Purpose of NatureScouter

This blog will address mainly two issues - Nature and Scouting.

The purpose of Nature blogs is to educate and promote the awareness of Singapore’s and global environmental and conservation issues to the public and the Scouting community. The Scouting-related blogs serve the similar purpose by promoting the World’s largest youth movement and its activities to the public.

This blog was created thanks to the persistent demands of all my dear friends to blog, and on my 25th birthday, this blog was born.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Changi at Night (25 Jan 2008)

What sort of 'night life' is there in Changi? Most probably not the type ya thinking now. A small group of us decided to head down to Changi beach to take a peek at the night life there.

View of the Changi beach.

One of the first few critters we saw was the hairy seahare. The seasonal animal was noted in my recent CJ trip. However, the number is much lesser in Changi. If there are seahares, there are eggs of cause. Two makes a pair since they are hermaphrodites.

Walking along, we found a few dead critters unfortunately.

Horseshoe crab. Despite its name, it actually does not belong to the same group as crabs. This particular one measures about 45cm.

Fresh dead fish anyone? Right out from the water. Doubt it.

Peacock anemone, but retracted as it was exposed due to the low tide.

Quite a huge bivalve. I think Ron mentioned that it was a Venus shell. Sorry... STM...

Another bivalve but with 'passengers'. The smaller one should be an acorn barnacle. The larger one is actually a drill. Seems like it was having its meal. Drills are able to 'drill' a hole in bivalve shell and feed on the succulent flesh inside. It may take hours for it to drill through the shell, hence if you were to see such sightings, do not try to separate them or else you will deprive the drill of its meal and waste its effort.

A striped hermit crab.

A fat type of bristle worm. Seen this at CJ before. This worm can actually burrow into the sand and swim rather well in the water. However, do not touch with bare skin as its bristle can really irritate your skin.

Saw this in the rocky area. I thought it was a juvenile Eunice sp., but Ron told me it might not be as it lacks the distinct collar.

Also on the rocky area was this little slug called onchidium. I love this little critter. They are usually found on rocks at low tide. Beware as they are masters of camouflage. And I really mean it. Unless you stare hard to find them, most likely you'll miss them or worse... step on them.

A tiny little orange shrimp that caught my eye.

Moon snail. I waited but it doesn't want to come out... Accounts for the numerous number of sand collar (its eggs compacted with sand). Similar to drills, they drill a hole in bivalves to feed on the inside. Only difference is that they engulf their prey with their foot, encasing them totally before starting to drill for their meal.

An unknown snail with a 'passenger', a sea anemone. Not only one but I actually saw quite a number of the same type of snails, each with a sea anemone on their shell. Some critters do this to deter predators.

Elbow crab. Notice the long 'arms' and the pronouced bend in it, hence its name.

Leaf porter crab. This was flipped over for a photo shot. This crab uses last two pairs of its legs to hold a dead leaf or debris and uses the others to walk around. So next time you see something moving when the water is not flowing, try flipping it over and you might find this critter.

Moon crab. I realised that this crab actually has paddles on all its legs rather than just the last pair.

Unknown crab.

Can you spot the fish? In fact there are two. Note the long green strip from the bottom and the long brown strip across the middle? These are pike fishes.

Scorpion fish. The long extended dorsal fin rays are actually venomous. If you step on them, be prepared for quite some excruciating pain.

Thorny sea cucumber.

This one has its feeders out (right end), savaging for food.

Wonder what's this? I saw it poking out of the sand, squirting water out when touched.

Tada! A slimy smooth sea cucumber emerges. It has a disgusting layer of mucus thou...

Sand dollar!
The currency of the sea. I wish... cause they are commonly found...

Sand star

Another sand star, but with a nice distinct pattern.

A very small seastar. Not sure what type thou. It measures the most only 2cm in diameter (inclusive of arms).

Another similar size juvenile seastar. Hey its green!! Cool!

Sea urchin was quite common at Changi. I was rather careful not to step on them.

Looks like another species perhaps. Different arrange of the spikes.

This one got itself entangled with seaweed. Interesting thing is that, it is actually on a desserted durian shell. Talk about relatives... mistaken identity?

