Archive for the ‘Stuff From NS’ Category

No camera? Draw lor.

So I started a little mini project to keep my brain occupied during national service, a written nature diary!
Shame my handwriting is so terrible.

I’m experimenting with watercolours now, and I’m kinda noob at it. Still got more to do, some of the drawings have not yet been graced with colour.

I only wish I had started 8 months ago instead of lamenting about the ban on image-capturing devices in camp…

The Army Protects more than just our Human Citizens

Well I’ve been serving the nation for 8 months now, and unlike majority of my fellow servicemen I kinda like heading outfield. It’s kinda like I’m being paid to trek through vegetation! In fact in all the camps I’ve been to so far I never really had to step out of the bunk to make a wild encounter (mantis in pasir laba, dragonflies in gedong etc).

When looking at the map of Singapore, you’d see a surprising amount of greenery for a “developed” country

(http://www.orangesmile.com/common/img_city_maps/singapore-map-1.jpg)

And about half of it (especially the northwestern area) are military training areas. Now while it may seem like a bad thing at first (what with all the troops and vehicles bashing around), this may actually be a good thing for the biodiversity in the area (granted the issue of forest fragmentation is still pertinent). In fact many of Singapore’s natural treasures are housed within military areas, which ironically offer them protection from public impact and development. Pulau Tekong is home to possibly the last largest pristine stretch of mangroves in Singapore, housing rare birds and rare mangrove species such as Tumu berau (Bruguiera sexangula). Nee Soon swamp forest, one of our last remaining natural freshwater habitats is located adjacent to a military live-firing range, thus public access is restricted (and this also puts off any possible plans for development).

For the last 8 months in service I’ve had numerous encounters (being bounced from Tekong to Pasir Laba to Nee Soon to Sungei Gedong), many of which were sporadically and carelessly recorded in the form of crude drawings strewn between multiple notebooks (since image capturing devices are mostly a strict no no) which i have regrettably not organised (i’ve been making an effort to change that, as will be shown later). In some cases i managed to obtain specimens and record them at home (usually transiting first through my bunk, much to the disgust of my bunkmates), and for the rest of this post I shall record some of these experiences through a bunch of anecdotes (as far as i can remember).

Pasir Ris

While i’ve never been posted to Pasir Ris camp, the Pasir Ris training area is relevant here cos it’s pretty much in my backyard (see posts tagged under pasir ris). A year or so back I was ranting about how a small patch of the forest nearby was cleared to make room for a condo showroom and parking lot, and how i was worried about the development of the small patches of forests around the area. Turns out a patch nearby is being used by Pasir Ris Camp as a training area, so for now I shouldn’t have to worry..

Tekong Centipedes

Tekong is well known for it’s freakishly large centipedes (of the family scolopendridae) that most guys who have been through BMT should be familiar with. This individual was encountered during my UO field camp.

Ignore the ugly fingers

 

This monster was found by a few of my platoonmates in a drain. They then proceeded to drip some SAF insect repellent (DESTROYS EVERYTHING) on it, and it started sizzling and smoking (no joke!). After a while it stopped moving, and sometime later while no one some freaked out friends were looking, I put it in a ziploc and brought it home at the end of the week (yeah it stayed with me for the rest of the camp). By that time it was smelling something nasty, so i gave it a quick wash, took some photos and had to dump it :/

Nasty venom claws!

Oh the little black thing was another little one (geophilid?) that i just threw in for scale (it was already dead!).

Pasir Laba Mantis, Tarantula and Pitchers

During my stay in PLC as an SCT, a mantis invaded one of the bunks on my level one night and some people were freaking out. I managed to lure it out from under one of the bedframes onto a broom stick and let it fly off…

During sentry duty one night for a field camp at Lorong Asrama in Mandai, a group of us entertained ourselves watching a black tarantula crawl along.. not sure what it was yet, though it definitely didn’t look like the Singapore Tarantula.

During a navigation thingy, we ended up on top of a hill where the ground was red earth, and woah small pitchers all around my feet! Another time during a live firing, while we were setting up stuffs huge pitchers (Nepenthes rafflesiana) up to 30cm in height were hanging over our heads, it was quite distracting (for me at least). I managed to bring back a dried up pitcher.

Ignore the looney toons ruler

Lots of stuff at Sungei Gedong

Gedong is surrounded by forest and well, lots of stuff wander into our living quarters/training areas all the time.

During our driving phase, the only “toilet” we had was a single portable loo, and having to service so many trainees it soon broke down and a stench was soon apparent. At night though, it seemed to attract lots of little fireflies (i can only assume since i didn’t see them anywhere else)! Cool, since this is the first time I’m seeing so many in the wild in Singapore.

During an exercise while we were settling a wire fence, a wild boar and her piglet dashed across from the vegetation on one side to another.

Lots of weird moths, especially around the buildings at night. Hawk moths galore, and one weird moth in the toilet that looked like a bagworm caterpillar, it’s head and wings looking like the bagworm casing and its front legs with tufts of hair that made them look like a round head with feelers or mandibles.

Large rhinoceros beetles are quite common here, my excited coursemates brought one to me one night and we watched it crawl about for a bit and then let it go. And then there was this strange beetle about the size of a rhinobeet and had fan-shaped antennae, that seemed to hiss (though it sounded more like sneezing) rather loudly, as if it were spraying gas on my shoes and pants. However it didn’t look like the usual candidates for chemical spraying beetles, and there were no visible stains or obvious smell on my clothing so.. I don’t know! Perhaps it was mimicking the sound of a snake, or it was just catching a bug..

And then one morning during a battalion run, my friend told me he had seen what looked like a small snake near one of the tank sheds so i went to go check it out. It was the last round, and the snake looked dead so i picked it up and hid it with my bottle (not inside it of course), and then brought it back to bunk after, much to the WTH of my bunkmates. Then i tried doing a proper sketch of it.

 

It was rather hastily done as we had a lesson after the run. I uploaded the drawings to FB, where Ivan ID-ed it as a banded malayan coral snake, which as it turns out, has a habit of flattening and throwing it’s body into twists and curls and playing dead when threatened, which was exactly how it appeared when i picked it up. Also it’s highly venomous. Hmm. O.o

Well i’m sure there’ll be lots more to encounter before i ORD next year in Dec, but after that no more access to restricted areas (except for reservist training days)..

Reason to sign on? HMMMMMM…. nah 😛