Sunday, October 19, 2008

A short visit to Singapore

During my 9 hour-stopover in Singapore en route to Zurich on Monday, I met up with a fellow nature blogger, Ria Tan. She does the Wild Shores of Singapore blog.

Ria is a really amazing person:

- She has done shore walks (for years) in the hope of raising awareness among the people about the precious shores that Singapore still has. (I agreed that if the people are going to lose the shores to housing projects etc, they should know what they are losing.)

- She has written a guidebook on Chek Jawa, a shore on the Ubin Island of Singapore. And now there's plan to churn out the second one, and the new book will cover more shores in Singapore.

- Her photos can be seen in many places on the Ubin Island, e.g. on signs erected on boardwalks, in exhibitions on the island, and even vending machines! She humbly said that the reason for it was that she let them (the authorities) use the images for free.

- She was involved in the publication of this impressive brochure, published by the Blue Water Volunteers.

She was kind to take me on a walk around the Ubin Island. The dense tropical forest smelt so familiar. Unfortunately I was there when the tide was high, so I missed the opportunity to see those amazing creatures described in her guidebook. On the day of my stopover, low tide happened around 8 pm, my departure time.

Anyway, we had a good chat about the challenges she and other nature lovers in Singapore are facing in the conservation of their shores. And the next time I visit Singapore again, I will make sure I stay for a few days so that I could visit the shores - at low tide.

Additional Note (23 Oct 08):
Thanks to Jeffrey who pointed out that the brochure was actually published by His comment as follows:

Just a small comment .. the guidesheet (or brochure, as you call it) is published by WildSingapore. BWV volunteers (listed on the back of the guidesheet) contributed to the content, but it owes its existance mainly to Ria's efforts.

Jeff :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eggs of Southern Calamari Squid

I have just received another email from the Discovery Center of Melbourne Museum this morning. A second marine biologist there has looked at the photos and identified these to be the eggs of the Southern Calamari Squid, Sepioteuthis australis. (In their first reply, they only said that these were squid eggs.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Octopus, a master of disguise

The only time I saw an octopus while I was on vacation in Coral Bay was in "The Lagoon" a snorkeling site north of the bay.

Of course I could only count myself lucky to have spotted it. It was partly hidden in a burrow that was less that a meter from the surface when I first found it. By estimation, the animal's head was 15 cm across.

Look at the photos and you will agree that the octopus is indeed a master of disguise, one who is capable for changing its colors and texture to blend into its background.

Special skin cells called chromatophores, which contain sacs of pigments, are responsible for the octopus' capability to change its colors quickly. An adult octopus may have as many as 2 millions of these cells. By contracting or stretching the sacs of pigments in those cells, the octopus can change its colors very quickly. The same mechanism occurs in the cuttlefish and squid too.

Color change doesn't just help the octopus blends into its surroundings, it also reflects the animal's mood, e.g. fear, aggressiveness and sexual arousal.

It later moved to another burrow but stayed there long enough for me to snap a few more shots.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sea squirts

I saw these two while snorkeling. The water was about 3 m deep and these sea squirts were about 20 cm in length. I am not sure about their species.

I found this one on a rock when it was low tide.

Stalked and solitary - the sea tulips

Two sea tulips washed ashore

I think these are sea squirts. I found them in the low tide zone. They caught my attention simply because of their pig-nosed appearance.

Another one attached to a rock and exposed to air at low tide

This one was washed ashore. The actual size was just about 1 - 1.5 cm across. I almost missed it because its color blended well with the seaweed's.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sea birds (3) - South Cottesloe

While I won't see huge flocks of birds in South Cottesloe as I did in Coral Bay, there are still quite a few kinds of birds that hang around the shore.

In South Cottesloe, the most common bird is the silver gull (Larus novaehollandiae) - as on many other Australian shores I guess.

Also frequently sighted in South Cottesloe is the pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius).

Pied oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) - I don't see them very often. Like silver gulls and pied cormorants, oystercatches are common all around the Aussie coastline.

White-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) - I have seen this bird only once.

I don't know the name of this bird, but it certainly has a strong beak. Again, I have seen this bird only once. If it was 20 times larger, I might suspect it lived in the world of the dinosaurs. It had that look.

Note: Immature pacific gull (Larus pacificus), id by Alan.

Sea birds (2)

About 40 minutes' walk northwards from Coral Bay brought me to Point Maud, the northern boundary of the Maud Sanctuary. There is a bird rookery in Point Maud.

I couldn't go near them but again, they looked like terns to me. There must be hundreds of them.

And they would quickly take off and fly to another spot on the same shore every time I tried to get near them.

It was an unforgettable experience for me to see such a huge flock of birds taking off and flying away. It just reminded me of the scenes in a bird documentary.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sea birds (1)

Watching seabirds on the shore can be quite entertaining - especially when there are lots and lots of them.

These photos were taken at the reef shark sanctuary in Coral Bay. I didn't see any reef sharks when I snorkeled there, even though others have seen them just days before. These birds look like some kind of tern but unfortunately I couldn't get very near to have a good look. And there were some silver gulls amid them too.