A dead urchin. What is left is the 'skeleton' called test.

On our way back, we saw this plant. Avicennia alba I believe. It has pretty much set foot on the beach.

The highlight of the night has got to be this. A seahorse! Well, a sand star decided to steal some limelight also. Do you know that male seahorses are the ones that 'give birth'? Actually the female deposits the eggs in a pouch of the male and the male carries it to term and hence 'gives birth' to the young.

It was definitely an eventful night. But boy, were we hungry... and off to Changi Village for a heavy meal we went. Special thanks to Ron for inviting me along, and also Luan Keng and Samson for showing me around too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Lorax - By Dr Seuss

In memory of the Hopea sangal tree in Changi.
Hopea sangal was assumed to be locally extinct till the tree was re-discovered in Changi in Sep 2002. Unfortunately, it was felled by developers two months later. Now nine pieces of its trunks, sculptured, are displayed in the Singapore Zoo.
In Nov 2004, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew planted a Hopea sangal sapling in Henderson, which was grown from a seedling collected when the tree was discovered.

At the far end of town, where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...
is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood, just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.

What WAS the Lorax? And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. HE knows.

You wont see the Once-ler. Dont knock at his door.
He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store.
He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof,
where he makes his own clothes
out of miff-muffered moof.

And on special dank midnights in August,
he peeks out of the shutters
and sometimes he speaks
and tells how the Lorax was lifted away.

He'll tell you, perhaps...
if you're willing to pay.

On the end of a rope he lets down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen cents and a nail
and the shell of a great-great-great
grandfather snail.

He pulls up the pail,
makes a most careful count
to see if you've paid him the proper amount.

Then he hides what you pay him
away in his Snuvv,
his secret strange hole in his gruvvulous glove.

Then he grunts, "I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone,
for the secrets I tell are for your ears alone."

Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the Once-ler's whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down
through a snergelly hose,
and he sounds as if he had
smallish bees up his nose.

"Now I'll tell you," he says,
with his teeth sounding gray,
"how the Lorax got lifted and taken away...
It all started back...
such a long, long time back...

Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rand out into space...
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.

And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits.

From the rippulous pond
came the comfortable sound
of the Humming-Fish humming
while splashing around.

But those TREES!
Those TREES!
All my life I've been searching
for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk
And they had the sweet smell Of fresh butterfly milk.

I felt a great leaping
of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I'd do!
I unloaded my cart.

In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the soft tuft. And I knitted a Thneed!

The instant I'd finished, I heard a GA-ZUMP!
I looked.
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I'd chopped down.
It was sort of a man.
Describe him?...That's hard.
I don't know if I can.

He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy.

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs"--
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed--
"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

"Look, Lorax," I said. "There's no call for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"

The Lorax said,
"Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!"

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninEty-eight

I laughed at the Lorax, "You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy."

"I repeat," cried the Lorax,
"I speak for the trees!"

"I'm busy," I told him.
"Shut up, if you please."

I rushed 'cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.

I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, "Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left at Weehawken.
Sharp right at South Stitch."

And, in no time at all, in the factory i built,
the whole Once-ler Family was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping of Truffula Trees.

Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree
at a time was too slow.

So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Tuffula Trees at one smacker.
We were making Thneeds
four times as fast as before!
And that Lorax?...
HE didn't show up anymore.

But the next week
he knocked on my new office door.

He snapped, "I'm the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I'm ALSO in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Friuts.

"NOW...thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go 'round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!

"They loved living here. But I can't let them stay.
They'll have to find food. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys," he cried. And he sent them away.

I, the Once-ler, felt sad
as I watched them all go.
business is business
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

I meant no harm.
I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.

I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons.
I biggered the loads of the Theends I shipped out.
I was shipping them forth to the South! To the East!
To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering...selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

Then AGAIN he came back!
I was fixing some pipes
when that old-nuicence Lorax came back
with MORE gripes.

"I am the Lorax," he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
"Once-ler!" he cried with a cruffulous croak.
"Once-ler! You're making a smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans...why, they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

"And so," said the Lorax,
"--please pardon my cough--
they cannot live here.
So I'm sending them off.

