Sunday, January 27, 2013

Checking out marine life of Chek Jawa with TeamSeagrass

Today is my first trip with other members of TeamSeagrass and we are doing monitoring at Chek Jawa.  I helped to guide two new teamseagrass members with the monitoring session.

It was a hot day but thank goodness, the wind helped to ease the heat a bit. After the monitoring, we all had some time to check out the shore of Chek Jawa.

Upon arrival at Chek Jawa, we were greeted with the sight of mama pig and her piglet feeding on food she pushed off from the bicycle basket. The wild boars are able to smell food kept high above ground, like a bicycle basket, and they are smart enough to knock off the bicycle in order to get the food. From the image below, this pair of wild boar even tore the packaging of the can drinks.
Wild boars helping themselves to human food by knocking them off bicycle baskets.
It is important not to leave any food unattended when visiting Chek Jawa. We often find guest leaving food in their parked bicycles and eventually having the food packaging ripped open by visiting long-tail macaques or some wild boars.

On the shore of Chek Jawa, there marine life are doing quite well despite the high amount of rainfall for the past few months.

One of the commonly found animals is the garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra).
Garlic bread sea cucumber
A rare-spined murex (Murex trapa) is no longer home to its owner, but to a hermit crab.
Rare-spined murex
Housing a hermit crab
The carpet anemones are returning to Chek Jawa quite well. I found them in various sizes.
Large size carpet anemone
Tiny carpet anemone, just twice the size of a spoon seagrass (Halophilia ovalis)
Chay Hoon found a tiny sea slug. I am sometimes amazed at how she is able to spot something so small sized.
Sea slug
One other interesting find by Chay Hoon is the pimply mangrove anemone. They are usually found in very soft mudflats on the seaward side of mangroves. Sometimes, it can also be seen on other soft silty sandy shores. On the body column of the anemone, there are pale bumps in regular rows.
Pimply mangrove anemone
As the sun starts to set, it was time for us to leave the shore and head back to the information kiosk.
Landscape view of Chek Jawa
For the second time this month, I failed to spot the dugong feeding trail. Hope I am able to spot one the next time I visit a seagrass patch.

Other related posts:
Ria Tan - Did Chek Jawa survive the rainy weather?
TeamSeagrass - Chek Jawa (27 jan 2013)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Giant octopus on a busy Changi shore

On this short window of low tides for January, I made my last trip for the month yesterday to a shore at Changi. This shore is packed with human activities, from visitors to the coastal boardwalk, fishermen netting in the shallow waters to ordinary visitors digging the substrate for clams. Despite the heavy rained that happened just minutes ago, there are still many visitors to the shore.

The weather changed very quickly. After the heavy shower, it drizzled for a while before the sun came out.

What makes this shore special is the sea fan sticking out from the shallow murky water during low tide. They come in a variety of colour and sizes.
Bending orange sea fan, probably dur to its weight with low tide.
Orange and red sea fans sticking out.
Red sea fan covered with seaweed.
On the shore, there were many different types of sea cucumber found among the seagrass and seaweeds. It was my first time finding a smooth sea cucumber and ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.).
Orange sea cucumber
Thorny sea cucumber (Colochirus quandrangularis)
Ball sea cucumber
Pink warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps)
Smooth sea cucumber
The large boulders near the lookout point provides a great spot to look for hiding animals.
Hiding in an opened bivalve was a thunder crab (Myomenippe hardwickii). Some people refer them as stone crab. It looks very comfortable sitting inside the clam and does not seem to be in the need to move out of this space.
Stone or Thunder crab
In crevices at the rock base, there are a number of medium sized spider crabs scavenging the surface for food. It is not easy to grab hold of the crab gently without feeling the spiky edges of its carapace. It took me some time to coax one of these well camouflaged spiky crabs into a container for a better look at them.
Frontal view
Dorsal view
Clearer dorsal view, in a container
  As the tide went out, a large seagrass octopus was stranded in a shallow pool.
Large seagrass octopus
As the bite of any octopus many contain venom, it is not advisable to move any of such animals without proper equipment. The best I could do was to help make the stranded spot deeper by shifting the substrate by the side of the octopus. The stranded octopus did attract many curious looks from the shore visitors and there were three teenage boys taking good care of it. I'm rather amazed by their actions.
Looks rather comfortable despite being stranded
Scary looking eye
On this trip, I also saw a pair of hairy sea hare (Bursatella leachii), a plain sand star (Astropecten sp.) and a painted sand star.
Hairy sea hare
Plain sand star (Astropecten sp.)
Painted sand star
I am amazed at how small my new swimming camera can capture. Here is an image of an isopoda.
More about isopoda can be found here. This isopod has been feeding on green food, which provides the green colouring on it.
Isopod on the leave.
The highlight of this trip would be finding a dying looking fireworm (Chloeia sp.). I first found it stranded on dry sand, just on the outskirts of the seaweed patch. It was motionless and not responding to the touch of a mangrove propagule. I placed it back into very shallow water near the seaweed patch and marked its location with the mangrove propagule. Towards the end of the trip, I came back to check on the fireworm and it was moving a little. Hope it was recovering.
Dorsal view
Underside view
Mouth of the fireworm
Dorsal view of the mouth
While the other team members saw a yellow seahorse during the trip, I helped to retrieve a seahorse caught from fishing net and released it back into the waters. The little boy who was carrying a bag of fish with the seahorse in it seemed to understand how precious the seahorse is in our waters was gladly agreed for it to released. At the same time, some education was provided to the little boy.

