common, or at least, they don’t seem to be.

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy in the eyes of others is only a green thing which stands in the way” – William Blake.

this quote is stark, especially in the context of singapore.

i think most singaporeans fail to realise just how special each and every one of our trees are. they occur at frequencies along roadsides, buidlings etc so high that while one may think that it should be a good thing, the sad fact is that we see these trees so often we no longer see them as individuals, not even as trees, but just as part of the background, that seem to always be there.

it takes foreigners (why’s it always seem that way) to come down and enlighten us to our own ecological wealth. in them temperate countries, them coniferous and deciduous forests, the same species of tree could occur in groves for miles and miles, but here in tropical SEA our forests are an amalgamation of so many different species of plants that a single specimen may be chanced upon once and not be encountered again for hundreds of meters. we have so much life it’s a taxonomist’s nightmare, supposedly historically driving some western scientists insane with the sheer abundance of life that they’re not used to.

such is the sheer power of life in its diversity, which we have often taken for granted.

The Art of Wandering

Hello!

yay first post!

nature blog is nature blog.

To students out there that i’m a student too! so if you’re one of those asking “singapore kind find these kinds of things meh” or “where to go to see all this!”, you really don’t have to go too far. you just have to keep your eyes open, and maybe, see things differently.

here i define wandering as walking, and well, seeing things that people usually miss, i.e. other forms of life which aren’t immediately obvious. this is for people who ask how and where i see the things i find o.o

The Art of Wandering

i guess there really isn’t much to it, but these are the general guidelines i go by when i wander, ┬áwhether or not you want to follow it, it’s really up to you (:

  1. Choose your trail! it can be anywhere, from somewhere specifically more natural like btnr or sbwr, or just anywhere. life is everywhere.
  2. Clear your mind. forget all your work/schoolwork, worries and everything else that may distract you from the walk, focus on nothing but the present. only then will you begin to hear and see things.
  3. Shut up. not only yourself, no music or mp3s, no chatterbox friends. this not only allows you to focus more on your surroundings and hear more sounds, you won’t chase stuff away. as much. by preferrence i usually walk alone, or in small groups. in groups i guess with more sets of eyes you’d have a higher chance of seeing things.
  4. Look beyond your eye level. well we can’t expect everything to appear before us within our usual field of vision! try to see things beyond our normal perspectives. i.e. look down/up once in a while.
  5. Stop. every now and then when you feel like you’re in a particularly nice spot, stop and wait. you may be surprised
  6. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. life is sneaky, it likes to hide under rocks and rotting wood (hint hint wink wink). of course, replace anything that you move to its original position after.
  7. Look Very VERY carefully, things may not be what you think they are at first glance.
  8. Apply wherever/whenever you can! life is everywhere, if you look closely enough (:

i’ll add more stuff as i think of em, and if anyone has any suggestions do tell me (:

a rhinoceros beetle, found at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. like i said, life can be found anywhere, even in the most unexpected places.

and in the case of this Cycad Blue butterfly, even in school (:

here be a kind of broken twig  spider, that when on a branch, very much resembles a broken stump of a twig. so, look very carefully!

another cryptic creature, this time a grasshopper. even its eyes are coloured to blend into the background!

this Chyrsso sp was hidden on the underside of a leaf, visible only when one stoops down and looks up. this was found at sentosa, so people who only go there to have fun often miss out on the life that’s abundant both on land and at the shore.

the polka-dotted sea slug ┬áJorunna funebris, an example of life found at sentosa’s shores

red-eyed reef crab, found under a large rock, also at sentosa.

even the charismatic octopus can be found at heavily developed sentosa.. you just gotta know where to look (;

i have many more examples.. but i think i’ll stop here for now (:

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