"Where will they go now?... I dont hopefully know.
They may have to fly for a month...or a year...
To escape from the smog you've smogged-up around here.

"What's more," snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)
"Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?
I'll show you, you dirty old Once-ler man, you!

You're Glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So, I'm sending them off. Oh, thier future is dreary.
They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn't so smeary."

And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, "Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say 'Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!"
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I;m telling YOU
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I'm figgering
on biggering,
and Biggering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!"

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Tuffula Tree of them all!

No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,
all waved good-bye. They jumped into my cars
and drove away under the smoke (or smog)-smuggered stars.

Now all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky
was my big empty factory...
the Lorax...
and I.

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance...
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance...
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.

And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a smaLl pile of rocks, with one word... "UNLESS."
Whatever THAT meant, well, I couldn't guess.

That was long, long ago.
But each day since that day
I've sat here and worried and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings have fallen apart,
I've worried about it with all of my heart.

"But NOW," says the Once-ler,
"Now that YOU'RE here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

Catch!" calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
"Its a Truffula Seed.
It's the last one of all!

You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Team Seagrass at Chek Jawa (20 Jan 2008)

It was a bright and sunny day (sound so like primary school essay..., who cares! It's a fact.). TSG is once again back at CJ. Meeting time was at 12.30pm so I decided to leave home early to have lunch at Changi Village. But... it was way too early... Reached Changi Village at 11am... Soon enough, all seagrassers arrived, with only a 'certain and usual' group of people late again. Haha...

Upon reaching House No. 1, Siti started to brief the team as there are quite a number of new seagrassers.

This time round, I was paired with another newbie, Nicholas - a NUS exchange student from New York who studies environmental science. And of course, I'm at my usual site A again for the sake of consistency in data collection (so I claim).

The first thing that most of us saw was a familiar sight - spaghetti-like orange masses everywhere. Can you spot them?

Here's a closer look.

Wondering what's that?
It belongs to this creature - the Seahare. It's a type of sea slug which is said to resemble a sitting hare (pretend that the rhinophores are ears). The orange masses are their eggs, which they lay them in a string-like manner, all twirled up. More info can be found here. The last time we saw this kind of mad mass breeding activity was back in Jan/Feb 2007. Seasonal hermaphrodite critter.

And here goes the list of few critters today, along with the usual swimming crabs, snails, barnacles, mussels, moults etc. Seagrass of course (better mention before 'someone' nags):

A catfish found just beside my transect line. Had to convince it into the water, reminding it that dry ground is not good for its health.

Update: These are drill eggs, more specifically from Thais lacera carinifera. Purple indicates mature eggs while yellow ones are immature. Hatched eggs are probably transparent or indicated by broken capsules? Another sighting of a different type of drill eggs, from Thais malayensis, were back in Oct 07. All identification courtesy of Dr. Tan Koh Siang, a molluscs expert. He once did studies related to Thais sp..

I believe this is a warty sea cucumber. A little fellow, only about 2-3cm long. Grow up, little one!

These are found by the NParks intertidal walk guides. Can you spot the tiny seahorse beside the cake sea star?

A brittle star. This type of sea star usually hide in crevices, sponges or corals. As the name indicates, it has a tendency to break its arms off easily, perhaps to escape from being a meal for predators.

And last but not the least, common sea star which is no longer that common in CJ after the CJ mass death incident in early 2007.

Since there was no hurry, we decided to walk along the mangrove area from the northern end towards the boardwalk.

Plenty of mangrove trees. They have unusual roots and other characteristics as they have to adapt to being covered in seawater at high tide and also to grow in soft mud.

And this particular one is rare in Singapore. Someone please let me know the species? Avicennia?

Walking along and I found this bunch of guys (gals too, I guess). Seeing mudskippers waddling and floating around as a school was so cute that I couldn't resist snapping a photo of them.

Good weather = nice view from the top of Jejawi Tower.

With a beautiful sunset view on our way back.

Surprisingly, almost everyone is awake on the boat trip back to the mainland.

And here's to end it off - a snapshot of the view from the back of the boat - the sky, sea and boat, each with its own shade of blue.