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.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Team Seagrass P. Semakau

It was a rush... Finish work, quick lunch, change of clothes and off I went. Arranged with Nicholas (NUS exchange student from New York) to head out together. And we were too early (1.15pm...), so we sat and enjoyed our lunch and the breeze at Marina South Pier. Soon enough, NParks arrived and many followed. And it was all aboard a VIP boat.

Red carpet, benches with tables and nice air-con. What a luxury (You can see from the faces of the people and those sleeping that is so comfortable)!

Thanks to Siti and my theory of 'consistency of scientific data collection', I was arrowed to Site 2 again... and I was tasked to guide the two young interns from NParks. That's not all as the first aid kit came along with me - Arrowed again... *Losing too much blood*

Everyone was all geared and ready to hop on the bus to make our way. Well, except for a certain group of people among us...

Who were still busy putting on their booties while everyone else was waiting.

After the bus ride, we braved the mosquitoe-infested forest again. This time, I made a quick stop, snapped and in a jiffy, picked up my feet again before any start to feast on me.

Weather was initially sunny, but an overcast soon took over. In fact, it was even better - cooler.

And here's my two 'interns', Meera (left) and Jion Chun. Just realised that their faces are not shown... well, guess they will remain faceless for now.

We actually started a little early. The water was rather high (left) as compared to some time later. You can clearly see the difference.

Well, I was rather surprised that my team completed our transect pretty fast, considering it's site 2. Good thing too as we have more time to explore.

Found this swimming crab at my transect.

And hairy crabs are everywhere.

While we were doing our transect, someone shouted to us, 'Heron!'. My team started to look at the sky, but nothing was there so we went, 'Where!?'. 'NO! There! In front of you!'. End up, the heron was just like 50 metres or so in front of us... so embarrassing...

Not much thou, but here goes the critter list.
Gigantic carpet anemone (Stychodactyla gigantea).

There are also quite a lot of these little anemones among some rocks.

These look like anemones, but in fact they are corals, more specifically mushroom corals (Heliofungia actiniformis).

These are also often mistook for anemones. This is actually a Fanworm, a type of tubeworm (Not that I really know of any other types of tube worms.. Hehe...).

From far, this looked like a branching coral (Pocillopora sp). When I took a closer look, it turned out to be a leathery soft coral.

Shufen said this was a sponge. Cool-looking one, like a fungus. Should have ask Swee Cheng... Are you here??

A nice pink sponge. Love sponges with striking colours.

A ball sponge (Indicated by Shufen). Note the bright orange inside. No harm was done to the sponge as sponge generates by 'splitting'. You cut one sponge and it becomes two. But never go around cutting everything up. This was done as an example.

Found a spider conch also. Don't mind the chopsticks. Was trying to raise it up abit for a clearer shot as the water was murky.

While we were walking towards the outer edge, someone spotted this little nudi (Jorunna funebris). Common fellow but at least I achieved my target of at least one nudi per trip.

Along the way, we also spotted several synaptic sea cucumbers. These are the browns ones. Black ones are also pretty common.

Look at the amount of tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). Endless...

Some of the tape seagrass were blooming. You can find the male flowers (styrofoam-like bits) floating around. The female flower is shown here with its 3 white petals.

Meera (one of the interns) nearly stepped on this. Note the electric blue spots among the sand. A blue-spotted fantail ray is hiding, with its venomous spine ready to jab anyone or anything that disturbs or steps on it.

Soon it was about time to leave as it was getting dark. While we all boarded the bus for a lift back to the NEA buidling, a film crew was 'left' behind. This film crew was there to shoot an episode for the currently-showing series, 'Once upon a Tree - Tides and Coastlines'. Catch it every Tuesday at 9.30pm on Arts Central. Discover Singapore's very own reefs!

At the dock, we were greeted by a huge barge carrying the ashes of trash. This barge arrives here twice a day, so take some time and imagine the amount of trash that a small island country like us can produce. Put that on a global scale and reflect.

The boat trip back was amazing, with everyone sitting on the open deck - eating, drinking and snapping photos every now and then. Was rather lazy and pre-occupied to take a photo, not that my camera is good for night shoots either. Haha...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sumatran Rhino Conservation Project (NYC-YEP)

In 2003, I was part of a committee that organized a humanitarian project (Project Horizon)to build a single-storey community library in a village in Laos. This project was known as a Youth Expedition Project (Then under the wings of Singapore International Foundation. It is now under National Youth Council). It was after that project, I decided to embark on YEPs and lead projects focusing on Environment/Conservation issues.

