Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stunning sunset with critters of St. John's Island

While exploring the shores of St. John's Island, everyone suddenly paused at where they were and started admiring the beautiful sunset, bidding goodbye to the second day of the lunar new year.
Sunset at St. John's Island
We were lucky to be on the outer edge of the water snake that visited from the northeastern side and turned in the clockwise direction on the boundary of mainland Singapore. At the beginning part of the trip, we experienced mild drizzle.
It was not longer after I started explore when I saw my first critter - a reef bristleworm (Eurythoe complanata). It looked like it was out hunting for food.
Head of the reef bristleworm
On a colony of blue coral (Heliopora coerulea), there were many tiny crabs coming out to feed. The crabs looked similar to the smooth spooner crab (Etisus laevimanus), but of much smaller size. They were out feeding on the surface of the blue coral.
Blue coral
Tiny crab 1
Tiny crab 2
Somewhere near the blue coral, I took a photo of this.

This is actually a fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.). I thought it was a species of soft flowery coral on shore and when I was editing the photo. It was Kok Sheng who surfaced that it could be the fire anemone after looking at the white stripes with spots at the bottom of the photo and oval shaped tip tentacles. Luckily for me as I did not try to touch it on shore. The fire anemone causes a nasty sting when touched. Phew and WOW!

There were many gobies in the shallow water and they were kind enough to stay still for me to take a photo of them. They are not easy to spot sometimes as they blend very well with the colour of the sand, thus making it difficult to shoot them.
Goby 1
Goby 2
Goby 3
Tse-Lynn brought her son, Ethan, to visit the shore with us today and he helped to find a pair of platydoris nudibranch (Platydoris scabra). As mention by Ethan, the platydoris nudibranch has a fine rough surface.
Platydoris scabra - Dorsal view
Close up of rhinophores
Close up of feathery gills
Trying to flip back, showing the tiny oral tentacles
Underside view
Here's a video of the platydoris nudibranch moving.

Ria found another type of nudibranch just as she was flipping a rock, the spotted foot nudibranch (Discodoris lilacina). I found it tricky to shoot this nudibranch as it colour patterns is very close to the sandy area.
Dorsal view,  rhinophore on the left.
Underside view
Ria also found the starry mouthed nudibranch (Bornella stellifer) while she was exploring the lagoon.
Head-on view
Dorsal view
Side view
Moving on to the lagoon, the horn-eyed ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalmus) are out hunting and enjoying their crabby meals. I saw two ghost crabs feeding on crab. One was feeding on a swimming crab and the second was feeding on a moon crab and it left bits of the pincer and arms on the shore.
Feeding on swimming crab
Feeding on moon crab
Broken remains of the moon crab on the shore near the ghost crab.
Here is a video of the second ghost crab feeding on the moon crab.

This trip was my first time seeing two snapping shrimp coming out of their borrow. Are they a mating pair? 
Usually we see only one actively beautifying its burrow entrance with a goby outside. However on this trip, I actually saw two of them coming out from the same hole. How interesting. One of the snapping shrimp when back into the burrow when it sensed my presence while the other stayed out a little longer. Both are ornamented snapping shrimp (Alpheus sp.)
Two snapping shrimp from the same hole
The smaller snapping shrimp outside the hole
In the patch of seagrass in the lagoon, Kok Sheng spotted a pipefish.
Head shot of the pipefish
Ending off this post, here is a panorama shot of the beautiful evening sunset at St. John's Island, with the reef in the foreground.

Posts by others on this trip:
Mei Lin - Psychedelic Nature
Kok Sheng - CNY Day 2: St John's Island
Ria Tan - Surprises at St. John's Island

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Big Sisters in the year of the water snake

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year, the year of the water snake. It has been raining for the whole day and the team was worried it will continue to rain during our fieldtrip session in the evening.