It was a pity that I did not get to see the dugong feeding trail, which the rest of the teammates saw.

Posts by others on this trip:
Kok Sheng - Sea fan garden and evidence of dugong at Changi
Ria Tan - Dugong signs on Changi with sea fan garden

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hidden world of Punggol beach

With the upgrade waterfront area at Punggol beach, it has attracted many families and cyclist to this small stretched. Despite the numerous human activities going on here, the marine life at Punggol beach is as many as the beach visitors. Often, most of them goes unnoticed and unappreciated by humans.

Punggol Beach and Jetty
Even on a not so low tide, a vast patch of rocky area to the right of the jetty is exposed for families to bring their children down to search and explore the place for marine life. 

Very well hidden in tiny pool, if not noticed carefully, are tiny anemones. The colours of the tiny anemones are very close to the sandy substrate it is on. These are probably the banded bead anemones (Anthopleura sp.)
Banded bead anemone
Banded bead anemone
Suspicious jerking snail shells suggest a hermit crab in it and it was noticed to be foraging for food. On the shore of Punggol beach, the banded hermit crab seems to be the dominate ones. Hermit crabs are to look at and may be pretty for children to keep them as pets. However wild animals dies quickly in captivity. It is good enough to observe these cute animals in the wild and leave them where they belong to.
Foraging banded hermit crab
Frontal view of the hermit crab.
Spreading all over the rocky areas and the jetty pillars, the bunches of glassy looking strands are actually the glassy branching bryozoans. Unfortunatly, I am not able to provide an exact common name for the orange sponge.
Glassy branching bryozoans with orange sponge and delicate feathery green seaweed
Orange sponge, some covered by bryozoans.
During last year's comprehensive marine biodiversity survey, a sea slug was found on these bryozoans. On this trip, many of the sea slug was seen. The Okenia pellucida is the species of sea slug found on the bryozoan.
Okenia pellucida, on bryozoan
Very well hidden are the brittle stars, which are hardly seen in the day as they are very shy animals.
Brittle star
Crawling around on the encrusted rocks are tiny crabs of various species, some of which scurry into hiding when sensing motion nearby. Of the crabs I managed to observe was this. I didn't manage to get a clear shot of the dorsal view
Underside of the crab
Other crabs seen on this trip:
Moon crab
The team also found another type of sea slug - Beaded nudibranch (Hoplodoris nodulosa).
Beaded nudibranch (Hoplodoris nodulosa)
Feathery gills
I also saw two types of bristle worms on the shore, one of which could be a fireworm. Bristleworms are difficult to identify to species level without a close look at the head.
At the edge of the rocky patch on the shore, I noticed a patch of seagrass. However the tides was not low enough for me to take a closer look at them. Towards the end of the trip, I found a stand of broken seagrass caught on a washed up branch. It looks similar to a spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis), but it has longer leaf blades. Could it be the hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens)?
Patch of seagrass
The seagrass I found caught on a branch.
During the trip, I saw a young boy walking towards the water and later he was seen to be pulling the ropes attached to the fish trap. It turn out, there were actually two fish traps placed. Shortly after, he was joined by an adult, who seems to be his father. They checked the fish traps, probably removing the catch, threw the traps back into the water and left.
Boy pulling the rope.
Examining the fish trap.
The marine life at Punggol beach is what I would consider, a hidden world, with all the human activities going on. Life during the day may be less exciting as compared to night, but it is still as interesting.

Posts by others on this trip:
Kok Sheng - Colourful sponge garden at Punggol
Ria Tan - Colourful Punggol rocky shore


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