After a couple of years of constant contacts hunting and several fruitless attempts , finally my 'dream' was fulfilled in June 2007. I was involved in a National Youth Council - Youth Expedition Project (YEP). Together with my team of Rovers from Singapore Scout Association (SSA), and in cooperation with SOS Rhino Borneo, we went on a Sumatran Rhino Conservation Project in Sabah. This project was known as Project Sirius - Rovering with Rhinos.

Preparation started in Feb 2007, and the 2-weeks overseas project was carried out from 12 to 26 June 2007. This part of the project required us to build a base camp at the border of the reserve, and also to interact with the locals to understand their lifestyle while living so close to Nature. This very much needed base camp serves as a rest-point for the rhino field researchers, and doubles-up as a guardpost. Eventually the project officially ended in Sep 2007 with a post-event.

The following is the hard work of a fellow team mate of mine, Shamir. He painstakingly put together a 'documentary' of our whole expedition to Sabah. It would be a waste if his efforts are only viewed by those of our team. So here's to share it with all! Enjoy! Feel free to leave any comments!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

This is the completed basecamp as of Jan 2008, and in use. We did not manage to complete the whole building (only about 1/2 to 2/3 of it, in just 6 days) during the expedition. The staff continued to work on it and in Jan, I received the photographs from them.

Thanks to NYC, SSA and all fellow Scouters for making this happen. And of course, not forgetting the whole team (Aru, Kangwei, Wilson, Austin, Yizhen, Shamir, Dickson, David, Sox) for going through the ups and downs together. Cheers!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tree Climbing at Pasir Ris Park

The tree climbing crabs are back again!! The same bunch of Naked Hermit Crabs who conquered trees in Kent Ridge are back out to terrorize the trees in Pasir Ris Park!

The weather couldn't be better - both sunny and windy, just by the beach.

Everyone was like panicking at the last minute to revise all the knots required to set up the system. Some people (I shall not name who. Haha...not many live in Boon Lay so make a guess.) even spent all the time we had while traveling on the train from Boon Lay to Pasir Ris!

We were required to set up the system in 13 minutes and ascend in 7 minutes. Setting up includes throwing, hoisting the rope and tying the knots. Chee Kong and I were first up. I was lucky enough to get mine set up fast while Chee Kong's weight pouch went diving into the sea - I guess he was attempting to fish by knocking them unconscious with the weight pouch.

Went up too fast, so here's the only shot of me at the top. The rest of the time I was busy snapping photos away at everyone.

Cheeky Chee Kong trying to be funny while putting on his harness, and I caught this. Hahaha...

Ascending up. Hmmm... seems like the belayer can't be bothered about CK.

Kissing the tree at the top. Not too intimate or else girlfriend jealous wor.

July was up next. Erm... after tying his knots... Oops!

Ascending, and someone cheated by standing on a lower branch to gain leverage...

Guess he can't be bothered as long as he's at the top.

Helen is a 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. She never revised the knots at all, and without looking at the notes, she tied the knots within minutes... She should come join Scouts. Haha...

Ascending. It seems like all belayers can't be bothered with their climbers. Thanks god this ain't rock/sports climbing...

And with tremendous speed never seen before, Helen reached the top like in record time. Indeed a master-in-disguise...

It was then Juan Hui's turn. All hail the monkey from NParks (I'm so dead!).

Soon she was at the top. But she refused to take our offering of an orange... perhaps she still prefer bananas... Oh wait! We wouldn't want to get fined right? Hehe...

While Juan Hui was climbing, Chee Kong ascended the other tree and began shooting us from the top of the tree. That's what is called a bird's eye view.

Last but not the least, Tiong Chin!

Just about 2-3 metres off the ground, he already had to stopped for a break of water!! Can't blame him - He was such a gentleman to help Valerie (Main instructor) change her punctured tire before climbing. She ought to let him pass on that account!

See what Tiong Chin has to go through!!

And here's Tiong Chin at the top!

Secretly at one side, Chee Kong was trying to learn all the secrets of knot tying from one of the instructor.

The climbing wasn't all. We were then tested our theory in pairs. Like shout commands, environmental factors, hazards and safety precautions. But like what Valerie said, we all passed with flying colours!

After packing some stuff and a short break, we bidded the instructors farewell. But surely to join them for event facilitation someday!

Just as we walked out to Tiong Chin's car, we spotted something beautiful.