I started out the fieldtrip slightly different today. Instead of heading straight to the lagoon, I went to check out the crinoids with Kok Sheng first. We saw many pretty crinoids of various size and colours.
Red crinoid
Zebra striped crinoid
Nearby the crinoids there was a colony of bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor). I didn't notice the anemone shrimp until I looked at my photos at home. Can you find the anemone shrimp?
Bubble tip anemone with anemone shrimp
The underwater reef is pretty with the hydroids, but beware as the hydroids stings and they leave nasty marks.
Underwater view of the hydroids and sargassum seaweeds
In the big lagoon, the team found many interesting critters in the shallow reef.
Oh what is this suspicious cone-shape snail moving very slowly on the rock?
Cone-shaped snail
It is a giant top shell snail (Trochus niloticus) and it tried crawl on my fingers while I was holding it to examine.
Underside of the snail
Snail crawling on my thumb
The sargassum seaweeds are still around and there are many dotted dove snails (Euplica scripta) around, probably feeding on the algae growing on the sargassum.
Dotted dove snail
Hurray! Chay Hoon found a tiny seven-armed coral star. Looking at its size compared the the grains of the substrate, the sea star is really very tiny. If it was me, I would have definitely missed it easily.
Top view of the coral star
Underside view of the coral star
I saw a few mushroom coral and some of them are showing pink colouration. It could be signs of stress for the mushroom coral colony.
Mushroom coral with pink colouration
There are many frilly anemone of various colours. I saw one being disturbed by a red egg crab (Atergatis integerrimus) as it was getting in its pathway.
Frilly anemone

Chay Hoon also found a Chromodoris fidelis nudibranch. This is my first time seeing this nudibranch on our shores and also my first time seeing it on intertidal. However I have seen it in Indonesia when diving.
Chromodoris fidelis
Here's a video I recorded of the nudibranch (video recorded in supermacro mode on Olympus TG-1). 

There were a total of three different flatworms seen on this trip, each of them with video. One of the flatworms seen seems to be new to the intertidal record.
Blue-lined flatworm (Pseudoceros sp.)

Dawn flatworms (Pseudobiceros uniarborensis)

New flatworm sighting. Identity is unknown at the moment.

It was a great fieldtrip with very mild drizzle towards the end of the trip.

Posts by others on this trip:
Kok Sheng - CNY Day 1: Big Sisters Island
Ria Tan - Sisters Island after the rain

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lontong and Mangrove tree at P.Ubin

I always wonder what the hype is about with the Sunday-only lontong at Pak Ali's shop on Pulau Ubin until I tried it today.
Image from Pulau Ubin Stories
Today I decided that I shall join Andy, Kwan Siong, Ria and November for a trip to Ubin to check out the Bruguiera hainesii and also try the famous Ubin lontong.
Ubin lontong
The lontong gravy is light but full of flavour. Though a simple looking dish, each ingredient is important to make the dish perfect and delicious. The ketupat rice is soft and well cooked, easy for the teeth. When broken up into smaller pieces, small quantity of rice grains falls apart. It is not like those I had tried, which are hard and difficult to chew on.

The lontong is cooked by Pak Ali's wife only on Sundays. I am not sure if she still does the cooking herself now since she is aged and walking pose a challenge for her. The lontong is truly worth every bite and lives up to its fame on Pulau Ubin. Pak Ali is no longer around as he passed away in late 2010 due to cancer. More about the story of Pak Ali on Pulau Ubin Stories.

After the yummy lontong, we headed to Nordin Beach for a check on the rarest mangrove tree in the world - Bruguiera hainesii. The tree is flowering furiously.
Leaves of B. hainesii, with many flowers.
Many fallen calyx
Calyx closeup
Another view of the calyx
Propagule of various sizes
I am a lousy identifier when it comes to plants. However I am happy for myself that I got a close look at the rare tree. This tree we went is probably the easiest B. hainesii tree to access in Singapore.

The trip to Nordin Beach was shorten with the approaching rain. We had to seek shelter while waiting for the van to pick us up. While making our way back to the town centre, we decided that we shall take a walk at the sensory trail since it was still early for lunch.

Right in front of the visitors' hut next to the jetty sits a small fig tree. This could possibly the only fig tree of this species left.
Fig tree, growing before the beach.
There were quite a number of golden orb web spiders (Nephlia pilipes) along the sensory trail and the ones I saw were at eye level. That makes photo taking much easier and easier for us to get closer to the spider.
Golden orb web spider
After the rain, there were a few large insects resting on tree leaves waiting for their wet body to dry up.
As we come to the end of the sensory trail, we were greeted with a beautiful makeover of a fishing pond. It is now covered with water lily plants on the edges of the pond.
Water lily flower
On a leave of the water lily, I found a caterpillar. I wonder how it got there when the leave is high above water?
Caterpillar on water lily leave
We had a great long lunch session at our usual lunch restaurant, with the usual dishes. It the black pepper crab tastes extremely delicious after missing it for about 1.5 months.

As the government had just revealed the population plan for a possible 7 million population by 2030, I wonder how many of this kampong feelings will remain then?
2030 population plan
Will Pulau Ubin stay the same or will there be a great change in the near future?
Will there still be such cosy, old style dinning places with yummy food to visit?
Do we have to remove the old to make way for the new so that we can keep up with the society?


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