A tree full of wild Pigeon Orchids (Dendrobium crumenatum) in bloom! It was said that usually the orchid would bloom after a heavy rain (sudden drop in temperature). Why called the Pigeon Orchid? Apparently the flower bud looks like a miniature pigeon.

Short but a cool day! Very tired too... thanks to four days of constant activities! But I'll never give it up for anything in the world for sure!

PS: Thanks Tiong Chin for giving us a ride back home! PRP to Boon Lay is damn far...

CNY Day 3 at Kusu Island

This is it! The last of the CNY series! Kusu Island!

This series have been blessed with good weather and today was no exception. My last visit here was when I was young, along with my family. So long ago that I remembered nuts about it... perhaps except the tortoises, terrapins etc.

The view of the northern lagoon was amazing, and it's quite huge. Marcus was telling me the great stuff was right at the lagoon's mouth. Couldn't wait to get there then. However something was wrong, the tide doesn't seem to go out as much as we expected it to. Guess it's one of those days where the tide table doesn't work as expected. Last incident was during Team Seagrass on one of its Sentosa transect. Oh well, since we were there, we made full use of it.

Apparently, I was a little lazy today... Didn't really bothered to walk everywhere to check out everything. Usually I'm a little hyper... Haha... Emo perhaps. Lol... So I think I missed out on an anemone shrimp and a phyllid (Damn it!). Budak should have the photos.

So not really alot today, but still quite interesting and here goes!

Hard corals - Faviidae (left) and possibly Pocillopora sp..

Gigantic carpet anemone (Stychodactyla gigantea). There were alot of such anemones, especially in the smaller lagoon.

Found quite a few snapping shrimps (Family Alpheidae) on the shore too.

This is another snapping shrimp. Different species as indicated by the body markings.

Found this fellow again (found it on P. Hantu the previous night). It was buried underneath the sand, looking like a buried sand dollar (which I thought so). No clue as to why it was buried... maybe due to sediment deposition by the tide/waves.

Upon seeing that there is no chance the tide is going any lower, we decided to explore other parts. We went to the small area beside the jetty.

And the whole shore is covered with tons of beautiful zooanthids! And I seriously mean tons... I had to tip-toed my way through, stepping only on rocks and small patches of unoccupied sand.

We found a couple of traps which is set by the islanders. One of them sadly had two dead red egg crabs, and the other had a copper-banded butterfly fish inside, alive! After some 'chit-chat' with a guy living there, we finally released the fish to its freedom. Then after we decided to visit the smaller lagoon.

Along the way, we bypassed the temple on the island.

And of course, the iconic tortoises.

Just within minutes of exploring the smaller lagoon, Marcus suddenly shouted stingray! I hurried over, but realised it was a dead one. There was a swimming crab already scavenging on the carcass.

Managed to get a shot of the acorn worm. Erm okay... the rear end of the worm. See the yellow butt?

There were plenty of gobies (Gobiidae) around as usual. Can't miss them.

And I found a fish that I recognised - a Crescent Perch (Terapon jarbua).

Unknown crab. One of those few that stops and let me snap them.

Ghost crab (Ocypode sp.). Usually they are found on the sandy beach (large holes on beaches are usually made by them), but I found this far out on the mudflat. It was probably stunned by my headlamp and allowed me to snap it at macro.

Gong gong (Strombus canarium), an edible molluscs. Note the operculum. It uses it to shut the slit of the shell, preventing any intrusion. It also uses it to flip itself over and perhaps sometimes 'pole-vault' around.

Found this bunch of shells. Mass orgy? Oops... And I think there's a drill trying to look for a 'quick' meal.

Quite a fair bit of onchs (Onchidiidae) around also. Love these cute little slugs!

Can you spot the octupus? You can see the head in the small crevice. This was a juvenile octopus. It slipped right away into the hole when I saw it. See the bivalve? I think it just had a nice meal before I interrupted it.

Was walking along the shore back to the jetty with Ria when we started spotting the fanworms (Sabellidae). This was one of them and I missed out on another white one.

I also spotted this peacock anemone (Cerianthus sp.). This one was a little different from most that I've seen. Instead of being brightly coloured, this was almost translucent. I was simply lucky enough to spot it.

That's it! And of course, we went to Lau Pat Sat for satay! Haha... It has been amazing for the all the three trips! Thank you Ria for organizing the trips (and a special thanks for giving me a reason to be kidnapped for CNY! KIV for next CNY!). Also thanks a lot to Andy for giving me lifts on some occasions.

Cheers everyone and happy CNY!!